This may be a strange thing to say, but I wish I knew you all, because I would then have a much better idea about what I should preach about this evening. However there is one thing that I do know about all of you because I believe it to be true of all of us, and that is, in the eyes of God you are both an unique individual and you are infinitely lovable. Our uniqueness is evident in that no two people have the same DNA or the same fingerprints. God’s love for us could not be made more evident in that despite our human frailties He sent His beloved Son to redeem us by sacrificing his life for us. He who was a manifestation of the unconditional nature of the love of God.
If we believe this to be true, then we will probably also believe that we only exist because God wanted us to exist as part of his purposes for mankind. If we do believe that too, then many things follow on from this. In the first place, if God created us then the more we become the truest version of the person that God created us to be the more we become the truth of ourselves. For this to come about we perhaps need to ask ourselves in every action, word or thought, “Is this what God wants from me.” In this way we do several things. We grow spiritually, we turn our lives into a constant living prayer, we are also likely to fulfil the purpose for which we were created and most significant of all we allow God to be a constant presence in our lives. We might add to all this the words of Jesus who said “Love one another as I have loved you”, remembering the forgiving unconditional nature of His love.
But this is a healing service and I would ask you to turn your minds to this evening’s gospel reading. There is something particularly poignant about the healing of the deaf mute. The person needed a special and tangible form of re-assurance to be healed. So Jesus, knowing what an emotional experience this will be for the man an in order avoid embarrassment for him takes him aside, puts his fingers in his ears and touches his tongue with spittle, all of which the man would be able to feel. He then says “Be Opened” and the man is healed. The incredible sensitivity and compassion that Jesus showed will have been very evident in the expression in His eyes. When I am praying for someone who is suffering or I am with someone who is suffering, I try to imagine the expression in Jesus’s eyes as if he were present with us. I believe it helps me to have more understanding.
I expect some of you may be suffering. Sadly suffering is probably the biggest mystery we have to face in life, especially if we believe in an All powerful and All loving God. Many people find it difficult to believe this and say He is either all powerful and not all loving or the other way around, otherwise how could he allow such suffering in the world. It is a mystery beyond our understanding.
Many years ago, when I was at Theological College in Cambridge, a friend who was a Fellow of Magdalene College invited me to dinner in their SCR. There had been a terrible earthquake that day in Turkey which had killed thousands of people. The Dons were discussing this and one of them, who was a rather belligerent man, looked at me and said “Now then Ken, you are training to be a Priest. Presumably you believe in an All Powerful and All Loving God, why does he allow these tragedies to exist.” Feeling rather embarrassed I said I did not know the answer. I then said suffering is a mystery and we seem to live within a paradox of opposites. There is light and dark, good and evil, joy and suffering, pain and comfort and somehow we need to find the faith to live with these paradoxes. He clearly disliked my answer as he quickly changed the subject. Later in the meal a dear old Don sitting next to me said “I am not a Believer Ken, but I Liked what you had to say. As a Physicist I know that in order to have a good electrical current you need a strong positive and a strong negative for this to be possible, a paradox of opposites you might say.”
Seven years ago I had a battle with cancer. After surgery everything that could go wrong went wrong and my surgeon, a dear and very honest friend later told me he did not think I was going to survive. During that time I focussed my mind on the first beatitude. “Blessed are they that know their need of God, the Kingdom of God is open to them.” I felt need of all that those words expressed very deeply at that time.
I have a very simple faith, and one of my favourite Beatitudes is “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” Meekness is not weakness, it is humility, a quality that can be said to be attractive to others, hence it draws the earth to it.
I end my sermon by simply saying, if you are suffering, know your need of God and hear the words of the Psalmist who wrote “Be still and know that I am God, for underneath are the everlasting arms.”