Someone Needs Your Faith
October 19, 2008
The Rev. Dr. Anthony J. Godlefski, Pastor
Montgomery United Methodist Church
14 “You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. 15 No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.”
Friends, our topic and our title for this morning is “Someone Needs Your Faith.” This morning I’d like to talk with you about this exciting scripture that Jesus offers us, and I’d also like to talk with you about some of the experiences I had over the last week.
I’ve been on an amazing journey. I spent last week in a seminar called “Destination Health” with Dr. Mimi Guarneri. At this seminar, which was attended by many physicians and psychiatrists and doctors of biochemistry and a few ministers thrown in for good measure, we contemplated this question: What if there were no barriers between the discipline of allopathic, conventional American medicine and the discipline of theology that ministers bring and faith and spirituality and the new ideas about spirituality, like energy management and tai chi and yoga and pure diet? What if there were a free flow between all of them and we were able to connect all the dots in our healing experience? Wouldn’t that be great? The Scripps Center for Integrative Medicine, which is located in San Diego, answered this question with a big yes.
And so, at the seminar we were looking at all the different possibilities. All these excellent medical practitioners brought their skill and discipline, and we were listening to folks who study other healing arts, Asian healing arts, spirituality and the spirituality of the Christian church as well as other traditions, to try to bring them all together for our healing experience. We all say, wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could do it? And the answer is a big yes. And so, that’s where I was last week, studying all these different approaches to healing.
Why did I go out there? Well, ostensibly for pastor self-care, because I want to heal even more, but also, very importantly, because the people of this church and people wherever I go say, “Pastor, will you pray for me?” “Will you pray for my mom?” “Will you pray for my loved one?” My answer is always, “Yes, I will.” But I want to know so much about prayer. I want to know more about prayer than I’ve ever learned in seminary. I want to bring the resources of all these different disciplines and approaches to energy, to spirituality, as well as the mechanics of healing together in my prayer. I want to know as much about them as I can, because when we pray together I want us to pray with power and energy and information, and I want to bring as much of that to this congregation as I can.
We are so blessed to have in this congregation people and professionals from many different disciplines. We are so blessed to have physicians in our congregation—the Drs. Heath, Dr. Benito, Dr. Rodriguez, Dr. Lee; in addition, we have many nurses and other professionals in the health care field. We are so blessed.
And I am so excited about working together with you and developing new depths of wellness, not only through the disciplines of the great healing arts, but also through prayer and spirituality. I think it’s an exciting adventure. That’s what I’ve been studying out there at the seminar, Destination Health.
The Scripps Center is a very large, conventional medical hospital that employs people in different areas of energy therapy as part of their work. I enjoyed talking with one woman who practices a discipline called ‘healing touch’ in which different energy fields of the body are prayed over and prayed for to help people heal faster from operations and to give them wellness.
I remember one story she was telling about a surgeon that always kind of looked down at her. He wasn’t so sure about what she did. One day, he came up to her nonchalantly and said, “By the way, you busy on Thursday morning?”
“No,” she said.
“Uh, well, my mom’s coming in for an operation. Do you mind going over to her room and doing whatever you do?”
And she said, “Sure, I will.”
I think it’s exciting to bring all of these disciplines together, things that some of you have talked to me about– yoga, tai chi, and different energy healings – and to bring them together for the common good. Who knows what radiance of blessing we can be as we do it?
Dr. Guarnieri is a very famous cardiologist. In her opening lecture, she said to us, “Look over the schedule for the week. Check things out. If there’s anything you aren’t comfortable with, if there’s anything that really grates at you, anything you really don’t want to do…take that class.” It’s called the sandpaper factor. And I will tell you this – as I looked over the schedule, I thought, “Journaling. Whoa, yes! Tai chi. No, I don’t think so. Especially tai chi with that young doctor over there, the lanky fellow with the beard and the long hair in a ponytail. I’m not so sure about that.” That was my signal to take that class.
I tell you, it was one of the best classes I took. What a revelation! The doctor was brilliant. He’s an M.D. His specialty is pain management. I had a consultation with him, and he was absolutely fantastic.
There is so much to be learned, and there were so many exciting things that I was able to study out there. I look forward to bringing ideas about it to you as the weeks go on. One of my absolutely favorite classes was Journaling, journaling as a way to better health. I’ve always liked to write, but it is a remarkable tool and a remarkable resource. We’re going to talk about it.
One of the most important things they talked about was good stress management, how stress can influence the cortisol levels and do bad things for us. Management of stress is so important – proper breathing, proper imagery. I benefited from that, as well.
I didn’t know how quickly I’d have to use it! I was on the plane coming home, the long flight from Honolulu to Housten. I was bleary, just waking up from the flight. A flight attendant came by and asked if I’d like some breakfast, gave me the breakfast tray. Another flight attendant came by and asked if I’d like something to drink. I said, “Yes, I’d like some orange juice and some coffee, please.” So, she gave me the orange juice (I said thank you) and she gave me a cup of black coffee.
I’m sitting there, bleary-eyed, and I asked her if I could please have some cream and sugar for the coffee. And she said, “You didn’t say you wanted cream and sugar. You know, if you wanted cream and sugar you should have said something.”
I said, “But…but… but….”
She said, “Look, I’m not your wife. If I were your wife, I would have known you needed cream and sugar. But I’m not your wife.” She said, “Look, there are 236 other passengers on this airplane. Now, am I supposed to read their minds, too, and know whether they want cream and sugar? Just give me the cup!”
I gave her the cup. She put in the cream and sugar and gave it back to me. I said thank you. Breathe in. Hold. Breathe out. Hold. Think of something pleasant. I had to use the technique right away.
It’s going to be exciting, my friends, as we develop this together. But I also want to talk to you about the scripture. I want to talk about you being the light of the world. Let’s talk about what Jesus said in Matthew 5, verse 14: “You are the light of the world.” You’ve heard it so many times before, but think of this – what is Jesus saying? There is an energy about you. There is an energy that shines from you. Let it shine. That’s what Jesus is telling us to do. Let it shine. Don’t hide it. Somebody needs your faith. Who is it?
Let me put it to you this way? Whose faith do you need? Who is it in your life that lit up the candle in your heart? Whose faith are you grateful for? Who made the big difference for you? Whose candlelight did you take a light from? It didn’t diminish theirs at all, but now, you are the light of the world, too.
Somebody needs your faith. I’ve got to tell you this story. At one of the journaling classes, the subject was spirituality. We went around the room, telling about what we’d written and about our thoughts on spirituality, until we got to Raymond and Linda. Raymond said, “Well, to tell you the truth, this leaves me a little cold. I don’t want to offend anybody, but I guess you could say I’m an atheist, and I just can’t relate to this spirituality stuff. I don’t get it.” You could see his wife just take a breath and sigh.
And I tell you, that exchange bothered me. I thought, what do I do? Do I talk to him? Do I not? I went back to my room and I prayed about it. I said, “Lord, I feel kind of off-center because of that remark. Should I share with him?”
And the answer came back like this: if you are thrust together, clearly thrust together, talk to him, and if not, don’t worry about it. Okay. And point of fact, the rest of the week, we weren’t thrust together. We didn’t end up sitting at dinner together or anything like that.
I was getting my coffee one day, and Linda came up to me and said, “You’re a minister, aren’t’ you?”
I said, “Yes.”
“Oh, that’s nice,” she said, and she walked away. So, we never connected, and I thought, okay, that was the deal I made with the Lord.
I was on my way home, sitting with my baggage, waiting for the taxi to take me to the airport, when who comes walking up but Raymond and Linda. “How did you like the seminar?” said Raymond.
“I liked it real well.”
“Did you think it was helpful?” he asked.
I said, “Yes.”
“You’re a minister, right?”
“Oh. Well, I thought there was something missing. I don’t get it. I went through the whole thing, and there was something missing. I didn’t feel like the other doctors really connected with me. Do you, like, welcome people when they come to your church?”
I said, “Yes, I certainly hope so.”
“Oh, oh, well, something was missing.”
I said, “Raymond, you talked about spirituality in journaling class. Do you think maybe that’s what’s missing?”
He said, “What do you mean?”
I said, “When you have a relationship with God, something happens inside that’s like none other. It’s not like looking at a picture; it’s like looking at the real thing. It’s exciting. Your faith connects you to God and fulfills you in a way that nothing else can.”
Linda was crying. Tears were streaming down her face. She said, “Would you please keep talking to him?”
“Sure,” I said.
“Well, I didn’t say I was completely shut off to it,” he said to his wife.
I said, “Can I make a suggestion?”
He said, “You think we should go to a Methodist church?”
I said, “Yes, that’s right.”
“But she’s Jewish,” Raymond said to me.
“But I know a wonderful Methodist church just down the street from us,” Linda said to Raymond.
“Well, I didn’t say the door was shut and locked. Maybe it’s open a little bit.”
Tears continued to stream down Linda’s face, and she said, “I’m glad we had this talk.”
And Raymond looked at me and said, “You know, sometimes the universe saves the best for last.”
I said, “Thank you.”
And Raymond said to Linda, “You know, we can try it.”
And Linda said, “Thank you so much.”
“Yeah, yeah,” he said, “I think we will.”
They started to walk away, and then Raymond turned and said to me, “And you can tell your congregation I said that.”
I said, “I will, Raymond.”
You never know; you never know. Somebody needs your faith. Somebody needs the example of your faith. Somebody needs to light his empty candle from the light of your faith, and have his light shine, too. Won’t you offer it? Won’t you let your light shine? I pray God you will, because God loves you. I do, too. Have a wonderful week. Amen.
© 2008 Anthony J. Godlefski