Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Where Does Healing Come From?

Audio of this sermon can be heard here.
All of us are going to die. It's only a question of when and how. But that doesn't stop us from living or praying.

When I hold the hand of a young man who is fighting cancer, I pray for healing. When I lay my hand on the shoulder of a woman who has begun to show signs of dementia, I pray for healing. When I kneel at the bedside of someone who is about to take her last breath, I pray for healing. What does healing look like? Where does healing come from?

For some, it comes from a pill or a shot or a surgery. For many, it comes when the body mends itself, fighting off an infection. For a few, it comes through an unexplainable miracle. For all of us, however, it comes through death.

Today is the feast of St. Luke the Evangelist. We often think of him as a physician, but the only evidence of that we have is from Paul's letter to the Colossians, where he is identified as Paul's "dear friend Luke, the doctor." The Greek word Paul uses is iatros, which means "physician" or "healer," but, of course, what that meant back in the first century is quite different from what it means today. Whether Luke was a professional healer or a spiritual healer or just a guy who had brought healing to Paul and his companions is up for debate. Although Luke's gospel account and its sequel the Acts of the Apostles contain many stories of healing, they aren't any more significant than the healings recorded in the other gospel accounts. But there is a deep sense of healing that Luke emphasizes that is particular to his theology of salvation.

The gospel reading appointed for today (Luke 4:14-21) is an example. Luke tells us that Jesus came to his hometown synagogue and, when he stood up to read, he took the scroll of Isaiah and found the place where it was written, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, 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." Then, after sitting down, he revealed to the congregation that "this scripture [had] been fulfilled in [their] hearing."

Luke is the only one who tells us of this encounter. He is the only one who encapsulates Jesus' ministry in this way. For him, the healing that Jesus brought was good news for the poor, release for the captives, recovery of sight to the blind, freedom for the oppressed, and the year of the Lord's favor. Those who were left out, who were excluded by the religious authorities, who were thought to be beyond God's mercy, found their home in Jesus the Christ. Try telling me that isn't a healing that matters!

Whether you're sick in body, mind, or spirit, God offers true healing. Whether you're weighed down by guilt or shame or regret, God will lift your burden. If you're bound by chains of debt or addiction or heartache, God will set you free. That healing, that freedom, is given to us in the life and death and resurrection of Jesus. In him, we see our true healing. Yes, it breaks through into this life. Yes, the kingdom of God is the manifestation of God's saving work in this world right now--even today. And we also know that in Christ our true healing is granted fully in the life that awaits us.

So come to the Lord and seek true healing. Pray that doctors and nurses and physical therapists will be God's agents for restoration. But don't stop there. Look for God's healing among the poor and the oppressed, the blind and the lame, the prisoner and the enslaved. Look for God's healing that transcends this life.

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