May 2, 2021
Resilient Healing and Hope
Click here to watch a recording of the 9am service.
Click here to watch a recording of the 11am service.
This past week I have been in a Covid conundrum. I went to my hairdresser to get my roots touched up and haircut. We were talking about church. I told her that we were going to start using bulletins but that we are still wearing masks in church and we are still not singing. We are not having any food except the occasional box lunches brought in with small groups or eating outside. She lives in New Palestine, which is in Hancock County. They are not wearing masks even in the stores and in church. Now in the salon, she must wear a mask because it is in Marion County, which I was thankful.
Then, I spoke with my German daughter, Rebekka, who has been living in a state of strenuous lock down since last November. They have certain protocols that they must follow if the Covid numbers fluctuate in accordance with the cases to population. They have box testing kits for Covid like an at home pregnancy test. She was sharing that the staff and her elementary students must be tested twice a week using these kits. Their vaccines have been very slow in being administered. She has received her vaccine because she is a teacher. She was very interested in the drive-thru vaccine areas that have been set up in our city. Germany is also very fearful of this new strain in India.
I am embarrassed to say that I did not know what was going on in India. Their Covid numbers have soared. They had 4,638,360 Covid cases in the last two weeks. On average, 3,100 people are dying per day! The majority of the population is Hindu, which requires the person after death to be cremated. The crematoriums cannot keep up with the , so they are burning bodies in big open spaces outside. They are asking doctors in Europe to come and help. There is requests for extra oxygen tanks and respirators to help with the shortage to care for the patients. This is horrible!
As I hear information about the pandemic in various parts of our community and world, I am very weary and fearful that this pandemic may be with us for a very long time. I am thankful that our church continues to be cautious and careful with seeking ways to keep people safe. As we take small steps to resume some of our normal ways of doing worship and ministry, I am mindful that this could only be temporary and that are main goal is to care for one another.
How many of you have felt like this has gone on forever? How many of you have suffered significant loss this past year? Many of us are tired! Where to we find healing and hope especially when we do not know when this will be totally behind us? How do we stay resilient through it?
It is times like these that I appreciate Jesus’ message to us in the parable about the fig tree and the healing of the woman in the synagogue. In both instances there has been a lot of time that has gone by with barrenness and suffering.
For the owner of the land, where the fig tree stands, he is concerned about the fig tree that has gone three years without bearing fruit. As he surveys the land, he figures he can get more plants in the fig tree’s spot, which will yield more and give him more profit. Now, who could blame the man for wanting to get rid of something that has not produced anything for three years? And yet, the Gardner says give me a year to work the dirt with my hands, fertilize it and nurture it. If it doesn’t produce anything then, you can cut it down.
Who are you in the story? Are you the tree that has gone through the droughts, hungering for water, or suffered from the scorching sun and is yearning for God to come and work the soil, giving fertilizer and nourishment at the right time for you to blossom and bear fruit? Or perhaps, you are the disciples listening to the parable, hearing that you are the one to go out and get your hands dirty by fertilizing and working the soil to provide life for the tree?
In my Transitional Ministries class, we talked a lot about the church today and how do we continue to transition throughout this pandemic. One class we focused on grief and resilience. We listened to a sermon by Shelly Rambo, who has a P.H.D. in Theology and teaches at Boston University. She said, “Jesus told this parable so that we can open our eyes to see life where there is no evidence of it. Whatever pain and suffering the fig tree is gone through, Jesus is wanting the disciples to stay in the pain and work through it. It is so easy to put up walls or put blinders on or become numb to it. If we are willing to work the soil, face the pain and get messy, there is hope for the barren to yield beautiful fruit again.” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=83cOUEFQaHo) That takes patience and courage!
Our scripture goes on to tell the story of the woman who has showed up in the synagogue for worship on the Sabbath. She has been suffering for eighteen long years with an ailment that has crippled her causing her to be bent and crooked. She has not come to be healed and yet Jesus calls her to come to him. As soon as Jesus lays hands on her, she is free from what has kept her in bondage and immediately praises God.
It is true that Jesus catches flack for healing this woman on the Sabbath. This was a day of rest, where no work was to be done. But Jesus puts it back to the synagogue leader by saying that many of them untie their donkey from the manger and lead it to water to give it a drink on the Sabbath. It is no different than to free this woman from the bondage of her suffering so she can be free to live whole.
In both cases, we hear of healing and hope after long periods of barrenness and suffering. How do we find healing and hope? How are we resilient through our times of challenge and loss?
Another one of my class assignments was to watch a video on Resilience, which featured speaker, Lucy Hone. She is from New Zealand and has done years of research on Resilience Training. She worked with a group of soldiers who had returned from servicing in the war in Afghanistan and earthquake survivors in their country. She had become a well known expert in training people who had gone through devastating loss and teaching them how to be resilient so they could function in their everyday life.
She thought that she knew everything except when her world was turn upside down one day in 2014. Her family had decided to take a vacation with some friends a few hours from home. The day after they had left her twelve year old daughter, Abi, who was staying with her friend, Ella and her mother, Sally decided to come and join them. On their way to the vacation site a driver ran into them, killing all three of them!
As she tried to make sense of this devastating loss and figure out she was going to survive this, she began to getting advice from others, who were her colleagues. She didn’t like what she was hearing. They were telling her that she should expect family estrangement; divorce rate for couples who have lost a child is very high; and she could very easily develop mental illness. It may take five years to work through her grief. Parent bereavement is the hardest thing to overcome.
She decided that she had to take charge and help herself. What she developed were three secrets of resilient people.
First - Resilient people realize that bad, horrible things happen.
- Suffering is part of every human existence.
- You must let go of the idea that you are entitled to a perfect life and that you do not deserve to suffer.
Second - Resilient people chose where they focus their attention.
- There are things in life you can change and other things you cannot change.
- It is interesting how in life the negative things seem to stick to us like Velcro and the positive things seem to slide off of us like a Teflon pan.
- Lucy says it goes all the way back to the caveman days. The cavewoman goes to step out of her doorway and faces a saber tooth tiger. Behind the tiger is a beautiful full rainbow. It is no doubt that our attention stay focused on the tiger because it is about survival.
- We have to be mindful of benefit finding – tuning into the good in life. You have heard me talk about it but the other way of looking at it is focusing on gratitude, searching for the areas of life where God blesses us.
Third - Resilient people ask themselves, “Is what I am doing helping me or harming me?
- She found herself looking at boxes of pictures at her daughter and found that this was only making her sadder. She had to stop it.
- She had to ask herself if going to the trial of the driver would help her. She decided it would not. Now, her husband felt like it would help him.
- By asking yourself this question, you will find it gives you control.
- This is about being kind to yourself.
We all go through barrenness and suffering. This year has been recording setting for this. We have lost so much! We give thanks to Jesus for this parable and story which speaks of healing and hope. May we find resilient healing and hope to endure this. Amen.