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Mark 1:29-30; 2:1-12
There was a woman in my former church- Susan- who was all southern and a steel magnolia. Caring and strong willed. Susan was active in the church. Served on the Session. She was also the only woman besides Sharon that I would allow to call me “Honey and Sweetie”—even in Session meetings… because for her, those were common terms of endearment she used with everyone.One thing you never wanted to hear her say – often in relationship with something a youth had done on a trip… or with an adult who just ticked her off… you never wanted to hear her say… “We’re going to have to have a ‘come to Jesus’ meeting.” This was not a good thing! You were in trouble! It goes along with “I’m just saying” and “Bless your heart” in southern culture.
Strange… in scripture… “coming to Jesus was a good thing.” People wanted to come to Jesus—especially people who were sick or hurting or broken!
Today’s texts are just two of many examples. Jesus shows up at the home of Peter and Andrew’s mother… she has a fever… he comes takes her by the hand and the fever leaves her… and she begins to cook supper for them! Now that is a healing! Jesus put her right back to work!
People hear about it… and Marks says at sundown… all sorts of people are coming to Jesus…people who are sick or possessed with demons… the whole city… gathered at the door… coming to Jesus, looking for healing, help and hope.
I did a quick survey of the healing stories in the Gospels and was very interested at the many conditions that had people coming to Jesus for healing, help and hope:
People who were diseased, paralyzed, insane…Lepers… lots of lepers… epileptics…
People who were invalids, had withered hands, lame, deaf and dumb and blind
A woman who had been bleeding for 12 years…
Someone described with 18 years of psychological issues…
You name the condition and they came to Jesus themselves or a friend or employer brought someone with that condition to Jesus…
Coming to Jesus was a good thing!People who came to Jesus knew there was something about coming to Jesus that would bring healing, help and hope… and the word spread quickly. You couldn’t stop them coming.
Today we focus on healing, help and hope… and I lift up to you the opportunity we have to come to Jesus to receive that gift.
As I think about my journey of faith… and I wonder if it is yours, I have to confess to you that in some ways, I did not look to Jesus for healing… I think I was under the mistaken impression that I had to make a hard choice: between my intelligence, enlightened and scientific approach to faith that did not include healing or any of that…vs. a sort of irrational, anti-intellectual, pre-enlightenment faith that was often anti medicine…
It was only later that I stop setting these two things against each other and saw that healing was something wholistic- that included mind, body and spirit… It included the best resources medicine had to offer as well as the best faith had to offer. God never intended for them to compete… they were never meant to be either/or… rather they are gifts that complemented each other.
For a long time I thought healing was about healing the body. But over time, I realized that I needed more than the body to be healed, I needed the spirit to be healed.
This became clear during Anna’s cancer. We are very blessed to continue to get good physical reports… after her treatments for her cancer. 2.5 years in remission. Praise God.
But what I’ve learned, and I should have known this as someone who has walked with a number of people through illness… is that there is another side of cancer that chemo cannot touch.
It is the mental and spiritual side. It is that place you cannot see in a PET scan… or Xray or blood test. It is that part of everyone who goes through a life changing and potentially life threatening illness… it is that part of everyone who is forced to live with a chronic condition like Parkinsons or arthritis… name your poison… It is that place within you where you deal with your doubts, your depression… those demons of the spirit… that cry out for another form of healing… that cry our for hope… that cry out to be made whole…
Part of that healing can come through the gift of professional counselors who God sends our way… people trained to listen and who can share resources to help you process what you are going through. Part of healing may come through connecting with a Stephen minister who is trained to listen and walk alongside you in your pain. I have heard more than on Kirk member share with me the witness that God has used Stephen ministers and qualified counselors to provide healing.
There is also another form of healing that we’ve been reluctant to use in the faith… for many reasons. Prayer. Specifically, praying with another. Maybe it is hard for so many because it is so very personal.
To share—I mean really share where you are hurting requires you to become vulnerable with another person. To be honest with yourself and with God where you are really hurting and broken and in need of healing requires you to give up your pride and ego and self image and to admit that you cannot do it all by yourself. I think it takes years for most people to reach the point in their spiritual life that they are ready to be that honest and vulnerable. Some never reach it. I’m still working on it myself!
But in those moments when I’ve been able to be open or when I’ve watched others become open and vulnerable… and come to Jesus—sharing my hurt and pain… often something beautiful happens. You come to Jesus and you do not receive judgment. Your receive mercy. You receive grace. Occasionally I’ve heard of people being cured. Almost always, I’ve heard people talk about how they are healed – they receive help, hope and wholeness. At least for a moment, if not much longer.
There is a sense that we offer healing every week you know. Can you guess where?
It is in our prayer of confession. For what is a prayer of confession but that place in the service where we come to Jesus and admit before God and one another that we are a broken people- confessing those personal sins that plague us… and tear at our souls…confessing the sins that divide us from one another and the part each one of us plays in hurting each other… confessing the sins we commit as a church or as a country or as a world… that contributes to the pain we experience… and we bring it all to Christ in order to hear him say, “Son, daughter… your sins are forgiven… you are healed… Go and sin no more”
And every once in a while, we share with you an opportunity to receive a personal prayer for healing as we will do today: inviting you to come forward in a real and symbolic way… to come to Jesus… to share with Christ… through a pastor or Stephen minister… or from the pew… a place where you are in pain and in need of healing… or a person who is in pain in need of healing… or a situation God has placed in your heart where you feel the pain and pray for healing…
Today, whether you remain in your pew or come forward… you are invited to share this with Christ… the great healer… You are invited to come to Jesus… the one who IS the balm in Gilead… You are invited to come to the one who offers healing, help and hope to broken people in a broken world. Amen.