Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and curing every disease and every sickness.
One thing we know about Jesus. Before all else, he was a healer. Not wonder worker, but a healer. And when we look at his teaching in the Gospel of Matthew that we’re reading this year – mostly in the Sermon on the Mount – we find that his teaching is not high-flown philosophy. Jesus’ teaching is words of healing. “’You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” Words to heal broken human society and mend the spiritual hurt that hate causes within us. Jesus cast out demons that damaged peoples’ spirits and he healed them. That’s what he did.
It doesn’t take much looking to find something terribly broken and in need of healing in our world today. The demons of hatred and racism are abroad in the land, boldly lying and stirring up violence. If a country ever looked like sheep without a shepherd, it is ours right now. Some may be inclined to look for strong, harsh leadership to get everyone in line. But that would not be those who follow Jesus. Jesus leads with compassion … and healing.
He looks at us—confused and frightened sheep without a shepherd that we are—and says, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few.” So many in need of healing, so much need for compassion. So he summoned disciples and empowered them to heal the sick and cast out demons. Many hands were needed, the compassion of more than just Jesus, of all his disciples.
Healing in this world is a big job. Resisting and casting out the demons of racism, of callous selfishness, of hate and defamation is a huge job. When we are baptized we renounce Satan and all the spiritual forces of wickedness that rebel against God, and we renounce the evil powers of this world that corrupt and destroy the creatures of God. In other words, we have already signed on to this—this ministry of healing and of casting out demons.
But what does this mean, how do we do this? A lot of the brokenness in this world, that nurtures the growth of these demons, is a combination of moral laziness and selfishness. It’s easy to lash out at and blame people based on their race, or social position—to label them as lazy, dirty or stupid. It’s also easy to see oppression and social inequality and say, “That’s just how the world is, I can’t do anything about it.” And when we become possessed by such demons, we are blind to injustice and hatred. The world appears to be what it is and no one takes responsibility for curing what hurts people. Just scramble to the top, and don’t worry about people who are still suffering, or, pretend that you care, when all you care about is success and domination. This moral laziness and blindness afflicts most of the white people in this country and it’s a threat to us all. It is a threat to any world of peace, justice and equality for our future or our children’s future.
Jesus awakens us and sends us out to cast out those demons, to awaken people, to reach out with his compassion and to heal us—to make us whole. So first, and I know that this happens a lot among us: pray. Pray for one another, for our children and friends who are not among us, pray for our country, and especially pray for those who are afflicted with blindness and these demons that damage the children of God. Second, be courageous, reach out and show Christ’s compassion, don’t be afraid to contradict those who accept the power of these demons. It is Jesus who is sending you out, don’t be afraid to be the agent of healing others. Jesus is our shepherd, he keeps us from feeling helpless, and he sends us to share that gift with all his children.
“Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. You received without payment; give without payment.”
As St. Paul says in today’s lesson:
Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God … and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.