Sermon for February 20, 2008
Sermon for February 20, 2008
Psalm 27 and Acts 5:12-16
We live in a broken world. Lent reminds us to attend to this brokenness. In the Bible, Jesus responds to brokenness with healing. Healing is the theme of this year’s Lenten season.
Last week we began with healing in the broken heart. Our scripture was
Psalm 13 (my heart is joyful) and II Corinthians 1:3-5 (God comforts us in our afflictions). We recalled together our solidarity with Christ’s suffering, the need to console one another as part of the healing process, and prayer as a beginning point for faith that renews hope.
Today we consider physical healing with Psalm 27 (the Lord is the strength of my life) and Acts 5:12-16 (healings in Jerusalem).
Next week, on February 27, our theme is healing in our broken community with Isaiah 61:1-3 (good tidings to the afflicted) and James 5:13-16 (the community prays for healing).
On March 5, our theme is healing in grief with Jeremiah 31:8-13 (mourning becomes joy) and Revelation 7:9-17 (God will wipe away every tear).
On March 12, our theme is dying as healing with Ecclesiastes 3:1-15 (for everything there is a season) and Romans 8:31-39 (nothing separates us from the love of Christ).
The passages together remind us that healing involves our hearts, our physical being, our community and world, grief and death. Today we focus on the physical healing. Perhaps this is what we most often think about when we think about healing.
There is a great deal of discussion and disagreement about physical healing. Sometimes the controversies cloud rather than enlighten. And it may be difficult to consider the topic with a fresh mind.
But let us attempt that. We all probably sense that there is a connection between how are body is doing and our spiritual attitude. When we are discouraged, it shows in our faces and our bodies. When we are excited, that also shows. Our emotions, our feelings, and our attitude are connected to our bodies. This connection is not one-sided but works both ways. When we are ill or not feeling well, it affects our feelings and our attitudes.
Physical healing is grounded in this connection. Healing means that our feelings and spirit may have a positive effect upon an illness we are facing. Sometimes this involves something small. Sometimes this effect can be substantial. A cancer patient usually does better through treatment if the patient has a positive image of the possible outcomes. Someone recovering from a heart attack usually does better if their mental state reinforces the importance of life changes. Our physiology sometimes improves dramatically with prayer and meditation.
The reasons for this may be physiological, practical, sociological and spiritual. Our bodies do better when relaxed. We do better with healing when we are emotionally and spiritually willing to change for the better. People who are prayed for recover more quickly as they become recipients of the energy and vitality of the community and as their connection to the community is lifted up. God’s calming, powerful presence offers new strength in times of weakness. However you look at it, physical healing is enhanced by faith.
This spiritual healing usually does not involve an amazing miracle, although sometimes it does. We should not reject miracles, but that is not the way we usually experience healing. It is all right to pray for a miracle, but it is also fine to pray that God’s presence will assist us in finding the spiritual strength we need to face this illness. Most of the physical healing that takes place in this world is the quieter miracle of people getting better as they and the people who love them address with their heart and faith the matters at hand.
Psalm 27 provides some insight into how our faith, our spirit, and our relationship with God may assist us in the healing process. The psalm reminds us that sometimes the people of God are involved in a struggle. Sometimes as we face illness, it is as if we are facing an enemy. To face the enemy we are best served by a confident trust in God to help us.
How does that help come? It comes when we face our fears, whatever they may be. It comes when we pray for confidence, even when we do not yet have it. It comes when we attend to God’s plan for us at the end of this life. It comes when we sing, as in verse six. Faith grows when it is sung. It comes with waiting for God to accomplish all things.
The passage from the fifth chapter of Acts also provides some insight into how our faith, our spirit, and our relationship with God may assist us in the healing process. Here, healing ministry takes its place as the second of the two most important ministries of the ancient church. The first ministry of the ancient church was the care of the poor. The second was healing, as we see in this chapter.
This healing takes place in community. It takes place as the church (through its representative apostles) lays hands on those who are ill. Our spirits and health improve when we are together and when we are touched by community.
Healing takes place when we bring our illness, our pain, our brokenness to church. A church is a place to bring our problems, our fears, our struggles. Here, in church, is where we are not at our best, but rather at our worst, as we lay before God that which pains us most. This of course makes us fragile and vulnerable. But here, in the privacy of your heart, is the place to pray for healing presence for those things that weigh heavily on your body and spirit.
Healing ministry involves community and bringing our fears to God. The first step may be a prayer for confidence in the face of our fears. It involves facing our enemy and praying for courage. It involves song. It involves preparing our souls to heal our bodies. It involves remembering the rabbi from Nazareth who was known as a healer.