Friday, 27 March 2015

Lent day 33

God as creator of that exists is the source of life in all its fullness. One marvellous things that sustains life in face of adversity is the capacity of the human body to self-repair after injury and recover from sicknesses of many kinds. The body deteriorates with age and eventually dies, but healing of wounds and recovery from sickness is an experience common to all humanity. Medical science gives us deep insight into physical healing processes, and yet there is still a mysterious elusive element about the way mechanisms which produce healing will work with one person and not another. 

Not without reason has healing long been regarded as a divine gift, no matter what medicinal means, or special conditions applied, (whether magical and primitive or modern scientific), to ensure it can happen. Those who help others to get well and return to active life again have long been regarded as people with a God-given healing gift, regardless of what they actually offer to a sick person.

There are dozens of verses in the bible that are concerned with the healing of people, also many prayers, notably in the book of Psalms. Here are three typical examples 

"Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he saved them from their distress. He sent forth his word and healed them; he rescued them from the grave. Let them give thanks to the LORD for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for men." (Psalm 107:19-21)

"O Lord my God, I called to you for help and you healed me." (Psalm 30:2)

"The Lord will protect him and preserve his life; he will bless him in the land and not surrender him to the desire of his foes. The Lord will sustain him on his sickbed and restore him from his bed of illness." (Psalm 41:2-3)

The prayer uttered in the next verse of this Psalm mentions something important in terms of the relationship between healing and forgiveness. 

"As for me, I said, "O Lord, be gracious to me; heal my soul, for I have sinned against you." (Psalm 41:4)

Sin, can be best understood as the cause of suffering - both sin as willful transgression of 'the maker's instructions', and sin which is not intended to cause suffering, but is simply the result of ignorance or misfortune from whose consequences there is no defence. Humans sin against others and are sinned against, Sin is sickness of the soul needing both pardon for offences and healing for a wounded spirit, of the afflicted are to become whole and return to enjoy fullness of life once more.
This unusual image of Jesus about to heal a paralysed man whose bed has been lowered down through the roof of the place where he is teaching, depicts an occasion when Jesus discloses the unity of healing and forgiveness in God's providence, both in debate and action.

"Which is easier, to say, 'Your sins have been forgiven you,' or to say, 'Get up and walk'? But, so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins,"-- He said to the paralytic-- "I say to you, get up, and pick up your stretcher and go home." (Luke 5:23-4)

"Heal me, O LORD, and I will be healed; save me and I will be saved, for you are the one I praise. "(Jer 17:14)

God is to be praised because  "He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds." (Psalm 147:3), albeit through the ministry of compassionate and gifted others. 

The ministry of Jesus is one of teaching, and encouraging people to be reconciled with God and each other. so that peace and wholeness is achieved according to God's will 'on earth as it is in heaven'. Reconciliation and the practice of forgiveness are about healing of broken relationships, but Jesus' ministry is not so limited. He heals sick individuals to empower them as witnesses to God's grace 

"But the man from whom the demons had gone out was begging Jesus that he might accompany him; but Jesus sent him away, saying, "Return to your house and describe what great things God has done for you." So he went away, proclaiming throughout the whole city what great things Jesus had done for him." (Luke 8:38-9)

Healing enabled sufferers to take their rightful place in society again, since many kinds of personal sickness in the ancient world, if not today, estrange sufferers from everyday life. Every aspect of the ministry of Jesus declares the Good News that God is reconciling the whole world to himself, that He wants to heal the broken relationship between Himself and humankind, both sinning and sinned against, since left to ourselves this results in self destruction. Jesus offered to all who listened to him a new life with God through forgiveness and healing, but in the end this offer was rejected as he himself was turned against, betrayed and unjustly killed. In the act of dying, Jesus forgave all who rejected God in him. The truth he lived and died for was upheld by his resurrection from death. 

Jesus sought to make real in his own life the role of the suffering servant Messiah figure of Isaiah's poetry, (Isaiah 42-53). Naturally his disciples, in telling Jesus' story and proclaiming his resurrection, turned to this passage to help interpret the meaning of his life and death. Whilst it is not the only reference of healing in the prophet's writing, it is by far the most significiant, declaring to the reader.

"... he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed." (Isaiah 53:5)

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