Open my lips, O lord, and my mouth shall show forth Thy praise. Amen.
A water bearer in India had two large pots, each hung on each end of a pole,
which he carried across his neck. One of the pots had a crack in it, and
while the other pot was perfect and always delivered a full portion of water
at the end of the long walk from the stream to the master's house, the
cracked pot arrived only half full.
For a full two years this went on daily, with the bearer delivering only one
and a half pots full of water in his master's house. Of course, the perfect
pot was proud of its accomplishments, perfect to the end for which it was
made. But the poor cracked pot was ashamed of its own imperfection, and
miserable that it was able to accomplish only half of what it had been made
After two years of what it perceived to be a bitter failure, it spoke to the
water bearer one day by the stream. "I am ashamed of myself, and I want to
apologize to you."
"Why?" asked the bearer? "What are you ashamed of?"
"I have been able, for these past two years, to deliver only half my load
because this crack in my side causes water to leak out all the way back to
your master's house. Because of my flaws, you have to do all of this work,
and you don't get full value from your efforts," the pot said.
The water bearer felt sorry for the old cracked pot, and in his compassion
he said, "As we return to the master's house, I want you to notice the
beautiful flowers along the path."
Indeed, as they went up the hill, the old cracked pot took notice of the sun
warming the beautiful wild flowers on the side of the path, and this cheered
it some. But at the end of the trail, it still felt bad because it had
leaked out half its load, and so again it apologized to the bearer for its
The bearer said to the pot, "Did you notice that there were flowers only on
your side of your path, but not on the other pot's side? That's because I
have always known about your flaw, and I took advantage of it. I planted
flower seeds on your side of the path, and every day while we walk back from
the stream, you've watered them. For two years I have been able to pick
these beautiful flowers to decorate my master's table. Without you being
just the way you are, he would not have this beauty to grace his house."
God calls us not as we should be but as we are. Each of us has our own
unique flaws. We're all cracked pots. If we will allow it, the Lord will
use our flaws to bring beauty and grace in service of God and humanity. In
God's great economy, nothing goes to waste.
So when you hear God calling you to the tasks He has appointed for you,
don't be afraid of your flaws. Acknowledge them, and allow God to take
advantage of them, and you, too, can be the cause of beauty in His pathway.
Go out boldly, knowing that in our weaknesses, we find His strength.
Remember that God doesn't always call the qualified, but He always qualifies
During the few recorded years of Jesus Christ's earthly ministry in the
Gospels, we are reminded again and again of the miraculous cures available
through His presence alone. And, it is recorded that He gave his Apostles
and Disciples the gift of healing. Many early saints, like SS Cosmas &
Damien or Panteleimon, with the gifts of healing and comfort were designated
as "unmercenary" that is "not mercenary". I had to look up mercenary,
because images of rambo-like movie characters were all that came to my mind.
Mercenary comes from the French - merces (according to Webster) which is
translated "wages" - a mercenary is one who serves only for wages (like
soldiers for hire). Those early saints are referred to as the healing and
wonder-working saints who serve with no want of wages or rather
"unmercenaries." That is a significant insight into the work of healing
BTW - Mercy has the same root - merces - and Webster literates it as "price
paid" - so, "Lord, have mercy" could also be understood as "Lord, pay the
price for us." Well, I don't know how much I can further I can push this,
but there again is insight into the work of healing - there is a difference
between mercy and grace - grace is like getting a birthday gift - getting
something that wasn't deserved. Mercy on the other hand is not getting what
we do deserve. More on that issue another time.
Do you think that the Creator of everything that exists, the Knower of all
things and the One with infinite power and might care about our distinction
between a small little itty-bitty miracle and the big gigantic large ones
that get all the publicity? Besides our belief that bigger is better, the
busy God only has time for the really big things, what is the difference
between a big miracle and a small miracle? If God can do the big ones, why
wouldn't He take care of the little ones? We are like the child who keeps
complaining to our father, "hurry up and fix my toy - you said you would!"
The father says, "I will as soon as you let go of it." Often the thing that
stands in the way of our healing is us. I was also told that God's timing
can be slow, but it is always perfect since He has all the time.
Three main points about healing ministry so far:
1. There is grace and mercy afforded us. God's love permeates the very air
that we breathe. Perhaps we are not breathing.
2. God doesn't know a difference between a big miracle and a small one. I
should also mention God's miracles are not for sale, by currency or by
3. God calls us not as we should be but as we are. We all have flaws that
may be irritating and disappointing, but God will make use of them as well
if we let Him. But even the most stubborn of these can be cured, if needed
There is a story about an irascible old monk who constantly corrected the
other monks on the smallest of matters and would get full of rage at the
drop of a hat. A young monk was assigned to him for work. The older monk
did everything he could to control his temper around this innocent young
man. He went into the chapel and after hours of asking for this awful anger
to be removed, he saw a light stream from the Icon of Christ and he knew he
was cured of the affliction. He ran out of the chapel to find someone to
tell the wonderful news. A bumbling old monk, the cook, ran right into him
and jabbed him with a walking stick. The cook winced ready for the expected
tirade. Instead, the old monk kissed him and asked where his student was.
As he walked over to where the young monks where talking, he heard one make
a comment that could be heretical. He started right in one the youngsters,
correcting him with great diligence. The student monk interjected some weak
point in the other's defense. At that moment the old monk flew into a rage.
In the midst of his rampage, he noticed that the anger that was so
mercifully removed was back in full force. With tears in his eyes, he ran
back into the chapel and fell down and asked, "God, why didn't you remove my
affliction? I thought you healed me." God responded, "I did heal you and I
allowed every circumstance for you to prove to yourself it was indeed gone.
It is you that took the opportunity to take it back."
Metropolitan Anthony Bloom, in his great book Beginning to Pray, make the
point that we begin to truly pray when acknowledge the distance between us
and God. If God is everywhere all the time, it is only in our consciousness
that we imagine that we are separate. In contrast, gratitude to God moves us
ever closer to Him. On retreats, I have everyone go on a "gratitude walk"
Thank you God for... Before long, everyone is smiling and giggling. I bring
this seeming contrast of attitudes to your attention as keys for the
teachings in the gospel lesson and the stories I have told. When we realize
the pain and suffering of being separate from God because of our self-will
and the host of other sins, we truly pray, "Lord, have mercy." When we move
toward a deeper gratitude to God, we begin acknowledge our completeness and
our temporal connection to the universe. We find we belong, we fit, and we
don't have to hold tight so the world doesn't fall apart. Being thankful to
our Creator relieves us of the burden of failing at God's job description.
We don't have to be anything other than what we truly are. We can approach
God as a "cracked pot" or "an irascible angry old monk" or "a leper." We can
approach God with whatever pain or suffering or defect or shortcoming.
Everyone is welcomed to receive the anointing offered here this evening. You
will need to come forward to the rail. That's what partaking of the
Christian life is for me. It is an approach to the Most High God with
respect and honor, giving thanks for the unique and unqualified blessings
grace in my life and asking for mercy for the same sins that separate me and
all of us from the God that is every where present and fills all things.
Christ is recorded as saying many times to those that were recipients of
healing - "Thy faith hath made thee whole." It is a coming into wholeness,
an alignment perhaps (not unlike a front end alignment so that my car won't
keep tugging to the right).
There two more points about healing ministry:
4. We humans reach out and pray to God when there is a gap. A gap is a lack
of wholeness. Healing is being made whole through Christ.
5. Finding gratitude in everything around us reminds us God calls us not as
we should be but as we are.
Father Alexander Schmemann was an acclaimed Orthodox theologian and one of
the founders of St. Vladimir's Seminary. The month before he passed on in
1983, he wrote a short peace that he read at his last Thanksgiving liturgy:
Thank You, O Lord!
Everyone capable of thanksgiving is capable of salvation and eternal
Thank You, O Lord, for having helped us to overcome all difficulties,
tensions, passions, temptations and restored peace, mutual love and joy in
sharing the communion of the Holy Spirit.
Thank you, O Lord, for the sufferings You bestowed upon us, for they are
purifying us from selfishness and reminding us of the "one thing needed:"
Your eternal Kingdom.
Thank you, O Lord, for having given us this country where we are free to
Thank you, O Lord, for our families: husbands, wives and especially,
children who teach us how to celebrate Your Holy Name in joy, movement and
Thank you, O Lord, for everyone and for everything.
Great are You, O Lord, and marvelous are Your deed, and no word is
sufficient to celebrate Your miracles.
God bless and keep you according to His mercy and lovingkindness.
May the peace that passes all understanding be with you and all your loved ones. Pray for us.