February 1, 2015

IV Epiphany

Deuteronomy 18: 15-20; Psalm 111; 1 Corinthians 8: 1-13, Mark 1: 21-28


In the Name of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. AMEN.

A few Sundays ago in the church parking lot I encountered a particularly angry person, a person I had known for some time who occasionally would show up on Sundays at another parish I once served. She usually takes medication to stabilize her temperament, but it was very obvious that she did not take it that day.  She yelled at me and called me pretty much every four-letter word in the book. Now I can have a pretty colorful vocabulary myself, but I was no match for her.  I told her, as pastorally as possible, that I needed to call the police if she did not stop. She got in her car and drove away.  

When Jesus encountered an angry man in the temple, he reached out to him and healed him, making him whole probably for the first time in his life. The Bible says the man was possessed by a demon. Maybe he was. Or maybe he was bi-polar, manic, or schizophrenic. It doesn’t what we call it. What matters is how we respond. I regret that my response to the woman was one based in fear, and it could not have been further from how Jesus engaged the man in the temple. Jesus met the man’s hate, not with fear, but with hope.

Jesus models for us a response to another’s painful suffering – to reach out and call it out of them. We are all healers, and as author Henri Nouwen reflects, and the healing we offer is most effective when it comes out of our own wounds.

I am father of a nine year old son with special needs. My journey with him has been one of growth, joy, and wounding, that I never would have anticipated happening in my life. As a priest, I am forever molded by these experiences, and a love of children with special needs.  It’s part of who I am, and it is inseparable from the rest of my priesthood. Today, St. Andrew’s will begin a new service called Rhythms of Grace (no relation to my last name). This service will reach out and welcome children with intellectual, physical, or behavioral needs, and we will offer them and their families a weekly worship experience that will meet them wherever they are. Each gathering will focus around a Bible story, a creative response, and a Eucharist. We will meet in the parish hall upstairs every Sunday at 2 PM, where families and their children, young or old, can gather.  

The design of this service is that it will be ecumenical, meaning that people of all faith traditions will be welcome. It is an ambitious undertaking for our parish, but it is the right thing to do, for the church and for our community.  

It will take time for this service, like any new service, to grow – but it will.  There are so many families in our neighborhood and city for whom church is impossibility because of the challenges their children face. We are going to welcome them at St. Andrew’s. We will reach out to them with God’s love, and in our wounded and broken ways, show them that we care, and that God loves them. To my knowledge, St. Andrew’s will become the only Episcopal Church in the nation to offer a service like this on a weekly basis.  

So this is new thing for us! And we will grow into it together. We’ll make mistakes, and there will be much for us to learn along the way. All that is to be celebrated and welcomed as we grow together into the people and the church God is calling us to be.  

If you want to help, contact Lisa Puccio, St. Andrew’s Coordinator for Special Needs Worship and Family Faith Formation. Most of all, please hold this ministry in your prayers. It’s time to reach out in hope, as Jesus did that day in the synagogue. We are God’s wounded healers, every single one of us – black, white, gay, straight, rich, poor, disabled, enabled. We have nothing to fear, because Christ has already healed us. AMEN.