A recent comment:
Jeff, I would like to hear more of your thoughts on how we could (maybe) incorporate more healing prayer-type activities into parish life. I'm reading this post while taking a short break from prep for a retreat I am running in the end of March where healing is one of the key themes. But, it seems a shame that we have to go on a retreat or to a youth rally or some other "extraordinary" venue to experience a true, healing shared prayer. Can you imagine the strength of our faith communities if we could access the same Spirit in our home parishes?
YES! I think that the saddest thing about church life is how little "life" there is in "the church." I am no expert, but I will share some reasons why I think this is so and what we can do. I may be posting on this theme in general for awile.
1. The Greek word for heal is sozo. It also means save. As we read English translations of the Bible most of us do not know that. The word "save" is a technical term in the South. It means, for many people, "going to heaven." Hence, the question, "are you saved?" While going to heaven does sound very appealing, that does not seem to be a central function of Jesus' ministry. Jesus never asks the question, "If you died tonight do you know where you would spend eternity?"
2. sozo in the sense of being rescued from danger, healed or proptected from harm has a different feel for me. It is the idea that creation matters. It is a reminder that God made this world and He intends for us to live in this world. In the Bible, the New Jerusalem comes down from heaven to earth. In the Bible, Jesus will return to earth to raise the dead. I am sure it will be different from now, but it is not some purely spiritual existence.
3. Because we live in a fallen world (ruled by Satan, sin and death) we regularly experience suffering of mnd, body, heart and spirit. For some people life is a terrible burden. Sadder still, we create suffering by our own actions, hurting others and hurting ourselves. We make choices which damage the world. So it can feel almost hopeless. [I wrote some time ago about systems theory and the law of unintended consequences. One corollary of that is Today's solution is tomorrow's problem]
4. A review of history reveals that peace and prosperity are not the norm. Conflicts with nature and with each other is the norm. War, famine, earth quake, flood, economic collapse occur on a regular basis to upset our tranquil lives. In places like Haiti it seems to occur non-stop. Our existence is insecure on this planet, even if for most of 'us' the last fifty years have been relatively pleasant.
5. The "healing ministry" of Jesus is an activation of that future (hope) in the present time. Physical health is being 'saved from physical illness,' mental/emotional health is being 'saved from illness of soul,' forgiveness and renewal is being 'saved from sin,' resurrection is 'being saved from death'.... The list is as long as anything that ails or harms us.
6. The task of the church is to proclaim that Jesus can do this (save/heal) now as a (partial) preview of the ultimate salvation/rescue/healing in the Final Renewal of Things. Unfortunately, too much of the church membership does not see the vocation of proclamation to include not only word, but also deed. In Acts it is called "signs and wonders" and it seems to have been one reason why the church was energized. I will share more on that later. It is enough to ponder the question: what would it be like if our local churches acted like they were on a mission from God?