Making a shrine of our wounds

Do you want to be made well? In the gospel reading for today’s lectionary cycle, we read the story of Jesus healing the man at the pool at Beth-zatha from John 5:1-9. In the sermon preached today at Washington National Cathedral, the Very Reverend Gary Hall (Dean of the Cathedral) reflects on the gospel vis-à-vis our culture of violence, and a conversation he had had with a few colleagues in the middle of an argument. He further reflects on what this might mean for each of us and for our society.

Here is an excerpt from Dean Hall’s powerful sermon:

As people, and as a society, I believe we have all made a shrine of the wound of violence in our human nature and in our world. In saying that, I do not intend in any way to disparage the victims of violence, or to suggest that they are somehow bringing it on themselves. I would never say that. But I do think that we seem to have accepted violence as a natural fact of life, and so we tolerate it, and we tolerate aggression much more than we should. One of the reasons I think we tolerate so much violence is that we are in denial about the depths of its roots in our being. …

Each of us carries the possibility of violence within our own heart. Only when we acknowledge that possibility; only when we accept that part of us that Jungians call the shadow, the part that we don’t want to acknowledge that it exists; only when we stop pretending that we are somehow better and purer than others; only then will we be able to be open to the healing that can happen when we acknowledge that we actually need it.

Do you want to be made well? That is Jesus’s question to the man by the pool at Beth-zatha, and that is Jesus’s question to you today. Do you want to be made well? Do you want socially to be made well? Do you want personally to be made well? Do you want your world? Your society? Your relationships? Even your body to be made well? If so, then start by seeing things as they really are. When I build a shrine to my old wound, I perpetrate the fiction that you are guilty and that I am innocent. But all of us are somewhat guilty, and none of us is perfectly innocent. Only as we accept the parts of ourselves that we would turn from and deny, only then will we be open to the healing that Jesus offers the man by the pool in our story, to our nation, to the world, and to you and me this morning.

Dean Hall continues by discussing what he might consider a good “summary” of the good news of the Gospel. He uses the collect of the day appointed for the sixth Sunday of Easter as good attempt at summarizing what the gospel is all about:

O God, you have prepared for those who love you such good things as surpass our understanding: Pour into our hearts such love towards you, that we, loving you in all things and above all things, may obtain your promises, which exceed all that we can desire…

It is my prayer that each of us, those who are filled with love and faith, those of us who are filled with cynicism and anger, and especially those of us who have made shrines of our wounds, may be filled with such love towards God and towards each other that we may transform our world, one step at a time, into a world that overflows with caring, loving people. Hey, a guy can dream, right?

View Dean Hall’s sermon in its entirety here.

View the entire worship service from Washington National Cathedral on May 5, 2013 here.

The Rev. Canon Gary Hall, Dean of Washington National Cathedral.


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