This sermon was preached on a Sunday when we held a service of healing within our worship.
We have some very sick people at Messiah, physically and emotionally. People I love that I long to declare healed in God’s name. Cancer gone. Heart mended. Cane thrown away. Depression lifted. Disorder disappeared. I want that to happen today, but I don’t believe it has to for a person to be healed.
One of our local mega churches holds periodic healing services. They promise on their billboard that miracles will happen. From bad movies I have seen, I picture someone getting slapped on the forehead with a loud shout from the pastor and then standing up and declaring to the congregation, I can see.
I understand the desire for this. If I were blind, I would want to see, too, and be willing to do anything to have my sight restored. If I thought slapping foreheads would work, I would be slapping people as hard as the best television evangelist. I don’t though. I do believe miracles happen. I believe God has the power to heal what science and medicine cannot. I pray for this often.
Yet, the miracle God promises today may not include physical restoration of your body or mind. I know this disappoints people. The pain an illness brings, the death that some diseases lead, the loss of life lived wholly that an ailment causes, makes people long for that moment when this unwanted companion will stop walking with them. I get that. I understand that. I hurt because I want that, too, but still I trust a miracle to happen today.
This is the promise of God. Our God is a God of reconciliation. God works to bring together what has grown or fallen apart. In the story of creation, God brought order out of chaos. After the flood that devastated the world, God hung his bow in the sky, putting his weapons of destruction away and made peace with creation. God sent many, many prophets to cajole, hector, plead and preach Israel back into relationship. God came to us in Jesus, to clear a path, restoring a bridge that had been lost between creator and created. God is a God that reconciles, brings back together what has grown apart or become disordered.
The healing promised today is reconciliation with God. This sort of healing is important, too. While I will pray that a cancer is cured by the power of God, I will also pray that the one stricken will receive God’s peace while they battle this physical ailment. While I will pray that debilitating depression be lifted like clouds burned off with the noon sun, I will also pray that faces of Christ hold, touch, speak and reassure this person so they don’t believe the lie their head is telling them that they don’t matter.
Healing is more holistic than science defines it today. Our physical or emotional illnesses put us in dis-ease with others, ourselves and God. Our illnesses try to define our life, cancer, depression, diabetes, bipolar. They become new names that define us taking the place of the name God gave us on the day of our baptism, child. Our anger at the infliction and weariness at the battle, keeps us from relationship with God. We don’t simply need to have the tumor removed, we need our faith restored.
In my last church, I served in ministry with a man whose life was severely limited for twenty years by a critically weak heart. The list of things he couldn’t do that he once loved to do was long and depressing. Daily, he brought cheer and Christ’s love to shut ins and home bound. Eventually, the heart just stopped, but he died full of joy trusting God’s presence. I prayed for cancer to be rid of a 35 year old man. Miraculously, the cancer fled. Within five years he left his wife, children, vocation and church as he went on a quixotic search to find himself. Which one do you think was healed? One man was healed of his physical disease and upended his life trying to finding meaning outside of God. The other was never physically healed but lived life fully ill.
True healing is more than physical healing. It is not that I don’t want a physical restoration for you. I do and I will pray for it with you today. It is that I want more than that too. I want you reconciled with God most of all. I want you to trust God’s love even in the midst of the pain and fear of your illness. I want you to find God’s hope for you and live in that hope, whether your ailments leave or not. The peace that comes with trusting God is the greatest healing any of us can hope for in life. It is truly a miracle. Amen