In the lectionary verse this week, found in James, there is a discussion of prayer and healing. “Are any among you suffering? They should pray.” “Are any among you sick? They should call for the elders of the church and have them pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord. The prayer of faith will save the sick and the Lord will raise them up; and anyone who has committed sins will be forgiven.” I am not sure if this is true or not, but I can imagine this is a go to verse for the crutch and wheelchair jockeys in the evangelical healing arenas. I can see Steve Martin quoting this text in the movie, “Leap of Faith”
I confess I am nervous about the hocus pocus that goes along with healing, especially the kind that Martin does in the film. I confess that the style of traveling healing ministers is what is in my head when I think of healing. But in our Book of Worship there is a healing service. I have done a couple of these in my ministry as well and it a tough row to hoe because of the stereotypical ideas that come along with it.
Yet as I prepare to preach on the power of prayer and how Jesus was and calls us to be preachers, teachers, and HEALERS, I was drawn to the explanation in the Book of Worship (BOW). I think Ken Carter does a great job summing this up in his sermon on www.day1.org. He says “In the book of worship of my tradition, the United Methodist Church, there is an important statement about what healing is and is not. Healing is not magic…It does not replace medicine or psychotherapy…It is not the same as curing…It is a mystery. It is relational: the relation of mind, body, and spirit. Our relationship to each other. Our relationship with God.”
When we hear the word healing we think curing, but the BOW is right, they are not the same. On page 614 of the BOW it says “God does not promise that we will be cured of all illnesses; and we all must face the inevitability of death. A Service of Healing is not necessarily a service of curing, but it provides an atmosphere in which healing can happen. The greatest healing of all is the reunion or reconciliation of a human being with God. When this happens, physical healing sometimes occurs, mental and emotional balance is often restored, spiritual heath is enhanced, and relationships are healed.”
Through Jesus Christ we are made whole again. In the Upper Room Jesus showed Thomas the scars from his pain and suffering but he was whole once again. In our fallen world there will be disease and illness. There will be tragedy and suffering. But there will also be healing, restoration, recovery, and reconciliation through the power of the ultimate healer, Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.