I believe when we are at our best as the Church is when we are in the business of healing the world. No doubt, it is messy work to better our world, & with few signs the work is ever done. But to labor for healing & reconciliation in the broken places of people’s lives is what Jesus meant to keep the Church, every church, alive & busy & even joyful.
Several of us from Central Church embarked on a pilgrimage to the sacred island of Iona, Scotland earlier this fall. The Abby Church there so inspired me by how they take seriously their ministry of healing. Here’s how they say it – “The healing of broken bodies, painful memories, divided communities and nations, the healing of the earth itself and of our relationship with it, are all part of the integrity to which God calls us. Therefore it is a ministry in which justice is as important as medicine, and in which the health of the body politic matters as much as the health of the body personal.” To live in the way of Jesus is to tend to the splits and divisions in our own lives, and to care about that in others.
I’d like you to mark your calendars. I’m glad for an upcoming opportunity to learn about healing in the horrific national crisis of Opioid addiction, and how those of us in the Church can respond in healing ways. Consider attending the presentation on December 6th, 6:30, here at Central. We have an excellent out of town presenter from Gospel Against AIDS leading us. On the following day, December 7th, will be a free screening for anyone wishing to be tested against the AIDS virus. This is highly recommended by medical personnel, & we as pastors will be at the front of the line to be screened. We hope you’ll join us in normalizing the importance of testing against this insidious virus. Find more info here. https://www.tccentralumc.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/HIV-testing-clinic-2017.pdf
Another conversation toward healing that needs to happen in our country is around unhealthy sexual advances in many men, coming to light recently as charges by courageous victims have been brought forward. I want our church to inspire men to live a healthy sexuality that respects others and does no harm. What healing is required to accomplish this? The abundance of recent stories of the moral missteps of men is surely a wake-up call for all men to exercise good moral judgment, and hold each other to high standards. I will encourage discussions among circles of men in our church. I also wonder how to support younger men in our community to be strong in this area. I welcome your thoughts, & believe the Church is an important advocate for healthy sexuality in all persons. I find hope from our UMC Social Principles: “that sexuality is God’s good gift to all persons. We call everyone to responsible stewardship of this sacred gift.” Find more info here. http://www.umc.org/what-we-believe/the-nurturing-community.
Jewish spirituality, which grounded Jesus, speaks of healing as “repairing the world”. Jesus implored all to “love neighbor as you love yourself”. Apostle Paul called the early Church to be “ministers of reconciliation in the world”. But the world’s need for healing can be overwhelming, even when we consider it is God’s Spirit working through us, and not merely us, who are moving the world incrementally toward healing. Over this December as we let the news sink into us anew that Messiah has come among us, I invite you to join me in prayers for healing.
I’m taken by this healing prayer from the Abby Church on Iona, a place of great healing for the past 12 centuries. Like all good prayers, this one can ground us to be agents of healing in our lives –
Holy Spirit, Spirit of the living God, you breathe in us, on all that is inadequate and fragile. You make living water spring even from our hurts themselves. And, through you, the valley of fears becomes a place of wellsprings. So, in an inner life with neither beginning nor end, your continual presence makes new freshness break through.
…breathe now in us with justice on all that diminishes or destroys God’s children or God’s creation;
…breathe now in us with peace to close the hostile distances between people and nations;
…breathe now in us with protection for those bruised by grinding indifference or the cruelty of others;
…breathe now in us with healing for those haunted by the memory of suffering or shame;
…breathe now in us with love for those who are full of self-loathing, who cannot love themselves or others;
Though we are many, we are one body. Let there be plenty for everyone, everywhere.
Aware of healing needed in me, as well as the world,