Good evening everybody, welcome to the 11th Annual Blessing of the Firetrucks. It’s been a year since we’ve gathered together like this, and it’s been a year of ups and downs, to say the least. As a community, death is not foreign to us, but we’ve seen too much of it this year, in our ranks, in our families, and in the community. We’ve celebrated too, of course; there were a lot of firefighter weddings this year, I’ve run out of fire related jokes to make at the services. It’s been a year of ups and downs, which makes it all the better that we get a chance to gather together like this, so that as a community we can say thank you, to say God bless you, to show our support for all of you and all that you do.
I want to talk today about time and healing. “What time is it?” is more than the question you ask yourself when the pager goes off in the middle of the night, or when you’re waiting to get off shift or a duty crew. Time is crucial in any number of ways: time in training and time of response come immediately to mind, but so does time off, time with family and friends, time to rest, pray, decompress. And time to check in with each other, to hold each other up, time to help heal the wounds of lives going from one incident to another.
Today’s gospel lesson is all about healing, for all time, all history, was fulfilled in the Messiah coming to heal us. The healing described for us today is not one of those elegant miracles of Jesus, healing by a word or a gesture or by power flowing through his cloak. This one is down and dirty, physical, a little disgusting, really. Friends bring a deaf and mute man to Jesus; He sticks His fingers in the man’s ears, He spits on His hand and touches the man’s tongue. Jesus groans, feeling the suffering of a life lived deaf and mute, and finally commands the man’s ears and mouth to work properly. “Be opened.”
By now we know that Jesus could have healed that man any way He wanted to. Jesus could have waved at the man from across the room or said a quick prayer or, really, just thought the man healed. But instead, Jesus spent time with the man; He made a connection, an actual physical connection; He took on a portion of that man’s suffering, and He made him whole.
Time and healing. Like I said before, this has been a year in which, like first responders everywhere, we have seen trauma and the results of those traumas on ourselves. A recent study has found that 84% of first responders have experienced trauma while on the job, which means that the other 16% are either lying or just haven’t been involved long enough. The incident that still gives me trouble happened in 1995: some wounds take a long time to heal.
What are your wounds? Whether you’re a firefighter, an EMT, a police officer, dispatcher, armed service, or none of the above, we all have wounds. We all have wounds that stop us from hearing and speaking to each other, that stop us from relating to ourselves and to each other and even relating to God the way we would want to. But healing is real and possible.
For the record, I’ve witnessed miraculous healings, both physical and spiritual. But the Lord works in many ways, most of them not that mysterious. Most of the time, healing looks like what happened in our gospel story: people responding to a friend in need, gathering together around him, guiding him toward help. When time is spent, connections are made, and suffering is shared, healing is possible, miracles are possible.
The Lord created us to be in community, to be together with Him and with each other, so that in truly hearing one another, so that in speaking to each other in truth and love, we may all come to true healing and true peace.