Weekly Bible Devotional
“Change the World: Heal the Sick”
October 3, 2019
Scripture for Sunday: Luke 9:1-2
“When Jesus had called the Twelve together, he gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal the sick.”
Notes on the Text:
Jesus was a healer in his time. In the synoptic Gospels (the first three: Matthew, Mark, and Luke), there are 22 stories of healing. Yet, these stories of healing were not just about physical healing. Fifteen of these stories tell about people who were marginalized such as women, lepers, demoniacs, beggars, and those who were discriminated against by the religious leadership. Healing was much more involved because the causes of illness were also seen as complex. There are three aspects to consider in the healings which Jesus brought to people.
- Jesus recognized the vulnerability of the sick: Jesus saw the need for those who were sick to be touched and to be treated as full human beings, even though touching the sick was considered dangerous.
- Jesus challenged the systems that excluded the sick: He brought them back to society. He knew that people were often stripped of their rights and of their social standing once their illness was seen as a threat to society.
- Jesus affirmed the need for spiritual healing: Jesus saw the spiritual pain of people as burdens that kept them unable to heal. He offered forgiveness, cast out evil spirits, and affirmed the healing power of faith.
When all these pieces came together, physical healing became possible. Even though we don’t fully understand or can control such healing as Jesus did, we can see that the healing which Jesus brought was holistic and addressed the different needs of those who were sick and of their society. Prayer and healing were about aligning the person who was sick with God’s healing energy, love, and freedom, i.e., God’s dream for the world.
Jesus saw that part of the training of the disciples was to go out into the world and to practice releasing his healing energy. Disease in the time of Jesus was not seen just as physical. Healers like Jesus saw disease as a larger social and spiritual issue. And thus, the disciples needed to practice the teachings of Jesus in their own context. It was not enough for them to watch Jesus do it, they had to do it themselves. They had to believe that they themselves could bring healing to others.
With the example of the disciples in mind, we know that healing the sick is not just about the physical aspects of curing an illness. It is a much bigger endeavor which we can be a part of. Our specific pieces that correspond to the invitation to heal the sick are related to befriending the sick, challenging the systems that oppress and exclude people, and providing the spiritual care and guidance people need in times of pain. You might be drawn to advocate for providing proper care to the ill. You might feel called to befriend and visit those who are sick. You might seek to heal physical ailments through medicine and prayer. Or you might be adept in providing support to those seeking to heal from spiritual pain. No matter how you feel called to help, the invitation is the same: Change the world by healing the sick.
One tool that I will be sharing this Sunday is from the work of Richard and Mary Groves of the Sacred Art of Living Center. It deals with understanding and then releasing spiritual pain. Here is the link to it: https://sacredartofliving.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/Spiritual-Health-Assessment-Rev-2015.pdf
We can learn about spiritual pain and become proficient in helping others discover the power of God’s love in their lives to release them from bondage. Consider using this assessment tool for yourself or giving it to someone in your life who might be struggling. Once you or the person you know have identified the dimension of pain you are dealing with, then you can pray for healing. I believe that one of the greatest gifts we can use to contribute to the healing and wholeness of others is our ability to create sacred spaces where our souls could become more active in our daily lives and in allowing God to heal and release us. The gift of faith is about helping others know how precious they are to God. Physical healing may or may not always happen when one’s emotional and spiritual pain is released, but we know for sure that when we carry emotional or spiritual pain, we can never live fully to fulfill God’s dream for the world. Prayer, spiritual friendship, spiritual practices, and readings are all about releasing the pain we experience and allowing God to fill our hearts with love. There is so much pain and sickness in our world today. The gift of healing that we bring to it is that of helping others see their value and potential even when they feel isolated, devalued, or useless.
One of the most frequent pastoral questions is, “why did the miracle not happen to me or my loved one?” One of the worst things religious people do is blame the absence of a miracle on a lack of faith. Barbara Brown Taylor writes that, “we tend to believe that miracles work along the same lines as those strength tests at the state fair, the ones with a big thermometer and red ringer at the top. It is all a matter of how hard we can hit the thing with a sledgehammer. If we are really strong, we can ring the bell and win the prize. In other words, miracles are something we control. Only this is idolatry, one more attempt to be in charge of our lives, instead of owning up to the truth that every single breath we take is a free surprise and miracle from God. To concentrate on the strength of our own belief is to practice magic. To concentrate on the strength of God is to practice faith.”
Change the World Quest for the week: What are some groups in the community that heal or support the sick? How might you help?
A Blessing for a Friend on the Arrival of Illness
by John O’Donohue
Now is the time of dark invitation
Beyond a frontier that you did not expect;
Abruptly, your old life seems distant.
You barely noticed how each day opened
A path through fields never questioned,
Yet expected deep down to hold treasure.
Now your time on earth becomes full of threat;
Before your eyes your future shrinks.
You lived absorbed in the day to day,
So continuous with everything around you,
That you could forget you were separate.
Now this dark companion has come between you,
Distances have opened in your eyes,
You feel that against your will
A stranger has married your heart.
Nothing before has made you
Feel so isolated and lost.
When the reverberations of shock subside in you,
May grace come to restore you to balance.
May it shape a new space in your heart
To embrace this illness as a teacher
Who has come to open your life to new worlds.
May you find in yourself
A courageous hospitality
Towards what is difficult,
Painful and unknown.
May you use this illness
As a lantern to illuminate
The new qualities that will emerge in you.
May the fragile harvesting of this slow light
Help you to release whatever has become false in you.
May you trust this light to clear a path
Through all the fog of old unease and anxiety
Until you feel arising within you a tranquility
Profound enough to call the storm to stillness.
May you find the wisdom to listen to your illness:
Ask it why it came? Why it chose your friendship?
Where it wants to take you? What it wants you to know?
What quality of space it wants to create in you?
What you need to learn to become more fully yourself
That your presence may shine in the world.
May you keep faith with your body,
Learning to see it as a holy sanctuary
Which can bring this night-wound gradually
Towards the healing and freedom of dawn.
May you be granted the courage and vision
To work through passivity and self-pity,
To see the beauty you can harvest
From the riches of this dark invitation.
May you learn to receive it graciously,
And promise to learn swiftly
That it may leave you newborn,
Willing to dedicate your time to birth. Amen.