given on Sunday, October 23, 2011:
Scripture: John 5:2-9, 14-15 the NIV
2 Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. 3 Here a great number of disabled people used to lie—the blind, the lame, the paralyzed. 5 One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. 6 When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?”
7 “Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.”
8 Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” 9 At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked. . . .
14 Later Jesus found him at the temple and said to him, “See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.” 15 The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well.
While working through the week, thoughts have bombarded me about one issue after another. Some weeks are more crowded with worries and concerns than with praises and joys. The healing stories in the gospel have had almost a mystical sense to them, but I always feel curious—wavering between fascination and disbelief. Yet, those stories are so concrete in the gospels.
As we found in our reading from John, healing was a major part of Jesus’ ministry. The stories of the healings range in providing relief from pain, paralysis, female issues, mental illness, and even death. If God can work through his own son, why can’t we serve as God’s intercessory healing agents? The apostles were given the power to heal, and they did.
Today our understanding of healing is so connected to the medical field that we do not feel qualified to offer healing to others. As I have researched the healing service, I have confidence that we can serve as assistants to God. We can pray for others, and we can pray for our own healing.
The healing service is not designed to actually heal, rather it is to ask for healing. The service is to provide those in need of healing a means of sharing that concern with God; and to provide a method to bring something to God and leave it with him to manage. Participating in the healing service can renew and strengthen one’s relationship with Christ.
During those first few months I joined this congregation, I witnessed the power of prayer. I heard your bring forth names of those who had need for healing prayer. I watched as the weeks brought new concerns, but also news that healing had occurred. I remember that requests came from those who knew you had a strong faith. I marveled at that and it renewed my faith in intercessory prayer.
Today, let’s renew our pledge to pray for others. Let’s commit ourselves to pray for a world filled with such chaos, greed, pain, and disasters. Let us share with others the stories of how faith can heal. Let us offer to pray for specific issues as we begin these late fall weeks and winter months when the short days can lead to dismal thinking, lack of mental and physical strength, and a separation from God.
As we begin, consider what or who does need healing. In one article, “Healing Ministry and Worship” by Daniel T. Benedict, Jr. (accessed on October 17, 2011 at http://www.gbod.org. He states:
Ours is a hurting and broken world. It is no wonder that there has been a very positive response to opportunities for healing prayer and anointing.
Many United Methodist congregations now include healing prayer in worship services. Some offer healing prayer as part of services of Holy Communion. Some schedule weekly, monthly, or quarterly services of healing, depending on the needs of their particular church and community.
Even though healing services may not be familiar to us or may be something we question as productive in our community, I am convinced that healing can occur through prayer and even the laying on of hands. The healing service is simply a means of formalizing the efforts of those in the congregation.
The healing service is one means of fulfilling God’s call to each of us to serve. We use the service to ask God for healing as he is the source of all hearing. In the Book of Worship, healing is clarified:
Spiritual healing is God’s work of offering persons balance, harmony, and wholeness of body, mind, spirit, and relationships through confession, forgiveness, and reconciliation. Through such healing, God works to bring about reconciliation between God and humanity, among individuals and communities, within each person, and between humanity and the rest of creation. . . . All healing is of God. . . . Healing is not magic, but underlying it is the great mystery of God’s love. Thos who minister spiritual healing are channels of God’s love. . . . God does not promise that we shall be spared suffering but does promise to be with us in our suffering. Trusting that promise, we are enabled to recognize God’s sustaining presence in pain, sickness, injury, and estrangement.
Today, we will begin with an abbreviated form of the healing service. The liturgy is in the bulletin, and you will notice that there is the offer of anointing with oil and the laying on of hands by members of the congregation. The oil, usually olive oil, was once a healing agent but now symbolizes healing. Some healing services include the laying on of hands to incorporate the healing power of touch, but that will not be part of today’s service.
Let us begin:
Healing Service Liturgy:
L: May grace and peace be yours in abundance
in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.
P: We have come to lift up our brothers and sisters before the Lord
that they might receive healing.
L: Let those who seek God’s healing
open their hearts to the Spirit of the Lord.
P: Almighty and everlasting God, who can banish all afflictions both of soul and of body, show forth your power upon those in need, that by your mercy they may be restored to serve you afresh in holiness of living, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
L: O God, the giver of health and salvation,
we give thanks to you for the gift of oil.
As your holy apostles anointed many who were sick
and healed them,
so pour out your Holy Spirit on us and on this gift,
that those who in faith and repentance receive this anointing through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
L: Almighty God,
we pray that Names (our brothers and sisters)
may be comforted in their suffering and made whole.
When they are afraid, give them courage;
when they feel weak, grant them your strength;
when they are afflicted, afford them patience;
when they are lost, offer them hope;
when they are alone, move us to their side.
In the name of Jesus Christ we pray. Amen.
Invite the congregation to come to the front to receive the mark of the cross of Olive Oil, and statement of healing.
Dear Healing Father,
We thank you for being present with us today,
We thank you for providing the healing demonstrated by your Son.
We thank you for the loving of one and another among these present today.
As we leave our fears, worries, and concerns for selves and for others,
Let us step out into the new week, renewed and spiritually healed.
May our prayers serve others, too, who seek healing in their lives. –Amen