Sunday’s sermon: Who Am I?

Who Am I

Text used – Mark 8:27-9:8

 

AUDIO VERSION

 

 

  • [HOLD UP BIBLE] This is the Bible that I was given by my church when I was in 4th grade – April 17, 1994. It’s got my name engraved on the front – Lisa Joanne Pinney. It’s got a dedicate written on the inside … which I wrote myself because when I received it, I was thoroughly put out that no one had written anything inside it. (If you’re curious, my dedication to myself was, “May you use it all the days of your life.”) It’s got little marks around various passages from all the times I served as the layreader over the years. It’s got various highlighting and underlining throughout – the evidence of it being the only Bible that I used all through high school and into college.
    • Lots of parts of my identity wrapped up in this Bible
      • Identity as a child of my parents (maiden name on the cover)
      • Identity as a child of God
      • Identity as a worship participant
      • Identity as a life-long learner/Bible study-er
    • Identity that has clearly evolved over the years
      • Part of it have remained the same
      • Parts of it have grown and developed
      • Parts of it have faded away … But even for those parts, the reminders of that aspect of my identity are still there.
        • E.g. – purple Post-It inside the front cover
          • Single name on it: Elvis
          • Remnant from one of those ice breaker games with my first Bible study group that met in my dorm when I was a freshman → When I think back to the girl that started attending that Bible study and compare her to the person I am now, there are some things that are vastly different. But she’s still a part of me. And I’m sure that if every single one of you looked back at the person you were 10 years ago … 20 years ago … even 50 years ago, you would be able to find both the differences and the similarities in ways that are touching, ways that are shocking, and ways that are revealing.
    • We have a lot wrapped up in our identities, don’t we? In who we are. Of course we do. Who we are is … who we are! But identity is a funny thing. Some parts of our identity are self-claimed. We decide what our hobbies and interests are going to be. We decide where we’re going to live or what career we’re going to have. We decide who’s going to be in that circle of loved ones. But there are also elements of our identity that we don’t get to decide. We don’t get to choose our family. We don’t get to choose our physical characteristics. We don’t get to choose where we’re born or the language that we first learn to speak. Yet these things make up indelible parts of our identity, too. And our identity is something that’s fluid and changeable. We can learn a new skill. We can make new friends. We can even change our name or learn a new language or move to a completely new place and start again.
      • Today’s Scripture reading speaks to the importance and essence of identity in 3 different ways
  • Right off the bat = Jesus’ true identity outwardly acknowledged for the first time in Mk’s gospel – text: Jesus and his disciples went into the villages near Caesarea Philippi. On the way he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” They told him, “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, and still others one of the prophets.” He asked them, “And what about you? Who do you say that I am?” Peter answered, “You are the Christ.”[1] → Up to this point, the only ones who have recognized Jesus as who he truly is – Son of God, Anointed One, Messiah – are demons that Jesus has cast out of people. This moment halfway through Mark’s gospel account is the first time any person – let alone one of the disciples who have been traveling with him and learning from him and devoting themselves to him – has acknowledged who Jesus is.
    • Really interesting part of this section of text = Jesus’ response – text: He asked them, “And what about you? Who do you say that I am?” Peter answered, “You are the Christ.” Jesus ordered them not to tell anyone about him.[2]
      • “Messianic Secret” in Mk = common theme throughout the gospel → In Mark’s account, Jesus is always ordering others – demons, healed people, and especially the disciples – not to reveal his identity.
        • Instruction that’s rarely obeyed, especially by those who have been healed (understandable, right?)
        • Purpose of this “Messianic secret” is something scholars have spilled a lot of ink trying to decipher – CEB study Bible: It’s probably best to understand the theme of secrecy in light of Jesus’ aims. He may have avoided public recognition for his miracle-working because he didn’t want to be associated with the other, fame-seeking healers of the day. He may have resisted the political hopes many attached to the title “Christ.” His identity and mission as the Christ is a secret partly because God’s kingdom is still hidden from view. From Mark’s perspective, Jesus’ status as Christ remains a mystery to some but only until God’s kingdom arrives.[3] → So Mark’s Messianic secret is about identity. It’s about preserving the purity of Jesus’ identity – not getting him confused with the natural healers or the charlatan miracle-workers that roamed the countryside. It’s about keeping Jesus’ sacred identity as Messiah and Savior of the people separate from the political expectations that were placed on the idea of “Messiah at the time” – the Jewish understanding that the Messiah would come to help them throw off the yoke of oppression, not from their sins and the permanence of death (as Jesus did) but from the political and imperialistic oppression of the Romans. And it’s about keeping his identity tied to the will and work of God which, until Jesus is crucified and resurrected, will not come to true and full fruition.
    • So this first portion of our text is about Jesus trying to define and maintain his true identity.
  • 2nd portion = glimpse of others trying to project something else onto your identity – text: Then Jesus began to teach his disciples: “The Human One must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and the legal experts, and be killed, and then, after three days, rise from the dead.” He said this plainly. But Peter took hold of Jesus and, scolding him, began to correct him. Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, then sternly corrected Peter: “Get behind me, Satan. You are not thinking God’s thoughts but human thoughts.”[4]
    • Poor Peter. In the span of a few short minutes, he goes from the high of having voiced the true identity of the Messiah to being so harshly rebuked that that same Messiah calls him Satan.
    • This part of the passage begins with Jesus trying to reveal even more about his identity → trying to clue the disciples in on just what “Messiah” or “Christ” actually is going to mean
      • Betrayal
      • Rejection
      • Suffering
      • Death
      • Resurrection
    • But this is too much for Peter to take. He’s just come into this euphoric revelation that the rabbi he’s been following is, in fact, the Messiah! And now this same rabbi is telling him that, instead of delivering the Jews from the Romans to freedom, he’s going to do the exact opposite of that? Be captured? Be killed? And be … brought back to life? No. Nope. It’s too much for Peter to wrap his head around, so he tries to pull Jesus aside to give him a little bit of a pep talk and set him straight. – text: Peter took hold of Jesus and, scolding him, began to correct him.[5]
      • Gr. = “rebuke,” “warn,” “censure,” even “punish” → This is not a soft word. Peter isn’t being gentle and cajoling with Jesus. He’s not trying to calmly and logically reason with Jesus. He’s actually scolding Jesus here. He’s trying to give Jesus an order. In fact, this is the exact same word that Jesus just used to “order” the disciples to remain silent about his identity as the Messiah. I mean … we gotta give Peter points for moxy, right? How many of you ever took aside one of your mentors, your teachers, your parents, your bosses, your team captain, or someone else in a position of authority and severely scolded them?
    • Peter’s attempt to suppress this essential element of Jesus’ identity doesn’t exactly work out well for him – Jesus turns around and rebukes him right back (yup … same Gr. word again): Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, then sternly corrected Peter: “Get behind me, Satan. You are not thinking God’s thoughts but human thoughts.”[6] → But Jesus gets at a core truth of Peter’s identity in this harsh moment: Peter is a human being following a beloved teacher and friend. He is having a human moment – a moment in which he’s not thinking about God’s kingdom or salvation or anything else divine. He’s just thinking about his friend, Jesus. He’s thinking he doesn’t want his friend to suffer pain and rejection and death. He’s thinking he doesn’t want to have to miss his friend. And I think that’s a part of the universal human identity we can all understand.
  • 3rd portion = glimpse of transformation in identity – text: Six days later Jesus took Peter, James, and John, and brought them to the top of a very high mountain where they were alone. He was transformed in front of them, and his clothes were amazingly bright, brighter than if they had been bleached white. Elijah and Moses appeared and were talking with Jesus. Peter reacted to all of this by saying to Jesus, “Rabbi, it’s good that we’re here. Let’s make three shrines—one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” He said this because he didn’t know how to respond, for the three of them were terrified. Then a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice spoke from the cloud, “This is my Son, whom I dearly love. Listen to him!” Suddenly, looking around, they no longer saw anyone with them except Jesus.[7] → This is admittedly a weird moment in the gospels, right? Jesus goes up on a mountain with a few of his disciples to pray … and while they’re up on the mountain … and Jesus starts glowing brighter than those annoying LED headlights … and Moses and Elijah show up … and clouds roll in … and then out of the clouds comes the voice of God affirming the most essential part of Jesus’ identity … and then it’s suddenly all gone again – Moses, Elijah, the clouds, the voice of God, even the glowing … and everything’s back to normal … but also, nothing will ever be “back to normal.”
    • Speaks to the changing and changeable nature of identity
      • Jesus outward appearance changing (even if just temporarily) to reflect his divine nature within
      • Jesus’ identity being outwardly affirmed by God
      • This is a moment of power and grandeur but also of holiness and blessing. It’s a little bit mystical. It’s a little bit unexplainable. It’s a little bit unbelievable. But think about the work that you have done in your life any time you’ve wanted to make a change. It could be interior work – work on your habits or your thought processes or your knowledge or your spirit. Or it could be exterior work – work on your environment or your body or your relationships. It’s work that is challenging. It’s work that takes time – that almost never produces immediate results. Very often, especially if the change is to a part of us that is rooted deep in our history or our habits, it is hard work but it is also holy work, especially if it’s work that someone else recognizes and affirms and validates from the outside looking in.
  • One element of today’s text that we skipped over = our call to identity as Christians – text: After calling the crowd together with his disciples, Jesus said to them, “All who want to come after me must say no to themselves, take up their cross, and follow me. All who want to save their lives will lose them. But all who lose their lives because of me and because of the good news will save them. Why would people gain the whole world but lose their lives? What will people give in exchange for their lives? Whoever is ashamed of me and my words in this unfaithful and sinful generation, the Human One will be ashamed of that person when he comes in the Father’s glory with the holy angels.”[8] → This is Jesus calling all who hear to a Christian identity above all else.
    • Lots of different elements and layers to our identities
      • Occupation
      • Relationships
      • Hobbies and habits
      • Personality traits (multitude of personality tests that are more than happy to help you further narrow down and define and express your identity)
      • And they all make up who we are. We are multifaceted people who live multifaceted lives. Those are the things that make us unique. Those are the things that make us special. Those are very often the elements in which we find purpose and value and mission in the world around us. But Jesus’ calling in this passage is clear: first and foremost, above all else, before all else, more important than all the rest: you are a follower of Christ.
        • Guides all the other parts of our identity
        • Informs all the other parts of our identity
        • Enlightens all the other parts of our identity
        • Enfolds all the other parts of our identity
        • And if there are other parts of our identity that clash with being a follower of Christ, we must choose. Jesus makes it quite clear that that’s not going to be an easy choice – that it’s not meant to be an easy choice. But it is our choice all the same. And so I ask you this morning: Who are you? Amen.

[1] Mk 8:27-29.

[2] Mk 8:29-30.

[3] “Secrecy” in The CEB Study Bible. (Nashville, TN: Common English Bible, 2013), 83 NT.

[4] Mk 8:31-33.

[5] Mk 8:32b.

[6] Mk 8:33.

[7] Mk 9:2-8.

[8] Mk 8:34-38.

Sunday’s sermon: Called to Hard Things

called to hard things

Text used – Mark 6:1-29

 

AUDIO VERSION

 

 

  • I grew up in a small town here in Minnesota. I grew up in a town that was fairly homogenously white. I grew up in a family that let me know I was loved and valued. I grew up running the halls and singing my favorite hymns in a church building that was happily and safely nestled among a dozen other Christian buildings in our town. The biggest sacrifice I had to make for my faith growing up was dragging my tired, teenage, out-too-late-the-night-before butt out of bed “early” on Sunday mornings to attend services … even earlier if it was a choir morning. A lot of my friends went to church. Some of them didn’t. But it was whatever. If you went, you went. If you didn’t, you didn’t. It wasn’t a big deal. Then, when I was in high school, I found this book on the shelves at Barnes and Noble. [HOLD UP Jesus Freaks: Martyrs by dcTalk[1]] This book tells the stories of people around the world and throughout history – from the early church all the way up to today – who have suffered for their faith.
    • Read “A Pirate from the House of Prayer”[2] → And believe me when I say this, friends, this is one of the tamer stories. Actually, it’s probably the tamest story in this book and the other book that followed.[3] These books were stark eye-openers for me. Intellectually, I knew what persecution was. I knew that it existed in the world. But that was where my knowledge ended. For me, faith was and always had been a comfort, an encouragement, a support, and a soft place to land – soft, easy, pleasant. And there’s no denying that sometimes – often, even! – that’s what our faith is for us. But our faith is also a call – a call to do and be and follow the Holy Spirit into the world. And sometimes, that call is anything but soft … easy … comfortable.
      • Scripture reading this morning take us into three places where those involved are called to hard things
  • First story finds Jesus himself called to a hard thing in what’s supposed to be a soft and easy place – his home
    • Text: Jesus left that place and came to his hometown. His disciples followed him. On the Sabbath, he began to teach in the synagogue. Many who heard him were surprised.[4] → Let’s pause for a minute to remember where Jesus has been – where “that place” is that he’s just left.
      • Today’s passage comes right on the heels of what we read last week – Jesus healing the woman who had been bleeding for 12 years and bringing Jairus’ daughter back from the dead → Those are some pretty miraculous exploits! I know he’s the Son of God and everything, but I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to imagine that those events had Jesus feeling pretty good! Feeling So from the resurrection bed of Jairus’ daughter, Jesus heads back home and starts teaching in his home synagogue.
        • My first opportunities to teach and preach were in my home church → first time: summer after my freshman year in college and once every summer after that
          • Surrounded by people who loved me and were excited to explore this new journey with me
          • Experience that was welcoming, encouraging, uplifting, and affirming of my gifts for ministry
      • But that’s not exactly the experience that Jesus had. – text: Many who heard him were surprised. “Where did this man get all this? What’s this wisdom he’s been given? What about the powerful acts accomplished through him? Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t he Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joses, Judas, and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us?” They were repulsed by him and fell into sin.[5] → From the spiritual and emotional high of raising Jairus’ daughter from the dead … to being doubted and scorned and rejected in his own hometown. Reading this passage, I have to wonder if Jesus knew this was coming. Very often, the gospels make it clear that Jesus is aware of the outcome before it happens, but I wonder if this was one of those times. Or if this was a time when Jesus was utterly taken aback – when he expected welcome and support and instead received ridicule and disapproval.
        • Gr. “they were repulsed by him and fell into sin” = really complex word (yup … just one word for the majority of that phrase!): connotations of falling away, being led into sin, taking offense, being angered or shocked, something scandalizing → Surely, this was not the next step that Jesus wanted to take in his ministry – causing people to fall away … to be led into sin.
          • See a hint of this at the very end of this section in Jesus’ response – text: He was unable to do any miracles there, expect that he placed his hands on a few sick people and healed them. He was appalled by their disbelief.[6]
            • Gr. “appalled” = wondered, marveled at, be astonished (element of surprise and the unexpected) → Clearly Jesus didn’t expect this response.
    • No doubt that Jesus is called (Son of God, and all that) → And Jesus knew that parts of this calling would be difficult, of course. But did he expect this to be one of those times? Or was this one of those times when he was called to something and expected one response and received something wholly different.
      • Times like that in our lives and our calls: affirmed that we are called to something – a position, an action, a stance, an opportunity – and we think it’s going to be good (positive, encouraging, healthy, nurturing) and it ends up being far from those things (challenging, contentious, stressful, and draining) → That doesn’t mean we weren’t still called to do that thing. But it also reminds us that all the things to which we are called aren’t necessarily easy. It reminds us that we are indeed called to hard things, sometimes unexpectedly hard things.
  • See the flip side in our next part of our reading this morning → Jesus sending the 12 disciples out to work on their own for a bit
    • First part of the text: Then Jesus traveled through the surrounding villages teaching. He called for the Twelve and sent them off in pairs. He gave them authority over unclean spirits.[7] → So here we have the disciples being sent out by Jesus on some mission trips, right? And he’s being generous in that he’s sending them off together, he’s sending them off in pairs. But as he sends them off, Jesus makes it clear to the disciples that this mission trip will not be all fun and games and adoration and glory. Right up front, the disciples know that they are being called to a hard thing here.
      • 1st sign: they are to take nothing with them – text: He instructed them to take nothing for the journey except a walking stick – no bread, no bags, and no money in their belts. He told them to wear sandals but not to put on two shirts.[8] → Clearly, this is not going to be an easy trip. They are to take nothing with them but their faith and their companionship with each other. No security. No luxuries. Nothing to make their road more leisurely or assured. They are to rely on faith alone – their own faith and the faith of others.
      • Leads to 2nd sign: they are to depend entirely on the hospitality of others – text: He said, “Whatever house you enter, remain there until you leave that place. If a place doesn’t welcome you or listen to you, as you leave, shake the dust off your feet as a witness against them.”[9] → I don’t know about the rest of y’all, but the introvert in me is positively screaming at the thought of this! This is so far outside of “comfort zone” that I can’t even see a glimpse of the edges of that comfort zone. And yet this is what Jesus called the disciples to do.
        • Cannot help but hear ringing of calls to overseas mission in this – reminded of Luke and Andrea and their call to Nepal
          • Nepal = not going to be an easy transition
            • Different language (different alphabet!)
            • Maybe not the safest country in the world
            • Not the most luxurious country in the world
            • Predominantly Buddhist and Muslim
          • But I kept hearing the way Andrea described their call [READ ANDREA’S DESCRIPTION] → Indeed, friends, sometimes we are called to do hard things – things that we know from the get-go are going to be hard, hard, hard. Uncomfortable. Unfamiliar. Uncertain. Maybe even unsupported. But that does not mean that there is not abundant blessing and hope and transformation to be found in the midst of those hard things.
  • Last part of today’s text = example of the hardest thing of all: martyrdom → recounting of the story of the beheading of John the Baptist
    • Remember John’s call from before he was even born
      • Miraculous birth to Elizabeth and Zechariah who were old and had long since given up on having children
      • Angel Gabriel to before John was born: “Don’t be afraid, Zechariah. Your prayers have been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will give birth to your son and you must name him John. He will be a joy and a delight to you, and many people will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great in the Lord’s eyes. He must not drink wine and liquor. He will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before his birth. He will bring many Israelites back to the Lord their God. He will go forth before the Lord, equipped with the spirit and power of Elijah. He will turn the hearts of fathers back to their children, and he will turn the disobedient to righteous patterns of thinking. He will make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”[10] → mighty and lofty call
      • John certainly lived out that call – Mt: In those days John the Baptist appeared in the desert of Judean announcing, “Change your hearts and lives! Here comes the kingdom of heaven!” He was the one of whom Isaiah the prophet spoke when he said: The voice of one shouting in the wilderness, “Prepare the way for the Lord; make his paths straight.” John wore clothes of camel’s hair with a leather belt around his waist. He ate locusts and wild honey. People from Jerusalem, throughout Judea, and all around the Jordan River came to him. As they confessed their sins, he baptized them in the Jordan River.[11]
      • And yet in service to that call – in staying true and faithful and obedient to that call – John made plenty of people uncomfortable and irritated … including, unfortunately, King Herod and his wife. – today’s text: Herod himself had arranged to have John arrested and put in prison because of Herodias, the wife of Herod’s brother Philip. Herod had married her, but John told Herod, “It’s against the law for you to marry your brother’s wife!” So Herodias had it in for John.[12]
        • Herodias bides her time
        • King Herod is having a birthday party à his daughter (also confusingly named Herodias) dances and so pleases her father that he tells her she can have whatever she wants
        • Herodias (daughter) run to her mother (Herodias) and says, “What should I ask for?”
        • Herodias (mother) sees her chance: “John the Baptist’s head,” Herodias replied. Hurrying back to the ruler, she made her request: “I want you to give me John the Baptist’s head on a plate, right this minute.”[13] → And it was done. King Herod had John beheaded because John had called out truth and the abuse of power and propriety where he saw it.
  • Friends, as Christians, we are called to speak and live out God’s word in this world. Very often, that word is love and hope and compassion, but sometimes, especially when that word of love and hope and compassion is for those on the margins … those on the outside … those deemed “too different, too useless, too worthless, too lost, too Other,” God’s word makes other people uncomfortable. It is a convicting word. It is a word that brings light to dark places, places that other people would prefer stay hidden. And that is indeed a hard call to live into. It takes courage. It takes conviction. It takes a bold and undeniable leap of faith. But it cannot be denied, friends, that we are called to hard things. It is our blessing. It is our challenge. But it is our call. Amen.

[1] dcTalk and The Voice of the Martyrs. Jesus Freaks: Martyrs – Stories of Those Who Stood for Jesus, the Ultimate Jesus Freaks. (Tulsa, OK: Albury Press), 1999.

[2] dcTalk, 84-87.

[3] dcTalk and The Voice of the Martyrs. Jesus Freaks, vol. II: Stories of Revolutionaries Who Changed Their World Fearing God, Not Man. (Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers), 2002.

[4] Mk 6:1-2b.

[5] Mk 6:2b-3.

[6] Mk 6:5-6a.

[7] Mk 6:6b

[8] Mk 6:8-9.

[9] Mk 6:10-11.

[10] Lk 1:13-17.

[11] Mt 3:1-6.

[12] Mk 6:17-19a.

[13] Mk 6:24b-25.

Service for Healing and Wholeness

James healing

Text used – Mark 5:21-34

This Sunday, we held our annual meeting which, at the Presbyterian Church of Oronoco, is something that happens in the midst of our service. We do a little business, then read Scripture. We do a little more business, then share our prayers and take our offering. We do a little more business, then celebrate the Lord’s Supper together. In addition to the business and communion yesterday, we also ordained and installed two ruling elders and two deacons for a new term of service. All said, it was an incredibly full worship service! 

We’ve been following the Narrative Lectionary as a congregation since September, and the Scripture reading assigned for this Sunday was the above passage from Mark’s gospel – the story of Jesus raising Jairus’ daughter and the story of the hemorrhagic woman. They’re both stories of miraculous, life-changing healing. And as a congregation, we’ve had a lot of people dealing with a lot of things … a lot of life situations that could use some healing and prayers. So instead of a sermon in the midst of our super full service, we took a short time for healing and wholeness. 

So here’s what we did ………………………………

Reading: We began with a reading from Kate Bowler‘s Everything Happens for a Reason and Other Lies I’ve Loved (pp. 121-122, 123):

“At a time when I should have felt abandoned by God, I was not reduced to ashes. I felt like I was floating, floating on the love and prayers of all those who hummed around me like worker bees, bringing notes and flowers and warm socks and quilts embroidered with words of encouragement. They came like priests and mirrored back to me the face of Jesus.

When they sat beside me, my hand in their hands, my own suffering began to feel like it had revealed to me the suffering of others, a world of those who, like me, are stumbling in the debris of dreams they thought they were entitled to and plans they didn’t realize they had made.

That feeling stayed with me for months. In fact, I had grown so accustomed to that floating feeling that I started to panic at the prospect of losing it. So I began to ask friends, theologians, historians, pastors I knew, and nuns I liked, What am I going to do when it’s gone? And they knew exactly what I meant because they had either felt it themselves or read about it in great works of Christian theology. St. Augustine called it ‘the sweetness.’ Thomas Aquinas called it something mystical like ‘the prophetic light.’ But all said yes, it will go. The feelings will go. The sense of God’s presence will go. There will be no lasting proof that God exists. There will be no formula for how to get it back.

But they offered me this small bit of certainty, and I clung to it. When the feelings recede like the tides, they said, they will leave an imprint. I would somehow be marked by the presence of an unbidden God.

It is not proof of anything. And it is nothing to boast about. It was simply a gift. …

Joy persists somehow and I soak it in. … I think the same thoughts again and again: Life is so beautiful. Life is so hard.”

Remember, friends, that you have the power to be that for those you encounter: an imprint of God’s love, of God’s grace, of God’s compassion and hope. That is the joy of our faith. That is the responsibility of our faith. That is the blessing of our faith.

AnointingI invited all those who wanted to to come forward for an anointing.

anointing oil

As I made the sign of the cross on people’s foreheads with oil:
For healing,
for wholeness.

Then I placed my hand on people’s head:
Christ, have mercy.

Sending Out Our PrayersIn each bulletin, we included a “thinking of you” greeting card and envelope. Some had a simple message inside. Some were blank. As people were either waiting to come up for their anointing, waiting in their pews after they had been anointed, or waited in their pews while others were being anointed (for those who chose not to come forward), I encouraged people to fill out their cards for someone in their lives who needed healing – healing of body, healing of mind, healing of spirit, or healing of relationships. It could be someone in the pew next to them. It could be someone else in the congregation. It could be someone else in their lives, near or far.

While people were coming forward for the anointing or sitting in their pews filling out their cards, we played Laren Daigle‘s “You Say.”

Finally, we closed with a beautiful, beloved hymn of healing:

Wherever you find yourself in life right now – be it in need of healing and wholeness yourself or praying for the healing and wholeness of someone you love, may you find comfort and peace, reassurance and hope in the arms of a God who has known suffering, known sorrow, known pain, and through it all, known love above love. Alleluia. Amen.