Pastor Dan Swaningson, Hope Chapel 7-24-16
My heart weeps with the hearts of the broken, and longs to hold them— no hurt, no wound, is too great to overcome in me, with me. Be a healer, be healed. A broken heart I will not despise. HS
One of the things that I have come to realize as a result of being in the ministry for many years and just being involved and engaged in the world in general is that nearly everyone carries a wound, some deeper than others, some with many more than others, but everyone carries something inside that is the proverbial thorn that effects how they see and relate to the world. A wound that can be poked by someone without them having any idea that it’s even there, or worse, aggravated by the person or people that created it in the first place.
I know that as a believer in Christ I am able to see the wounds that many people miss, because the Holy Spirit is aware of everyone’s hurts and scars, he sees the heart, and if I’m paying attention he reveals them to me, not always in detail, just a sense that the wounds are there. I was told years ago in my preparation to become a pastor that one of my spiritual gifts is encouragement and it is a gift that I cherish, I want to be a healer. What good does it do to discern hurt if you cannot do anything about it?
We all have that ability and we all have that call— to encourage one another, as we recently talked about; “Encourage one another daily for as long as it is called today.” God has given this ministry the specific assignment of being a place of healing, primarily emotional and spiritual healing—to me one and the same, though we have seen a number of physical healings as well— it is the emotional healings that really have an impact and get us to a place where we can be helping others to find healing.
Physical healings make a great testimony of God’s power and love but a story of emotional healing, of overcoming hopelessness─ that’s one that makes people say; “How can I get that?” People will listen to someone who has been where they no longer want to be.
It takes someone who really understands the healing and sustaining power of Jesus to be able to bring it to others, to share it because I’ll tell you what, if you start listening to people, just giving them a little bit of an inkling that you care and that you may have some experience or a bit of wisdom in what their struggling with--the thing that keeps them awake at night, that eats away at their souls and plagues their dreams—they are going to spill their guts to you.
Now you’re thinking: I don’t want to hear people’s problems. Why would I want that? Good question, but guess what, it’s not about you. If Jesus has called you, healed you, delivered you—given you a hope and set you on a course to fulfilling your destiny, the plan he has for you--God’s plan for you will always involve you helping others because we are the hands and feet of Jesus and he is using your mouth to speak healing.
He’s using your eyes and your ears to hear and to see what the Holy Spirit wants you to discern and then using you to speak what he wants you to speak. And there is nothing more healing, nothing more rewarding, nothing that brings peace to your soul when you lay down your weary head at the end of the day than knowing that you made a difference, that you helped someone find hope, find release, find healing.
That’s what Jesus was and is all about.
Find Mat 12 —verse 11
This story is right in the middle of paragraph after paragraph of Jesus healing and delivering person after person, nameless faces in scrabbling mobs to most people, but men and women who are known and loved by the Father to Jesus the Son. On the Sabbath Jesus goes to a synagogue and is immediately hit up by some Pharisees there─ who thought that Jesus, in all his compassion and tenderness to the common afflicted sinners, was making them look bad─ asking if it was lawful to heal on the Sabbath.
They didn’t care a whit about the handicapped man there who had a withered and useless hand, they only wanted to have something to accuse Jesus of, as far as they were concerned this man deserved to be handicapped and Jesus was a simpleton for caring.
11 Then He said to them, “What man is there among you who has one sheep, and if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not lay hold of it and lift it out? 12 Of how much more value then is a man than a sheep? Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.” 13 Then He said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” And he stretched it out, and it was restored as whole as the other. 14 Then the Pharisees went out and plotted against Him, how they might destroy Him.
Aware of this, Jesus withdrew from that place. A large crowd followed him, and he healed all who were ill. 16 He warned them not to tell others about him. 17 This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah:
18 “Here is my servant whom I have chosen,
the one I love, in whom I delight;
I will put my Spirit on him,
and he will proclaim justice to the nations.
19 He will not quarrel or cry out;
no one will hear his voice in the streets.
20 A bruised reed he will not break,
and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out,
till he has brought justice through to victory.
21 In his name the nations will put their hope.” Mat 12
Reed and wicks What do a bruised reed and a smoldering wick have in common? They are both tenuously clinging to life and very fragile. Jesus came to heal those whom everyone else had given up on as beyond help or not worth the trouble, people to be stepped on as they moved on to better more worthy endeavors and people.
The bruised reed, an interesting analogy but one everyone in this part of the world in Jesus’ day would understand as no doubt the banks of the Sea of Galilee and the Jordan were thick with reeds in places. When I think of reeds I think of the papyrus reeds that grow along the banks of the Nile like in the story of Moses as a baby floating amongst the reeds. Reeds are kind of like Cattails I suppose, tall and thick but not real strong, yet light and resilient. You can beat them flat and weave them together for paper or you can bunch them together and build with them. In fact, the Egyptians built boats from reeds.
Back in the 1970’s there was a Norwegian named Thor who built a boat he named Ra out of reeds and tried to sail the Atlantic but it sank. On his second attempt, in RA II, he succeeded; he was trying to show that it was possible that ancient man could have crossed the oceans. I don’t know why a Norwegian wouldn’t have been more interested in building a Viking ship, maybe he just wanted to go somewhere warmer, who can know the mind of a Norwegian?
I just remember it because they made such a big deal out of it, even making a movie about it. I guess they still make reed boats in some parts of the world. So they are still seen as strong and durable.
But a single reed—especially if it is still green and growing—if it is crushed in the middle, or bent too far, the fibers separate and a weak spot is created and even a slight wind or a passing animal can break it off and it will not recover, it’s toast. Think of a Montana wheat field nearly ready for the harvest suddenly struck by a massive hail storm, it’s devastating, beautiful full heads of grain cannot be harvested if they are laying on the ground on the end of a bruised and broken stalk.
I just want you to get that picture in your mind, a semi crushed—bruised─stalk, still managing to stay upright but barely, or a lantern wick fresh out of kerosene, the flame gone but still an ember glowing as though just begging for a little more fuel and a gentle breath of wind to reignite the flame that can burn clean and bright.
That’s the human heart, it can be strong, upright and flexible, burning bright and pure but in reality, especially if standing alone, can be a thing of great fragility, it gets whacked just right, pelted by a few too many hailstones and all it takes is one good gust of wind and it’s broken, snuffed out and left to grow cold.
Jesus came and saw a world of bruised reeds, of smoldering wicks and instead of blowing through, trampling hearts on his way to the heights of glory, seeking the strong, the articulate and the righteous who could help him get out his message, to advance his agenda of being the conquering Messiah, the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords─ not concerned with acquiring the glory that so many who claim to speak for him attain to--he stops and gently touches the bruised, he speaks life, he looks into the eyes of the hurting, he hears the cries of the heartbroken and grieving, he feels the pain of the sick and wounded— and he heals them.
Beggars, prostitutes, hardnosed--get out of my way I’m busy-- working men; I hate you and you hate me crooked tax collectors, Drunks, homeless, lepers reeking of rotten flesh—it didn’t matter— he loved and healed them all. Not after they repented, not after they got straightened out and got right with the synagogue and God, he healed all who came to him. And then he taught them about the love of God and the power of Heaven and they believed it, they received it, because they had experienced it, they experienced it and it changed their lives.
They were no longer bruised and broken, no longer smoldering wicks leaving smudges of soot on the walls of the Temple, they were changed forever and they found strength in one another, they were bound together like the reeds in an Egyptian boat ready to face the storms of even the mightiest seas. They were healed and could now be healers.
Compelling That’s why the Gospel of Jesus Christ is so compelling and powerful, because wounded and broken people, the castoffs and scorned, the hopeless and forgotten, suddenly shining brightly with new life, standing tall and strong, fearless and unwavering, they— the ones no one paid any mind to before─ they were, and are, the messengers of the Kingdom.
No one can deny the power of God available in the words of Jesus Christ when a Leper who now has the skin of a new born baby, when a blind man is now looking you in the eye, when an uneducated fisherman is leaving the theologians frustrated and foolish looking, when a scorned street walker or a demon possessed mad man, now commanding respect and dignity and shining like the sun with a radiant undeniable joy—when they are the ones sharing the good news of the Kingdom of God—the gospel cannot be denied.
I will put my Spirit on him,
and he will proclaim justice to the nations.
The gospel is healing, the gospel is alive, the gospel of Jesus Christ will continue to heal, will continue on as he, by his Spirit living in and speaking through the redeemed carry on the message of healing, proclaiming justice until all the nations have heard, and all the bruised reeds and smoldering wicks, all those who desire to hear, who long for healing, for relief from their brokenness and unbearable pain, have heard the message of hope. And on that day, justice, as the prophet proclaimed, will find victory, all who crave justice will have the victory once and for all and all the nations who remain will put their hope in him.
We the wounded and redeemed are the standard bearers, are now the healers, bringing the message of hope, bringing the power of God to a world of bruised reeds and smoldering wicks. Let’s make sure we are not just blowing through the fields and trampling the bruised into the dirt or ignoring the smoldering until the ember fades.
We have the hope and if you still need healing, you need to bring it to Jesus, he will set you free and then he will set you on a mission because nothing helps bring our healing to completeness, nothing helps us live in the victory like sharing with others what we have received.
For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. 35 A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things… Mat 12:34, 35
What if? But what if my hurt, what if my pain was my own doing? Maybe my wounds, my anguish is there to shame me, to remind me of my foolishness and to punish me? Maybe I’m not worthy of healing. No, you’re not, but that has never been a prerequisite to receiving the healing love of Jesus. “For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, there is no one worthy, no not one!”
None of us is worthy and most of our wounds are the result of making bad choices, or foolishly trusting someone else’s bad choices, being in the wrong place at the wrong time, listening to the wrong voices— panicking and finding ourselves fighting to control a runaway train when we were simply trying to get through another day.
Maybe we were even sincerely trying to help someone and everything horribly backfired, now we have riffs in the family, hard feelings and wounded pride, fractured relationships, things that eat at our very souls, steal our sleep and our peace and we see no way out.
Guess what? Jesus can handle it, Jesus can heal it, when all seems beyond hope, when you have even given up on yourself, he can help and he will not scorn you or blame you. He is not looking for you to prove your love or your worth, he is not demanding sacrifice and service, he is just looking for an opportunity to help, for you to just acknowledge your need, your brokenness and to come to him.
For you have no delight in sacrifice;
if I were to give a burnt offering, you would not be pleased.
17 The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.
Jesus is not wanting to crush your spirit; we do that just fine all by ourselves or with a little help from our ‘friends’. Jesus is eager to strengthen and heal your spirit. He loves you and he knows your name, he hears your cries, he knows your frustrations and your weaknesses. He will never despise the broken hearted, he will never break the bruised and he will never snuff out the smoldering remnants of hope that linger in your heart, if you trust him.
Share your story with him, with the faithful whom God puts in your lives, and then with those who need to hear where you found your deliverance. God isn’t demanding much from us, just that we love as we are loved.
We need to be eager to come before our God for healing, and eager to share the healing with the broken hearted, even if it’s just by our refusing to crush their spirits.
Dad’s at the hospital and the tractor’s in the dump. Several years ago in the middle of haying season my lovely and capable wife offered to take a day off from work and bale the hay I had knocked down in our best field, the one opposite the house on the other side of the big coulee. I was all for this as I had to work the next day and often about the time I got home a quick evening thunderstorm would put a quick end to my own baling plans.
So I gave her a quick refresher course on running the baler and the old Farmall tractor we would use to pull it. Normally we would have used the old Case 900 to pull it but it must have been broken down, perhaps a flat tire. So I went to work the next day expecting to come home and find a field full of beautiful square bales.
I came home to see only the first one or two outside rows baled and the baler sitting idle in the field with no tractor in site. Bewildered I walked to the door of the house and was met by Donna. I said, “What happened, where’s the tractor?” She responded “Dad’s at the hospital and the tractor’s in the dump!” While I was trying to figure out why and how they got the tractor to the dump and what that had to do with Ralph being at the hospital she starting explaining to me that the throttle linkage on the tractor had come loose and not knowing what to do she walked back to the house and called her dad.
Her dad had recently had a couple of TI’s, or mini strokes and so was not supposed to be driving anymore or running farm equipment. This of course did not set to well with this nearly 80-year-old rancher who had worked hard all his life and it was a constant fight to keep him out from behind the wheel. But Donna’s mom offered to bring him out so he could take a look, after all it was his equipment.
So Margie, Donna’s mom drove Ralph out and they went over into the field. He determined he needed to bring the tractor back to the house where it could be worked on. Since it could not go any faster than an idle no one raised any real objections when he said he would drive it back over to the house.
So they unhooked it from the bailer and away they went, Ralph putting along on the tractor and Margie following in their car. Donna decided she was going to go check the mail and would meet them back at the house. To get back to the house without going through the big coulee they had to cut across Charlie and Barbs field (Charlie being Donna’s brother) About half way across the field Ralph stopped the tractor and got off to go and tell Margie something, we never did find out what it was. As he started walking toward the car Margie yelled at him that the tractor was starting to roll, it had slowly started rolling backward down the progressively steeper hill toward the big coulee.
Amazingly, Ralph still had enough pep in him to catch the tractor and he managed to get his feet up onto the draw bar on the back end and grab the back of the seat as the tractor started picking up speed as the hill got steeper and steeper. Before he could pull himself up into the seat where he could grab the wheel and step on the brake, the tractor was suddenly plunging backward into a very steep ravine at the bottom edge of the field.
So here’s Ralph hanging on for dear life on the downhill end of a runaway tractor standing just inches off the ground, between two wheels as tall as he is, as it plunges into and through a ravine using him as the spearhead to plow a path through a thicket of very thorny wild plumb trees and just as thorny wild roses, to end up in a bottom full of broken glass and rusted metal and mattress springs. This coulee—more of a steep ravine off the bigger coulee—had been used years ago by the Helfrick’s─ the original homesteaders─ as a garbage dump.
The tractor crashed through the tangle of brush—which probably kept it from flipping over on top of him—and slammed into the opposite bank at the bottom of the ravine slamming Ralph to the ground before running up over him, the tool bar smashing him into the debris on the ground as it rolled a few feet up the bank before finally coming to rest on top of Ralph.
Finding himself lying flat on his back looking up at the plug in the oil pan on the belly of the tractor and smack between the wheels of the still running tractor, Ralph was able to crawl out on his hands and knees through the broken glass and rusty remnants of tin cans─ bruised, scraped and scratched from head to toe.
Just after Ralph’s spectacular last runaway tractor ride Donna came back from the mail box in the old green pick up and saw the car sitting empty in the middle of the field with the door open and no one around. Donna’s frantic Mom had chased Ralph right in to the ravine on foot and that’s where Donna found her. Between them they managed to get Ralph out of that overgrown tangled mess. They loaded him up into the car and hauled him to the emergency room. He was bruised everywhere and missing a few layers of skin here and there but otherwise he was OK.
3 A bruised reed he will not break,
and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out. Is 42:3
We used to have to argue with my Father in Law about driving and running equipment, until the day he ended up in that coulee and almost killed himself. We didn’t have to argue with him any more after that, his wounds did all the talking that was necessary, and we didn’t have to keep jabbing his bruises to make sure he didn’t forget.
When a person has been battered and bruised by bad decisions they don’t need more bruises, they don’t need their bruises pointed out, they need a safe place to heal and they need to be shown how to avoid future bruises without being made to feel like a fool.
Each and every one of us of knows what it feels like to mess up, because we have all messed up. Each one of us knows what it’s like to be judged and condemned and what it feels like to get kicked around.
How many of you were bruised when you met Jesus? How many of you were bruised and your flame barely smoldering when you came here the first time? Why are you still here? - Because you were loved, or because we jabbed our fingers into your wounds and said; “Why did you do that?”
Now let me ask you this; Are you in a better place now, spiritually- emotionally- have you grown in the Lord? Why is that? -because you found a better way in the one who loved you into wholeness, Jesus Christ.
He still loves you and -he loves the person next to you, or that you wish was next to you ─who isn’t living up to your standards, the one you fret about; “I just have to say something, they have to know how wrong they are, I can’t love and accept them until they do!” How did that work for you, when you were hurting or hanging on for dear life on a runaway tractor and someone came along and slapped you silly, broke your reed and stomped on your smoldering wick. Or are you healing because someone loved you, helped and encouraged, showed you a better way by being a healer rather than a vindicator.
We are being called to love people into wholeness, it’s called grace, we need to do more than receive it, we need to extend it.
Receive healing The main thing I want you to hear this morning is this: Jesus wants to heal you, because he loves you. Ralph was just trying to save his tractor, a split second decision, a reflex, an attempt to regain control, and suddenly he found himself totally out of control and all he could do is ride it out. I can just imagine the feeling and the fear as he desperately tried to get back into that driver’s seat knowing he was about to go off the edge into the pit, likely to be pinned there under a ton of steel and rubber.
Was it a bad decision? Yes, was he foolish? No, just reacting, trying to do the right thing, probably not the first time but this time it got away from him. Did he deserve what he got? No, and no one thought or insinuated that he did. He knew he messed up but he survived and he learned from it, add so did the rest of us. I know I will never jump onto the rear end of a backwards rolling tractor.
He was black and blue and purple and green for a while but he actually healed up quite nicely.
You are not a bad person─ how often do our hurts come from a desperate attempt to do the right thing, to save a runaway tractor?
Maybe you have gotten into a fix that has caused you a lot of grief. Maybe you have jumped onto a runaway tractor thinking to save someone or fix something, turns out you did it the wrong way or it wasn’t appreciated by someone you really care about, now you are ashamed and scorned. Maybe you latched onto something thinking you could control it and suddenly it is controlling you and threatening to destroy you, to pile drive you right into the dump and leave you for broken.
You don’t have to stay there; you don’t deserve to stay there. Listen to this, I’ll say it again: you are not a bad person, you are created in the image of God and you have a good heart and that’s what Jesus sees, things have just gotten away from you, you made bad decisions in the heat of the moment, or a well thought out plan didn’t work out and the more you tried to fix it the worse it got and now it seems hopeless. It’s not, Jesus can fix it, Jesus loves you, he wants to pull you out of the dump, to dust you off, to heal you, and set you back in the driver’s seat with a new appreciation for his directions as he guides you to safe places; places where you can help others to avoid or get out of runaway situations. Your scars are a testimony and a proof of his power and love, share them, show them and be healed.