During a visit to a mental asylum, a visitor asked the director how to determine whether or not a patient should be institutionalized. “Well,” said the director, “we fill up a bathtub, then we offer a teaspoon, a teacup and a bucket to the patient, and ask him to empty the bathtub.” “Oh, I see,” said the visitor. “A normal person would use the bucket because it is bigger than the spoon or the teacup.”
“No,” said the director, “a normal person would pull out the plug. Do you want the bed near the window or the door?”
You see, even “normal” people may not be all that “normal.”
In fact when Jesus returned from his forty-day time and temptation in the wilderness, he went to worship at the synagogue in Nazareth, and he chose to read the verses we heard this morning. For Jesus and all four Gospels, Isaiah was held in highest regard. Quotations from Isaiah appear in all four gospels, Acts, several of Paul’s letters, and 1 Peter.
It appears there’s a lot of broken pieces and people around, a lot of issues people are facing, a lot of problems we suffer. The thing is everything mentioned here in this scripture doesn’t seem like much of a problem, not to us at least. Good news to the oppressed? Who talks about people being oppressed these days or here in America? That’s for really serious people who don’t know how good everyone has it or are looking through the wrong end of the binoculars.
Good news? Who needs good news from on high? Heck, you can just turn on TV or open up your iPad and watch a funny movie or dumb TV show. That’ll make you forget your problems for a while.
It’s a nice sentiment that’s expressed here, and Jesus may have wanted to enfold himself in it, but seeing problems where there aren’t any doesn’t do anyone much good, does it? It just upsets us, and worse, upsets the apple cart—and we all like apples. The point is if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. That’s how most people think.
I bet we all know people…I bet we are those people who absolutely live by the saying if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
The truth is, that only works if things really aren’t broken. Of course nothing is broken to an ostrich with its head stuck in the sand.
Our point actually should be the same one somebody else pointed out: if it ain’t broke, then it can’t be fixed. Laurie Beth Jones, Jesus, Entrepreneur
If you don’t know you’re in need of good news, if you don’t know you’re oppressed, if you don’t know you’re in need of liberty and release, if you don’t know you’re a captive and imprisoned, then you can’t be fixed, healed, restored, renewed, recovered, saved.
If you ain’t broken, then you can’t be fixed…. But if you are broken, well then there’s some fixing that can be done.
I want to show you a clip from the movie Apollo 13. The spacecraft has malfunctioned. Now it’s time for the engineers and the brain trust to think of how to fix the problem. They can forget about the flight plan. They have a new mission.
I love that last line: “I don’t care what anything was designed to do. I care about what it can do.”
It’s easy to say things were supposed to be a certain way, and because they’re not, because stuff is broken, I did my part. I’m done. This is the trap of that guy sitting back smoking his cigarette and not in the cockpit of a broken vessel or the man who’s in the hot seat and three lives are depending on him.
I know that line doesn’t sound like it’s right, not here in church at least. We’re supposed to act and be as God designed us. The design isn’t wrong, it’s us. The correction is to get back to the design, to stick to the design, to align ourselves to God’s design. For sure.
But the thing is, people who think they can just hop out of their skins and their lives and jump right into God’s design, well, tend to be the most messed up people around. That isn’t the way it’s done.
The fact is, at this point most of us, if not all of us, should be thinking not in such lofty terms as what God designed me to be about. Rather, we should take it more of a step at a time: like what we can do today about what’s going on with me and my life, with me and why this or that seems to go wrong too often.
God doesn’t mind if instead of thinking of his grand design for humanity at Creation, we take a while to look at our own personal truths, personal situation and condition, and see what we can do and see who we can be in the more immediate.
Henri Nouwen was a priest, an author, a chaplain for a home for mentally disadvantaged adults, a Harvard professor, and a speaker. One of his books was called The Wounded Healer. Nouwen begins the book with a story.
A Rabbi who came across the prophet Elijah and said to him, “Tell me—when will the Messiah come?” Elijah replied, “Go and ask him yourself.”
“Where is he?” said the Rabbi. “He’s sitting at the gates of the city,” said Elijah. “But how will I know which one is he?”
The Prophet said, “He is sitting among the poor, covered with wounds. The others unbind all their wounds at the same time and bind them up again, but he unbinds only one at a time and binds them up again, saying to himself, “Perhaps I shall be needed; if so, I must always be ready so as not to delay for a moment.”
Henri Nouwen adds, “What I find impressive in this story are these two things: first, the faithful tending of one’s own woundedness and second, the willingness to move to the aid of other people and to make the fruits of our own woundedness available to others.”
What I like about this story is that the Messiah is sitting with the poor. That’s because the so-called poor know they’re broken. Or those who know they’re broken are often called the poor by others who don’t understand themselves.
And I also like that the Messiah is not doing much more than tending to his or her wounds and healing. It’s because the Messiah does this right that he can be available to others.
Accept you’re broken and wounded. Listen to your own need for compassion and healing. Follow that line forward, and see where God’s grace will take you. The truth is, we are in need of Christ’s ministry of good news, freedom, and release.
There are lots of people and places that need help.
While attending the University of California at Santa Barbara, Paul Orfalea got irritated at constantly having to wait in line to get copies made for his classes. To add insult to injury, he and his classmates were paying exorbitant prices for each of the copies they got. He decided to fix it.
He bought his own copier, rented a former hamburger stand across the street from his competitor, and started selling copies at half the price. Paul Orfalea is now worth $250 million dollars, and most of that came from starting Kinko’s back in 1970.
Paul could see that it was broken, so he fixed it. Things are broken. But don’t get used to it. Do something about it.
What’s happened so often is we think we can just let things heal on their own. We will just forget about it, or them, or about what happened or what we did. We ignore and deny. And we think we get healed over time.
I guess it’s sort of like when you break something, like your nose, or maybe a finger, and you don’t go to the doctor and it heals. But it doesn’t heal straight or well. You finally go a couple of weeks later and your doctor, examines you, and goes, “Uh huh, uh huh,” as she looks and feels and probes the problem area. And you know what’s coming next. “We’re going to have to rebreak it.” That’s how we fix an already broken bone that really hasn’t healed.
That’s us. That’s me. That’s you. We’ve tried to heal our breaks but we haven’t done the best job.
We need to get some help for our healing. It’s not for everything but just for what your wounds that haven’t healed so well are hiding out.
In the Gospel according John, on the night he was betrayed Jesus took a basin, poured water into it, grabbed a towel, and started to wash his disciples, his students feet. When he got to Peter, Peter refused, saying he couldn’t allow Jesus to wash his feet. But the Lord had a quick reply, “Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.”
Peter quickly assented, and then of course went overboard and said for Jesus to wash his hands and his head. But Jesus made it clear only the feet were necessary; only that much was hindering Peter.
Only this much is hindering you from Christ’s life in you coming to greater life. Only a bit, only a thought or two, only an action or two, only a memory or two, only a pain or two, only a loneliness, or a doubt, or desire, or a temptation. Only a crack or two, only a wound or two, only a broken piece or two; it’s only this or that bit but they’re there.
Don’t be afraid of them, and don’t ignore what’s wrong, because nobody else is going to be able to fit the key into the lock of the door that’s shut across it. You’re the one holding the key, and it’s yours to try it.
But the beauty of our loving God is that if you will at least grab a hold of that key, you’re going to get a lot of help coming your way. If you will sincerely say it’s time to see the problem and accept it’s a good day to find a solution, God’s love for you has some powerful healing in it.
I want to finish with a clip toward the end of Apollo 13. With the fate of astronaut Jim Lovell and his crew in jeopardy, an old interview airs on television, where Jim talks about the faith of finding a way home. It’s a beautiful message I want you to take with you this morning.
Can anybody say Amen?