CALLED TOWARD WHOLENESS
I am glad for the opportunity to spend this time together with you in worship. I pray that our time together would be a time of blessing and learning for all of us.
My sermon today is entitled "Called toward Wholeness". What do you think of when you hear the word "wholeness"? Holistic healing is a big concept in our day. Especially in the context of New Age thinking.
Through Jesus Christ God has called us to a life of wholeness. Christ has come to us in order to bring healing and restoration into our lives. As we confess our sins, and as we lay down our emotional and spiritual scars before Christ, he begins to transform our lives, and he begins to shape us into His likeness.
But what is wholeness? What is a wholesome life? How can a life of wholeness be achieved in our personal lives, as well as in the life of the church and our wider community?
The Hebrew language has a term that describes a life of total harmony with God, the earth and the community. Biblical scholars have often narrowly translated that word as peace. However, the word "Shalom" is more appropriately defined as wholeness.
In an article entitled, Shalom is the Mission James Metzler says, "The basic meaning of shalom is wholeness, which includes the idea of uninjuredness, totality or completeness, well-being, prosperity, harmony, and having a common will and a mutual responsibility. It is used as a companion... or synonym for the terms 'blessing', 'salvation', 'righteousness', and 'justice'. Shalom [wholeness] depicts the relationship that God establishes and intends for humanity with Himself, with other humans and with nature."
I don't know about you, but in my life working toward wholeness seems to be an upward struggle. I mean, not that there is anything tremendously wrong with me. But, when I look at the biblical ideal of a life of wholeness, I see some room for improvement. A total harmony between the many different areas of my life, such as my body, my emotions, my spirituality, my relationships, etc remains a dream more often than not.
Let me give you an example. Already as I make an appointment to see my doctor I know that I will be reminded that I need to loose weight and to exercise regularly in order to avoid future health complications. I also need to find better ways of dealing with stress. In my emotional life I find issues of fear and anger that I need to bring under Christ's control. Spiritually, again, I see the need for more intentional communication with God, not only because I am involved in public ministry, but because I need the love and grace of God for my personal life.
Further, when I hear the stories of some people in our churches I consider myself fortunate that I have been spared many of life's hardships. Sure, I've had my share of losses. In fact, some of my life experiences have left lifelong scars engraved in my soul. And so, I speak as one who has not yet arrived at a life of wholeness. I am still struggling ahead toward wholeness.
Looking through the rows here, I wonder about you. I imagine that many of our stories are very similar. Some of you have weathered many a storm in your lifetime. For some it may have been the pain of separation from a loved one through death, family separations, war and persecution, or some other circumstances. Some of you may have experienced the emotional trauma of abuse within a relationship. Some have heard the heart-piercing news from the doctor that it is "cancer". And for some it may be feelings of guilt and shame, anger and fear, caused by conflict with family members or with other church members.
Maybe you are experiencing physical, emotional or spiritual pain in your life right at this moment. Maybe you have come to church today to get some hope and strength back into your life. If that's the case, I have good News for you. The healing love of Christ reaches out to you from the cross of Calvary in a special way.
Dear friend, if you sit in the shadow of depression and worry, searching for the magic that will make the pain go away, Jesus invites you to bring your burdens to Him. He invites you to weep about your pain. Not only for this loss, but for all the sins and hurts in your life. This winter of your life will pass as all seasons do. Meanwhile, stay in your season of darkness as long as need be, because everything you feel is legitimate. There is no right way or right time to grieve - there is only your way. It will take as long as it takes. And it is important to be ever so gentle, kind, loving and giving to yourself right now.
The question that we often find unanswered is "What becomes of the brokenhearted". How can God restore our broken lives toward wholeness and peace? We have been taught to cast our sins and burdens upon Christ. But, how do we do that? How do we let Christ transform our lives?
I found an illustration that describes how the Master Healer can transform our broken lives into a life of beauty and meaning.
Rabbi Earl Grollman tells the following story in his book, Talking about Death: A Dialogue between Parent and Child. A king once owned a large, beautiful, pure diamond of which he was justifiably proud. It had no equal anywhere. One day the diamond sustained a deep scratch. The king called in the most skilled diamond cutters and offered them a great reward if they could remove the imperfection from the treasured jewel. No one could repair the blemish. The king was very distressed. After some time, a gifted lapidary (diamond cutter) came to the king and promised to make the rare diamond even more beautiful than before. The king was impressed with his confidence and entrusted the precious stone to his care. The man kept his word. With superb artistry he engraved a lovely rosebud around the imperfection and he used the scratch to make the stem."
You see, in God's eyes each and everyone of us is a scratched diamond. Beautiful and precious to behold, yet blemished by the painful experiences of our lives. The good News of the healing grace of Christ is that when life bruises and wounds our body, heart and soul, Christ can use our scratches to etch a beautiful portrait of memory and love.
By the grace of God, our lives can find meaningful expression in the midst of our brokenness. God sees our value as persons in spite of our scratches.
The Gospel of Mark 1:29-39 tells the story of the healing of Peter's mother-in-law. Overcome by compassion for a person in physical agony Jesus raised her up and the fever left her body. The response of the woman is a true model of faithful discipleship. Mark tells us that she responded to the healing by serving Christ and the disciples. She ministered to their needs. She became a deacon to them. This is a true picture of wholeness in the life of an individual and in her community.
As Christ restores our lives to wholeness, we respond in gratitude and worship. We turn around and do unto others as Christ has done unto us. As a community on it's way toward wholeness and restoration we are called to be responsible to our larger community. Jesus' ministry focused in part on the creation of shalom communities, that is groups of people who have been restored to wholeness by the healing power of the Lord Jesus.
You see, following Christ's model of ministry, the church ought to be much more of a field-hospital for sinners than a retreat centre for the saints. As disciples of Christ we are not entitled to rest on our laurels.
The question we need to ask then is this: "How can we as a community of faith bring healing to the whole person?" "How can the church minister to the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of all the brokenhearted inside and outside of the church?" "How can the body of Christ bring healing to a hurting community?"
I believe Jesus gave us the answer when he gave final instructions to the disciples before sending them out. He said to them, "When you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is set before you. Heal the sick who are there and tell them, 'The Kingdom of God is near you'" (Luke 10:8-9).
First, the ministry of healing is a matter of meeting people where they are at, and extending God's kingdom by inviting them to join us in living according to God's grace. As we fellowship with people in need we identify with their broken lives, and we foster a relationship of trust.
Second, as we get to know the people in our communities with their personal burdens we engage in ministry, that is, healing their broken bodies, minds and spirits. The challenge for us as individuals who are called toward wholeness is to extend a hand of understanding and healing to the people around us.
For instance, with government cut-backs on the horizon in many areas of social services, the Christian community has a moral obligation to become more involved in the physical, emotional, economic and spiritual needs of our society.
The third aspect of Christ's instruction is the speaking, that is, explaining our acts of love and compassion as an expression of God's kingdom.
As God's compassion is at work in our lives to heal us from our sins and our painful human experiences, our lives become instruments of Christ's love and healing for others.
As Christ healing love penetrates our lives, we are called to respond in gratitude and worship. With the gifts that he gives us we turn around and do unto others as Christ has done unto us.
May the love of Christ bring healing into your life, and enable you to share His grace with others.