The Practice Of Healing

Good morning and I hope everyone in the middle of this polar vortex is staying warm!  Continuing with my Year of Mark posting, here is my sermon from August 19th – I’m guessing it was warmer preaching it than posting it today!  I noticed we were missing a week between August 5th and August 19th – Beatles Sunday must have been on August 12th this year!  Enjoy …

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Sarah Weaver
Rehoboth Congregational Church
Rehoboth, MA
August 19, 2018

Mark 1:35-45, 2:1-12, 3:1-6

The Practice Of Healing

I have to be honest, the healing stories in scripture have always been a little perplexing for me.  I know, in the grand scheme of things, that I have not lived a lot of life, but in my line of of work, I have seen enough sadness and despair to know that sometimes healing does not happen the way that we want it to.  There are moments in our lives when, no matter how hard we pray or how strong our faith may be, often the people we love continue to struggle with pain, sickness and anxiety.  Sometimes they die.

And so these healing stories – as uplifting and as powerful as they are – are not always the easiest to make sense of in our own lives.  It is hard to believe that healing is possible when we know and understand scientifically that sometimes it is not.

And yet, these healing stories are so important, because they are a part of the call of the Gospel.  Jesus, himself, identified this healing as one of the reasons that he came in the first place.  He said, in verse 38, “Let us go on to the neighbouring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there, also; for that is what I came out to do.”

“For that is what I came out to do.”

After Jesus said this, he and his disciples did what he said they were going to do; they travelled to the neighboring towns of Galilee and Capernaum and while he was there, he preached.  But then, Jesus also put the words – the message – he preached into action; and he healed people.  He healed a man who had leprosy, a man who was paralyzed and a man whose hand was malformed.  He laid hands on them, he saw the depths of their faith and he commanded them to believe that healing was possible in their lives.

“For that is what I came out to do,” Jesus said.

And here is the thing about our faith – it was and is meant to be lived out by us, in our own lives.  So when Jesus said, “For this is what I came out to do,” we should read it not just as a story about Jesus and his life, but also as a call for us, today, to go out and bring healing to those around us in God’s name.

Now I get it, this is not an easy thing for us to do.  Like I said, healing is complicated and does not always work in our timeline.  But the practice of healing is a really powerful one when we get involved and believe that it is possible.  This practice draws us closer to God and to one another. This practice truly has the ability to change people’s lives.

But where do we begin?  How do we do what we are being called out to do?

I believe, with all my heart, that we, too, are called to be part of the healing that Jesus started during his time on earth, the healing that this world so desperately needs.  But it is not easy; it requires something of us.

I pulled three things out of this scripture, these three healing stories, that I think is valuable for us to remember as we think about how we can engage in the practice of healing in our lives and here at this church.

The first thing I want to talk about is prayer. Jesus did not wake up one day, shoot out of bed and head off to Galilee; how did this story begin?  With Jesus praying.

In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed.

And there he prayed.

Truth be told, I have always kind of felt bad for Jesus in these stories and wondered if he ever got tired of his own name being called.

Jesus, can you heal me!

Jesus, heal my friend!

Jesus, we’ve been looking for you!

That is, essentially, what happened when Jesus and the disciples traveled to Galilee and Capernaum.  After his visit to Galilee, where Jesus healed the man of his leprosy, scripture says that he could “no longer go into a town openly,” because, “people came to him from every quarter.”

And when Jesus arrived in Capernaum, word spread that he was there and so many people traveled to his house that there was no room for anyone else in the house, not even in front of the door.  A few men brought a friend of theirs who was paralyzed to see Jesus and when they arrived at the house and they could not get him inside because of the big crowd, they actually took the roof offof the house and lowered the man in that way.

It sounds like absolute chaos.

Jesus literally had people surrounding him from every single angle.  They were asking him to heal themselves and their loved ones.  They wanted to bear witness to what he was doing.  They wanted to hear him and learn from him.

And in the middle of all of this powerful healing, the Pharisees were watching Jesus.  We tend to think about Jesus’ trial and crucifixion happening at the end of the Gospels, but here we are at the very beginning of Jesus’ ministry and the Pharisees are already starting to keep tabs on Jesus.  The last verse of this passage says that, “The Pharisees went out an immediately conspired with the Herodians against [Jesus], how to destroy him.”

So there was a lot going on.

How many of us would crumble under that pressure? How many of us would get overwhelmed with that volume of expectation?

Jesus did not.

But remember how this story started.

In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed.

And there he prayed.

If we want to take part in the healing that so desperately needs to happen in this world, we need to start with prayer.  We need intentionally take that time out of our lives to be alone and seek God’s presence.  We need to pray for strength, wisdom and courage.  We need to pray that the impossible might be made possible, that the ordinary might become extraordinary, that grace might be uncovered in the most unexpected ways and places.

The second part of these healing stories that struck me was the way that people came together.  Not only did Jesus and the disciples travel together to these different villages, but when they arrived, people gathered around to be part of this healing practice.

People came to him from every quarter.

So many gathered around that there was no longer room for them.

These stories remind me just how important it is for us to gather together if we want to take part in the practice of healing. Together, we are more than simply just the sum of our parts; together weare the Body of Christ.  Coming together and showing our love for one another is as vital to the practice of healing as the healing, itself.  People need to know that they are not alone; people need to feel lifted up, not only by the prayers of the Body of Christ, but also by the tangible signs of support that can be offered, as well.

Ministry is one of those professions that elicits a variety of responses from people when they find out what I do for a living. A lot of times, if the person I am talking to does not actively attend a church, they defend that decision to me (which, for the record, they do not have to do!).  People often tell me why they do not need to come to church; how they are spiritual, but not necessarily religious and how they experience God in nature and do not need the organized side of things.

To be clear, my point is not to refute that. HOWEVER, there is an incarnational and communal part of our faith that cannot be denied.  It is important that we come together, look one another in the eyes and see one another’s humanity.  This is imperative to the work that we do here, at church.  Jesus did not practice healing in solitude, he did so in community.

And so should we.

The last thing I want to mention about a visual notion of prayer.  I saw an Instagram post this week from a blogger who was talking about how she and her family went to her girls’ school the night before the first day of school to pray. She said that there is something about being in the presence of the thing or the person you are praying for, often being able to lay hands on it, that is really powerful and life-changing.

Her post reminded me of these healing stories, because it is here in scripture that Jesus used the power of presence and touch to heal in real and profound ways.  It was in the presence of Christ that these men were healed, and I truly believe that when we gather in Christ’s name and reach out our hands to one another, we have the capacity to heal, as well.

This is why, when we baptize children, I invite everyone to stand up and extend their hands out towards the child as the parents and godparents and I lay hands on them and bless them.  This is why we lay hands on our prayer shawls when we bless them.  This is why I have gone to people’s homes when something bad has happened to physically pray over them, why I have blessed new cars, motorcycles and boats. It is important that we show up for one another, bear witness to that or whom with which we are praying for and believe with all of our heart that healing is possible.

We are still at the very beginning of the Gospel of Mark, the beginning of Jesus’ ministry here on earth.  And clearly Jesus did not ease himself in; he dove in and started with the hard stuff.  And there are moments in our lives where we are called to do the same thing.  We, too, are called to participate in the practice of healing.  We, too, are called to gather with one another and give strength to the Body of Christ so that the impossible might be made possible.  We, too, are called to stretch out our hands to touch someone in need so they know that they are not alone.  And we, too, are called to prepare ourselves for these moments by retreating in prayer, asking God for strength, wisdom and courage for the journey ahead.

So believe that healing is possible. Believe that this is not only what Jesus came out to do, but also what we have been called to do in our own lives, as well.  Believe that healing can happen in our lives, here at our church and around the world. Believe that you can be a part of the process of healing; that together we can bring that process into God’s light.

And may we be changed.  May the world be changed, as well.

Thanks be to God!
Amen.

One thought on “The Practice Of Healing

  1. A most needed, relevant topic for today! I am seeing people all around me, and myself, in need of prayer for healing and many other matters. Some prayers are answered, some not, glory to God for what He has done. Jesus’ ministry called for forty days of fasting and prayer first. On all such occasions, praise and worship should come first. (Sorry for telling you what you already know, I am reminding myself.) Prayers not all answered? Nor were those of Jesus, he had to leave some places because of disbelief among other reasons. And for some prayers, prayer and fasting is required. And I thank God for the recorded telling of Jesus’s not healing a blind man on the first attempt. In Isaiah 65, God tells His people to repent as a nation and to call on Him. Much of what took place in Israel then applies to everyone today. People in church know of the need for repentance, so we are saved and ready to go. “The prayers of a righteous man availeth much.” God awaits our call, and there is more need for His help near us every day. Do not be discouraged!

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