In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Please be seated.
Let us pray:
Lord, sometimes life is difficult. Sometimes, I am worried, weary, or heartbroken. But when I lift my eyes to you, Father, you strengthen me. When I am weak, you lift me up. Today I turn to you, Lord, for my strength, for my hope, and my salvation. Amen.
“Count it all joy, my brothers and sisters, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.” “And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.”
“For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But, if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God.”
Those words are from the Letter of James and the first letter of Peter.
They are telling us that God will work through our sufferings, our pain, our afflictions, and our weaknesses to make us strong in Him. For in our weakness, it is at this point that the grace and power of God interlocks with our lives. When we suffer from ill-health or other travails we are to pray to the Lord as Paul did, that God will deliver us. God cures many through healing prayer, intercessory prayer, and personal prayer. But if sometimes we don’t get the healing we ask for we can not let that eat away at our lives until we become embittered and self-pitying. We need to trust in God’s grace, for we may not get the healing we want but we get the healing we need.
Jesus also knew and understood anguish, disappointment, sorrow and suffering. The shortest verse in the bible tells us that when Jesus was on his way to Bethany, because of the death of his friend Lazarus, he met Mary and when he saw her weeping. “Jesus wept.” He seemed to be frustrated at times by his chosen twelve. As Jesus tells us in today’s gospel, “prophets are not without honor, except in their hometown, and among their own kin, and in their own house.”
We know of Jesus’ time of suffering and death so that “we” are freed form the power of sin and reconciled to God.
I struggled with whether or not to share with you some of my journey in diaconal formation. I prayed about it and I sense that this is what God wants me to.
In the summer of 2004, July 21st to be exact, I was called by Debbie to tell me that my Mother had gone to the Emergency Room as she was not feeling well. I met my mother there and had only been there a few minutes when she suffered a seizure. She was given medication and responded well to it and seemed to be resting comfortably.
She suffered many more seizures and eventually had to be put into a coma to stop them from continuing. (a coma she never came out of)
During the time she was in the hospital, Deb and I had attended a “Catch the Wind” ministry program at St. George’s in Clifton Park. This was led by Fr. Mike Flynn, an Episcopal priest, and also Nigel Mumford was there. This was on healing and healing prayer. Just before being called away to the hospital we heard Fr. Flynn say that sometimes death is the great healer.
Debbie and I and our children knew that my Mom wasn’t going to get better. God had prepared us for that and comforted us. My father, brother and sisters were very upset at me for saying that. They said I had given up on my Mother.
I attended a retreat for postulants and candidates in the Deacon Formation class and received much healing prayer. Nigel was there and helped me greatly. I prayed all weekend for my father, my sisters and my brother that God would speak to them and help them to understand.
When Deb picked me up after the retreat she told me that my family wanted to meet to discuss what to do. While I was gone the doctors told them that there was nothing more they could do. We met that night at the hospital and decided to allow my mother’s respirator to be removed and to allow what the hospital calls comfort care. The next morning Sept. 13, 2004, the respirator was removed and “comfort care” was started. By 12:20 she had gone to be with our Heavenly Father.
God used this time to build up my faith, to involve me more in prayer and to know without a doubt that as Psalm 23 tells us about God “He revives my soul and guides me along right pathways for His name’s sake.”
I believe that most, if not all of you, know that last fall I found that I have type II diabetes. While adjusting to treatment for this, I awoke one morning with a slack left side of my face. Debbie hustled me to the Emergency Room thinking I had suffered a stroke. It was decided, after several tests, that I now had Bell’s Palsy. While this was true, it had been caused by Lyme Disease. I didn’t even know that I had had a tick. Never saw it or the rash that normally accompanies the tick bite. Add this to the fact that I was away from home here at Messiah and we were at Zion in Hudson Falls, a nice place but not home.
Debbie and I thank you for all your prayers while we were gone.
I did not handle the sickness well and complained mightily and often to Debbie and to God. They both pretty much said the same thing, shut up and deal with it. Debbie may have been a little nicer. God had some pride to remove from me. He used this sickness to let me know that it is not about Thom, it is all about Him. I believe the attacks were from the evil one, but God can take any bad situation and turn it to His glory.
When we think of suffering we thing of Job, As my favorite author, Peter Kreeft, says about Job “God carved out a great hollow place for himself in Job with all those sufferings. Yet the hole made no sense until God came and filled it, as a lock makes no sense until the key comes.” God did this out of his love for Job. We know that God loves us by John 3:16. And Psalm 94 vs. 14 tells us that “the Lord will not abandon His people nor will He forsake His own.”
And God has not forsaken me. He has brought me through this hard time back home to Messiah, to family. He has made me a deacon in His church. He has shown me a love that I pray for everyone to come to know. I know that the evil one will bring on more trials and attacks but I pray that I will be able to say as St. Paul said in today’s reading “Therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong.”
I will end with a prayer Fr. Nigel had me read during my time of struggle and recovery from sickness, please turn to page 833 in the Book of Common Prayer and say with me the prayer attributed to St. Francis.