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Home is the Way – Transforming Pain

Date: 06/02/2022/Speaker: Rev Miak Siew

Good morning! Thank you for joining us as we continue our sermon series “Home is the Way.” We have been using Menti as an engagement tool for our sermons and I want to invite you to join us at 4397 2569. 

Pauline mentioned last week in her sermon “opening our doors to love” that “Richard Rohr has a way of assessing our spiritual health… namely what do we do with pain? Do we transmit it or do we transform it? You may have heard this saying, “Hurt people hurt people.” That’s what I mean by transmitting pain. When we don’t transform our pain, we will inadvertently transmit it and pass it on.” 

<M> Have you been transmitting your pain, or have you been transforming your pain? 

If you think you have transformed your pain, I want to invite you to ask – are there occasions that I have transmitted my pain? 

If you think you have only transmitted your pain – then it would be good to ask – are there parts of my pain that has been transformed? 

And for those of you who think that you don’t have any pain – then it would be good to ask – Am  I in denial? Am I avoiding dealing with my pain? All of us have been hurt and carry pain with us. That is the nature of the brokenness of the world. 

Richard Rohr writes: 

“All healthy religion shows you what to do with your pain, with the absurd, the tragic, the nonsensical, the unjust and the undeserved—all of which eventually come into every lifetime.  

If only we could see these “wounds” as the way through, as Jesus did, then they would become sacred wounds rather than scars to deny, disguise, or project onto others. I am sorry to admit that I first see my wounds as an obstacle more than a gift. Healing is a long journey. 

If we cannot find a way to make our wounds into sacred wounds, we invariably become cynical, negative, or bitter. This is the storyline of many of the greatest novels, myths, and stories of every culture. 

 If we do not transform our pain, we will most assuredly transmit it—usually to those closest to us: our family, our neighbours, our co-workers, and, invariably, the most vulnerable, our children.” 

Transmitting pain is causing hurt. Transforming pain is the process of healing. 

Pauline said that sometimes people treat FCC as a hospital. They come with wounds and hurts, and hope that we can help them get back on their feet. And we are happy to do so because that’s part of our work and ministry as pastors and as a church. That’s what we are called to do. We are called to love unconditionally. 

The issue isn’t that they leave after they received what they think they needed. The issue isn’t just that the relationship is one-sided. 

The issue I think is that they misunderstood what is healing. 

When we treat church like a hospital, we think that our wounds and hurts can be treated and healed just like how an illness or injury can be treated or operated on, and we get better instantly. But that’s not how healing works. Even for illness or injury, most of the healing takes place AFTER being discharged from hospital! We stay in hospital to get treatment to deal with the illness or injury, and the healing comes after that. 

The healing we need for the wounds and hurts we carry are healed through love – not just receiving love, but also as we learn to love.  

So the where is this place we can find healing for our wounds and hurts?  

Home. 

Home is where we learn how to love and be loved more deeply and authentically.  

Home is where we create and hold space for each other to grow.  

Home is where we take care of one another. 

Home is where we find healing. 

So when people treat church as a hospital, and they leave after they think they have received what they needed, I don’t think they are fully healed. 

“True ahava or true love, is more concerned about giving than receiving.  Being the center of someone’s attention isn’t love. And love isn’t about getting some feeling or fix. Ahava is about giving our devotion and time. Giving is the vehicle of love. God so loved the world that God GAVE… “ 

Love is centered on the other, rather than centered on the self.  

That is why The Hebrew word for love — ahava (אהבה), which is made up of three basic Hebrew letters:  aleph (א), hey (ה), and bet (ב), hey (ה)  X 2 = .  The name of God YHWH  יהוה‎ (26)  

Love requires mutuality. 

It is easy top treat church as a hospital – we all want quick fixes because we avoid pain. We want instant healing. But healing takes time. Healing takes effort. Healing often involves pain and discomfort. 

“We shouldn’t try to get rid of our own pain until we’ve learned what it has to teach. When we can hold our pain consciously and trustfully (and not project it elsewhere), we find ourselves in a very special liminal space. Here we are open to learning and breaking through to a much deeper level of faith and consciousness. Please trust me on this. We must all carry the cross of our own reality until God transforms us through it. These are the wounded healers of the world, and healers who have fully faced their wounds are the only ones who heal anyone else.” 

We sang one of FCC’s anthems – “Free in Your Presence” today. 

If I could rewrite Your story of love for me, I would not forget of the moments of doubt. 

If I could rewrite Your story of love for me, I would not erase those times of struggle. 

<M>If you could rewrite God’s story of love for you, would you erase those times of struggle? 

I hope you won’t erase your times of struggle. Because these times of struggles can be transformed into sacred wounds. 

The song is based on Jacob wrestling with God (or an angel) in Genesis 32:22-31 (Inclusive Version) 

22 That night Jacob got up and took his two wives, his two female servants and his eleven sons and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. 23 After he had sent them across the stream, he sent over all his possessions. 24 So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. 25 When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. 26 Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.” 

But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” 

27 The man asked him, “What is your name?” 

“Jacob,” he answered. 

28 Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel,[f] because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.” 

29 Jacob said, “Please tell me your name.” 

But he replied, “Why do you ask my name?” Then he blessed him there. 

30 So Jacob called the place Peniel,[g] saying, “It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared.” 

31 The sun rose above him as he passed Peniel,[h] and he was limping because of his hip. 

At this point, Jacob was at his wits’ ends. Jacob was weary and burdened, and fearful of the outcome of his reunion with his brother Esau who wanted to kill him. As he wrestled and struggled – with himself, and with God, he wrestled with the darkness within himself. He had been running away all this while from his brother – the consequence of stealing the blessing meant for his brother. 

He receives a new name Israel – “because he had struggled with God and with humans and have overcome” – and it is through his struggle that he was blessed.  

Healing happens in our wrestling with ourselves and with God. That is how we transform our pain.  We wrestle by looking at ourselves hard – knowing who we are – the good AND the bad, and knowing even as we wrestle with God, with ourselves through the dark night, the dawn will come, and God will bless us – and our pain is transformed and we are transformed. 

“Those moments I wrestled myself and you for the answers for a little hope 

I will remember when you became real to you  

When you would not turn away 

I will remember I am an anchor of love, I am a beacon of hope for you” 

We also need to remember– Israel / Jacob did not emerged unscathed – he emerged from that struggle with a permanent limp from where God had touched him.  
 

This wound is like the sacred wounds Richard Rohr wrote about – they are not scars that we are supposed to deny or hide. They have something to teach us.  

Richard Rohr gives an example of holding the pain – picturing Mary in Michelangelo’s Pietà cradling Jesus’ body. One would expect her to take her role wailing or protesting, but she doesn’t! We must reflect on this deeply. Mary is in complete solidarity with the mystery of life and death. It’s as if she is saying, “There’s something deeper happening here. How can I absorb it just as Jesus is absorbing it, instead of returning it in kind?” Consider the analogy of energy circuits: Most of us are relay stations; only a minority are transformers—people who actually change the electrical charge that passes through us. 

Jesus on the cross and Mary standing beneath the cross are classic images of transformative spirituality. They do not return the hostility, hatred, accusations, or malice directed at them. They hold the suffering until it becomes resurrection! That’s the core mystery of Christianity. It takes our whole life to begin to comprehend this. It tends to be the wisdom of elders, not youngers. 

Unfortunately, our natural instinct is to try to fix pain, to control it, or even, foolishly, to try to understand it. The ego insists on understanding. That’s why Jesus praises a certain quality even more than love, and he calls it faith. It is the ability to stand in liminal space, to stand on the threshold, to hold the contraries, until we are moved by grace to a much deeper level and a much larger frame, where our private pain is not center stage but a mystery shared with every act of bloodshed and every tear wept since the beginning of time. Our pain is not just our own.” 

It is then we move from just being wounded to wounded healers. 

These are the moments that God becomes real to us 

<M> What are your moments when God became real to you? 

3 weeks ago, at the end of my sermon, as I said “Rise, take up your mat, and live,” many emotions surfaced.  
It was one of my wounds that was being bound up – the pain being transformed. I wrote those lines with the voice of authority of Rev Yap in my mind – but at the same time there is a lot of grief that has not been resolved, and I often wondered if I could step up with the same authority – but that moment, God showed me that I am to find my own voice – one that is tempered with vulnerability, one that is the voice of the wounded healer. 

I am grateful for that moment – because it prepared me to write the letter to Today – finding my voice, in touch with pain that I have carried for years. *Trigger warning here – i will be talking about suicide* 

As I was spring cleaning for Lunar New Year, I came across this police report I made in January 2008. I had been receiving calls from an unknown number late in the right at that time and I wanted to find out why. It was only when my friend took his own life, that I found out that it was him calling from a public phone. 

I spoke about this in the sermon I preached before I left for seminary in 2008. I knew that he had been depressed for a while, and in the past two years he withdrew to himself and did not contact any of us.  

I wondered if our connection was stronger, he would have called to talk instead of making those calls from a public phone. I wondered if I could have done more.  

It was in his memory, and many others, that I wrote that letter to Today.   

“Rise, take up your mat, and live.” 
 
My mat, my pain, is the grief and pain of losing my friends, and wondering if I could have done more. I will never know – all I know is move beyond trying to understand why, and learn to embrace the mystery. 

There will be different wounds and different mats in our lives. It is our journey to wrestle with, and rise, take them up, and live. We need to learn to hold the suffering until it becomes resurrection, understanding that is the core mystery of Christianity. 

Jacob kept asking “What is your name?” God never answers Jacob, but blesses Jacob. I believe there are questions we will keep asking, we will keep seeking, but even when we do not get answers, God still blesses us. 

All this encapsulated in the wisdom in 2nd half of the Prayer of St Francis of Assisi 

O Divine master grant that I may 

Not so much seek to be consoled as to console 

To be understood, as to understand. 

To be loved. as to love 

Transforming pain means wrestling till we move beyond wanting to be consoled, but to console others. We move beyond wanting to be loved, but to love, realising, in Pauline’s words last week that “Giving is the vehicle of love. God so loved the world that God GAVE… “ 

That is when we stop transmitting pain and begin transforming pain. That is when we become wounded healers – who understand –  

For it’s in giving that we receive 

And it’s in pardoning that we are pardoned 

And it’s in dying that we are born… 

To eternal life. 

Amen