Sunday, October 18, 2020
Some thoughts on healing in community. Isaiah 35:3-6 for "Welcome to Sunday" on St Lukes Day 2020
I love that reading so very much.Usually I read it hearing Handel in the background, every sentence pointing towards the coming of Jesus and the moment when "he shall feed his flock like a shepherd", but today, as we celebrate St Luke and the ministry of healing, I’m wondering how we might make it our mission statement too, what it would mean if we tried to live into it day by day. Because, you see, there are many different kinds of healing. We are far too apt to equate healing with cure...and then to feel defeated when we pray for healing for those whom we love, but see no physical evidence that anything has changed. It’s a mystery why sometimes, against all expectations, prayers are answered immediately and obviously – but at others, those same prayers, offered with the same fervent intensity, seem to fall on deaf ears. We beg God to intervene, - but our sick friend gets sicker...and it makes no sense. Sometimes, though, we can recognise healing even when we find ourselves disappointed in the specifics of our hopes and prayers. I think of Tony, the first person whom I was privileged to accompany through their final illness and on towards death. He was so very scared in the first weeks after his cancer diagnosis, that even the most general enquiry as to how the week had been would see him shrink in to silent despair...He couldn’t bring himself to talk to his two sons, or to anyone else for that matter, so the weight of unspoken sadness burdened everyone. He was a much loved member of the church family in my curacy parish, and so we all prayed...and prayed...and Tony grew weaker and weaker...but somehow along the way, his faith and his courage returned. He and his boys found ways to say what they needed to one another and on Christmas day they shared a bottle of champagne and laughed as much as they cried. He went into the hospice that evening, and died two days later – restored to himself, whole in heart and mind, his fear gone, and replaced by love and peace. That was not a cure but I’m sure, so very very sure, that it WAS healing. And right now, of course, there is sickness in the very air that we breathe...both the virus itself and the way that it has robbed us of so much joy and hope, set communities against one another as we are asked to make agonising choices between life and liveliehood, separated families, left loved ones to die alone… And yes, we can and we should use today to pray for our health service – to give thanks for all those who tend the wounds of body and spirit, to ask that God will send wisdom and insight for those seeking prevention and cure for the virus...but while that very specific work of physical healing may be the preserve of those duly qualified, we ALL have a vocation to heal as God’s people, inspired by God’s spirit. We may be sad and have fearful hearts – but if we can look beyond ourselves, we can be part of God’s work of healing even now. We are called to be a community of hope...people who can see beyond the even the apparently insurmountable challenges of life in a pandemic, the signs of God’s kingdom breaking in. Another story, of going with my supervisor to see a wonderful elderly lady while I was on placement during training. She was utterly crippled with rheumatoid arthritis, and her house was a perfect timecapsule from the 1920s when her parents had moved in,. She had always been an invalid, never been able to get about, , had only rarely been able to attend the parish church which my supervisor and I represented, and yet she had an incredibly strong sense of commitment to that community, as it did to her. Judy, my supervisor, asked her to choose a Bible passage to hear, and passed it to me to read...the words we heard just now,. As I read I could feel the sense of hope getting ever stronger. It felt as if God was using my voice, Isaiahs worda, to speak directly to her. We all recognised that we were standing on holy ground, and after Communiin Iris said You see, that's what the church does for me, It strengthens my knees so I can pray, opens my eyes and my ears so I can understand the truth, and the speaks it, God IS coming. We WILL be saved. I dream of being part of that kind of church...where we can support one another to find healing in community, recognising that truly we are journeying together, dependent on each other, that only in community can we become agents of Gods healing today. So, how might we live to set the world free from whatever binds and restricts , tying neighbours down to be less than their true, God-given selves?... How might we open one another's eyes,, to recover sight and regain perspective, as we try to regain perspective ourselves.? One day I will need you to speak those words of hopee to me , perhaps the next I can speak them for you We all need God's healing, for body, mind and spirit, and together we carry the hope that this healing will come. So as in community we celebrate the good news that God is still at work, we can join with that work of the Spirit, so we too become physicians of the soul through the wholesome medicine of the gospel. Strengthen the weak hands and make firm the feeble knees There is good news which can refresh our world, so that desolate places, desolate people can flourish again as water springs up in the wilderness. Healing is so much greater than cure, and it's is healing that our God offers to us and to all creation.