Since the earliest times of the church, followers of Christ have been given the ministry of healing. Sometimes, this has taken place in miraculous ways, in public places, at times when God’s purpose was to bring many to faith.
Most often, the healing ministry of the church is shown in the care we give each other, and in the encouragement we give each other as we walk life’s path together, knowing that our God walks with us. Many of these moments are private, known only to a few, or only to ourselves.
There are many kinds of healing – physical (illness, injury), emotional (trauma of an inner struggle), relational (hurtful disconnect with someone else), and spiritual (a separation from God). All of us have needed healing of one kind or another in our lives. And through the church, God sends the Holy Spirit to be present in that moment, whatever it may be for you.
This will be a different kind of a sermon. There will be a time to hear the Word and think about the Word. There will be time for prayer, spoken and silent. There will be music. And there will be an invitation, for those who wish it, to come forward to let the leadership pray with you and for you. No matter where you are in the room, or on your journey, or in your life, God’s deepest desire is to make you whole.
Mark 1:29 As soon as they left the synagogue, they entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. 30Now Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told him about her at once. 31He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up. Then the fever left her, and she began to serve them.
32 That evening, at sunset, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons. 33And the whole city was gathered around the door. 34And he cured many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him.
Mark 1:40 A leper came to him begging him, and kneeling he said to him, “If you choose, you can make me clean.” 41 Moved with pity, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, and said to him, “I do choose. Be made clean!” 42 Immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean.
After sternly warning him he sent him away at once, 44 saying to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone; but go, show yourself to the priest, and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.” 45 But he went out and began to proclaim it freely, and to spread the word, so that Jesus could no longer go into a town openly, but stayed out in the country; and people came to him from every quarter.
A Search for Healing. There are many ways to find healing and many, many ways to spend money on healing. On the Internet you find places that sell healing stones, healing crystals, healing herbs. You’d find topics like Reiki and Tao healing (healing practices from Asia), celestial healing, faith healing, natural healing, spiritual healing, sexual healing, and healing humor. At the top of the computer screen, after a search for the word “healing,” the book seller Amazon will sell you books on healing. And my screen invites me to “find products and comparison shop for healing” in 3,500 different places on the Internet.
Healthcare has been a major national issue for many years. Physicians have many miraculous ways to cure us, and it’s all very expensive.
There probably isn’t a person in this room that hasn’t prayed for healing at one time or another – for yourself or someone else. During most of our worship services, we’ll pray for families who are overcoming a loss, those who have been hospitalized, people who are dealing with injury or illness. Pastors know that if a list like that were to be truly accurate, we would be saying a lot of names each week. I look across the room and I see wonderful people who have had a close relationship with pain. And God knows.
In the presence of God, we talk about those who are ill. Talking about those who are ill in church may seem like a natural thing to you, or, you may have wondered how healing (and illness) has a place here. The first hospitals were started as annexes to monasteries and church buildings. Medical facilities began to separate around 200 years ago, but healing is still a spiritual thing for many of us. You know that your most spiritual moments come when you need healing. It’s a moment when many people know they need God.
The concern for healing – and the search for healing has been with us since God created us. From the moment we begin to breathe, we have a survival instinct that craves healing. As I say these words, you know someone who needs healing right now. That someone may be you.
So many people have come into a deeper relationship with God because of something in their life that needed healing. If this is the method God has used in your life to get closer to you, you know that this is not an easy path to walk; it’s not for the faint of heart. When we think of healing, we think of miracles, and God is in that business. If you became closer to God because of an illness, you may or may not have thought of it this way, but it was a miracle, whether you were cured or not.
So, what does healing mean for Christians? What does it mean for people who come into contact with Jesus? What does it mean for you? What needs healing in your life? I want to encourage you to let God be a partner in your healing. The healing you experience may not be the healing you ask for or expect. The healing you experience as a Christian is not about you and it’s not about me; it’s about God. It’s about a deeper relationship with the God who loves you and has a deep desire to save you. I invite you now to listen to the words of this song (Healer):
Call to Confession. Healing begins with faith and faith begins with prayer. To bear one another’s burdens in prayer is a holy privilege. God needs believers to show a willingness to be a vessel for God’s power, a willingness to be used by God. And so, in silence, we need to offer our confessions to God so that we can be cleansed of anything that might disrupt our ability to pray for ourselves or others.
In confessing, we name those sins which separate and distort our relationship with God and each other: sins of pride, self-love, and resentment; sins of hatred, bitterness, and jealousy. Let us name also our connection with humanity’s sins: sins of poverty, war, hunger, injustice, neglect, and discrimination. We confess the ways we harm each other. In silence, we confess our sins.
Leader. If we confess our sins, God is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. You are forgiven.
Mark 2:1-13 And when [Jesus] returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home. 2 And many were gathered together, so that there was no longer room for them, not even about the door; and he was preaching the word to them. 3 And they came, bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men. 4 And when they could not get near him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him; and when they had made an opening, they let down the pallet on which the paralytic lay. 5 And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “My son, your sins are forgiven.”
6 Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, 7 “Why does this man speak thus? It is blasphemy! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” 8 And immediately Jesus, perceiving in his spirit that they thus questioned within themselves, said to them, “Why do you question thus in your hearts? 9 Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, take up your pallet and walk’? 10 But that you may know that the Son of man has authority on earth to forgive sins” – he said to the paralytic – 11 “I say to you, rise, take up your pallet and go home.” 12 And he rose, and immediately took up the pallet and went out before them all; so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!”
Most of the time we pray in worship, we pray as a group. Most of the time, I direct the prayer; I tell you what to say. In a moment you will have an opportunity to pray for your personal needs with the worship leadership and I will invite you to come forward for that. We will each have a small container of scented oil, with which we touch your hand. This anointing is an ancient sign of special blessing from God.
You are the God who heals. You are the God who forgives unconditionally. You are the God who loves us beyond what we can know. You are the God who defeats all our enemies and anoints us for your purposes. We thank you for oil, used by prophets and apostles as a sign of your grace and favor. Send your Holy Spirit on us and fill us; let this oil be the touch of health that comes from you through Jesus. Amen.
All those who wish to be anointed for healing or wholeness may come forward. You may come for yourself, or you may come as a channel of God’s healing power for someone else. The need for healing may involve something physical, emotional, relational, or spiritual. You may come seeking wholeness, a new relationship with God.
God, for those in physical distress, for those in physical pain, we pray. We lift them up to you. Some of us are battling disease and injury. Maybe not even our closest friends know how really serious it is, but you know. Some of us live with pain like an old friend. We want you to take the hurt away; but if it must be, give us the perseverance and grace to handle it with patience and the power to keep from taking it out on those around us. Heal us, God.
Some of us outwardly are the picture of health, we put up a good front, but inside our heart of hearts where you know us best, something is wrong, something that keeps us from experiencing the full life you want for us. It might come from an old tragedy, maybe a recent heartbreak, maybe it’s conflict in our family, maybe it’s loneliness, maybe it’s a nagging doubt about ourselves. A habit, an attitude. Touch us, Lord. Heal our memories; free us from the past. Free us from our emotional pain. Free us from that part of ourselves that keeps us in slavery. Heal us.
Others of us are thinking of those closest to us. Often there is very little we can do directly, even though we might gladly change places with that person if we could. Be near to those we are praying for in our hearts, be with them in the loneliness of their struggle, help them battle their pain, lift their spirits, restore their joy.
God, I want to be closer to you. I confess my need for you. And the sin in my life that has kept me from you. I thank you for sending Jesus to die on the cross for me. I thank you that he lives for me. I believe in him. Now fill me with your Spirit. And use me to make a difference… through the love of Christ.
Closing: Luke 9:1, 6 Then Jesus called the twelve together and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal. They departed and went through the villages, bringing the good news and curing diseases everywhere.