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Restoring Health: body, mind and spirit


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Messy Healing: Why does it often take too long? Mark 8: 22-26

Christ the King Healing service at All Saints Church Crescent Beach with Rev Dr. Ed Hird:

Do you have any blind spots? I do. Are there any areas where you are not self-aware? We can easily come to church with blind spots that we are not aware of. Blind spots can bring a business-as-usual attitude. Did you come with great expectations today for our healing service? Our expectations often shape what we receive. Pregnant mothers are often called expectant mothers. Why is that? People often say “don’t get your hopes up. You might be disappointed”. I want to challenge you today to get your hopes up. Hope is about expectation. Expectation in Latin is exspectare ‘look out for’, from ex- ‘out’.

Do you have expectant eyes today?

Alyosha the protagonist in Dostoevsky’s Brothers Karamazov, had ‘expectant eyes’. This initially annoyed his older worldly brother Ivan, but then he grew fond of Alyosha’s expectant eyes.

What expectations did you bring this morning? (Pause for the congregation who shared their expectations.)

Let me ask you a trick question. Is the Anglican Church Catholic or Protestant? The answer is yes. We are reformed catholics. All Saints Church as part of the Anglican Mission is a three-stream church, catholic, evangelical and charismatic. This means that we focus in Christ on sacrament, word, and Spirit. You may have heard that the word without the Spirit, you dry up. The Spirit without the Word you blow up. The Word, Spirit and Sacrament together, you grow up.

How many of you have a Bible that you read? How many of you have an Anglican Prayer Book? (Probably a lot less.) The good news is that today it is all online. I was raised in soft Anglocatholicism where very few of us had bibles at home. While being confirmed, I was taught about the Prayer Book catechism, but nothing about the Bible. Fortunately the Prayer book is 80% portions of the Bible. No one told me when I was young that the Anglican book of Common Prayer on p. 587 has a very powerful 11-page healing service with laying on of hands, healing prayers, reading of healing scriptures like James 5:14-16, confession and absolution, anointing with oil, and holy communion. It is the full deal approach to serious healing, yet sadly forgotten by most Anglican churches. Here is a sample prayer from the Anglican healing service: “Our Lord and Heavenly Father, who relieves those who suffer in soul and body: stretch forth thine hand, we beseech thee, to heal thy servant and to ease his pain; that by thy mercy he may be restored to health of body and mind, and show forth his thankfulness in love to thee and service to his fellow men and women; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.” One of the Anglican healing prayers specifically spoke about “preserving thee in all goodness”? How many of you in today’s healing service want to be preserved in all goodness? The Holy Spirit is God’s great healing preservative. Preservative, like the word conservative, both mean to keep safe from harm. That is what today’s healing service is all about. God today wants to conserve you and preserve you in body, mind and spirit. Healing is not just physical but involves the whole person.

How many of you know the medieval term for anointing with oil? Unction which is Latin for anointing. Sadly many people lost sight of its healing potential and just relegated it to be used as last rites in what became known as The sacrament of extreme unction. I have been amazed the number of times when I anoint people during last rites that they get better, instead of dying.

Unctuosus in Latin literally meant ‘greasy or oily’. Today at our three prayer stations, you can ask to be anointed with oil for healing.

I will never forget the healing mission that I went to with a blind Anglican healing evangelist who joking called himself Mr Magoo. Many were healed that weekend as he spoke movingly about the healing power of the Eucharist, of receiving Holy Communion. While I valued the Lord’s supper, I had never before fully appreciated it’s connection to the healing ministry. Yet the Anglican catechism that I had studied said clearly that the benefits of receiving communion are “the strengthening and refreshing of our souls and bodies unto eternal life by the Body and Blood of Christ.” How many of you want strengthening and refreshing today both physically and spiritually?

In the first Anglican Prayer book written by Archbishop Thomas Cranmer in 1549, people were given communion while saying these words “The body of our Lord Jesus Christ which was given for you, preserve thy body and soul unto everlasting life.” Many grumbled that this was too Catholic, so in the next Book of Common Prayer written by Archbishop Cranmer in 1552, it was dropped and replaced with the words “Take and eat this in remembrance that Christ died for you and feed on him in your hearts by faith with thanksgiving.” Sadly King Edward the sixth died, Bloody Mary kicked out the prayer book, and burnt 300 people at the stake including Archbishop Thomas Cranmer. He was so badly psychologically tortured that he signed a document renouncing the very prayer book that he had written. As he was being burnt alive, he took his right hand and stuck it in the flames, saying “with my right hand, I renounce my renunciation.” He died a martyr for the faith.

After Bloody Mary died from influenza in 1558, her half sister Queen Elizabeth took over, restoring the prayer book. This time, she used both phrases at communion, preserving both the Catholic objective side of communion and the Protestant subjective side of communion. Yes, it is the body of Christ spiritually. Yes, Jesus is really present in the Eucharist spiritually, but it must be received in your hearts by faith. Without a lively faith, as the 39 articles puts it, you are merely chewing on bread, as Saint Augustine put it ‘carnally and visibly press with their teeth’.

When you receive communion by faith, it is medicine to our body and soul.

In the old days, you could not receive communion in an Anglican Church without being confirmed. I got confirmed to make my mother happy. After being confirmed, I had great expectations for my first communion, but never realized that it was medicine. I was greatly disappointed. There was nothing wrong with the body and blood. But I didn’t receive it in my heart with thanksgiving. I believed in Jesus in my head, but had never received Jesus in my heart by faith with thanksgiving. After I received Jesus in 1972 during the Jesus movement, I went back to my local Anglican Church, and noticed that communion had improved. I added subjective faith to the objective sacrament. Seven years later, I received the gift of tongues, and remarkably communion improved again. I have noticed since that every time I forgive others, every time I apologize to my wife, every time I choose to be generous, every time I surrender my will, communion improves. The problem is not with the sacrament. The problem is my hard heart. How’s your heart today? Does it need to soften at all? Would you like communion to improve for you today?

In Vs 22 & 23, we are told that “They came to Bethsaida, and some people brought a blind man and begged Jesus to touch him. He took the blind man by the hand and led him outside the village”

Jesus will sometimes use privacy to protect us from other’s manipulation and negativity.

Vs 23b tells us that Jesus spit on the man’s eyes and put his hands on him.

Spitting is very incarnational. In other places, he used mud with spit. Jesus like matter. It is not a coincidence that he called communion his flesh and blood. The sacraments are the material and spiritual integrated in a holy mystery, as the Eastern Orthodox call the sacraments. You may have noticed that Bishop Peter likes to be sensitive to people’s preferences, like grape juice or wine, gluten or gluten free wafers. Today he has decided that we will offer three healing stations: one with spit, one with mud, one with anointing oil. 😉

In Vs 23c, Jesus asked, “Do you see anything?”

Jesus asked many amazing diagnostic questions in his healing ministry, such as “Do you want to be well?” We might want to do that as well when we pray for healing for others. His three-fold ministry which Jesus passed on to us is preaching, teaching, and healing the sick. The good news is that he is still present to heal today. (The power of God was present to heal the sick. Luke 5:16-26) He is still both willing and able to bring wholeness to us. ( “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.” And Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, “I will; be clean.” Matthew 8:2-3) Healing is God’s will; sometimes a fuller healing is delayed. We sometimes grumble about that. You may have noticed that all of us die, entering in God’s full healing.

In vs 24, we are told that the blind man looked up and said, “I see people; they look like trees walking around.”

This partial healing of sight is often true in our lives, not only physically but also spiritually.

E Stanley Jones from the first Christian Ashram retreat in 1930 held a healing service and a communion service. Communion as I have said is healing. Jones who recorded hundreds of healings in his 28 books, believed oblique or indirect healing. More physical healings take place when spiritual and emotional healing comes first. I ask some of you today: who do you need to forgive? Who are you no longer talking to in your family? Could bitterness be holding back a physical breakthrough?

After losing my voice in 1980, I became passionate about the healing ministry, becoming an Order of St Luke the Physician Chaplain. On May 25th 1982, I had throat surgery at Vancouver General Hospital which restored my voice, though initially leaving it breathy, very quiet and raspy. Don’t give up when you only see people like trees. Thank God for that partial healing. Sometimes you need to soak for a while in God’s healing presence as more breakthrough comes.

Vs 25 tells us that “Once more Jesus put his hands on the man’s eyes. Then his eyes were opened, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly.”

Would you ‘see’ more clearly in your life? Do you ever treat people as trees, as less than human? All genocides and war crimes come from our seeing people as trees. In Rwanda, Tutus were called cockroaches as they were being slaughtered.

In vs 26, we are told that “Jesus sent him home, saying, “Don’t even go into the village.”

Sometimes to keep your healing, you have to be careful who you share your healing with.

It is very easy to be impatient as we seek healing for ourselves and others. One of my biggest temptation is impatience. I seldom have car accidents. The few I have had have been connected to my impatience.

Nicky Gumbel recently tweeted: “Abraham waited for 25 years. Joseph waited 25 years. Moses waited 25 years. Jesus waited 25 years. If God makes you wait, you are in good company.”

Have you ever thanked God for unanswered prayers, how God protects us from our naivety and foolishness?

Our impatience can tempt us to try to twist God’s arm. Healing is not about getting our own way in our own timing. Healing is about the surrender of our will, about aligning our will with God’s healing will.

Let us pray that God will strengthen our patience as we minister healing to others in Jesus’ name. Never give up.