Many of us that have been through the hell of IF can remember nights when we prayed and begged, "Just make my body work right." We can all probably remember days and nights when we were too devastated by what was going on to pray for our own healing. This is a place our wonderful community can and often does step forward and helps us.
Last Sunday, one of the pastors at our church gave a wonderful sermon about Jesus as a healer. It really touched a cord with me and I asked Danielle if I could share it. She sent me her script and I also have an audio link (please, please go listen...it is wonderful).
Focus: Expand the notion of healing beyond the physical healing, highlighting restoration to community as a key aspect of healing.
Function: The Holy Spirit will prompt the community to lean on one another and pray together for healing. Remind those struggling that in Christ, they are not alone.
Our Healing Stories
Move One: Jesus as Healer
If you have not had an opportunity to read the reflection “Breathlessly Healing” in the bulletin—do! (Just not right now during the sermon). The reflection highlights the “packed” nature of the first chapter of Mark. Jesus is baptized. Jesus is tempted. Jesus preaches his first sermon. He calls the disciples, preaches, casts our demons—and we aren’t even done with the first Chapter yet!
It is with our text this morning that still another part of Jesus’ ministry. Today’s reading reveals Jesus as healer. “Now Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told him about her at once. He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up. Then the fever left her, and she began to serve them. That evening, at sundown…the whole city was gathered around the door. And he cured many who were sick with various diseases.” Jesus is a healer.
Move Two: Does this mean that all my illness will be healed?
I come to preaching a sermon about healing come with much trepidation. To proclaim loudly that Jesus is a healer while cancer wards are full, tears are being shed over loved ones lost, hearts of children broken as they watch their parents age and often become child-like. What does it mean for those of still with broken places to hear it proclaimed: Jesus is a healer? It leads to natural questions—
* If I am not experiencing physical healing, does that mean that God doesn’t love me or has forgotten me?
* Does it mean that if I am still hurting, that I am not “good enough” to experience the blessing of healing?
*If I have prayed and prayed and no healing has come, does that mean that God does not listen to the cries of his children?
It is in the midst of our suffering that we read passages like the healing of Simon’s mother-in-law and wonder, “Why her, why not me?” Or perhaps wonder, especially as we see suffering in our children, “why not me? Why them?”
These emotions, these questions do not make you less of a Christian. Perhaps they make you an authentic Christian living in the tension of God’s love. This coming Friday will mark the one year anniversary of my Melanoma diagnosis. Its surreal to think about—I can remember what I felt like walking out of the doctor’s office. I can remember what it felt like to call my mom and tell her that her baby girl has cancer. I can remember the anxiety I felt each time I answered the phone waiting for test results. Yet, what I can testify to most honestly is that each and every one of the doubts, the questions, the feelings shaped the last year of my life. What does really mean that Jesus is healer?
The healing of Peter’s mother-in-law follows the typical patter of a healing story in the scriptures. Although, Mark in his attempt to tell the story as quickly as possible, condenses it down to two verses. Generally stories of healing include a description of the illness, a request for healing, action by the healer and evidence that the ailing person has been restored to health. We see all in our text this morning. We know his mother-in-law has a fever. We know the request for healing was made. If you look at the text, however, it is unclear that it came from his mom. Simon and Andrew, James and John seem to have been the ones to have lifted up her request. This highlights the for us to be in prayer for and with one another. Sometimes, whether because of physical restraints, emotional scars and a general sense of grief or anger or of being overwhelmed, we cannot find the words to pray ourselves. The gift of the Church is that we lift one another up. When you can’t pray, we will pray for you.
Jesus then comes and touches her. He lifts her up. And then finally we have the evidence that the ailing person has been restored to health. What is it here? The fevers and she starts to serve them. Some translations render is “she began to wait on them,” or “got up and prepared dinner for them.” I love to read this passage in women’s bible studies because the reaction is almost always the same. Of course she did. Is it not enough to simply recall the healing? Why did Mark make sure to include that she had returned to her regularly schedule programming!
Move Three: Moving Beyond Physical Healing—Restoration of Community
In so many other places in the gospel of Mark, he leaves out details. Why include this one. Remember that I told you there are generally four parts to a gospel healing story? The final part is the evidence that the person has been restored to health. For Jesus, the restoration includes restoring the person to community and purpose.
Often when people recall stories of sickness, dark nights of the soul or times of crisis they are punctuated by one factor—isolation. In the stress and chaos of trying times, social relationships are frequently disrupted and usually disintegrate. Many persons battling illnesses report that their family and friends become timid about touching them. When they need most the human contact of a hug, a hand to hold, or a pat on the back, they find others drawing back.
Peter’s mother-in-law likely experienced the same isolation. Lying in a bed unable to move because fever had so ravaged her body. Her son-in-law has brought home the Messiah and she can’t make sure that the kitchen is clean or even offer a bowl of water to wash his feet at the door. She may not have been alone in the house, but life continued without her. Social isolation can be just as devastating. And so what is the sign, or the evidence of her healing? Yes, it is that the fever left her but also that she was restored to the community.
Our notion of God as healer is often too narrow. We can easily say that God is healer when the physical healing we seek comes. But how with God a healer when the disease, the tears and death still come? God is healer because his healing is bigger than our physical bodies. God heals broken hearts and broken homes. God heals sin-sick spirits. God heals isolation. God restores us to him and to one another.
I came across a story when I was preparing for this sermon. A pastor shares, “One morning an elderly man walked into my office and wrote out a check for one thousand dollars. He handed it to me and said, “I simply want to thank the church. You were very kind to my son.” Then he turned to leave. I had not idea what he was talking about, so I asked him to stay and tell me about his son. He spoke with great difficulty about the son he had buried the week before. His son had died of AIDS. The family had not been present when he died. In fact there had not been any communication between the rest of the family and the son for several years, even though they all lived in the same city. The family had learned of the death of the son from two members of our church who had visited him daily for the last three months of his life to feed, bathe and do household chores for him.”
There was still death. There was still AIDS. Yet, God was healer. The store was restored to a community. Despite his alienating disease, he was touched and clothed and fed. He died, not alone, but in community. God was healer and God continues to heal.
Move Four: Where are you in the story of God’s healing?
If you were to write your own gospel healing story, at what stage would you be? Are you in the process of naming the broken place, the illness, the hurt, the disease? If so, ask God earnestly to give you the courage to name.
Perhaps you can identify the brokenness. Maybe a doctor gave it a name like cancer. Maybe its anger or depression over a job loss. Maybe its isolation. Whatever the broken, sick or hurting place, once it can be named, the next phase in the story is to make the request known. Call the church office and join the pray list so that your brothers and sisters can faithfully lift you up. Come forward during our healing service. Turn to those with you and worship and make your requests known.
Maybe you are thinking, my story has moved beyond those stages. You are waiting for action—you are waiting for God to reveal himself as healer. This perhaps is the hardest place to be. It is the place where our doubts swirl, where our fears run wild and where we hope that the promises of God are true. Take heart in this stage of your story, you are not alone. God has not forgotten you. Healing may not come as you envision, but our God is on the move. Open yourself up to see God’s healing beyond restoration of the physical but including healing of our emotions and scars, nourishing of our spirits and souls and restoration into community.
Or perhaps, at least for this morning, you are in the final part of your healing story. You have named, you have asked, God has moved and now you are bearing witness to God’s action in your life. Do it boldly. Your story, your former wounds will become wellsprings of love, grace and testimonies of God goodness.
Who knows, perhaps through telling your story, crowds will gather at your door—like they did for Peter’s mother-in-law and even more will know the touch of Jesus.
To listen to Danielle Kosanovich's sermon, click here.