Have You Asked for Help?

Sermon Preached at St. Mary's Episcopal Church, Park Ridge
Thirteenth Sunday After Pentecost - Year A

Jesus left Park Ridge and went away to the city of Mount Prospect near Arlington Heights. Just then a young woman from Mount Prospect came out and started shouting, "Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; I have a terrible illness that may leave me blind in a few years." But Jesus did not answer her. The citizens who had gathered around Jesus urged him, saying, "Send her away, for her health problems are costing us too much money – our taxes are already too high, our insurance premiums are too costly, and she keeps shouting after us." Jesus answered the young woman, "I was sent only to those who work full-time for large businesses." But she came and knelt before him, saying, "Lord, help me." Again, Jesus answered, "It is not fair to take the taxpayers’ money and throw it to those who are less fortunate." She said, "Yes, Lord, but all people deserve a chance to be healthy." Then Jesus answered her, "Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish." And the young woman’s eyes were made well and Jesus’ eyes were opened.

Lisa is the owner of a small business in Mount Prospect. When I spoke with her to get permission to share her story with you, she asked that her name and her business name not be used. So, I’ll call her Lisa. At one time Lisa had full coverage health insurance. Today, because of a serious eye disease that requires ongoing medical attention, her insurance policy contains a rider that excludes coverage for her eyes. For Lisa this means that in addition to her monthly premiums she is paying about $300 per month for prescription medication and continues to pay the out-of-pocket costs for an eye surgery that was performed over a year ago. Despite making small, but consistent, payments for this surgery, the hospital has turned her account over to a collections agency.

Lisa was one of a handful of individuals who shared their stories last Wednesday at the Healthy Illinois Community Meeting in Des Plaines. Some of the testimonies were of small business owners like Lisa; others were of parents who work two and three jobs in order to make ends meet, but who still do not have access to healthcare. What these people shared in common, besides their concern about healthcare, was their willingness to ask for help, their faith that by joining together, by asking one another for help, they could accomplish what they could not do alone.

I don’t like to ask for help. When we moved into our house in Mount Prospect a few years ago, we needed to replace a ceiling fan in one of the bedrooms. We had removed the old fan some months earlier to apply a fresh coat of paint to the ceiling and were finally getting around to buying a new fan. New fan in hand and easy-to-follow instructions in the box, we managed to install the new ceiling fan. In the process of turning the power on and off to determine if our installation was a success, we each received a small electrical shock once – believe me, once was enough! And today the fan and light still don’t turn on at the switch on the wall – I even tried switching the wires back and forth a couple of times. But, no matter, the chain pulls work fine. And, most importantly, I didn’t have to ask for help. I don’t like to ask for help.

Do you know someone like this in your life? Maybe you are like this? I suspect that most of us find it easier to help someone else than to admit we need help ourselves. Perhaps asking for help seems like an admission of weakness – an admission of failure. And yet, in today’s gospel lesson and at the Des Plaines Community Meeting, women and men found the courage and strength to ask for help. Because they believed that what they could only dream about alone, could become a reality by asking for help from others.

But – yes, there is a caveat here – when we ask for help, we must be prepared for challenges and obstacles which may alter our dream – might open our eyes to new possibilities. Because we can never assume that our dreams - our vision for how the world should be - are in line with God’s vision for the world. We see how this came about in today’s reading by watching the change in Jesus. The Jesus portrayed in this story seems far from God-like as he rebukes the Canaanite woman who is pleading for her daughter’s life. He does this not once, but twice, and even stoops to calling her a dog. It is only the woman’s persistence that opens Jesus’ eyes to a new possibility and he has mercy on the woman and heals her daughter.

In this encounter, both the Canaanite woman and Jesus are transformed. This is the power of asking for help. In asking for help you are not only giving yourself a gift – an opportunity for your dream to become a reality – but you are giving others a gift. You are giving others an opportunity to see your dream, to learn more about who you are and what is important to you. And you are giving yourself the gift of seeing new possibilities, new ways forward. In this mutuality of asking and receiving, we begin walking together to create a common vision for the future.

When Lisa shared her story with those of us gathered in Des Plaines, she opened all of our eyes to a vision. A vision which because of so many people with stories like hers and because of the work of organizations like United Power for Action and Justice, like Citizen Action/Illinois, like Illinois for Health Care – because of these individuals and groups coming together, asking one another for help – because of all this –Lisa’s dream is moving forward, creating a new reality – a reality that will lead to increased access to more affordable and quality health care for small businesses, for the self-employed, and for other individuals.

What is your vision? Are you ready to be transformed? Have you asked for help? “Great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish!”