Monthly Archives: June 2015

Will Healing Come?

“He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”  (Mark 5:34 NRSV)

Two bold people. Jairus and the woman with a hemorrhage were very bold.

Jairus, a leader in the synagogue was no doubt held in high esteem. He commanded respect among his flock. But, he approaches Jesus, the poor worker from a town not found on any map and falls to his knees, begging for healing for his daughter. She is dying and he’ll do anything to save her life.

The woman is bold, carefully making her way through the jostling crowd, knowing that every touch will make someone else unclean. She moves carefully, but there are too many people around her. She pushes her way forward, elbows a spot in the front and waits for him to approach. In a desperate and bold attempt, she touches his cloak.

Bold and faithful, the two of them achieve healing.

Their faith has saved them; the young daughter and the woman are healed.

Does this mean that we should have a discussion about faith? How much faith do you need in order to be healed of your infirmity? Is there a certain number of prayers to say? Or should we be on our knees for a specific amount of time?

If you don’t achieve healing, does that mean you don’t have enough faith?

Hospital chaplains wrestle with this thinking regularly. They hear family members say things like, “Grandma hasn’t been cured of her cancer because my brother doesn’t have enough faith.” This is an unfair, hurtful accusation; and untrue. God can’t be manipulated; God acts faithfully. It’s not up to us.

But, what about when healing doesn’t come?

I’ve seen when healing hasn’t come. Those in wheelchairs still can’t walk; cancer is still a threat; PTSD worsens; diseases can be slowed down, but not eradicated. You, too, know those who live with disease or illness that haven’t experienced physical healing.

And we know that we can’t bend God to our ways. Yet, we wonder. What is God’s purpose in all of this? Where is God in disease and illness?

First of all, I don’t believe that God zaps us with broken arms or cancer or dementia. God has the power to do what God chooses and we know the God moves in mysterious ways. But, I don’t buy into the notion that God gives us this kind of heartache.

I do believe that illness is a natural occurrence in a fallen world. When my brother developed esophageal cancer, he failed to see the connection of chain smoking cigars all day. On the other hand, my mother probably didn’t do anything to cause her dementia.

Two people in our scripture reading boldly approach Jesus for healing.

How boldly do we seek out God? And when we pray, how narrow is our request? What is our view of healing? Is it for physical healing only? Or is it for spiritual healing, psychological healing or even interpersonal healing?

Michael Lindvall tells the story of a friend of his who developed Parkinson’s Disease “when he was still in his fifties.  He and his wife prayed that he might be healed.  Twenty years later, he is in the last debilitating stages of the disease.  Nevertheless, he [says] that his prayers had been answered… ‘I have been healed, not of Parkinson’s disease, but I have been healed of my fear of Parkinson’s disease.’” (Michael Lindvall, Feasting on the Word, Year B Volume 3 (Louisville, Westminster John Knox Press, 2009) pages 188 & 190)

Another story I heard this week centered around a man with cancer. He says, “I don’t believe God gave this to me, but I understand now that as a result of the disease I came to know Jesus.”

Is it only the physical healing we seek? If so, we miss out on the wholeness that we can achieve through prayer. Our boldness is in how we pray and what we pray. Our boldness is in listening to God during prayer and seeking God’s peace-filled presence so that we might be at rest and ready to receive what God graces upon us.

Prayer brings us into deeper relationship with God. This is especially true when we are seeking any form of healing. Whether the illness is ours or of a loved one, we’re at our most vulnerable point. God can speak to us in new ways and offer transformation and
newness of life.

It isn’t true that the healing never comes. Though we may continue to live with the physical ailment, we can trust that God is at work in other ways to redeem and transform and make life anew.

All glory and honor be to God.

Amen.

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Why Are You Afraid?

Mark 4:35-41

On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him. A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”

There are moments when it appears that Jesus asks inane questions.  This is one of those times.  “Why are you afraid?”

They’re in the middle of a storm in the middle of the Sea of Galilee.  Heading to shore isn’t an option.  This is a “great storm.”  Not just huge, but awesome and awe-inspiring; in other words, God-sized.  Their fishing boat is about to capsize and Jesus asks them why they fear?

They didn’t particularly want to go to the other side.  It was late in the day; they were tired.  Perhaps they knew Jesus’ intention to head for Gentile territory.  They wouldn’t have been pleased about that.  Gentiles don’t look or act like us.  They’re unclean.  Their customs and traditions are different.

We fear what we don’t know.  Where is your Gentile territory?  What or who do you fear?  Has Isis made you fear all Muslims?  Do strange Jewish ways make you want to avoid all Jews?  Does the language and cultural barriers keep you from getting to know Latinos?  Do you avoid visiting people in the hospital because sickness scares you?

What are you afraid of?

Perhaps your fears are more personal.  What will happen if you change a bad habit?  What keeps you from stepping out of your comfort zone?

Meanwhile, Jesus sleeps in the stern.

“Don’t you care, Lord?”  Don’t you care that the storm is a tsunami and threatens to sink us?  Don’t you care that we’re scared out of our minds? That we didn’t want to cross to the other side? That we don’t want this kind of change?

The other side is unknown. The other is side is strange and scary. The other side is our next ministry. The other side is that homeless man standing on the street corner looking for a handout. The other side is the woman calling in need of emergency groceries. The other side has children in need of love and attention. The other side has men and women struggling to figure life out.

Don’t you care, Lord? Don’t you care that we’re scared? Don’t you care that we’d rather stay right here with you and be comforted and comfortable?

When Jesus wakes up he acts quickly.  He rebukes the wind and waves just like he rebukes demons and unclean spirits. Great, God-sized storms are settled by Jesus to become great, God-sized calms. And we, like the disciples, witness this and experience great, God-sized awe.

If Jesus can do this; if Jesus can calm great storms, perhaps Jesus can calm our fears. Jesus can and does calm our fears about what lies ahead of us. Jesus can and does rebuke fear and those unclean spirits that try to hold us back.

Jesus can do more than we expect.

If you haven’t tried it lately, put him to the test.  Experience God-sized fear and calm and awe.

All glory and honor be to God.

Amen.


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