Easter 3, April 18, 2021
St. Martin North Vancouver
“Not by our own power”
God, give me acceptance of the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. Amen.
I know that when I am tired, I make more mistakes. Physical fatigue usually plays a part. There is also the feeling of responsibility on my shoulders, of pushing through to get the job done because others are relying on me. When there is too much happening, when the deadlines are looming, when I am distracted and trying to think ahead to the next five things I have to do: that’s when it can happen. A momentary lapse perhaps, like taking one’s eyes off the road at an intersection, of taking a risk without thinking through the possible consequences, of having words blurt out that I didn’t really mean to sound that way. And the damage is done in spite of every good intention.
A few years ago, I was called out in the early hours of the morning to minister to a person dying in hospital. I hadn’t slept well, and had been woken up by the call. I already had a full schedule so while I was driving through the morning mist, I was planning how I would have to rearrange and manage my day. As I followed other traffic through an intersection, the other car came out of the blue. I barely had time to react to his horn and start applying the brakes. BANG! Did I run a late light or did he anticipate and accelerate through it early with his brand new Tessla? To this day, both the insurance adjustors and I don’t know for sure, so we were both blamed. Thank God that our automobiles took the majority of the damage and we both walked away. I thought I saw a green light, but I wasn’t driving with due care and attention. I learned from the experience that acting in ignorance doesn’t save you from consequences. I also recognized the divine hand which protected me that day.
Have you noticed too that when you are tired, you are so much more likely to be frustrated with what you perceive others are doing or failing to do? It’s easy to snap to judgement, even when that judgement may be limited by what we know. Part of it is because we so want to change things for the better the only way we know how. If others aren’t doing their bit or are failing to understand how important it is, we feel powerless and angry. This extends to the people we love and usually trust, our community, professionals and those in authority, right up to God. Maybe in trying to do it ourselves, we forget what is already done or is in process.
The apostles of the early Church learned through hard experience not to rely on themselves. They couldn’t make anybody’s life better by good works or persuasive argument. God is the only one who can heal. At their best, they are witnesses who point to the risen Christ as evidence of heavenly power at work in this world. It is not gold or privilege or skill that sets things right: it is finding faith to trust in God’s healing already happening.
The people who heard the apostles speak after the resurrection were astonished because they saw the evidence of people being made well. In Acts chapter 3, Peter is quick to speak up about a lame man who regains mobility: “Why do you stare at us, as though by our own power or piety we had made him walk?” He and the other followers of Jesus hadn’t given the individual any money or medicine or support. The only gift is the name of Jesus of Nazareth to believe in for healing.
Now we have to be very careful with healing stories. There are those who might imply that those who are healed have faith and those who are suffering do not. I don’t believe that is the point at all. Healing was received. In this case, it was miraculous and immediate. But some healings are years in the making. We get very tired being advocates and companions and caretakers. So tired out by our own efforts that we are frustrated and doubting and angry at all those who should be doing more. So tired that we can miss the signs that God is already at work. When the “saviour complex” is in operation and I think I have to do it all, nothing wears me out faster. My heart is not big enough to love the world.
The one time I had chest pains was when I was involved in a pastoral situation with a family struggling with many layers of trauma. I had just received a telephone call from the parent telling me that they were going to abandon their child. I put down the phone and my breaking heart physically began to pound and clench in my chest. It took me time to realize that my body was telling me what my brain wasn’t recognizing. No matter what I did- how hard I prayed or what a good priest I was to the people in my care- it was a burden I was never meant to carry. I have forgotten where the power really comes from. Only Jesus can bear that pain. And only Jesus can bring healing to that family. My job was and is to testify that is possible, no matter what.
Celebrate the miracles we recognize, but also remember there are many ways the risen Christ walks among us. We may not see them, especially when we are tired. And who isn’t tired right now? Tired of restrictions, of trying to do the right thing when others don’t seem to have the courage or care, of looking out for each other. We all make mistakes along the way. Let’s not make the mistake of thinking God is too tired to love and heal us. This week, we need to share stories to remind us to hold on to what is good. Hear the apostle Peter’s words: In the name of Jesus of Nazareth, rise up and walk! Faith is not about being a good person. Or being right. It’s trusting God when we alone cannot do it all or see past the pain around us. That helps keep my eyes on the road. Amen.