Thursday, September 28, 2006

Furthering the health of the body

Sunday October 1st 2006. Readings for the 17th Sunday after Pentecost (proper 26) Esther 7:1-6,9-10;9:20-22;Psalm 124; James 5:12-20; Mark 9:38-50

There is no doubt that we will look back at the last century and see that a most significant part of ministry has been a more dynamic approach to praying with and for those who are sick
With this, I think, has gone an increased expectation that healing will occur.
Before that it was no doubt the case prayer for healing had about it a certain sense of resignation
to fate
or perhaps "God's will"
or to "the inevitable"
So we can give thanks that there has been a recapturing of "the prayer of faith" that we read about in the letter of James
We can give thanks that the church is more fervent in believing the promise of Jesus that his disciples will do what he can do and this includes healing.

This last century of course has also seen wonderful advancement in modern medicine
which itself is more optimistic and, dare we say it, successful
The two things go hand in hand
and this is an important insight into how God works in our world
He is not "above and beyond" our experience
but "with and in"
It is instructive to talk to Christian doctors
they are under no illusions about how their pragmatic ministry
is undergirded not only by the natural ministry of health science
but also by the supernatural support of the angels.
Chaplains and other ministers in hospitals, too,
see themselves not apart or spiritually superior from the scientific care of people
but an integrated part oif a healing whole.

Health, you see, is a community pursuit
it is complex and comprehensive
and goes awry when it is dragged to one pole of experience or another
be that either the coldly clinical or the widly supernatural

A couple of points
The key insight for this period as we reflect on our life together
is that wholeness and health are not (only or even) individual pursuits
they are community issues.
This has two facets
One is that it is the responsibility of the community to care for the well being of individuals
and the second is that the individual's health affects the body as a whole.

James, in his oft quoted passage says how when we are sick
we should call for the elders
to pray and lay hands on us and anoint us.
It has been my joy to do this many times
sometimes I am a bit sad when people keep their sickness to themselves
I suggest it is as silly as not going to the doctor.
Also our key insight
is that health is both individual and communal
and bringing in the community
is an important spiritual dynamic.
James reminds us, too, that we need to confess our sins to one another.
This is not easy.
Again it reminds us that sin is not a private affair,
even if we are the only one who might be hurt or betrayed
the damage done is both individual and communal.
I am not here suggesting the sort of public exposure of sin
and humiliation of indviduals
that is the caricature of some Christian communities;
but rather to see that
when one hurts we all hurt
and that the road to reconciliation
may well not be the road of trying to hide
but of trying to allow ourselves to be helped
to know healing and forgiveness.

The gospel reminds us that we need to take sin seriously
as it potentially destroys us.,
If your eye offend; pluck it out
is the hyperbole which our Lord uses
we neglect sin at our peril.

We who are the body of Christ
are called to be just that
Our healing our forgiveness
is not just individual
it is also corporate.
What might God be saying to me today about that insight?

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