Meditations / Sermons

September 4, 2005
Healing

Luke 5:17-25

I woke up this morning and rolled over and said to Karen, “What does being healed mean to you?” It really wasn’t fair to have to face a question like that before your eyes are even opened all the way, but she was a good sport. She said, “ It’s when the wound isn’t actively killing me any more. It doesn’t mean it’s not there, it doesn’t mean that it’s not painful- it just isn’t actively killing me.” I thought that was awfully good for first thing in the morning and it gave me lots to ponder.

Later, we met friends for breakfast and I asked them the same question. One friend said “It’s when I am back in balance, whether the hurt is mental, physical, emotional or spiritual.’ And her partner said, ‘ It’s when I have processed what is going on and am at peace with it.” In fact, we all agreed, healing is a process, not an event.

No one said, ‘ healing is when it’s fixed, when everything is back like it was, when I don’t hurt any more.’ Each one said in her own way that healing was the process of being restored. Restored to a deeper, clearer sense of self, to centered peace of the spirit, to peace with one’s body. One friend spoke of death being a sort of healing, a restoration, a returning to balance. Wouldn’t it be freeing if we could think of death as part of the healing process rather than the failure of it?

So I have been thinking about healing all week- thinking about how we as a nation can heal from Katrina and from our response (or lack thereof) to the victims of that carnage. I’ve been thinking about Libby healing from surgery and June’s parents- both of whom are very ill and in the hospital. About Maggie, whom I fear is taking a downhill turn. I’ve been thinking about broken relationships- friendships, partnerships, marriages that are in pain. I’ve been thinking about healing from painful or catastrophic events in our personal or communal presents and pasts. And I’ve tried to listen to scripture, to hear the stories of Jesus’ healing with fresh eyes. These are some things I have come to:

  1. I believe it is important for us to be clear what we are asking for when we ask for Godde’s healing. Because I don’t think that to be healed means ‘to be fixed’. And what would that mean any way? If we believe that God’s healing fixes us –that we will no longer be hurt by events of the past, or that to be healed our bodies must be restored to complete health, then we will all be disappointed either in ourselves (that we cannot pray well enough, or that we are not good enough, or that we are unworthy of healing) or in Godde. It suggests that we can be cured of life. That is a closed system of thinking that offers little hope and much despair.

  2. I believe we must honor the process of healing rather than strive for an arrival point. If we say to ourselves, ‘when thus and such happens, I will be healed’ we may miss unexpected opportunities for growth or healing beyond our imagining. We limit ourselves and limit God with that kind of thinking! In every story about Jesus’ healing work, the end of the story is the beginning of the ongoing story of the life of the person who has been healed. The man who had demons driven out of him into a herd of pigs had to go back into the community and live with his past every day. The event of restoration and healing was begun in that story, it was not finished. That is true in every story of healing, including our own stories. Godde invites. Godde instructs us in the path of healing. God helps us to begin the process of healing.

  3. I believe that being open to healing requires an open rather than protective stance. God desires our healing and offers us opportunities to do the work of healing- is not something that we wait to happen to us, but rather something Godde invites us to participate in. We must be open to Godde, but more than that, we must seek it out. The gospels are filled with stories of Jesus ’ healing acts- and I can’t think of one that does not involve him being sought out for healing. Sometimes he was sought out on the behalf of others and sometimes he is sought out directly by those who desire healing. But I can’t think of one time where he walked over to a passive person and offered healing without invitation. Healing requires an openness to change. To be healed means we must confront our fear of the unknown and begin to let go of the familiar pain. We must desire it for ourselves, and for those who have not the strength, we must desire it for them and work for their healing. Remember the paralyzed man whose friends lowered him through the roof to Jesus? We don’t know if he had given up or not, but we do know that his friends loved him enough to advocate for healing on his behalf. To begin the healing process we must desire it. We must open ourselves to the unknown possibilities of what healing might signify in our lives.

  4. I believe that healing requires us to forgive. That being said, I also believe that forgiveness, too, is a process. This is a part of the healing stories that is left unsaid- except in one place in the gospel, and I’ll get to that. When I think of the healing stories I think of the stories as beginning points for those who have been healed. And I have to wonder, what next? How did the process continue? In several of the stories those who Jesus healed were disbelieved and had to prove themselves healed. And then there where those who had been treated one way all their lives- like the blind man who begged at the city gates, or the lepers who were put out of the city, or the bent over woman who had been ‘taboo’ for twelve years- do you think that they went back to their homes, families and lives without a blip? Could you be around people who had treated you with disdain without having to work to heal those relationships? - and don’t think for a moment that it wouldn’t be you who had to do most of the work. The forgiveness piece may not be implied in the specific texts of scripture, but in light of the entire gospel, I believe forgiveness is undeniably a part of the healing journey. It is the culmination of Jesus' work and forgiveness hails the beginning of the process of the restoration of the world.

  5. I believe that we have to own our healing and own the ongoing process of ‘putting ourselves in balance’ or ‘finding peace’ or 'changing our perspective' so that what once could destroy us can no longer destroy us. Healing is sacred activity and a part of our spiritual lives from beginning to end.

  6. Finally, an important part of our healing process is to praise Godde. We, like those in the gospel stories, respond to the new life we are afforded on our healing journey by praising the One calls us to calls us to our transformative and restorative work. I’m not talking about praising God as the final direction in a recipe for a fix or cure, but rather, I’m talking about the unrestrained joy we experience when we open ourselves to and participate in the power of Godde’s healing in our lives. There is no other response, when we stand beneath the mystery of the love and grace of God, but to lift our voices in praise!

Do you have a place in your life that needs healing? Then reach out. Open yourself to the possibility of healing and risk the ways that healing will change your life. Enter into the process. Enter into the holy activity of healing your life, of healing our world, of healing the places that have been bruised or beaten, defiled or ignored, hurt or shamed, neglected or abused, the places of grief or despair. If you have the strength, begin the journey that will restore your soul, that will repair our world. If you have the strength, advocate and work for the healing of others. And if you do not, we will pray for you and we will advocate for you. Those of us who have the strength will lower your pallet through the roof.

And then we will join together and praise God who breaks into our darkness and pain and offers us the way home. Amen.