A Letter of Love and Healing
May 30, 2010
Arlene Bougher, Lay Speaker
Montgomery United Methodist Church
1:1-6 “To all the saints in Jesus Christ at Philippi together with overseers and deacons,
Grace and peace to you from God our father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I thank God every time I remember you, in all my prayers for all of you. I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the Gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this …that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus”.
2:12b-13 “…continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his purpose”.
4: 12b-13 “I have learned the secret of being content in every and any situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or want. I can do all everything through Him who gives me strength.”
The title and theme of today’s message is A Letter of Love and Healing. This morning I’d like to share a few of those letters with you.
I’m in Olathe, Kansas… a great place to visit family. On my morning jog as I prepared to walk across a busy road, a truck pulls up beside me, the driver rolls down his window, gives me a smile, and says “You go ahead, ma’am”… Amazing!
I sit at the breakfast table and begin to read the morning newspaper. On the front page of the Kansas City Star I glance at the headlines; there are actual heartwarming positive stories…Amazing!
One of those stories, printed in big bold black letters is entitled, “50 Years On, Thanks For a Life Saved”.
It was just before Thanksgiving, 2009. James Still, a young man of 50, wanted to thank someone he really didn’t know and hadn’t seen in decades. Mr. Still, “an award winning television writer and playwright whose works has been produced at theatres across the nation” was compelled to thank a certain someone who made a difference in his life.
The man he was looking for was a surgeon at the University of Kansas Medical Center. The young doctor had performed an unusual and rare surgery on him, to save his life.” James still said “I wanted him to know it was worth it, what he did. The things I’ve done, and the people I’ve loved. It wasn’t wasted. It’s been full and I wanted him to know that.” Now living on the North West Pacific Coast, Mr. Still contacted the university by email, wondering if anyone could help him in his quest...and they did!
More than 48 years after the surgeon had saved this 16 month old boy’s life, James Still was able to exchange emails with the 80 year old Dr. William A. Reed, (who is still teaching at the Kansas University), and thank him for the gift of his life...Amazing!
Now take a quantum leap with me as we go from Kansas to Rome, Italy. It’s about 61 AD. Paul the apostle is imprisoned. It does not look good. His beloved church in Philippi where Paul has made many Christian disciples is very worried about him. So they sent Epaphroditus, a Christian well liked by Paul and his church. He brings gifts for Paul, and is prepared to help Paul in any way he can. But Epaphroditus became deathly ill and after what was said to be a divine recovery, Paul thought it was an appropriate time to send his homesick friend back to the church at Philippi, with a letter of grateful thanks and love, and to encourage them in their faith.
In his letter to the Philippians, St. Paul writes, “To all the saints in Jesus Christ at Philippi together with overseers and deacons, (meaning the pastors and bishops) Grace and peace to you from God our father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I thank God every time I remember you, in all my prayers for all of you. I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the Gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this …that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Jesus Christ”. I feel as though Paul is speaking to us too, don’t you?
The church at Philippi is located in what was called Macedonia, now Northern Greece, “on a spur of mountains along side a well-traveled road between Rome and Asia”. I could understand St. Paul wanting to be back there among his much loved brethren and sisters, who supported him in prayer and finances. I could see him feeling a bit down about his circumstances, his future, and maybe…needing a group hug after decades of missionary journeys, and then being taken by guards on a long trip to a Roman cell. Yet in his epistle to his favorite church, from his small guarded space, chains could not break his faith, nor could they erase the need to continue to preach to those around him, to give them the gift of the love of Jesus Christ, the healing gift of salvation…amazing!
In Philippians 4: 12b -13, St. Paul writes, “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want… (because-4:13) I can do all things through Jesus Christ who strengthens me”.
He was lifting up his supporters, these first Christians of the European Continent; his letter was a beacon of light and joy, of love and healing for those times and their future, for our times and our future… until the day of Jesus Christ.
When I was reading the 2nd chapter of Philippians, a verse struck me- hard. The verse is Philippians 2: 13. St. Paul is telling this church they have always obeyed in his presence and now in his absence it’s even more important to do so. He asks them to “continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his purpose”. In other words, He wants to be beside us and within us to help us through our trials and help us sustain our faith. We are not alone! We are not alone.
Last year, Pastor Tony expressed his joy about a journaling class he took at a health seminar. His enthusiasm sparked my interest, so I asked him to lead a similar workshop as a United Methodist Women’s program that February, here at the church. He agreed. Everyone would be invited.
That night, I came to the workshop eager to learn more about spiritual journaling, but with mental limitations and uncontrolled emotions. I had been in denial about a medical problem and now I had to deal with it. I was fearful of some of the choices I had to make, some of which were irreversible.
I also was fearful of the thoughts that my faith was superficial, meaning that if I were really tested, having to live through pain or fear of not being physically well, I would turn God off and forget all His blessings; I would be angry with Him and cry out “Why me?”
Included in the workshop, that night, was prayer journaling. We had to write a letter to God. With tremendous emotion, tears, anxiety and a fearful heart, I began my letter. If you will permit me, I’ll share part of what I wrote.
I know you told me …that I’ll be healed of this, but what path do I take to get there? Please God, push me to that path; open my heart and my mind, give me a clear choice and tell me if this journey is to teach me about humility and staying in love with you, through all I do?”
As I wrote this letter I felt all the fears of being lost, but before I put pen to paper, God already had pushed me on the path to healing, to a path of clear choices. Asking Pastor Tony to lead this class and his inclusion of writing certain letters in the process, would heal my fears and let me know that in no uncertain terms, God as Mother/ Father, Jesus, and The Holy Spirit, all in one, loves ME and is watching over ME.
It happened this way. After writing the letter to God and quietly sharing what we had written with a nearby partner and doing some meditating, we were asked to write a letter from God… to us!
This letter from God, to me… felt like that- me holding the pen and God causing the words to flow out of it, fast, chastising, full of love and healing. And now God writes back to me:
I know you feel like a ton of bricks fell on you, but you will come out of this almost the same` as you were before. Life is good for you as the human life goes. You are so blessed in family and marriage. Take your time and realize this is but one moment in your life. Only when you are here with me, will you see how it is. You are going through so little compared to others around you. I am with you! You are my child! I love you.
With all my being,
He was repeating- to me, to -all of us, what he inspired St. Paul to write in his letter to the Philippians, chapter 2:13“continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, it is God who works in you to will ( change our will) and (then we will desire) to act according to His purpose”. With God beside us and within us- we are never alone!
That letter of love and healing tore down all the walls of my prison of fear and darkness. I left the church that night filled with joy. I felt God’s support, love and strength. I was focused on Him, not on my problems.
Today, this morning, if you who are in need of love and healing, (which may include most of us) I invite you to write a letter to God in which ever form you choose- in thought, spoken word, or by the written word in your journal. Write a letter to God and see what happens. Have faith. It will be …amazing!
May God bless you, have a good week.
© 2010 Arlene Bougher