God is the Balm

This week as I perused the headlines, I was reminded of a statement I wrote describing the mission of St. Luke’s, “St. Luke, our patron saint, was both an evangelist and physician. We strive to live out his work in the world by accepting that the world is in need of healing and God is the healing balm the world is in need of. Every day we are bombarded by the media with images of the world’s illnesses, wars in the Middle East and Afghanistan, gang warfare in our cities, and daily reports of violent crime in our communities.” As I re-read these words and reflected on them I was amazed at how relevant they sound today as they did when I wrote them over six years ago.

Yes, the world continues to be in need of healing in the same way the broken and down trodden of Genesaret were who were brought seeking the healing power of Christ’s robe. Read a paper, turn on the news, and it doesn’t take long to figure out how truly broken and crippled our world has become. On Friday morning, we woke up to the news of a massacre in Colorado where a gunman walked into a packed movie theatre and opened fire on those watching The Dark Knight. Information continues to surface of an international banking scandal in which the Libor rate, the base interest rate for intra-bank lending has been manipulated and has affected global markets. If this isn’t enough to demonstrate how broken our world has become, just sit back and watch an hour or so of evening programming as political ad upon political ad is run slandering the opposing candidate with assaults on their character through half-truths and repeating statements over and over again totally without context.

How has the world gotten here? Somewhere along the way I was taught that in order to make a soldier willing to kill the enemy, it was important to dehumanize the opposition. During World War II, Germans were no longer people but Krouts and the Japanese were referred to as Gooks, all in an effort to desensitize us and our soldiers to the killing that becomes necessary during times of war. All of the above issues are only possible when one sees the other as less than human.

Have we become so disconnected from our neighbor to the point where we can no longer recognize our shared humanity? There is no doubt how much we have benefited from technological advances in mass communication. At the touch of buttons, we have a wealth of information at our fingertips. But at the same time, it has driven us apart, as we fail to connect with the human suffering that is paraded on screen each hour and as we try to organize the overload of information into simple and complete categories that distance us from our neighbor. No longer are politicians neighbors who wish to serve the common good, offering ideas to support and uphold our core values as a nation, but the non-human liberal or conservative. Our president is no longer seen as a human being elected to lead this country, but an image or icon of dehumanizing ridicule to where we now find it perfectly acceptable to publicly degrade him by referring to him as the Obamameister or as one person shouted out at a rally, “that monster.”

There is no doubt, as a people, and as a nation, we have lost the ability to respect the dignity of every human being. But, let’s not fool ourselves, the issues we face today are not that far from the issues St. Paul addressed throughout his letters.

In today’s reading from Ephesians, Paul is addressing issues similar to these. Paul is writing in a time when society was greatly compartmentalized. From the perspective of the Roman Emperor, there were Roman Citizens and everyone else. Residents of occupied lands were mere pawns, a means for sustaining the great political machine known as the Roman Empire. In Palestine, there was a great divide between Jews and non-Jews. In this morning’s reading, Paul attempts to address this divide within the church.

As Paul writes, he is also speaking against centuries of division and tradition. Within the paradigm of a polytheistic world, nationalities and gods went together. And from a traditional ancient Jewish perspective, the benefits of Yahweh were exclusively for the descendants of Abraham.

To this issue, St. Paul writes the following;’ He has abolished the law with its commandments and ordinances, so that he might create in himself one new humanity in place of the two, thus making peace, and might reconcile both groups to God in one body through the cross, thus putting to death that hostility through it.”

And in his letter to the Galatians, St. Paul writes; “As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. 29And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring,heirs according to the promise.

What St. Paul is telling us is simply in the eyes of God there are no labels and through the cross the schisms of humanity have been healed. In essence, if Paul were writing to us today he would state,” There is no longer republican or democrat, liberal or conservative, American or Arab, Christian or Jew; for all of us are one in the eyes of God.

As a people who have vowed to respect the dignity of every human being, we are called to work towards healing the brokenness of human relationships. We can begin doing this by reminding ourselves that the people we hear about in the media are human beings like you and me. The president is a person with a family, who like you and me truly wants to lead us out of recession. That our daily decisions as to what we buy or how we choose to conduct business effects others like us, both here at home and half a world away.

It is not enough to just remind ourselves of our connection with others, we also must live and stand up for the truth. In terms of the politics of today, we are called to act in the same way John McCain did this week when he put a stop to the deceitful slander attempted by Michelle Bachman, and in the same way Governor Romney did when he corrected a supporter who attempted to dehumanize the President by referring to him as a monster. We too, like McCain and Romney need to stand above the throng and not participate in the dehumanizing slander that is so much a part of today’s political arena. Yes, we need to form our own opinions, and prayerfully figure out who to vote for, but based on the candidates’ stand on the issues, and how they live out their stance. This means we need to educate ourselves by learning what the issues are, their intricacies, the pros and cons of what the proposed solutions are and why we may agree and disagree with these solutions. This also means we cannot simply base our opinions on the sound bites of the media.

This week I read several commentaries in reference to our recent general convention. And, as always, the triennial convention of the national church has gotten national attention with its usual share of criticism and misrepresentation. I was intrigued with one writer’s response when he wrote about the process of debate as he provided an example of what Christian discourse can look like. To this he stated, “when issues became too contentious we stopped and prayed together, and at the end of the day, whether we agreed or disagreed with each other, all were invited to gather in unity to share in the Eucharist.

Through the cross humanity is united as one, through the Eucharist our broken relationships can be healed. I believe Karen Marie Yust said this best when she wrote,” Just as persons come to the church in need of God’s grace, the faith community engages in ministry because it needs to live as Christ has commanded, as the body of Christ sent into the world to help God repair the brokenness caused by sin. By embracing its role as the fringe of Christ’s cloak, the church can expect to have a healing effect on all who reach out to Christian communities with the desire to be made whole.”

Yes, the world to this day is still in need of healing at a level that is much deeper than we are aware of and more painful than we wish to acknowledge. And yes, we as the Church are the healing balm the world is in need of . . .and we are called to spread that balm throughout the world.

Amen

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