Today!

Luke 4:16-21 / Mark 11:25

Today!

July 30, 2017

 

          What is a service of healing prayer?  The first thing to do about a healing service is to manage expectations.  So, on the one hand, will we hoot and holler here today?  Well, I’m not going to; you can if it helps you, I guess.  Will we throw crutches around?  No.  Will we sell hankies blessed by the Prayer Team?  No.  This is not a show; it’s a service of worship in which we seek God’s blessing.

          On the other hand, will we pray today for people to be healed in body, mind, spirit, finances, relationships, and any other way they are oppressed?  Absolutely!  Do we believe that prayer taps into a power beyond our understanding?  Yes! 

          In the Introduction to its healing services, The United Methodist Book of Worship says:  “Healing is not magic, but underlying it is the great mystery of God’s love.  . .  God does not promise that we shall be spared suffering but does promise to be with us in our suffering. . .  And God does not promise that we will be cured of all illnesses. . .  A Service of Healing is not necessarily a service of curing, but it provides the atmosphere in which healing can happen.”1 In other words, we come to this service with high expectations of an encounter with the healing God.  We get to share with God our deepest longings and desires.  The outcome of prayer is beyond our control, even beyond our understanding.  But one thing we know and trust—we need not leave here today without the blessing and favor of God.

 

          Will we pray for “miracles” here today?  I guess that depends on what you mean by “miracle.”  Some people think of a miracle as something that happens contrary to the rules of physics or outside the laws of nature.  I’m not sure I’ve ever prayed for that exactly.  But science is learning that energy and matter, mind and body, the spiritual and the rational are interrelated in ways we don’t begin to understand.  Surprising, unexplainable, praiseworthy things do happen—and I will pray for that. 

          The British theologian, Sam Wells, teaches that through the incarnation God is utterly with all of creation all the time, so there is no such thing as nature, understood as a self-sustaining system which God is outside of.  Instead there is creation, which God initiated, upholds and is perpetually with.  Thus “miracles” don’t so much change reality,” Wells says, “as make visible a different, divine reality that is always also part of creation.2

               One miracle I will absolutely pray for is the miracle of forgiveness—both to be forgiven and to be able to forgive others. There are few things in life more powerful than being set free from one’s guilt and shame.  And the action that unblocks the flow of receiving forgiveness is the act of forgiving others.   I know of no gift greater, no action more surprising, no miracle greater than forgiveness.  So yes, I’ll pray for miracles today.

 

               Our gospel reading is from Luke 4. It’s the scripture from Isaiah that Jesus chose for his very first public message. “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,” he read, “because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”  In other words, Jesus took as his starting point, his personal mission statement, you might say, the work of healing, broadly understood:  the healing of physical ailments such as blindness, but also the healing of spiritual, economic, and social ailments—imprisonment, oppression, addiction, debt.  And Jesus kept at this healing mission all his life.  The very next stories in Luke 4 are about Jesus healing someone of an unclean spirit and healing Peter’s mother-in-law of a fever.  A summary at the end of chapter 4 says,  “all those who had any who were sick with various kinds of diseases brought them to him; and he laid his hands on each of them and cured them.  Demons,” it says, whatever that meant in those days, “also came out of many,”  Fully one-third of all the verses in Luke’s gospel are in stories of healing.  Healing was the mission of Jesus; it still is.

 

          When Jesus had finished reading his chosen scripture from Isaiah about release to captives, sight for the blind, freedom for the oppressed and favor for all God’s people, he preached on it what was essentially a one-word sermon.  (Don’t you wish your preachers could be so concise?)  “Today,” he said, “this scripture has been fulfilled in your presence.”  Today, he said.  God’s saving, healing power is not relegated to Bible stories long ago.  And God’s saving, healing power is not put off till we get to heaven or the End Time comes.  About release of captives and healed bodies, about freedom and God’s favor, Jesus says Today is the day.

          And in Jesus’ name, we say it too.  You are invited to come seek healing today.  No, no, I can’t know what will happen to anyone here today.  But again, one thing I do know and trust--we need not leave here today without the blessing and favor of God.

         

          Each week Cathy Davis and Nancy Gay add to our church’s Prayer List names and situations that you share on prayer cards, call or email to us, or tell us in person.  The Prayer Team faithfully prays for each one of these.  You probably know that.  What you may not know is that periodically the team creates what they call a Rejoice List.  These are the people who can be taken off the Prayer List because they’ve received the healing we prayed for, or they found peace of mind about the situation they shared.  It is often a long and always joyful list.  It’s difficult for us to share this Rejoice List with you because it contains such sensitive and personal information.  But suffice it to say there are surgeries recovered from, cancers gone into remission, relationships restored with sons and daughters, loved ones released from prison, people getting help with addictions, and on and on it goes.  Now, you may say these folks might have got better even without the Prayer Team.  Yeah, maybe—God is good.  But I sure am glad they prayed—aren’t you?

 

          So who are these poor people that Jesus reads about in Isaiah?  Who are the captives and blind ones, who are these oppressed and who is it that’s in need of God’s favor?  Well, the invitation today is to see that we are, you and I.  We are the ones in need of healing.  God’s healing power is not buried in Bible stories of the past nor do we have to wait for heaven or the End of time.  Jesus says healing is fulfilled today.

 

          There are several ways you can engage in this time of healing prayer, and you can choose one or all of them, as you are led. 

          In your bulletin is a card for you to use to reflect and then write down your heart’s longing for healing today.  How do you pray for healing this day—physical, emotional, spiritual, relationships, for someone else?  Write it down.  After the hymn, you can put this card in this Prayer Box up here, you can present it to the prayer partners when you move to a station, or you can take it home with you as a reminder.  But before the hymn we’ll give you a few moments to write down your prayer for healing.   

          Second, after the hymn you can come forward to the table and light a candle—lighting a candle is an ancient and moving act of prayer.

          Finally after the hymn, prayer partners will move to stations, both here at the front of the sanctuary and also at the back.  There is one set of prayer partners ready to come to you wherever you are, if that would be helpful—just signal to them.  At each prayer station, you will be invited to sit.  The prayer partners will ask what healing you long for today.  They’ll offer to anoint you with oil, if you wish.  And then they’ll simply pray for your desire and speak for you a blessing.  As you wait to be prayed for, I’d ask you to stay a ways back from the prayer station so that each encounter can be confidential.  

          Prayer partners will remain after worship in the prayer room in the back of the sanctuary.  If the 9:30 hours approaches, we may go ahead and sing the closing hymn, so that those who need to leave may do so, but don’t let the deter you.  The prayer partners will stay to pray with all who come, as long as they are needed. 

          Jesus said that God’s healing is fulfilled today. 

         

 

1 “Healing Services and Prayers: Introduction,” The United Methodist Book of Worship (Nashville: The United Methodist Publishing House, 1992), 613-14.

2Samuel Wells, A Nazareth Manifesto: Being With God (Malden, MA: Wiley Blackwell,

2015), 159.

 

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