The Second Sunday after Pentecost (A)
“For the Healing of the Nations”
June 18, 2017
Grace, mercy and peace be unto you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Dearly Beloved of the Lord,
In April of this year, seventy-two people including women and children where killed in a deadly chemical attack in Syria. Some four hundred others were seriously injured.
It was a terrible scene, a heart-breaking one, a very challenging one for medical personnel as they rushed to treat victims and were, some of them, injured as well by rubble that fell when the hospital was bombed shortly thereafter.
So many people needing help. So many people suffering. So many… in misery.
St. Matthew tells us that our beloved Savior, Christ Jesus, went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching… proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. We are also told that “when he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” (Matthew 9:35-36)
The English word “compassion” unfortunately does not fully capture the sense of feeling Christ had, expressed by the actual Greek word used in this text. We are talking about deep aching in the pit of one’s stomach here… that which is truly “gut-wrenching” and in this case, for our Lord, the very Son of God, to see what so many men, women and children were going through… what they were experiencing… all because of the fall into sin and its catastrophic effect on both the body and the soul.
It didn’t have to be and yet was, all because of the actions of one man, Adam. Something had to be done about it and there was but one man… the God-Man… the Second Adam… Christ our Lord, who could make things right again… whole and holy again.
That is why He came to earth. That is why He went into all of the cities and villages, teaching… proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom… and healing every disease and affliction. It was out of His divine compassion, perfect and full. It was out of His divine love, perfect and full for us and all mankind.
And yes, it is why our Lord Jesus Christ went to the cross… to put an end to the curse of sin, that which once covered all people like a thick shroud… that which once covered each of us… all of us… yes, you and me… until we came under the waters of Holy Baptism where all that Christ did at Calvary was translated to us… applied to us.
We rejoice in that moment… Good Friday and its connection to the day we were baptized and every day since… every moment spent immersed in Word and Sacrament. We give thanks to God for His Church, the very Body of Christ, wherein… herein… there is the washing away and the cleansing… there is healing and help, forgiveness and comfort readily given, freely given.
Indeed, in the Church, through the Church, the work that Christ our Lord did here on earth… what He accomplished here on earth… now goes on, goes forth. And this most assuredly as the fruits of the cross are taken and applied to all who are suffering, spiritually and physically… to all who are dying, spiritually and physically.
Well did the prophet Isaiah say of our Savior, that “he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5 NIV)
Make no mistake about. The healing continues. It is shared and administered, readily available for all.
In our Gospel text, St. Matthew tells us that Christ called to Himself the twelve disciples and gave them, as it says, “authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every affliction.” (Matthew 10:1) These called men, ordinary men were given the power to help and to heal spiritually and physically. And so they did.
But you will notice that our Lord told them one other thing to do. Do you remember what it was? He told them to “pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.” (Matthew 9:38) And this, because the harvest of people… God’s precious people for whom He has great love and compassion is plentiful. But again, the sad fact is then and now, the laborers are few… oh-so few. (Matthew 9:37)
St. Matthew goes on to name the first of the laborers, the Twelve, who their Lord and Master told to go out into all of the cities and villages, “and proclaim as you go, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons.” (Matthew 10:7-8)
Well, that was then, with these, the first laborers… with the Apostles. But how much of this is still going on now? Would you be surprised to know the answer is “all of it?” The going, the proclaiming, the healing, the raising, the cleansing, and the casting out. It is all still happening at the hand of the laborers whom God has called and ordained.
Thanks be to God that the Kingdom of heaven and the Good News of Jesus Christ is still being preached and proclaimed.
Thanks be to God that all who are spiritually and terminally sick with sin are still being healed, that the leprosy of their sin still cleansed, completely removed, and they are made whole again through the all-powerful Word of God and the Sacraments.
Thanks be to God that the dead are still being raised and demons are still being cast out and this, in the administration of Holy Baptism. As we read in Scripture, “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.” (Romans 6:3-4)
In Baptism, we who were once dead in sin, dead in our trespasses, have been raised to newness of life in Christ. In your Baptism, the devil and all unclean spirits were cast out of you. So yes, we do have exorcisms in the Church… every time this Sacrament is administered!
You all, no doubt see the difference between the Apostles as laborers and those whom the Lord of the harvest has sent after them. The physical healing, cleansing and raising from the dead were by and large specific to the apostolic period, although we nevertheless believe in physical miracles taking place still, and this at the merciful hand of the Lord.
And if one had to choose between being cured physically or spiritually, it would be… or should be… a no brainer. Our physical bodies, even having been cured of this ailment or that, will eventually go the way of all flesh. But we do not fear or fret that because we have been fully cured spiritually and with that comes eternal life… with that comes the raising of our bodies and the making perfect of the same at the resurrection.
Yes, indeed, it would be an understatement to say that many wonderful, marvelous and miraculous things are happening in Christ, in His Body the Church and through His laborers… and this, all for “the healing of the nations.” It is all out of our Lord’s deep love and compassion for us and all people who are hurting.
Turning now to our Revelations text, through the eyes of St. John we are given yet another glorious glimpse of heaven… of what is and what will be… that which is now and that which awaits us.
It says, “Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.” (Revelation 22:1-2)
Now, in the world below, my friends… in the Church here below… we have the blessed font and fountain of life before us where we are baptized and cleansed… once as well as continually… all of our sins being perpetually washed away and this, all because of God’s love and the very sacrifice of the Lamb of God who has taken away the sin of the world.
Keep in mind though that this, all this, gives way so very soon to when we reside in heaven living there with the very river of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the very throne of God and of the Lamb.
And on either side of the river, yes, the tree of life… that which once stood in Eden is now in heaven and its leaves, St. John says “were for the healing of the nations.”
Dearly beloved, those in heaven are perfectly healed, fully restored, whole and holy, having always before them the tree of life. And yet, get this… wrap your minds, your hearts and your very being around this… the tree of life seen in heaven is very much with us now, today and thankfully every day in what may appear to be its plainness, simplicity and starkness… but nevertheless its great beauty, glory and splendor.
Behold the tree of the life! It is the cross of Christ. One in the same with one purpose and function then and now… for the healing of the nations… for your healing and mine and to give us a never-ending source of life, eternal life.
This is what is ours. This is why Christ came into the world. This is why He went into all the cities and villages and why He has sent others to do the same. For healing… to heal all who are hurting and dying eternally.
And so it is that we heed our Lord’s command to pray for more laborers… for more pastors, for more teachers, professors and other church workers… all this for the healing of the nations… all this to the glory of God.
As we also pray that among the laborers in God’s vineyard, we may be found as well, serving as well, helping as well, healing as well… and this equipped with God’s Word and the sharing of the same, the applying of the same to people who are harassed and hurting, wounded and dying needlessly.
Thanks be to God for His great love… for His perfect healing… that which is most certainly ours, now and forevermore. Amen!
May the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus, unto life everlasting. Amen.
“For the Healing of the Nations” 4/9/17
The Rev. Mark H. Hein, St. Paul’s Ev. Lutheran Chu