About Me

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Knoxville, TN, United States
Interim Pastor of Evergreen Presbyterian Church (USA), Dothan, AL.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Do You Want To Be Healed?

2016-11-27 Jn 05 01-09 Stephen Ministry


I am so sinfully proud of the work of our Stephen Ministry. We have 11 trained ministers. For a church our size that's huge. They've each had at least a full year of training. They meet twice each month. They have monthly supervision and continuing education. They take this ministry as their calling from God. And it shows. It shows in their relentless dedication to the group, but even more in loving dedication to the individuals to whom they minister, one-on-one. They're not therapists. They're not people who drop by for tea. They are listeners. They are caregivers. They are healers.


In the passage from John, Jesus comes across a man who has been sitting, alone, waiting for a long, long time. The man couldn't walk. He couldn't get into the mysterious healing waters. And no one would help him. Everyone was looking out for themselves, trying to get their healing so they could leave everyone at the pool behind. The pool was a cruel and lonely place.


Jesus came to the man. He did something I'll bet no one else had done. Jesus spoke to the man. Actually talked to him. Engaged him about his deepest needs. He asked, "Do you want to be made well?"


The man didn't say yes or no. Instead he answered the question he wished he'd been asked. He complained: "Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; and while I am making my way, someone else steps down ahead of me." He had been waiting to be made well for 38 years. He had a lot of frustration. He had some complaints to share.


Jesus listened. Jesus listened without judging him. And then he simply said,


"Stand up, take your mat and walk." At once the man was made well, and he took up his mat and began to walk.


Stephen Ministry is modeled on Jesus's ministry. It involves coming across people. Sometimes people ask. They ask me or Cheryl (our Program Director) or another Stephen Minister for help. But sometimes, it just seems like they're led to the Ministry. And then, the ministry asks, "Would you like to have a Stephen Minister?" It's not a complicated question. It's almost as simple as, "Would you like to be made well?"


And then, the caregiver and the care-receiver get together on a weekly basis. They talk. The Stephen Minister isn't there to solve problems, but she or he does listen to them. They hear things like, "Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool," or something very similar. When we're hurting or when we are hurt, most of us know what healing looks like, maybe even where it is. We just can't get to it on our own. We need help. Like Jesus, a Stephen Minister doesn't carry a person, or take over for them. They listen, they encourage, they prepare them for the day they'll stand up on their own two feet and walk to the healing they know is out there. They pray together. They look toward healing that comes from God, from God and gently floating down the river of relationship.




"Would you like to be made well?"


The author, Margaret Wheatley, wrote about how simple conversation has the power to heal. How simple, one-to-one caring restores hope.


[from Turning to One Another: Simple Conversations to Restore Hope to the Future, January 2002.

By Margaret J. Wheatley]


She writes:


Listening is such a simple act. It requires us to be present, and that takes practice, but we don't have to do anything else. We don't have to advise, or coach, or sound wise. We just have to be willing to sit there and listen. If we can do that, we create moments in which real healing is available. Whatever life we have experienced, if we can tell our story to someone who listens, we find it easier to deal with our circumstances.

I have seen the healing power of good listening so often that I wonder if you've noticed it also. There may have been a time when a friend was telling you such a painful story that you became speechless. You couldn't think of anything to say, so you just sat there, listening closely, but not saying a word. And what was the result of your heartfelt silence, of your listening?

A young black South African woman taught some of my friends a profound lesson about listening. She was sitting in a circle of women from many nations, and each woman had the chance to tell a story from her life. When her turn came, she began quietly to tell a story of true horror -- of how she had found her grandparents slaughtered in their village. Many of the women were Westerners, and in the presence of such pain, they instinctively wanted to do something. They wanted to fix, to make it better, anything to remove the pain of this tragedy from such a young life. The young woman felt their compassion, but also felt them closing in. She put her hands up, as if to push back their desire to help. She said: "I don't need you to fix me. I just need you to listen to me."

She taught many women that day that being listened to is enough. If we can speak our story, and know that others hear it, we are somehow healed by that.


She goes on to say, somewhat prophetically back in 2002:


This is an increasingly noisy era - people shout at each other in print, at work, on TV. I believe the volume is directly related to our need to be listened to. In public places, in the media, we reward the loudest and most outrageous. People are literally clamoring for attention, and they'll do whatever it takes to be noticed. Things will only get louder until we figure out how to sit down and listen. Most of us would welcome things quieting down. We can do our part to begin lowering the volume by our own willingness to listen.


She tells the story of a teacher who listened.

A school teacher told me how one day a sixteen year old became disruptive - shouting angrily, threatening her verbally. She could have called the authorities - there were laws to protect her from such abuse. Instead, she sat down, and asked the student to talk to her. It took some time for him to quiet down, as he was very agitated and kept pacing the room. But finally he walked over to her and began talking about his life. She just listened. No one had listened to him in a long time. Her attentive silence gave him space to see himself, to hear himself. She didn't offer advice. She couldn't figure out his life, and she didn't have to. He could do it himself once she had listened.




The Bible tells us Jesus replied:


"Stand up, take your mat and walk." At once the man was made well, and he took up his mat and began to walk.


It has been said that "Walking is controlled falling." That's kind of true. You stick a leg out and catch yourself before your nose hits the gravel, over and over and over again. Are we walking or are we falling? Yes we are.

Jesus told the man to stand up, take his mat, and to catch himself from falling – over and over and over again. When we share our burdens, when we allow someone to listen to our burdens, we lighten our load just enough, just enough, to take another awkward step toward healing. Not perfection. Healing.


Some of us have scars from surgeries. They never completely go away, do they? The scars remind us that healing isn't perfection. It's just not-falling-down. It helps when someone's there to not-fall-down with us.




Leonard Cohen, the artist who died a few weeks ago, wasn't much of a singer. But he was one heck of a poet. His song, Anthem, has a refrain that goes…


Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in.


As you go out today, in the hallway, there's a Stephen Ministry banner. It has the image of a person with a crack running from head to toe. And then there's the image of another person, without the jagged line. In between them is the cross. The first person's behind the cross. The second's in front of it. Apparently, the light of the cross fills in our broken cracks.


The mission of Stephen Ministry comes from Ephesians 4:12-13:

 "To equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ" (Ephesians 4:12–13).


We all have our broken parts. We all need repairs of at least one sort or another. Some physical, some mental, some emotional, some spiritual. To tell the truth, it's usually a little of them all. God gives us each other. God gives us each other to help put the parts back together, not to make us perfect, but so we build up the body of Christ, in the unity of the faith, to the full, scarred but living stature of Christ.