The Exhausted Great Physician
I apologize. I am going to talk about my dad again today but please, I’d be grateful if you would cut me a little slack. And I do wonder if my dad knows somewhere up there in heaven that he has become a star sermon illustration in his daughter’s homilies. Maybe my dad is best discussed on the therapist couch. Haha!!
The truth is Dr. Peacock was far from being all sweetness and light. My dad was all business and playing sick was no game. To get out of school, you had to provide evidence – scientific evidence. My dad would pull out his little black bag: listen to your heart, look down your throat, peer into your ears, palpitate your stomach, tell you to take two aspirin, and send you off to school.
Being a doctor, of course, my dad worked crazy hours: weekends, holidays, Christmas, Thanksgiving and Easter – no exceptions. As a child, it seemed to me he was always making rounds. And on very rare occasions, I got to go ‘round with him and troop behind him, at the hospital like an acolyte.
Be it bedside at the hospital or in the examining room at his office, maybe the best thing Dr. Peacock gave his patients was time — time to heal.
He was forever coming home late. After dinner was over. After we had already gone to bed.
Healing requires a deep, deep well of patience. Healing is exhausting work – for both doctor and patient.
In the Gospel of Luke, an incredibly patient patient approaches the Great Physician.
Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues on the sabbath. And just then appeared a woman with a spirit that had crippled her for eighteen years. She was bent over and quite unable to stand up straight. Jesus saw her, called her over, laid hands on her and said, “Woman, you are set free.“Luke 13:10-11
And what seems to be a momentous and instantaneous miracle, really took eighteen years — eighteen years of hope.
In 1stcentury Palestine, eighteen years is half a lifetime. Imagine struggling half your life with whatever ails your body, mind or soul. For some of us that might be a stretch. For others, struggles of a lifetime come easily to mind.
A chronic illness.
An intractable addiction.
A particular disability.
A flavor of dysfunction.
A broken heart. A broken home.
What would you call the thing that has eaten you up? What would you name to be the thing that has kept you from living your best god-damned-God-given life?
And in the midst of all of that struggle, how in half a life time — like the woman haunted by the spirit which had undone her — can you somehow heal and and also hold onto hope?
Well, look to Jesus – the Great Physician; he worked doctor’s hours on the Sabbath. Healing does not get a day off (to the chagrin of the powers that be). But after working weekends, Jesus is just as bone tired and exhausted — just as bone tired and exhausted as any human could possibly be.
Jesus’ reputation precedes him. A wonderworker — he restores sight to the blind. A wonderworker — he makes the lame to walk. Wherever he went, crowds pressed in upon him just to touch the hem of his cloak.
Jesus, just say the word and I shall be healed.
He cared, of course, for all who came to him. He got to everybody the best he could but even Jesus has only twenty-four hours in a day. Just like us he needs his eight hours of sleep and three-square meals. Time to gather his thoughts. Time to recharge his spirit.
And so, what does the Great Physician prescribe?
Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while. “All by yourselves” includes Jesus. It includes everybody.
Sunday is the Christian Sabbath (which we swapped out for Saturday, the seventh day of the week). God rested from hanging the stars and stocking the oceans. God rested on the Sabbath and made it sacred.
The old Blue Laws, once upon a time, helped us to keep it holy. (Called blue, I know not why. Maybe blue because the Blue Laws made Sundays so boring?)
Once upon a time, when I was a little Roman Catholic kid, on Sundays we went to Mass. We slid into a back pew, squirmed in our seats, snoozed during the sermon, rattled off a few Hail Mary’s, and nodded our heads in prayer.
Our Sunday afternoons after church were lazy and uneventful. Even my workaholic dad, Dr. Peacock put on a pair of jeans and puttered around his workbench. We read the funny papers, played board games, took cat naps.
It was not let all mortal flesh keep silence. There were nine of us, after all, but we slowed way down. God gave us the gift of a lazy day.
Not so 21stcentury true, right? On Sundays we shop ‘til we drop. We’re glued to our devices, our smartphones and our MACS. We answer email. We return phone calls. We slip into the office.
(And by definition, I am literally required to work on the Sabbath. Counting seminary, I’ve been working weekends for thirty-one years!)
Sunday blurs into Monday. Tuesday. Wednesday. You know what I mean.
Being summer, we are a little better at this but many of us schedule our vacations out the wazoo.
God created sabbath time for healing work – not busy work. So how to tell the difference?
By following the example of the Great Physician, of course.
Pick a Sunday and give it a try. Try and see if you can keep it holy. (And I am preaching to myself as much as all of you in the pews. I am terrible at this!)
If there is any truly healing work to do, you must do it, of course. But be honest, how much of that stuff you feel compelled to do is truly healing?
Otherwise, put down the newspaper. Leave the dishes in the sink. Leave the beds unmade. Go no further than your back yard. Swing in a hammock. Listen to music. Read a good book. Soak up a little silence along with the sun.
Close your eyes and listen. To the birds in the trees. The airplane overhead. The occasional breeze. Water gushing from a hose. Kids kicking soccer balls in the yard next door.
Tune into the sound of your breath. The rhythm of your beating heart.
Thank God for the life that surrounds you.
Thank God for the life within you.
And for twenty-four hours, let the world spin without you.
And if you have too much already planned for today, try it next Sunday!
Remember the Sabbath Day and keep it holy.
Spirituality The Episcopal Church Clergy Homily Ordinary Time Podcast Sabbath The Great Physician The Rev. Joan L. Peacock
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The Rev. Joani Peacock, Editor for Emmanuel Voices: A Parish Blog
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