Today we do something dangerous and expensive.
We pray for healing.
What if it works?
Healing always comes with a price.
When I was in seminary and broke my hand in five places, I did not go to the doctor until a
classmate finally begged me to go.
We seminarians had terrible insurance and I knew that medical care would bury me deeper in debt, so I resisted and tried to tough it out, as so many people do.
The price tag on health was too steep to risk becoming well.
I pray for a family that used to attend Shepherd's grade school.
The mother has been in contact with me as her son continues to fall behind in school,
convinced that his experience at Shepherd is to blame.
The summer program she believes he needs is $26,000; healing always comes with a price.
I have listened to her at some length and tried to help her forgive and move forward, but
her mind is made up that Shepherd is evil and only cares about money; my approach has
not aligned with her certainty about this.
It feels to me like she wants Shepherd to be the scapegoat for her son's struggles.
It feels to her like her son was scapegoated and demonized in his class here, causing him
permanent developmental damage.
And I remember the wise voice of my father saying, "There are always at least three sides to
every story—my side, your side, and the truth."
She is unwilling to engage the possibility of receiving love and support from our community.
We are unwilling to pay $26,000 to finance one child's summer program.
In both cases, the price tag on health is too steep to seek wellness.
This is why the Gerasenes begged Jesus to leave.
He had the authority and the audacity to heal the man quarantined to the graveyard.
His shackles and guards created jobs and kept him safely out of the neighborhood, living his
eyesore existence not in my backyard.
The demons who terrorized him called themselves Legion, just like the occupying Roman army, so he was a walking, breathing picture of the daily truth that no one wanted to face.
He was controlled not by social expectations and behavioral norms but by a deeper and darker and stronger power, so he had to be kept away from the children.
Like all dysfunctional systems, the town eventually achieved an equilibrium, scapegoating and banishing him to the dead when the living couldn't handle him.
But Jesus disrupted that careful balance by healing him, and healing is always expensive.
The local bacon industry saw its profits plummet and their business go underwater.
The farm bureau raced to the chamber of commerce to file a complaint, and suddenly everyone is in the cemetery outside of town facing the man they have scapegoated and shackled all these years, clothed and sane, sitting next to a kosher foreigner who is stronger than the imperial battalion of demons.
And they were afraid.
Then all the people of the surrounding country of the Gerasenes asked Jesus to leave
them; for they were seized with great fear.
So he left, but not before he sent the man into town with his story.
The man had wanted to follow Jesus, and who can blame him, but Jesus gave him a much
more demanding assignment.
Go to all the people who have chained and shackled and scapegoated and shunned you and tell them about God's grace in your life; make them face you.
Make them come to terms with your wellness and welcome you publicly as their brother instead of hiding you as their problem.
Go into the terrified town that bullied and demonized you and bring God's love to them.
Healing always comes with a price.
What would it cost the housing and health industries to get serious about overcoming
What would it cost our country to pursue reparations for the grandchildren of slaves?
What would it cost to stop scapegoating and warehousing and deporting immigrants?
What would it cost, socially and consumeristically, to accept other people as they are instead of shoehorning them into stereotypes and Starbucks culture uniformity?
What would it cost to admit that other countries are just as great as America, or that smelly people living on sidewalks are just as beloved by God as responsible homeowners, or that prisoners are just as valuable as unborn children?
What would it cost to eliminate child labor and human trafficking?
What would it cost to shatter the glass ceilings and equalize the pay of women and men?
What would it cost to make justice in America consistently colorblind, or to shift military dollars into education and relief for the working poor?
What would it cost successful people with money and power if our society became forgiving and compassionate and generous instead of greedy and litigious and violent?
What would it cost to forgive the jerk who wronged you or embrace the stranger who scares you, to love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you?
What would it cost the church to behave as if Paul's assertion that there is no longer Jew or
Greek, ...slave or free, ...male or female, for all of you are one in Christ Jesus were
something we believed was actually and deeply true?
What would it cost if a devastating belief spread like cancer that people are more important than money?
It could cripple the economy and destroy the dysfunctional social equilibrium we have so
tenuously achieved and work so tenaciously and often violently to defend.
Real healing would cost too much.
A broken hand is better than a hospital bill.
One broken person is better than a whole town feeling uncomfortable.
It is better for you to have one man die for the people than to have the whole nation destroyed, the high priest Caiaphas said so wisely, explaining why Jesus had to be killed.
Scapegoating and segregating is more sensible and efficient and cost effective than healing.
It is far easier financially and emotionally and socially.
Which is why Jesus terrifies us too.
So dare we pray for healing, and run the risk we might get it, or should we just ask him to
leave us alone?