As you probably know, I grew up a full on, high octane, almost Fundamentalist Conservative Evangelical. I was high on salvation, and down on sinners, I was big on Jesus’ blood, and knew little of social justice. I was keen on songs, and not so good on theology, I was content to condemn people to some kind of eternal punishment but not so sure about grace being for those outside the church….
And I carried a WHOLE load of guilt around about readings such as our one this evening. A reading which told me to go out, or so it was interpreted, and tell everyone about Jesus, and let them know that they were going straight to hell if they didn’t believe the right stuff in the right way.
At least that’s what I thought the 70 disciples of Jesus were doing when I read about them, or heard about them in my swinging-from-the-chandeliers-rock-n-roll-we’re- all-going-to heaven-lads-waheey church in my later teens. And I think I was terrified because I was being told that it was no simple harvest, but there were ravening wolves out there waiting to tear my little lamb-like self to shreds. I think I was terrified also because I was being told to ‘preach’ at these people…
How wrong I was.
I was wrong both in what the message of this story from Luke’s Gospel is, and in my own understanding of how faith, real faith, real love, real peace, is received by a world beyond the walls of our churches. And by what we, as the bearers of Christ to the world, are called to do.
When we see the message Jesus gives to his disciples to share it begins not with ‘you’re all going to hell, folks, unless you believe in Jesus’, nor was it the still popular ‘you must be convicted of your sinfulness’ which so many Christians seem to continue to delight in – nope, Jesus begins with ‘peace be with you’. And the calling he gave to the disciples was not to evangelise, in the narrow understanding of the word as I had been told it, the message was ‘be satisfied with what people give you, cure the sick, and point towards the life of Christ’.
This is the very essence of our healing ministry. Reaching out, learning contentment, praying for healing, pointing towards Christ.
The healing ministry of the church, as I have said a number of times in this past three years (I checked my old sermons…) is not to do miracles, or at least not the kind of miracles that many of those who claim to be healers talk of. I believe miraculous things can happen when we are open to the divine within, between, and around us – though I might have a different interpretation of what a miracle is than the signs and wonders movement I belonged to once.
The miracle of Christ’s healing is found in the touch of love for those who feel unlovely and unloved.
The miracle of Christ’s healing comes from the energy of the Spirit that is shared in the healing touch.
The miracle of Christ’s healing is found in listening, opening ourselves up to divine encounter and allowing ourselves to be transformed from within.
The miracle of Christ’s healing is peace, and grace, and faith, and hope, and love.
And the miracle of Christ’s healing is shared. It’s not undertaken by special or specialised individuals – clergy or otherwise – but by all those open to the working of the Spirit of God.
This miracle is our proclamation – but not a proclamation of words, more of presence, more of prayer, more of learning to be Christ in the world – through the indwelling and energising of the Holy Spirit within us.
The calling to healing is the calling to be people of peace, the true healing – shalom – the wholeness which God offers. The calling to healing is to be prophets, declaring the presence of God who is all in all. the calling to healing is to be open ourselves to the healing power of Christ and to live into that healing as we share it with those who surround us and those who we meet.
And the ultimate calling is to point to the life which Christ offers us, the healing which is offered to all peoples and to be able to say, with grace and love, the kingdom, the reign, the presence of God, has come near. Share with me as we reach out to touch it, to receive the Divine healing and comfort which is open to all.
It’s still somewhat scary, as it involves being open to God and open to one another – but it is a journey taken in partnership – with the community of healing and faith which is the church, and with our Divine Creator, the wounded healer who is Christ, and the comforter who is the spirit.
And as we reach out to one another in this act of healing today, we are proclaiming in our healing touch and in our prayers for one another: Look, the kingdom of God has come near to you.
Thanks be to God. Amen