Toorak Uniting Church

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How do we heal

Matthew 9: 35 – 10: 8
Rev. Anneke Oppewal
9:00 am, 12 June 2005

How is it we heal?

I’d like to put forward a proposition:

Love and understanding will have a positive effect on any process of healing we might have to go through. If we get hurt, if we fall, break a leg or an arm, if we get sick, if we are in some way physically not well, love and understanding will help whatever other more physical measures will be taken. We will get through and over whatever it is that is ailing us quicker, easier and with less psychological scarring if we receive proper care and attention than if we are neglected, maltreated or even abused.

It’s logical isn’t it. Love helps, even if what is physically wrong can not be cured and will not in any physical way be shifted.
Loving care is medicine. A mother who kisses a child after putting the band aid on and puts her arms around it knows this. The hospital that makes sure cups of tea and coffee are readily available in the cancer ward assumes they will support and help patient and relatives in a difficult time.
An arm on a shoulder, a tissue at the ready, a visitor with a happy face, we all firmly believe will help, even though there is no direct scientifically demonstrable physical intervention in the trouble at hand.

But what you may be wondering does all of that have to do with the reading from Matthew before us this morning? Jesus is definitely not talking cups of coffee or tea, nor the hand on the shoulder or warm encouraging smile. He is talking curing the sick, raising the dead, cleansing the lepers and casting out demons. Doesn’t that go a little bit further than what we just talked about? Aren’t we, in that case, talking miracles?

Yes, and no. At the time when Jesus was curing the sick and raising the dead there was no separation between the physical and psychological aspects of illness. Their understanding of illness was much more holistic than ours. The psychological and physical aspects understood and experienced as one. Scientific understanding was different and there were quite a few things people back than did not and could not know. Although the ancient Egyptians, the ancient Greeks and the ancient Romans had a considerable insight in how the human body worked and what was needed to cure it. Fairly complicated operations were performed with good results. They weren’t completely ignorant, nor were they completely incompetent.
But they would not have dreamed of separating mind and body the way we have done over the last couple of centuries.

So when the disciples are sent out on their mission to heal they would have understood this ‘healing’ in a holistic way rather than in an exclusively physical way. They would not have been able to measure any difference other than by outwardly visible and tangible results.
And they got results.
We know this from Bible stories but also from contemporary reports on the first Christian communities. People who became Christians fared well, physically and spiritually. It was a holistic package they were offered, their bodily well-being as much part of the equation as their spiritual well being. They experienced the power of the Holy Spirit as real power and not as something airy-fairy they just talked about in Sunday services. They saw real improvement in their day to day quality of life and others saw it too. And from the very beginning physical healing was very much part of that package. Otherwise Christianity would never have taken off!

If we read the New Testament it is evident that real things happened in the healing department and that it was a major point of attraction, together with the equality and levelling of society that Christianity preached, a supportive and sharing community that would offer help in difficulty. A pastoral fellowship where people would look after each other and be able to count on each others physical as well as spiritual support when they needed it.

Go, cure the sick.
A command that may fill us, who are also disciples of Jesus, with the panicky feeling that maybe this is where we have to admit we are limited people. We can’t! And most of us would be very suspicious of anybody that said they could.
Miracle workers, charismatic prayer healers, most of us will have seen enough of them to trust them in any big way. They reek of power abuse, false hopes and unsavoury money making.

All true, perhaps. But! Aren’t we throwing out the baby with the bathwater here?

Love heals. And applied love, through prayer will heal. An arm on a shoulder will help, a cup of coffee and a smile will alleviate pain, lift the burden, bring relief. We all know that.
We all got healing in our hands, in our feet, in our eyes, in our words. We all got the ability to cure some illnesses, repair some damage, create a feeling of well being for others.

I have seen pain disappear where a grandchild skipped into a hospital room and jumped onto a bed to give grandma a cuddle. I have heard stories about people turning up at the right time, about cups of coffee poured with exactly the right amount of love, I have seen people pick up after a loved one arrived or fights were resolved. We all know that, it’s not a question of technique. It’s a question of daring to give ourselves and what we have on offer and in that way work miracles whenever they are needed.
Amen.

© Rev. Anneke Oppewal, 2005


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