Sunday, May 11, 2008

Healing Service Sermon

There are two lessons about healing in the gospel story today. The obvious one is the actual healing of the paralytic man. This part of the story shows that all things are possible with God.

The second aspect of the story, the more important part, reveals more about the regular work of God through Jesus, then and now. After the man’s friends lower him to the floor, Jesus looks at him and says, “Your sins are forgiven.”

Many people in the room were shocked and offended at this statement, but Jesus points out that it is much, much easier for him or for anyone to acknowledge the forgiveness of sins than to heal a paralyzed person. So that they might believe in God’s power in Jesus, he heals the man of his physical infirmity and then people were amazed. Even before Thomas, people needed to see and believe.

And we’re a lot like that today. It’s easier to believe when we hear miracle stories, when we see our friends healed, when children are born with no problems, when someone walks away from the deadly crash.

Yet isn’t it a greater miracle to know that God forgives our anger at our will not being done, forgives our despondency when we ignore our blessings, forgives our complacency when we decide there is nothing we can do, and forgives our unwillingness to tear off the roof and bring everything before Jesus.

Today, in the life of the church, we celebrate Pentecost- the day when the Holy Spirit descended as tongues of fire and the disciples were able to preach in many, many languages. The miracle of Pentecost is that, by being able to hear the good news, many people were healed, from their lives of sin, from their fear of God, from their misunderstanding of who Jesus was. Do we still look for that kind of miracle today? Do we expect that kind of healing?

Physical healings happen daily. Through increased understanding of God’s creation, our bodies and our minds, we are able to receive treatment for illnesses that were unheard of in Jesus’ time. Even fifty years ago, many of us might have died from physical ailments we’re able to get a prescription for these days. But we still long for miracle healings; we long to know the physical presence of God in our bodies, as well as our hearts. However, what is the healing we need most? And who knows best what we need. The God who loves us, in sickness and in health, for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, never to be parted in life or death knows all our needs. Jesus knew that the paralyzed man needed soul healing more than he needed to feel the soles of his feet on the earth. God knew we needed the kind of healing that could only come through God’s only son- healing of our spirits, so that we too might be able to speak with tongues of fire about what has been done for us.

The theologian, H. Richard Niebuhr said, “The great Christian revolutions come not by the discovery of something that was not known before. They happen when somebody takes radically something that was always there.”

The radical, healing nature of God is one of everlasting, always there, forgiveness- achieved through Jesus on the cross, so that we would no longer be paralyzed by the fear of sin and death. We are called upon to take that healing, that new freedom seriously. That everlasting forgiveness is for you! Be healed by it. Feel the Spirit burning in your heart. Your sins are forgiven. They are forgiven indeed. Take up your mat and walk!

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