January 5, 2014

Healer of Broken Souls

Healer of Broken Souls
Psalm 65, Isaiah 61:1-3, Matthew 2:19-23
Second Sunday after Christmas
January 5, 2014

The words of Isaiah 61 were some of our Lord’s favourite verses in all of Scripture.  It was these words Christ used to describe Himself and His ministry when He went into the synagogue in Nazareth, concluding the reading with, “  It was this passage He quoted when John the Baptist, alone and fearing for his life in prison, sent people to ask Jesus, “Art thou He that should come, or do we look for another?”  Christ quoted the words of Isaiah, words which looked forward to the coming Messiah, and the healing of souls He would accomplish, and He said tell John these things are happening.  In other words, Jesus is doing what only the Messiah can do.  Therefore, He is the Messiah.  He is “He that should come.”
            But these things aren’t merely proof of His identity.  They are His identity.  He didn’t just do them to show that He had the power and the glory.  He did them because He couldn’t help doing them.  They were part of His nature and His attitude towards us.  When the Centurion’s servant was sick, Jesus wanted to go to Him.  When the lepers came to Him He cleansed them.  When the poor and outcasts were rejected by the scribes and Pharisees, He welcomed them.  When the law told them they were sinners and lost and bound for Hell, He said He had come to receive sinners and to seek and to save that which was lost.
            I think of the time Jesus was in Capernaum, and had spent the evening, and far into the night healing the sick and casting out demons.  What was He doing there but preaching good tidings, proclaiming liberty to those in captivity to Satan, and binding up the broken hearted?  Yes, sin breaks hearts.  We tend to look at sin as the harmless indulgence of natural whims.  We have a hard time seeing how our sins affect others, and, I think, we are nearly blind to the way our own sins affect us.  Oh, we can see how drug addiction ruins lives.  We can see how the Hollywood consumptive life-style kills souls.  We can see how divorce, and crime, and war, and bad government, hurt us.  And we can imagine what a life of prostitution and pornography would do to a person, but we can’t always see how our sins draw us away from God and weaken our faith, and even dissolve our desire for God.  But they do.
            There is a story about an old time, horse and buggy minister; we’ll make him an Anglican, concerned for a family who had a habit of missing Church.  One cold winter evening the rector drove to the family’s farm.  It was deep winter, and the family was gathered around the hearth of their comfortable home enjoying hot tea and cookies, and the bountiful blessings of God.  The rector was given a chair by the fire, but said very little.  “How can I help these people see what the sin of forsaking the Church does to them? He prayed.  Eventually he took the poker and pulled a burning red ember out of the fire onto the hearth.  At first it continued to burn, but, slowly at first, then with increasing quickness, it began to cool.  First the flame died.  Then the glowing red color gave way to charred blackness, then the heat, the life of the coal, just went out, and the rector picked it up with his bear hand.  He set it beside another ember, one that had not been deprived of the warmth of the fire.  They sat there on the hearth, one glowing and red, the other cold and dead.  Soon the father and husband of the home spoke.  “I understand, Reverend,” he said.  “We will be in church this Sunday.”
            The Song of Solomon makes a similar point about the effects of sin.  It talks about the little foxes that spoil the vines.  It pictures a Godly marriage as a luxuriant vineyard, but the little foxes, the small and seemingly harmless things dig up the vines and grapes.  We can apply this to any relationship, and almost any aspect of our own lives. Our vines have tender grapes.  Our faith is small and weak, and the little things, the little foxes, can do tremendous damage to our lives.  Perhaps you know by experience what I am saying.  But be of good cheer.  One has come from God saying,

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me: because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the broken hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound: to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn; to appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto the beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord.
                                       

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. AmenX

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