Today's Lectionary Text
Matthew 18:14-17 & 28-34When Jesus came into Peter’s house, he saw Peter’s mother-in-law lying in bed with a fever. He touched her hand and the fever left her, and she got up and began to wait on him.
When evening came, many who were demon-possessed were brought to him, and he drove out the spirits with a word and healed all the sick. This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah:
“He took up our infirmities
and bore our diseases.”
When he arrived at the other side in the region of the Gadarenes,two demon-possessed men coming from the tombs met him. They were so violent that no one could pass that way. “What do you want with us, Son of God?” they shouted. “Have you come here to torture us before the appointed time?”
Some distance from them a large herd of pigs was feeding. The demons begged Jesus, “If you drive us out, send us into the herd of pigs.” He said to them, “Go!” So they came out and went into the pigs, and the whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and died in the water. Those tending the pigs ran off, went into the town and reported all this, including what had happened to the demon-possessed men. Then the whole town went out to meet Jesus. And when they saw him, they pleaded with him to leave their region.
We lit the third candle on the Advent wreath, yesterday. Did you? That third candle, in many of our churches, is the pink candle. The candle’s lighting, also called Gaudete (gow-debt) Sunday in French, represents the joy-filled emotion of Mary, upon hearing the invitation to carry the savior of the world in her womb. That miraculous and unexpected message to Mary, from the angel, is the joy any of us feels when we hear the news of a friends or loved one’s pregnancy. I remember the days of pregnancy in our own household. With our children 20, 18, and 13, the memories blur a bit more each day. When I remember those early days, I can still feel now as I did then, the joy of what was to come. This week of Advent is the joy of what is to come into the world, again. Emmanuel is to come and heal the world. Can you feel the joy?
I imagine joy in each of these stories of healing, from the book of Matthew. Peter’s mother-in-law and the many who were healed upon experiencing Jesus’ word, must have felt joy. The two men at Gerasene, healed of their possession of demons, were surely sensing some joy. Even when townsfolk asked Jesus to leave because he had disrupted their community, they had joy- right? Would they, upon entry into one of our churches be compelled to light the pink candle, and say, “Jesus, Emmanuel, come to us again and heal this world of ours! Fill us with joy, this week.”
Considering Jesus’ miracles of healing we know our humanity will not always align with current reality. A miracle may have been done by Jesus, but we are still human. It takes time to heal and it takes time to accept the healing you have. My father spent 50+ days in the hospital after contracting COVID-19. Like every family, we prayed, hoped, and did everything we could to stay in contact- even as he faced intubation. We are grateful he is home, recovering, and getting better each day. His physical strength has not fully recovered, but he is here and with us. As I lit the candle yesterday and asked myself, do I have joy? Yes, I do! Even in the face of my own terminal diagnosis this year, I have joy. I have the joy of expectation as I look forward to the experiences and memories that I will create with the people that I love. I have the joy of endurance as I continue to live this life that I have been gifted in a way that would be worthy in the eyes of God. I have the joy of healing as I pray for my own health, as well as praying for healing for a whole community of people who are suffering during this time of joy.
During the year when lives near and far have been lost, mental health has been harmed, and people have lost their livelihoods and homes, can we light the pink candle and find joy in the healing that comes in Jesus Christ? I hope so. Because your life and your joy are simply too important to family, friends, and colleagues. You are important to God.
God keep you this week as you remember the joy of expectation, the joy of endurance, and the joy of healing, even if it takes time to fully experience all it means to you.
-Rev. Nathan D. Stanton
Director, Congregational Excellence
And Connectional Ministries
Prayer for Reflection
Mothering God who reminds and stirs within us unexpected joy. Give us faith and endurance of an overwhelmed and young expectant mother who never knew she would carry the savior. Give us the hope, peace, and joy, and all that you bring us to, in this life. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
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