Service for Wellness 9/13/20
“for power came out from him and healed all of them.” Jesus had the power to heal others, but what do we do when we are faced with illness or depression or suffering or fears...our own or others? As pastor, I can be privy to many sorrows and troubles. It can be a heavy load. But I try to remind myself that my sharing the load does not make it my load, and that sharing can be a way to lighten the load. What do I do? I pray. Do my prayers work? I can't say I always see them answered how I like, and I do recognize in light of gospel passages, they are not as effective as the prayers of Jesus.
In our gospel message today, we find Jesus on the mountain in prayer all night long. His prayers are perfect prayers. But do you ever find yourself frustrated when you don't see specific answers to your prayers? Especially prayers for healing-- whether for yourself or a loved one? And does that lack of healing mean you are praying wrong, or your faith is too small?
Today is what I'm calling a wellness service.
Note I don't call it a healing service. We do pray for healing but with the understanding that God is in control here. I get frustrated by preachers or authors who insist that if we have enough faith, if our prayers our right, God has to answer our prayer. And we know where they get that. In last week's gospel we read these words from Jesus, “Again, truly I tell you, if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven.” But too often we don't see even the things we agree on being done the way we want.
So why pray when we find that the prayers are not being answered the way we want? We pray in obedience to God. We pray in submission to God. We pray because prayer does change things... maybe us, maybe the person for whom we pray, even sometimes scriptures tell us, God's mind has been changed. I mentioned Dorothy Hunt's sermon in my newsletter article on today's service. Here's what she said in the midst of her journey with cancer, “We all carry many pains and hurts in our lives, yet in the power of the Holy Spirit we can be instruments of healing – “wounded healers” for one another. We offer our prayers for others, always recognizing our own vulnerability.
This ministry of prayer complements the work of medicine which is itself a miracle, a gift of God. Healing comes in many ways. The spirit of the living Christ can enter our bodies and our minds - healing us, renewing us, and making us whole.”
We prayed for healing for Dorothy... and I will be sharing a long list of people for whom we've prayed, over many years some of them. And Dorothy was not healed, many for whom we've been praying are still on the prayer list. so why don't we give up? Because there is no way of knowing how our prayers are working. Do we need complete healing to be satisfied? Is our idea of healing what God's healing actually looks like? Do we need a return to perfect health for healing to take place? Pastor Heidi Husted Armstrong shared this thought in The Presbyterian Outlook, “'sometimes the greatest healing of all is to be healed of the need to be healed.' To trust the departing to God's mercy and grace.” Death is the enemy, God makes that clear in scripture. But death does not have the final victory-”death, where is thy victory, death where is thy sting”. (1 Corinthians15: 15)
So the heart of our message today is to keep on praying and trusting in God's goodness. The Psalmist put God's care this way, it is God “who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies you with good as long as you live so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.” And we understand that wellness includes physical as well as spiritual gifts... and we are both physical and spiritual beings. Pastor Truman sent me a sermon written by Paul Tillich. He made this point using the terms historical for human things and eternal for spiritual, “The two orders, the historical and the eternal, are within each other. The historical order is not separated from the eternal order.” The eternal is almost always beyond our vision here on earth. But we can trust that God is working in both orders, human and divine, physical and spiritual. And while we aren't promised we will not suffer in the physical order, God does promise that spiritually we are made perfect through faith.
So as we pray for our brothers and sister who are suffering in the physical realm, we will pray for physical health. But more, we will pray that God is with them, giving strength, encouragement, peace and even joy. We proclaim with and claim the promise of the psalmist, “For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him.” God's love is steadfast, is infinite, is there for each of us. So pray without ceasing for your needs, but more for those who suffer. It is fulfilling God's command, it is changing you, and it changes the course of this world. And one more note from Dorothy Hunt who continues to teach us God's view of healing, “We all have the power to heal…whenever you pray for someone who is ill, or take them food, or send them a card, or call them, YOU are healing. It may not be as dramatic as the healing stories in the Bible, but you ARE healing.” Now join me in a time of prayer for those who are sick, who are caring for the sick, who are suffering, who are suffering fatigue, who are in need of care.