In the reading for Sunday, April 15, from Acts 9 Saint Paul – still called Saul – receives the laying on of hands and prayer. In this act he is healed of his temporary blindness, but also healed of the pain he was inflicting and division he was causing among the first Christians (as he writes in Galatians 1:13, “I was violently persecuting the church of God and was trying to destroy it”). With the laying on of hands and prayer he – and the early church – receives the gift of healing and wholeness.
For a great lead-in to the story of Paul’s conversion and healing, read Acts chapter 7, which is part of our daily devotions this week.
The Sermons in Progress podcast is usually posted here each week on Thursday. I’m running late this week, and hope to get the podcast up by Friday. Thank you! UPDATE: It’s probably not happening. The week – with a sick dog at home – got away from me. Blessings. Hope to see you at church on Sunday!
Healing in the Bible
The Gospels tell stories of Jesus performing healings as signs of the coming Kingdom of God. After Jesus ascends into heaven, we see such healing power flow in the early church through Peter and the Apostles. In the Old Testament we see God’s healing performed by the prophets Elisha and Elijah, among others.
Yet these Biblical miracles were exceptions to the rule of human brokenness and frailty that has governed humanity since the Fall. Miraculous healings are not the default, they are not the norm for people of faith. Most people in Biblical days suffered illness or injury and were not healed. Jesus walked with and among crowds of thousands. Yet most among those crowds struggled as we do today with illness and injury and did not receive the special gift of miraculous, inexplicable healing.
And while I believe that God continues to work wonders in our lives and in the world, I am cautious when it comes to expecting miraculous cures. But healing comes in more ways than a cure.
In the ministry of healing, the church does not replace the gifts of God that come through the scientific community nor does it promise a cure. Rather, the church offers and celebrates gifts such as these:
+ God’s presence with strength and comfort in time of suffering,
+ God’s promise of wholeness and peace, and
+ God’s love embodied in the community of faith.
From introductory notes on the Service of Healing, in Evangelical Lutheran Worship Leaders Desk Edition, pg 660. Emphasis and bullet formatting mine.
God’s presence. God’s promise. God’s love. This is what we offer. This is what we promise when the church extends its healing.
Healing at New Joy
This Sunday, in response to the healing of St Paul and of the early Christian community with the laying on of hands and prayer, we’re going to celebrate a service of healing as well – with the laying on of hands and prayer. Fit within our regular service of Word and Sacrament, this will provide us with the opportunity to receive again God’s healing promise for us and for our world. We will start sharing these prayers and gestures each month, making prayers and gestures of healing a regular part of how we worship and live together as a community of faith.
Join us this Sunday as we pray for healing, and receive God’s promise. It is a promise that transformed St Paul and the early Christian community, and one that will transform us as well.