Opening Ourselves to Healing (Sermon 1 of 4)

Sept 9, 2018
Opening Ourselves to Healing (1 of 4)

Rev. Amy D. Yarnall


If you would like to begin reflection this week, read through the sermon and use the reflection questions near the end.


James 2:1-17

2My brothers and sisters, do you with your acts of favoritism really believe in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ? 2For if a person with gold rings and in fine clothes comes into your assembly, and if a poor person in dirty clothes also comes in, 3and if you take notice of the one wearing the fine clothes and say, “Have a seat here, please,” while to the one who is poor you say, “Stand there,” or, “Sit at my feet,” 4have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts?5Listen, my beloved brothers and sisters. Has not God chosen the poor in the world to be rich in faith and to be heirs of the kingdom that he has promised to those who love him? 6But you have dishonored the poor. Is it not the rich who oppress you? Is it not they who drag you into court? 7Is it not they who blaspheme the excellent name that was invoked over you?

8You do well if you really fulfill the royal law according to the scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 9But if you show partiality, you commit sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. 10For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it.


Mark 7:24-37

24From there he set out and went away to the region of Tyre. He entered a house and did not want anyone to know he was there. Yet he could not escape notice, 25but a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit immediately heard about him, and she came and bowed down at his feet.26Now the woman was a Gentile, of Syrophoenician origin. She begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter. 27He said to her, “Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” 28But she answered him, “Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” 29Then he said to her, “For saying that, you may go—the demon has left your daughter.” 30So she went home, found the child lying on the bed, and the demon gone.

31Then he returned from the region of Tyre, and went by way of Sidon towards the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis. 32They brought to him a deaf man who had an impediment in his speech; and they begged him to lay his hand on him. 33He took him aside in private, away from the crowd, and put his fingers into his ears, and he spat and touched his tongue. 34Then looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.” 35And immediately his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. 36Then Jesus ordered them to tell no one; but the more he ordered them, the more zealously they proclaimed it. 37They were astounded beyond measure, saying, “He has done everything well; he even makes the deaf to hear and the mute to speak.”






Sept. 9


In reading the passage from James,
one of the first questions that comes to my mind is
what was it like to be one of the poor people
who was told “sit at my feet”

How painful was that?


Perhaps if they had experienced plenty of love..

and lots of acceptance, affection, attention, and appreciation
throughout their lives
they would be able to shrug that off

My bet is, though, that is was painful.

If it is comparable to how homeless folks feel today,

then there was a lot of pain and discouragement
being experienced by the poor people who were routinely told
“sit at my feet”


The most obvious point that James is making here
is that we are treat the poor well

we are to recognize that they are the richest if faith

and heirs to the Kingdom of God…


I am reminded of a man I met many years ago…

he was an onsite supervisor for a homeless shelter in Earleville MD called Meeting Ground

Bobby was older, and had lost his vision because of diabetes..

he himself had been homeless at one time,

and had become such an integral part of the Meeting Ground community
that he was a respected leader when I met him

People respected him and listened to him..

he was a man of deep, abiding faith

who walked the talk every day

He was one of the people who I could feel the presence of the Holy Spirit

just flowing through him…

He showed me what it looks like to see that
“God has chosen the poor in the world
to be rich in faith and to heirs to the kingdom” (v.5)


Bobby was no stranger to pain..

he has lived through a lot of it in his life…

Being at Meeting Ground was a place of healing for him

and he lived there until he died several years later.


The truth is,
none of us are strangers to pain…

all of us had the equivalent experience of being told “sit at my feet”

All of us have experienced being excluded rather than accepted..

rejected rather than receiving affection and appreciation

we all know what it is to be ignored rather than given attention..


Many of you know that I am completing my certification to be a yoga teacher

yesterday was our final class day…

Yoga is about connecting with God

and it is about what we Christians call sanctifying grace…

Opening ourselves to God’s grace

and walking the walk in ways
that honor God and ourselves and our neighbors

So my time in this training has led me to reflect upon Scriptural truths

that have also been a vital part of Yoga teacher training.

Today’s reading from James

leads me think about the source of our pain…
and it is rooted in the times when we don’t receive






When we are rejected, ignored, unappreciated, and unloved

part of our human condition is to form habits

which are intended to keep us from being in that position again



these habits can also keep us in a place of suffering..

perhaps a different kind of suffering than the one we are avoiding..

but still in pain


Let’s take the Syrophenician woman from the gospel..

isn’t her boldness and courage impressive?

She is not going to let anyone, not even Jesus,
set her aside…

Yet she is clearly an outsider..

she knows what it’s like not to be accepted..
she knows what it’s like not to be loved

So in this exchange with Jesus

her boldness serves her well…


But what if she takes that combative pattern

into every aspect of her life?

What if everything is a fight?


Then life is pretty painful…

and she probably feels like everything in life is always a fight

Do you know anyone like this?

where everything is always a battle for that person?

Even if the situation doesn’t start out that way,

it always turns into a struggle?


I wonder if she is able to feel any peace…

I wonder if the syrophenecian woman
was able to accept love and affection and attention
where it is offered?


Understanding our own places where we have not experienced





is the first step on the path to healing…

because knowing where these places are

means understanding what it is we need to be healed of…

it means knowing ourselves, whom God created,

in the fullness of God’s creation..
in the truth that we are created in the image of God


Listening to the Show On Being I heard

Marilyn Nelson, a famouscontemplative teacher, being interviewed


Story of pastor on retreat who spent time in group talking and then went to room to pray…heard “shut up and let me love you”


Marilyn had vision of the universe
in which everything was dark
and the only source is light was people who were open to God…
Jesus teaches that we are the light of the world


So how do we let that light shine through us?

how do we open ourselves to the light of Christ?


This is what a prayer life is all about…

this is what saints through the ages have called our “inner life”

This is where we LISTEN for God

this is where we are LOVED by God

our inner life is where the light of God is poured into us…

And as we enter deeper and deeper inside of ourselves

we will also come to see our scars, our hurts, our pain…

and the first step is to recognize these…

the next step is to begin inviting the Spirit

to teach us more fully how to walk in the light..

how to open ourselves up to healing

But if we do not recognize where we are in pain and why

if we don’t reflect upon where we did not experience





and what coping mechanisms we developed because of these experiences,

then we will stay in our same patterns

and live in the same pain…


So how do we examine ourselves in this way?

how do we live the interior life?

The most effective way I have found is through journaling

and what St. Ignatious calls the Examen


Have you noticed that it is easier to see the presence of God

in hindsight?

We are much better able to recognize God at work

when we look back than when we are in the midst of something…


This is the beauty of doing journaling

in the form of spiritual autobiography…

Because it provides the invitation

to look back over our lives

to reflect upon our experiences

and to see where God was present…


One of the experiences that comes up whenever I journal in this way

was in first grade

My best friend was convinced by another girl

that they should be best friends

and that I should be excluded…

Such a little girl

such a typical childhood experience…

I have a few choices in thinking about this experience..

I can write it off as something every kid goes through at one time or another

or I can see it as a formative experience
that was both painful and a teacher for me

and as a lens through which to see God at work…

And what I see is this:

that was a painful experience for me..

and I can see that God used it, along with other things,

to form and build compassion within me..

I always look at the edges of a group

and see who is not engaged…

and is not included…

and I try to bring them in..

it’s a part of how God works in me

and it is born, in part,

because I identify with the poor people in the assembly

that James talks about..

I know what it feels like

to be  told “sit at my feet”

This also teaches me

that I formed a habit of keeping friends at arms length

where they could not hurt me or reject me

And if I am not paying attention

if I am not spending time listening to God

and letting God love me,

then that same old pattern causes me pain again

And so to open myself up to healing

I have to see where it is that I need healing

and what it is that I do

to cause myself pain, ironically,
because I am subconsciously trying to avoid pain


This is where the daily examen becomes a wonderful practice:

  1. Become aware of God’s presence.
    Look back on the events of the day in the company of the Holy Spirit.
    The day may seem confusing to you—a blur, a jumble, a muddle.
    Ask God to bring clarity and understanding.
  2. Review the day with gratitude.
    Gratitude is the foundation of our relationship with God.
    Walk through your day in the presence of God
    and note its joys and delights.
    Focus on the day’s gifts.
    Look at the work you did, the people you interacted with.
    What did you receive from these people? What did you give them?
    Pay attention to small things—
    the food you ate, the sights you saw,
    and other seemingly small pleasures.
    God is in the details.
  3. Pay attention to your emotions.
    One of St. Ignatius’s great insights
    was that we detect the presence of the Spirit of God
    in the movements of our emotions.
    Reflect on the feelings you experienced during the day.
    Boredom? Elation? Resentment? Compassion? Anger? Confidence?
    What is God saying through these feelings?

God will most likely show you some ways that you fell short.
Make note of these sins and faults.
But look deeply for other implications.
Does a feeling of frustration perhaps mean
that God wants you consider a new direction in some area of your work?
Are you concerned about a friend?
Perhaps you should reach out to her in some way.

  1. Choose one feature of the day and pray from it.
    Ask the Holy Spirit to direct you to something during the day
    that God thinks is particularly important.

It may involve a feeling—positive or negative.
It may be a significant encounter with another person
or a vivid moment of pleasure or peace.
Or it may be something that seems rather insignificant.
Look at it. Pray about it.
Allow the prayer to arise spontaneously from your heart—
whether intercession, praise, repentance, or gratitude.

  1. Look toward tomorrow.
    Ask God to give you light for tomorrow’s challenges.
    Pay attention to the feelings that surface as you survey what’s coming up.
    Are you doubtful? Cheerful? Apprehensive? Full of delighted anticipation?
    Allow these feelings to turn into prayer.
    Seek God’s guidance. Ask God for help and understanding.
    Pray for hope.

St. Ignatius encouraged people to talk to Jesus like a friend.
End the Daily Examen with a conversation with Jesus.
Ask forgiveness for your sins.
Ask for his protection and help.
Ask for his wisdom about the questions you have
and the problems you face.
Do all this in the spirit of gratitude.
Your life is a gift, and it is adorned with gifts from God.
End the Daily Examen with the Lord’s Prayer


How do you live a life of prayer and reflection?
What is your interior life like?
Where are the formative places
that you did experience

Acceptance, Affection, Appreciation, and Attention

and where are the places you did not receive those?

Allowing the Spirit to show us these… and to teach us…
is central to opening ourselves to healing…

Because first, we must seek what it is that we really need healing from…

Next week, we will reflect more deeply
Opening Ourselves to Healing
by identifying habit patterns that keep us in pain

And how to recognize fear, attachment, aversion, and ego
at work in us
so that we can open ourselves more deeply
to the healing grace of God.



The Daily Examen

The Daily Examen is a technique of prayerful reflection on the events of the day in order to detect God’s presence and discern his direction for us.  The Examen is an ancient practice in the Church that can help us see God’s hand at work in our whole experience.

The method presented here is adapted from a technique described by Ignatius Loyola in his Spiritual Exercises. St. Ignatius thought that the Examen was a gift that came directly from God, and that God wanted it to be shared as widely as possible. One of the few rules of prayer that Ignatius made for the Jesuit order was the requirement that Jesuits practice the Examen twice daily—at noon and at the end of the day. It’s a habit that Jesuits, and many other Christians, practice to this day.

See more at:

This is a version of the five-step Daily Examen that St. Ignatius practiced.

A great way to pray is to look for God’s presence in your life. More than 400 years ago St. Ignatius Loyola encouraged prayer-filled mindfulness by proposing what has been called the Daily Examen. The Examen is a technique of prayerful reflection on the events of the day in order to detect God’s presence and to discern his direction for us. Try this version of St. Ignatius’s prayer.










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