Today St Aidan’s provided opportunity for prayers for healing during communion. Anne Jaikaran preached a terrific sermon about healing and reminded us all that we all face brokenness and all in our own right are in need of being made whole, of being healed. She reminded us that sometimes that healing is something deeper than being better, of having one’s sickness removed. Anne delved into the story of Mary Anoiting Jesus’ feet with her hair. She points out that that act of anointing was rooted in her care and concern for Jesus whom she knew had pushed the limits of social convention so far that things would not be turned back “There is to be no physical healing for Jesus this side of the grave. Nothing is going to save him from the isolation, degradation, torture and excrutiatingly painful death awaiting him,..,”Anne noted going on to point out how hopeless the situation must have seemed. She then drew us into the question about the hopelessness we may feel around us…Se continued,
I wonder how many people live today without hope, believing they have to surrender to a grim fate with no hope of reprieve? Some take their own lives, others just lose the will to live and many more merely exist; broken in body, mind or spirit. Some are easy to find. They’re on our streets able to cope with no more than finding their next meal. They’re propping up our bars hoping to drink their despair into temporary oblivion. They’re on our street corners trying to sell their bodies because they’re finding it impossible to believe anyone can really love them for who they are. They’re in our prisons; high school drop-outs unable to find their way into making an honest living. They’re in our divorce courts with their dreams of living happily ever after shattered into pieces. They’re in our hospitals facing a life threatening illness, believing life as they know it has come to an end. They’re in our nursing homes, completely dependent upon the care of others, wondering how their world suddenly came to be confined by the 4 walls of the building. They are the easy ones to find, but then there are those whose brokenness is hidden; trapped deep inside the heart and painfully protected by a hard coated beautiful veneer which no-one is allowed to break. They’re your neighbour with the overbright smile frozen into place. They’re your impossible to please boss at work. They’re the grouchy check-out clerk snapping your head off at the grocery store. They’re your aloof aunt who comes to the family gatherings, but never appears to relax and enjoy herself. They’re that impatient driver honking their horn at you because you’re not moving fast enough. They could be you and me; for who among us is not broken in some way? But is it you and me? If we believed this was a story of Mary preparing Jesus to surrender to his fate, getting ready to bring the whole story to an end, then it would you and me, without hope and there would be no point in inviting you to come forward for prayer. But, thank God, that is not what this story is about. This is a story of hope, of the promise of things to come.
Anne did a wonderful job of reminded us that we are not a people who live without hope. She went on to remind us that Mary’s act of love was an announcement to all present that we are a people who live with hope because of the love of Jesus.
Without Jesus’ death there could be no hope and healing. He could have lived out his life to its natural end, but in doing so his ministry would have ended with his earthly life. Because he refused to stay out of trouble but went the path which led to an untimely, humiliating death he was able, when God raised him from the dead, through the sending of the Holy Spirit, to bequeath his ministry of restoring wholeness to us, his disciples.
I was deeply moved to, along with our Parish Nurse Pat Ferguson, to anoint and to lay on hands and pray for healing for many parishioners who came forward today. Humbled because , to quote Anne again,
On our own we can do nothing, but when we live in his love and respond to his call he gives us the authority to use his name in prayer. When we lay hands on someone, it is not our touch, but the healing touch of Jesus we are bringing to the person. When we anoint someone with oil, it is the power of the Holy Spirit we are bringing down upon them, not any power of our own. We never heal, but through grounding ourselves in prayer at all times we put ourselves in a position to be used by God on any occasion in his work of restoring shalom.
I was incredibly aware of the sacredness of being called into another’s sadness, despair, or suffering. It was great to hear so many after church expressing their gratitude for being offered the opportunity for prayers for healing in the midst of the Mass. Many were deeply moved and renewed because of the opportunity provided today. We do not concern ourselves with the outcome, but enter lovingly into the suffering of another.
In God Has a Dream, Archbishop Desmond Tutu writes;
Dear Child of God, I write these words because we all experience sadness, we all come at times to despair, and we all lose hope that the suffering in our lives and in the world will ever end. I want to share with you my faith and my understanding that this suffering can be transformed and redeemed. There is no such thing as a totally hopeless case. Our God is an expert at dealing with chaos, with brokenness, with all the worst that we can imagine. God created order out of disorder, cosmos out of chaos, and God can do so always, can do so now–in our personal lives and in our lives as nations, globally. … Indeed, God is transforming the world now–through us–because God loves us.”
Our prayer is that each person’s suffering might be transformed and redeemed by the love and healing of Jesus. While we often feel a sense of hopelessness we need to be forever reminded that there is no totally hopeless case, God does not give up on any of us, and is able to transform our experiences of suffering. God loves us…. more than we can ask or imagine.
We will be offering Prayers for Healing and Anointing every five or six weeks. May these opportunities be a place of hope for all of us.
“God wants to bring shalom to every broken person in this world. Those of us praying might not know the deepest needs of those we are praying with, the person being prayed for might not even know themselves but God knows and God promises to meet every one of them. This is why Jesus had to be anointed for his death; it really was an anointing of healing for the world so we could all experience shalom and be brought to wholeness.” – The Rev’d Anne Jaikaran