About this time last year we had healing services much like the ones we are having today. At those services, many people came forward to the altar rail to receive a prayer and a blessing. At the altar rail they asked that their malady, or disease or pain would go away. There were people that asked for their cancer to go away, for their painful arthritis to stop causing so much pain, for their depression to stop being a dark cloud over their lives. These people wanted to receive physical healing from whatever was affecting them. Sadly, a couple of the people that came forward and kneeled at this rail died from the very same ailments they came to received healing from.
I don’t know about you, but it’s moments like this that bring up so many questions for me. Does that mean that the healing prayers didn’t work? That we didn’t perform the healing service correctly? That we didn’t say the right prayer or those magical words? That we did not pray hard enough for the cancer to go away or for the disease to slow down? What do we expect out of a healing service, if there is no physical healing that seems to take place? Where does this leave us? (PAUSE)
Not long ago, I stumbled upon one of those channels that have the television preachers. This particular preacher finished his sermon and had an altar call for everyone who needed healing. He said that everyone who comes up to the altar and wants to be healed, will be healed. He was so sure and confident that the people that came forward would receive whatever healing they needed. I guess I missed this class in seminary. I want to be able to be that pastor for all of you. I want to be able to heal the broken bones, get rid of cancer, and bring that kind of physical healing to each one of your lives. I wish I had the power that this television preacher seemed to possess. The one where a person is healed and they throw their cane to the side and walk back to their seat.
We can become even more dismayed when we look at scripture. We see Jesus bringing about healing for all kinds of different people. He brings sight to the blind, helps the lame walk, brings the dead back to life, and cast out demons. In fact there are 27 different healing stories involving Jesus throughout the Gospels. Come, Lord Jesus, and bring about that same healing in this space today. Those are the miracles that I want for each one of you.
But the healing that God brings about today might not be healing of your physical body or mind. The miracles that God gives us might not be the miracles we ask for. I know this can be disappointing. Just bring about physical healing, God, we say. I just want to get rid of this pain and be made whole again, we plead to God. The pain that illnesses bring only seem to cause brokenness and separation for our families and us. The illness brings separation for us from God, from our family, and from our community. Whenever Pastor Karl and I visit our shut-ins this becomes very apparent. They so clearly want to be a part of this community. The shut ins read the newsletter, bulletin board, and bulletin inside and out. They know the worship service by heart. I think they know everything in there far better than I do. They long to be a part of this place, but because they cant get around anymore, or an illness keeps them from here, they are not able to be a part of this community as much as they would like to be or even as much as they were before. They yearn for that connection with Messiah and this community. But, illnesses separate us from the whole person we want to be and from the person God calls us to be.
I struggle with these questions just like everyone else. But, I trust that a miracle will still happen. Because, the good news this morning is that we worship a God who brings a broken world back together. We worship a God who takes those jigsaw puzzles in our lives and pieces them back together, maybe not in the way that we would but in a way that brings wholeness. We worship a God puts our lives back together just as God has been doing since the beginning of time. God sent us Jesus, his son, to be a bridge for us; A human in the flesh and blood who brings us back into relationship with the God of reconciliation.
The miracle that you will experience today is the miracle of reconciliation. In the waters our baptism each of us was called a child of God. In those waters we were brought into relationship with God and with the Christian community. So may this miracle, bring you trust that God is present with you in the midst of your cancer treatments. May this miracle let you know that there are people in this community, who show a glimpse of the face of God, that are there to support you and care deeply about you in the midst of your depression. May this miracle, let you know that everyone in this place is praying that your illness goes away so that you can be reconciled with the body you used to know.
Physical healing is a wonderful thing. I hope and pray that you are able to experience that kind of healing today. However, we come to church broken not just in body, but in spirit because our bodies and relationships are broken often because of our pain and illness, and that breaks our spirits too. But through worship, and true fellowship with the people in this community, we can experience a taste of spiritual healing every time we come together. We experience that when we taste of the bread and wine, Christ’s body and blood in communion. Today, especially, I pray that your spirit experiences God’s love even in the midst of your fear, pain, and uncertainty of your illness. I pray that your spirit experiences God’s love in the faces that sit all around you in this space that are here to support you, pray for you, and lift you up. I pray that your spirit experiences reconciliation in the waters of baptism where God says, “Child I have called you by name and you are mine.” (Isaiah 43:1) May God’s peace which surpasses all understanding, enter into to our bodies and spirits today as we come forward to receive God’s blessing of healing, hope, and reconciliation. Amen