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Thursday, February 25, 2016

Reflections on the Healing Retreat

Sunday we gathered for an afternoon to encounter God's salvation. The question we began with was this: what does this text mean to you?

Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news” (NRSV)

The challenge of faith in the face of the offer of salvation is ever new in each generation. Pondering God's reign among us, how near? Pondering repentance, what is Jesus looking for, versus the American middle class faith which encompasses us all? But on retreats I take off my "teacher" cap and hand over the process to the inner working of the Holy Spirit in the human heart of each one there. It is about encounter not instruction, hearing with the heart....

I juxtaposed the "Good News" with the "Bad News" and invited folks to reflect on Genesis 2 &3. The second creation account, 'adam' scooped and fashioned out of the 'adamah' is a reminder that the human is constructed of dirt (adamah a word translated as "earth, dust, mortar, even rubbish" elsewhere). It is the breath of God blown into the nostrils that animates the "dirt-human." We are a construction of the lowest building material mixed with the most amazing gift (God breath). The human condition and human struggle are summed up in this brief account. What happens when God breathes into dust? Well, you get us. That's what we are from the beginning. In a sense it is what the "Body-Soul" discussion comes down to. How is inanimate matter transformed into organic entities? How does chemistry and physics produce biology? How can atoms and cells create a symphony or ride a bike? And how are these biological machines able to relate to God? By a grace, a gift, a sharing of Divine life (breath) and it is the status of every human being. That is striking. Too often we talk about the gift of Holy Spirit as a one dimensional reality. Only Christians have the breath of God say some, but not here. Here it appears that God is breathing something into each of us and all of us. It is another amazing grace!

The result is a nephesh--a soul, mind, person, hunger, desire, passion. The word is so full of meanings and it provides us with such valuable insight into ourselves. The human person is at core hunger, desiring, wanting, needing. This is before the Fall! God will say the human needs a companion, another strength to help. Of course He would. What else would a hungry passionate soul need? And so in Genesis 2 we encounter the truth about ourselves. We are mortality hanging by a thread, a collection of dust held together by the breath of God. And we are hungry, thinking, feeling, searching--a big empty hole in need of filling. We need food, water, rest, and above all relationships. There is terror in that need, people do strange and wonderful, confusing and terrible things to feed the empty hole within us. Facing that emptiness within, an emptiness that can sometimes rear its head in even the happiest times, is startling. "What is wrong with me?" some people ask. "Why am I never satisfied?" The answer seems to be connected to the creation. Later on theologians will explain it (our hearts are made for God and will not rest until they rest in Him) but Genesis is satisfied with a word: nephesh.

God provides all they need, but He honors them by providing an option. Will humans rule the earth but obey Him? So there is a tree, a tree of knowledge of Good and Bad. "Do not eat," He said. Why put it there? Because without it we are only babies. He wants relationship, He tests us to reveal what is in us. He gives us choice. (Perhaps the tree is no different from any other, randomly chosen and set apart. It reveals good and bad because of what is in the human behavior, not the fruit itself. It's not the fruit, it is disobedience which educates us in evil.) So the tree "looks" good, thinks Eve. It appeals, the way independence appeals to the teenager. "Shake off the chains and be free!" Eve, singing with Franks Sinatra, "I did it my way!" Tragically, knowing what evil and bad are is not so much fun. It is especially painful when you find it in yourself. We, too, have tasted the fruit, it looked good and tasted sweet, but it became bitter in the stomach. Eve and Adam begin a new life together. One filled with the misery of their own choosing. You want freedom and independence from God? Welcome to "Earth II: Fallen Creation."

Sin, suffering, wounds, death, deceit, injustice, fear.... The new world order under Adam and Eve produces all manner of problems. We are not totally alone, God still finds a way to reach us, but we are not in Eden and He no longer walks among us in the cool of the day (except for rare exceptions for the welfare of the human race). The ministry of Jesus would be the prime example of Him rescuing us from this mess of our own making. As Jesus breathed His breath into the Apostles and sent them out (and by extension us as well) He told them and empowered them to do the same. Rescue folks. And so, at its best, this is what the church does. It teaches truth to rescue minds, it exorcises demons to free soul and spirit and it heals body and soul, mind and heart, to free from every malady. This is what we sought to do last Sunday. It worked. There were different manner of healing, enough tears shed to convince you that some pains were dealt with. People said they felt things going on, spiritual kinds of things that manifested within them. It was not a typical church day, though it is becoming more typical as we seek to do what Jesus told us to do: Preach, Teach, Heal, Exorcise, Reconcile and Forgive Sinners.

Why do such things? Because we live east of Eden in a cursed world. Because Jesus told us to and God wants it. Because seeing life renewed is more fun and more beautiful than most anything else we could have done. I continue to pray for those who attended, that the healing begun reaches fruitition, and for protection on the healings. I pray for those who wanted to be there but couldn't come. I pray for those who needed to be there but didn't come. I pray in thanks to the Father of mercy who loves us so much and saves us each day in myriad ways. 

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