Sunday, July 11, 2010

A Healing Service?

Notes for a sermon by Hawley Todd, TSSF, Sunday,July 11, 2010, at a Celebration of Wholeness and Healing.

[Open with a prayer inviting the Holy Spirit to come and be present]

Good morning and thank you all for coming today.

Why are you here today?

Why did you come to Grace today?

[Take a few moments and see if anyone responds]

Episcopal Churches do not normally have a healing service as the principle worship service on a Sunday morning.

I would hazard the guess that we may be the only one.

Most will have either Holy Communion or Morning Prayer.

Some will have a Baptism Service and others may have a Confirmation Service.

I doubt though if there are many healing services being held this morning.

Again, why are you here today?

Behind many of the answers we can give, there is an expectation that we will somehow encounter the presence of God.

Holy Communion has been the principle liturgical service throughout Christian history because there is an expectation that Christ/God will be present in the bread and wine.

Reformation theology moved the presence of the Word/Jesus from the sacramental body and blood to the Word broken as the preached Word.

Protestant theology has an expectation that God will be encountered in the Word broken by the preacher.

Morning Prayer is based on this assumption – that we will encounter God in the homily.

So why have a healing service as our principle service on a Sunday morning?

The first reason is simply logistical.

We need a priest to have either Holy Communion or a Baptismal Service. We need a Bishop for Confirmation.

The other reasons are theological.

Please bear with me as I try to explain some of them.

First of all, both Holy Communion and Baptism are in their essence “healing services.” We don’t call them that but they are.

In our culture, we often confuse two words – healing and curing.

Curing is fixing an identified problem.

In the bio-medical paradigms, the problem is often seen in isolation and the cure is deemed to have occurred when the presenting symptoms of that problem have been resolved.

On the other hand, healing is the process of becoming the person God created us to be.

Healing, wholeness, and salvation are all intimately related.

One might say that healing in this life is becoming “whole” and healing in the next life is “salvation.”

Wholeness and healing happen as we invite God’s presence into our lives.

At its essence, prayers for healing are simply putting oneself in an attitude and position where one is open to receive God deeper into one’s life.

And healing is holistic. It involves the body, emotions, mind, and spirit of a person. And not only that, but it involves all of one’s relationships with others and creation.

With that understanding of healing, it is fairly obvious why I said Holy Communion and Baptism are healing rites.

So why have a healing service on Sunday mornings?

Healing is what Jesus did.

Read the Gospels again and pay attention to what Jesus is doing.

How did he spend his time and what did he do?

Healing is important to Jesus

1/5 to 1/3 of the Gospels describe Jesus involved in healing.

72 accounts, 41 distinct instances

3779 verses in the 4 gospels

727 relate specifically to healing

In Luke 9 Jesus sends the 12 out to do his work.

And what is that?

Luke 9:2 tells us explicitly: “and he sent them out to preach the kingdom of God and to heal.”

Why have a healing service?

Because healing and proclaiming the kingdom of God were what Jesus was all about.

The early church knew and understood that wholeness and healing are at the heart of Christ’s teaching and ministry.

At least one reason to have a Celebration of Wholeness and Healing as our principle service on some Sunday mornings is to lift up the fact that Christianity offers healing and wholeness.

So what happens when someone comes forward for prayer?

Typically those offering prayer will ask if the person has any special concern or request.

Also the person will be asked if touch is okay. Please note that we do not need to touch in order for the prayer to be effective. So please feel free to convey your level of comfort to those praying.

The goal is for you to receive God, so whatever we can do to facilitate that, let us know!

Also please know your requests will be keep confidential.

We won’t share them with others and we won’t initiate conversation with you about your requests at a later time.

We will pray for whatever you requested.

Also, I normally pray for the person to be filled with the presence of God and that God will minister to that person in whatever ways he/she most needs God’s power, love, and grace.

In Holy Communion, the priest prays for the bread and wine to be filled/blessed by the Holy Spirit to be the real presence of Jesus. And we receive Jesus/ God’s presence in the bread and wine.

In a Healing Service, those praying ask the Holy Spirit to come and fill/bless the person receiving prayer. That may be embodied through the prayers, or through touch or through anointing with Holy Oil.

I love healing services.

I have seen God so clearly as a result of participating in these services.

I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that God – Abba, Son, and Holy Spirit - is alive and present here with us NOW.

I don’t know what God will do in your life.

I do know that God will touch and bless you.

I do know that God seeks wholeness and life for us all.

That God desires us all to be restored in God’s image.

And I do know that I always need God’s healing presence and power in my life because I am not anyway near the person God created me to be.

In closing, your typical Sunday service homily talks about the readings.

We all have heard innumerable sermons on the parable of the Good Samaritan.

Jesus gave us the two commandments: to love God and to love our neighbors as our selves.

Most preachers stress the issue of who the good neighbor was and that we should be that person.

Yet what did the good Samaritan do?

He healed.

He bound up the persons wounds and he used oil and wine to heal.

Oil and wine were what people at that time used for healing.

Who is the true neighbor?

One who out of compassion lives and cares for those in need.

Why do we have a healing service on Sunday morning?

To show by what we do that we love the Lord our God with all our heart, with all our soul, with all strength, and with all our mind and that we love our neighbors as ourselves.

So come in simple faith, truly trusting in the unbounded love and mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ.

If there is any aspect of you that is not yet as God has intended you to be,

If you feel that any part of you needs to be restored to the image of God,

Come and receive God’s love and presence.

May Jesus bless us all!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Common/Shared Ministry at Grace Church as of July 10, 2010

This summary was shared at a Diocesan Common Ministry meeting at Procter Conference Center on July 10, 2010.

“Almighty God, source of all wisdom and understanding, be present with us at Grace Church as we seek a new way of being, Common Ministry. We feel anxious about what this might look like. Look kindly upon us as we discern this new way. Guide us in your way, help us to discern your hope and purpose for us. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.”

(Grace Church’s Prayer for the Parish)

Grace Episcopal is a small mission church with an average Sunday attendance of about 35. We have been without a staff clergy person for the past year and rely on supply priests for Eucharistic celebration. We find that “common ministry” has been our norm for quite some time even though we did not attach a name to what we have been doing.

What is common ministry? Here are some of the definitions we have come across recently: priesthood of all believers; living out our baptismal vows; modeling the earliest expressions of the Church as displayed in the Acts of the Apostles; discerning and calling forth members of the body to perform all the ministries. For Grace Church, Common Ministry is Shared Ministry . . . everyone shares in the work of the Church.

From March through May, we had three Bible studies and four Workshops. The average attendance for each session was 12 to 15 people. We studied Ephesians 4:1-16 (one body, one Spirit . . . ), John 15:9-16 (As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you . . .), and 1 Corinthians 12:4-27 (varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit . .)

Our workshops were as follows:

“People Who Inspired Me” How other people in our lives helped us develop our values.

“Identifying Our Gifts” Other people listened to us share things we had done in our lives that we were proud of, and then they told us what gifts they thought we were showing through these actions.

“What Tugs at My Heart?” We shared our passions; things that were important to us in our lives.

“What’s Grace Church to You?” What brought you to Grace Church and what made you stay?

We feel that one of the greatest benefits of these Bible studies and workshops has been the development of greater self awareness among the participants and a strengthening of the bonds of community. Our gifts discernment activities during the workshops inspired one of our committee members to develop a gifts inventory which has been distributed to the entire congregation. We are presently processing the results.

Another interesting insight that arose out of this process was the question of what community/communities Grace serves. Is it a geographical community or one that is served because of the passions that we have to help a certain segment of society? We hope these questions will be answered in the future.

There are many examples of common/shared ministry at Grace. The church office is being run completely by a volunteer staff. People are pitching in to get a Sunday bulletin out each week; this is a tremendous effort by the people who are doing it. Lay people are taking leadership in Morning Prayer services and/or healing services which we conduct on Sundays when we are not having Eucharist. We have an exciting healing service on the second Wednesday of each month that is run by lay leaders. We have two licensed preachers in our congregation who are willing to present thoughtful sermons frequently. Everyone gives and receives.

Our hope is that common/shared ministry can be a corrective to how many in our culture and church view what it means to “go to church.” For many, the chaplaincy model prevails. In that model, the church is run and staffed by paid professionals who “do ministry” while the members of the church are the clientele. Churches are seen by some as entertainment or art centers. The heart of common/shared ministry is to offer a vision of church life and worship where everyone participates and the gifts of each person are validated and empowered. It is the ancient vision of the church as being the Body of Christ. This is the direction in which we want Grace Church to be traveling.

Respectfully submitted,

Grace Church Common Ministry Committee (Carol Lyon, Ken Lyon, Wanda Miller, Roger Perna, Hawley Todd) July 10, 2010