James 5:13-16, Luke 7:2-10 Healing service Morning HT 31st July 2016
When you come to church, do you come with an expectation that God will turn up? After all, Matthew 18:20 scripture does say that when two or three are gather, there I will be also. Also in 1 Cor 5:4 Paul talks about the “power of our Lord Jesus” being present when Christians are “assembled in the name of the Lord Jesus”.
But what expectations should we have? Do we expect to feel a buzz of excitement or thrill? Do we expect to sense a deep peace, of comfort from the traumas of our daily lives? Or perhaps we don’t expect God to do anything at all but hope he might be there?!
What if I was to tell you that God expects us to expect him to turn up? What if God longs for our expectations? For when we expect God to turn up, then our awareness, our reality is open to the great things God can do.
The theme of this service is healing and celebrates healing salvation brings through Holy Communion. Through communion, we remember the sacrifice Christ made to make us whole. Today I’m going to talk about healing and, at this evening service at St James, there will be an opportunity to receive healing. I do hope you decide to come with firm expectations of God will do great things.
Healing is another one of those areas in Christian life that can be difficult to explain. We know God heals. We’ve seen many accounts in the scriptures of Christ healing the lame, the blind and those with leprosy. But do we expect God to heal today?
I hope the answer is a resounding yes! However, what is meant by healing? Does it mean just physical ailments being healed or spiritual problems being resolved? Does it mean both?!
Let’s go back to the beginning of looking at what Christ the saviour entails. The saviour also means healer. This is the good news of the Kingdom of God that Jesus comes first as saviour. Christ came to save us, to bring us back into right relationship with God. So, in fact, Christ heals us. He heals us by bringing salvation to the whole person. For we are total beings whose body, mind and spirit combine together to make us who we are. We have physical needs as well as psychological and social needs. If just one of these areas are out of balance, then the result is the whole of our lives suffer.
We notice that whenever Christ is mentioned, Christ is seeing to people’s needs through food, deliverance and healing. His miracles allow for people to return to their families, their communities and most of all, to return to God. God cares for the whole person and carefully views every part of their situation with the purpose of returning them back into relationship with Him. The healing which Jesus gives us reaches beyond therapy and cure to healing; beyond our bodily ailments to the salvation of our eternal souls; beyond even death itself. It is holistic healing for body, mind and spirit.
Yet there is a but in all this. And this but is to do with our expectation of God and our faith in Him. For God does not impose himself on us. He wants us to come forth willing to his side. We do this through prayer. In the reading from James we heard the writer passionately speak about the use of prayer for all our needs. Prayer is a commitment to the will of God, and all true prayer exercises its truest faith in patiently waiting to see what God has determined to do. Prayer and faith are inextricably intertwined as both not only acknowledges God’s sovereignty over us but also enables us to take on the mind of Christ.
To acknowledge God’s sovereignty over us is to put total trust in Him for we know that God can do all things, who is so generous in His love that he will withhold nothing from us that is good and whose ears are open to our every word.
This understanding of sovereignty was displayed by the centurion who being used to being under authority and liking what he saw of Jesus, opened himself to learning new truth about God. He had no doubt that Jesus would heal his servant and with a simple, clear belief that if Jesus commanded something it would be done. He expected Jesus could heal his servant despite him being a gentile and Jesus did just that. This is the only time Jesus displays astonishment. He is astonished at the centurion’s humility and his amazing faith as he had never seen anything like in the whole of Israel!
Such a faith that involves humility, gratitude and service brings wholeness. With wholeness brings holiness, of being in relationship, with God and understanding the good news of His Kingdom.
So our prayers need to be created with an attitude of faith that is humble, grateful and in readiness to serve. Our prayers should not be telling God what to do or how to do what we want with the stubborn insistence that we have got it right and our will must be done. Neither should our prayers say that its ok God, I handle this by myself. If we look how Jesus prayed, we see he said ‘not my will but yours be done’. Jesus’ prayer came with a faith which fully trusted in the will of a sovereign, faithful and loving God.
This is the faith we are to emulate. By asking for God’s will to be done, our prayers are not limited by our knowledge of what our needs are or by how we think our needs will be met or by our sense of what is best. We place ourselves unreservedly in the hands of that infinite wisdom, love and power which belongs to God our Father.
Such faith, be it as simple and uncomplicated by dogmas and religion as the centurion’s was, is how healing can be received from God. Faith requires an open heart. A heart free of fixed ideas and notions of how things should be. A heart that is ready to be brought into God’s fullness of life, to be made whole, to be made holy. To be truly saved in being a child of God.
This evening as I said before, will involve a time of healing. This means there will be quiet, secure time where we can ask for prayer and, if we wish, laying of hands and anointing with oil. The laying of hands and being anointed with oil are symbols of forgiveness as shown in our reading from James. This very act of asking for prayer means stepping out in faith beyond our comfort zones. It means humbling ourselves to the presence of God. Of saying yes Lord, I am here, do whatever I need for your glory.
So, are you confident enough to expect God to turn up? Confident that Jesus can bring healing to your life, to bring you into holiness by overcoming every personal weakness or every problem that is plaguing your life? Or, do you feel you must handle it yourself or seek help elsewhere?