Healing in American Christianity has a somewhat bitter flavor in my mind. The stereotypical TV preacher was perfectly depicted and ridiculed by Genesis in their 1991 music video “Jesus he knows me”. A sad affair where show and business mingle. That said there is room for healing services in the church. The United Church of Christ even has an Order for Healing for Congregational Use. Our next healing service will be held on August 9, 2015. Here is an introduction, taken from the Book of Worship with a local Rosenberg twist:
Services of healing have a biblical heritage appropriate for the full life of a local church. Anointing and the laying on of hands are acts closely related to the covenant of faithful love between God and Israel and between God and the church. In scripture, monarchs are anointed, prophets commissioned, the Holy Spirit conferred, the sick healed, and the dead raised in acts of faith accompanied by anointing with oil, the laying on of hands, or touch in another form. The symbolism of touch has survived almost universally among churches in the laying on of hands at confirmation and ordination. The power of touch in healing is finding renewed acceptance as is the unity of the total person.
In the New Testament, faith, forgiveness of sins, and healing are frequently inseparable but distinct aspects of one experience. Out of mercy and compassion, God works to bring about reconciliation that restores peace between God and humanity, among individuals and communities, within each person, and between humankind and the creation. Guilt, anxiety, fear, broken relationships, and the loneliness of alienation all contribute to human sickness. Healing, in the Christian sense, is the reintegration of body, mind, emotions, and spirit that permits people, in community, to live life fully in a creation honored by prudent and respectful use.
In this healing service, four themes are intertwined: God’s word, growth in faith, forgiveness of sin, human touch.
At St. John’s United Church of Christ our healing service is part of Holy Communion: Together with the confession of sin and the assurance of pardon the whole person is strengthened to approach the Lord’s table with a sense of integrity.
In scripture, God’s word reassures us of the Creator’s love and compassion. Jesus’ acts of healing, the healing ministry of the New Testament church, and contemporary experiences of healing all testify to the health and fullness God makes possible in human life.
Faith in the inclusive sense of trust and belief in God’s unmerited goodness is an integral cornerstone of the New Testament understanding of healing. Individuals and communities of believers nurture each other in their mutual growth in faith. God does not promise that we will be spared suffering, but does promise to be with us in our suffering. Trusting that promise, we are enabled to bear the unbearable and recognize God’s sustaining nearness in pain, in sickness, and in injury.
Forgiveness of sin is often closely associated with healing in the New Testament. The connection of forgiveness and healing affirms the psychosomatic unity of individuals recognized by modern health sciences. It admits the importance of openness and honesty to every relationship of love. It sets health in the context of relationships restored by confession and forgiveness.
In the New Testament, touch plays a central role in the healing ministry. The power of touch is recognized, whether in the anointing with oil, the laying on of hands, or the less formal gesture of holding someone’s hand or touching a wound. Jesus frequently touched others: blessing children, washing feet, healing injuries or disease, and raising people from death. Jesus also allowed himself to be touched, washed, embraced, anointed. To allow oneself to be touched is an act of openness. To touch another is an act of acceptance in which a person transfers something of oneself to another: love, affection, protection, strength, power, acceptance. Touch in the healing ministry embodies the embrace of God for the redeemed creation when in the mystery of last things God will make all things new.