Message for August 12, 2007 / Resurrection Lutheran Church / A Healing Service
Message by Rev. Carol Kniseley / Title: Holy Interruptions
There I was…being a good pastor and actually doing what I was supposed to be doing while on my Sabbatical…when you know who whispered in my ear. No…it wasn’t a message from on high, it was instead a message from Pastor Jim telling me that he had lost his voice. While there are days when this could have sounded like really good news…this was not one of them. Even I knew that what he was really suggesting was that he was not going to be able to deliver the message this Sunday…and that he needed a pinch hitter. Isn’t that pretty much how life seems to work out? Just when you get all of the wrinkles smoothed out of a perfectly good day…invariably life kicks in and rearranges everything. Some folks call them life’s little moments…others think of them as holy interruptions…and still others, serendipities. But what do we say to someone when such occasions turn out to be life changing…even life threatening in some cases? I raise the question because of what we are about to do here today.
You and I are about to participate in one of the oldest traditions known to the church because what I am referring to now goes all the way back to the time of Jesus. You’ll recall that Jesus attracted all kinds of people to himself not only because of the message that he was preaching…but because of the “healings” that he performed. Time and time again we are told that…he laid his hands on those who were sick…the eyes of a man born blind, the ears and tongue of a deaf mute, the deformed back of a woman bent over for some 18 long years, just to name a few…and all were healed.
In doing so he said that the kingdom of God had broken into our world and that these “healings” were merely “signs“of God let loose, my interpretation. What amazes me, though, is that even now when we talk about miracles and healings, seldom do we talk in terms of the present. That is where I believe we in the church have done ourselves a HUGE injustice. Today…all of that is going to change…at least here at Resurrection.
If you have never had the opportunity to participate in a healing service then today is your special day. Our Health Ministry Cabinet has asked that we have such a service on a regular basis during the Sunday morning time slot. Which is why I am so pleased to see that we are right in step with our new “cranberry” hymnal entitled Evangelical Lutheran Worship. For the very first time in print, we have a service of Healing meant to be used within the setting of Holy Communion. Which is absolutely perfect…because as Martin Luther often said, when we receive the gift of forgiveness…we also receive the gifts of life and salvation.
I began today’s message by intimating that I am here because of what I now have come to see as a “holy interruption” in my Sabbatical schedule. As many of you know, I am in the process of writing and illustrating a children’s book on Baptism…and was to the point of working on an actual Baptism taking place when I was asked to put my drawing pencil down. I tell you this because in switching gears from Baptismal service to Healing service…I was pleasantly surprised to discover an important connection.
In reading through the Healing service now located in our new hymnal…I was reminded:
1) that this service is simply an expression “in worship” of the church’s ministry of healing (*the key word here is “church’s” ministry);
2) that all who sense the need for God’s healing…in any aspect of their lives may join in prayer for others and themselves;
3) that each one may also receive a physical gesture of healing: the laying on of hands, which may be accompanied by the anointing with oil;
4) that these “signs”…first given in Baptism…tell us again, that we are sealed by the Holy Spirit and marked forever with the cross of Christ.
It is amazing to me, that as I looked back at the service of Baptism…the first healing moment of our lives took place right there at the font. Immediately following the Baptism, the Pastor is to place both hands on the head of the newly baptized and pray for the gift of the Holy Spirit to come into that person’s life. The Pastor then makes the sign of the cross on the forehead of the baptized…noting that oil may be used. Both gestures are physical signs of God breaking into our lives…and claiming us by actually placing his identifying mark on us…for what purpose? There can only be one: life!
When Pastor Jim and I got the call that one of our own, Janine Liebau had been struck by a car on Friday and airlifted to the hospital…our first concern was for Janine. After getting hold of her son, we were so grateful to hear that despite a substantial break in both of her arms…she is going to be “ok”…although I’m sure at this point she might think otherwise.
When I see Janine in person…the first thing that I am going to do is to remind her that just because she has been marked with the cross of Christ doesn’t mean she can walk invincible. In fact, God never promised a cure for what ails us. But what God does promise is that we can count on three things for sure:
1) God’s presence…with strength and comfort in times of suffering,
2) God’s promise...of wholeness and peace,
3) God’s love...embodied in the community of faith.
A community like Resurrection Lutheran Church…claimed at Baptism…gathered in worship…and now being sent…for the sake of the world. Amen