Love + Vulnerability = Healing
The Rev. Sara Warfield
Feast Day of St. Luke the Physician
I don’t know about you, but I’ve been really distressed by the news lately. It is devastating what is happening in Israel and the Gaza Strip. Hamas, the political and military organization that currently governs Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, launched a surprise attack on Israeli locations just outside Gaza’s border, gunning down hundreds of civilians and kidnapping dozens more. The Israeli government immediately retaliated, indiscriminately bombing everything from apartment buildings to a hospital in the Gaza Strip.
I don’t claim to have any expertise about this political situation. I know that it is the product of hundreds, if not thousands of years of complicated history. People laying claim to lands and rejecting those already on those lands. Groups believing their identity or ethnicity or religion or way of being are “right” and others are “wrong.” Violence being answered with violence being answered with violence. And most of all, the buildup of generations of immense trauma.
I won’t get into the nuances of how the Gaza Strip has existed as a hostage state for 16 years, the government of Israel controlling the flow of food and goods and electricity, maintaining a constant level of poverty and desperation there. I won’t get into the ways that the policies of the United States have contributed to this situation.
I will say that there are Gazans who have denounced the violence of Hamas, and there are Jews both in Israel and around the world speaking out against the brutal retaliation against the civilians in Gaza.
There are people in all these places speaking out for humanity, for love, for healing.
I mention all this because today is the Feast Day of our parish’s patron saint, Luke, an evangelist and a physician. A healer. Which is what our readings today focus on: God’s healing power. In Sirach, we hear about the power of the physician, whom God created to heal, to preserve life. And in the gospel, we hear what Jesus believes healing looks like: good news to the poor, release to the captives, sight to the blind, and freedom to the oppressed.
More than ever, our world is calling out for healing.
As most of you know, I’ve been in my own healing process the past 15 months or so. Divorce has been the hardest thing I’ve ever been through. It made me question my worthiness, my goodness. In my darker moments, it made me question the value of love itself. If it can create this kind of rejection, this kind of pain, is love even worth it?
One way I coped through this stormy time is by—and this is going to seem like a sharp left turn given what I just talked about, but—watching Ted Lasso. On repeat. Many times. I mean, y’all know I love the gospel of Ted Lasso. Because with all the hurt in our lives and in the world, we need levity. I needed levity. In the first season, two of the main characters are both navigating divorce in different ways: one by repressing his pain which eventually squirts out sideways as panic attacks, and the other who leans fully into anger and retribution against her ex, and hurting whoever she needed to hurt to do so.
There’s a quote from the second season that seems to sum all this up for me. “When all’s said and done, what’s more important, being loving or being right?”
To me, that feels like the nucleus of healing. In Ted Lasso, the divorced characters finally give up on what they think is the “right” response to open themselves up to what is truly loving. Only then do they start to heal.
That’s also what I hear Jesus saying: “I don’t care what you think is “right.” The loving thing to do is to lift people out of poverty, restore sight to the blind, release people from captivity, and free the oppressed.”
A good doctor doesn’t insist that his treatment plan is right if the patient is telling them that it isn’t working. A good doctor is loving enough to listen to their patient, to hear what’s really going on, and to make decisions based not only on their own expertise but on the experience of their patient.
And what would the situation in Israel and the Gaza Strip look like if governments—if all of us—stopped needing to be “right” and started contemplating what it means to be loving. What healing might come about?
I think the biggest reason that the gospel of Ted Lasso has been so healing for me is that I got to be around these other broken, albeit fictional, people going through the same thing I was. It’s been healing to watch them stumble, fall, and then slowly pick each other up. Which is what they do. They become friends. And then they become family.
To me, that’s what church should be. And I think that’s exactly what St. Luke’s is. As I mentioned before, we are a community named for a healer. Which is appropriate, I think, because I know that many of us, maybe even all of us, came to St. Luke’s wounded. In many cases, wounded by a past religious experience that insisted on rightness over love.
But, as we learn in our membership class, The Episcopal Church doesn’t gather around some “unerring” doctrine or one “right” way of believing. We don’t gather around a commitment to one “infallible” interpretation of the Bible or a single “correct” path to salvation.
Since the inception of our denomination, born initially as the Church of England in the 16th century, we have gathered around one thing: praying together. Those red books in the pews in front of you are the Book of Common Prayer. That book doesn’t doesn’t instruct you in how to believe, it instructs you in how to pray, and most of all how to pray with other people together, in community. Now I take those common prayers from that book and put it in our worship booklets in the pews so that it’s easier to navigate worship, but all our worship comes from that Book of Common Prayer and a few other approved Episcopal sources that were created in and for community.
We don’t gather to proclaim that there’s one “right” way to believe. We gather to learn God’s love together, in action, by praying and worshiping together. By being a community together, sometimes disagreeing and learning how to manage our differences with grace. By not insisting on being right but on finding the loving way forward. Together.
This all requires something risky, something that is sometimes terrifying: vulnerability.
There is no healing without admitting that you’re wounded. There is no healing without being willing to rely on someone else for their care and expertise. There is no healing without vulnerability.
But lucky for us, vulnerability seems to be the charism, or the gift of the Holy Spirit, in this St. Luke’s community. You see it during our community prayers every Sunday when we share the hard or joyful things out loud, letting everyone hold them. You hear it when, before or after worship, someone comes up to you asking, “how are you?” and truly wants the honest answer. I witness it during our Bible Study or New Members gathering where people feel safe talking about losing someone they loved or admitting to the ways they’ve fallen short and hurt others.
There’s safety here, because we’re not committed to sorting out who’s right and who’s wrong, we’re committed to figuring out how to best love one another. That’s how we live into the legacy of our namesake, St. Luke. Because that kind of vulnerability, that kind of love, is truly and deeply healing.
Every Sunday, I pray before service with those helping to lead worship—our acolyte, our musicians—and almost always I ask God to build up and nurture God’s love here so that we who worship are filled with it and take it from this place into our homes, into our communities, into the world.
This world is wounded. And no one of us will mend it, not on our own. But if we commit to bringing the vulnerability we practice here, God’s love we nurture here, into every aspect of our lives, healing will happen and it will spread.