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I Wish My Teacher Knew

Rev. Daniel A. Smith
Sun, Oct 30

Text: Like 18: 34-43

Earlier this week, I came across an article that brought me to tears. And no, it wasn’t about any election turmoil. It was about a third grade teacher named Kyle Schwartz and an exercise she tried with her students. One day in class, she asked her students to fill in the blank in this sentence, “I wish my teacher knew________.” The results were eye-opening, filled with a mix of humor, honesty and heartbreak. Check out a sample of the responses:

I wish my teacher knew… I don’t have pencils at home to do my homework.
I wish my teacher knew … that my mom got divorce three times.
I wish my teacher knew … I love animals and I would do anything for my animals.
I wish my teacher knew … that my family and I live in a shelter.
I wish my teacher knew … that I become very focused when I listen to music!

“Instead of making assumptions about my students,” says Schwartz, “I really just allowed them the space to tell me what I needed to know." Thankfully, her idea has caught on. The article explained that it’s become a model for teachers, helping them better understand the real life challenges students face, enabling them to create safer and more supportive learning environments.

It reminds me of another teacher, our Rabbi Jesus, and something he says in our passage for today. Did you notice his first response upon encountering a blind man on the road to Jericho? When the man comes near to him, Jesus starts with a question: “What do you want me to do for you?” Remarkably, he makes no assumptions! No assumptions, just because the man is blind. No assumptions, because the man is a beggar. If you ask me, it’s a mistake to skip to the end of the passage where Jesus is said to have restored his sight. I think a different kind of miracle happens through that very question and invitation. We can imagine that the man feels seen, that he feels heard, that he feels respected.

That model is a good one for our healing service this morning. Jesus is our Rabbi, our teacher, who is willing to see us anew anytime we want to come to him. He’s one who responds without assumption to our needs for healing, or inspiration, or mercy, or rest or whatever else we may be in need of this morning. I trust it’s not too much of a stretch to invite us today, on this Healing Sunday, to imagine Jesus asking that question of us right here, right now. What do you want me to do for you? What do you want me to know about you? Can you tell me where it hurts? I wonder if we can feel some softening, some transformation and invitation to healing that is already under way?

Before I go further, I need to switch gears for just a moment. There is something I would be remiss not to name given today’s proximity to an important anniversary for the wider church. October 31st, 1517, that’s (almost) 500 years ago tomorrow, Martin Luther is said to have hung his 95 theses on the doors of All Saints’ Church in Wittenberg. That writing and action is widely viewed as the start of the Protestant Reformation. Much of Luther’s subsequent theology has become a foundational part of how we think about church and faith today. Among other things, his reading of scripture helped paved the way for our understanding of the church as a “priesthood of all believers.” That is to say, we have all direct access to God and Christ in worship and prayer. We can all experience a direct relationship with God, without need for priests or deacons who are set “above” over us with authority to mediate our connection with God or Christ. This is important to remember if you choose to come forward in a moment for healing prayer. We are just here to ask what’s on your heart and to pray with you, to give aid to a process that is already underway. Yes, Luther’s teachings are riddled with anti-Semitism, and he was no friend to Islam either. Others of his theological assumptions we now know were misguided. And yet the reformation he began gave way to so called Reformed Churches the world over who proclaim to be still Reforming even to this day, just as our United Church of Christ claims to be a still uniting church. Considering these themes on ongoing transformation, the same could be said of our health and healing, and Luther himself once said as much. Hear his words now:

“This life therefore is not righteousness, but growth in righteousness, not health, but healing, not being but becoming, not rest but exercise. We are not yet what we shall be, but we are growing toward it, the process is not yet finished, but it is going on, this is not the end, but it is the road.”

Friends, perhaps it is in just this Spirit that Jesus asked on that road to Jericho: “What do you want me to do for you?”

Not only an offer to “do for” us, not merely the promise of health or a cure for what ails us, individually or collectively, but instead the expressed desire to know us more deeply, to hear about and share in the ongoing Spirit-led process, the process of our healing, the process of our becoming, the process of narrowing that space between us and God, between us and our best selves, between us and each other, between the world as it is and the world as it should be.

Where do you find yourself on the road today? Where are we as a community? Where are we as a nation? Are you sad, angry, scared, alone? What do you wish our teacher and Rabbi knew about you? Friends, we are not yet what shall be, but we are growing toward it, always. So happy 500th anniversary church! And thanks be to God that we aren’t finished yet!

Today we wish to offer you all
a time of blessing and consolation,
a time to renew your faith in God’s promise
of wholeness and well-being for all people,
and indeed for all creation.
This is an opportunity to receive
a gentle word, a touch of soothing oil
and a reassuring hand—
all signs of God’s gifts of peace and hope.
Some of you may wish
not to come forward during this time.
As you remain seated,
please enjoy the quiet and the music,
and pray for the world, for others,
and for yourselves.
Whether you remain seated or come forward,
whether you ask aloud
or silently within your hearts,
God knows your need,
and God comes to us all
with hope and healing and peace.
I’d now like to invite our Deacons and healing teams to come forward.

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