#24: The faith of friends

And after getting into a boat he crossed the water and came to his own town. And just then some people were carrying a paralysed man lying on a bed. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, ‘Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.’ Then some of the scribes said to themselves, ‘This man is blaspheming.’ But Jesus, perceiving their thoughts, said, ‘Why do you think evil in your hearts? For which is easier, to say, “Your sins are forgiven”, or to say, “Stand up and walk”? But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins’—he then said to the paralytic—‘Stand up, take your bed and go to your home.’ And he stood up and went to his home. When the crowds saw it, they were filled with awe, and they glorified God, who had given such authority to human beings. (Matthew 9:1-8)

One afternoon the church office received a telephone call from our community’s AIDS clinic. They had heard about our “healing prayers,” and the woman on the phone wondered if the congregation would sponsor an evening healing service, with touch and anointing, for people who are HIV-positive …

On the evening of the service, a group of patients and staff from the AIDS clinic came to Epiphany Church, along with some members of the congregation. We sang hymns, said a litany, and read Scripture. I preached a sermon about God’s unconditional love for all people and God’s will for wholeness and salvation. We prayed for those who suffer, for recovery from sickness, for those in affliction, for those who minister in healing, for the ministry of family and friends, and for those making decisions. Then I invited people to come forward and kneel at the communion rail for personal prayer with touch and anointing. When they came, I asked them their name and how we could help them in prayer. As they knelt before me, I laid my hands on their heads and prayed for them. Then I marked a cross on their forehead in the name of the triune God. Most brought people with them to the communion rail, some of whom were staff members from the AIDS clinic, who laid their hands on them as well. Several embraced me when they stood at the conclusion of the prayer. When all who desired had come forward, we said the Lord’s Prayer, sang a final hymn, and I offered a blessing.

A few days later, the director of the clinic called to thank Epiphany Church for the worship service and to say how much it meant to those who attended. She explained that one of the people we prayed for that night had died. She told me how much it meant to him to hear that God loves him, for the church to pray for him, and especially for the church to touch him. She said that he died peacefully and that God’s healing power was certainly at work in the service. No one was cured. But God brought at least one to peace and a greater sense of wholeness. Ω

Reflect: When have friends been instrumental in your healing? Give thanks for friends, and wonder whose healing you are called to play a role in now.

#Lent2020 © Sanctuary, 2020 quoting Craig Satterlee, When God Speaks Through Worship. Herndon, VA: The Alban Institute, 2009. Order your copy through your favourite bookseller.


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