Looking around at our congregation, I see so much joy. Just in the last month we’ve seen people attending church, even taking communion, for the first time in decades; children literally running to services; a young person being baptised; and two wonderful extended social gatherings. But alongside this overwhelming joy, I also see so much pain, woundedness and brokenness.
This has always been the way. When the disciples see the Risen Christ, he shows them his wounds: the tears in his hands and feet where he was nailed to the cross; the jagged spear thrust in his side. And “while in their joy the disciples were disbelieving and wondering,” he ate with them, taught them, commissioned them and blessed them. Pain and joy have always been intermingled in our faith; we are never far from either.
The New Testament describes Jesus and the early church praying for wounded people and laying hands on them, and we know that a safe and gentle touch can be healing, comforting and restoring. We understand that every one of us is wounded; that, like Jesus, we are called to be instruments of healing for others; and that, in being instruments of healing for others, we can experience healing ourselves. Some of us seek healing for physical problems; others, for emotional and spiritual wounds; others, for the brokenness caused by sin; still others, for societal problems which weigh heavily on them. All these issues call for healing. When we pray together, we open ourselves to the often surprising work of the Holy Spirit, and we offer ourselves to Jesus to join in his work of redeeming and transforming the world.
Taking it further, healing and teaching are intimately linked in the gospel accounts; and these twin activities proclaim the nearness of God’s joyful culture. So Christ-shaped healing is an act of proclamation which opens people’s hearts and minds to a Christ-centred way of life together. Healing transforms individuals, but it is also about uniting them into the new community of love; noticing the familial, structural and cultural realities which are damaging us and others; changing what we can change in ourselves, our community and our wider society to bring about health; and becoming witnesses to God’s compassion, presence and love wherever we go.
Thinking about all this, the leadership has decided to re-offer healing prayers. We were preparing to do this in 2020 (and it was the focus of our Lent readings) when COVID-19 struck and physical church was shut down for the best part of a year. As we are working through the longterm effects of shutdown, recognising the damage done and the need for people to gather in gentle ways which bring them back to joy, now seems a good time to revisit the idea.
Therefore, we will offer three weeknight services for healing prayers in Term 2: Tuesday 11 May, Tuesday 25 May and Tuesday 8 June, all at 7.30pm. It will be a time to gather with others, reflect on the Scriptures, and pray and be prayed for with a laying on of hands. I will send out a longer explanation in a couple of weeks so you can prepare; or, if you want to start preparing now, you can read more here.
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