Thursday, 17 April 2014

A sermon on healing and wholeness

Tuesday in Holy Week 2014 - Eucharist with prayers for healing

The kingdom of healing

What would you say is the key message of Jesus?

Some might say it is about loving neighbour, loving God and loving ourselves.  That’s a good foundation.

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you?  OK, helpful life advice.

God so loved the world.  Yep. I like that too, and the verse that follows!

Well, if we were to go by the number of times a word or phrase is mentioned then the ‘kingdom of heaven’ or ‘the kingdom of God’ or ‘the kingdom’ must come pretty high up the list – mentioned a wopping 105 times in the stories and teaching of Jesus in the Gospels.  Money is mentioned 25 times, the poor 11 times, hell (or rather gehenna  or sheol, outer darkness, fiery furnaces etc) 12 times – each in a story I might add and sexuality, well, um, not at all.

But this kingdom, this is the heart of the Gospel.

It’s important to remember that when Jesus talks in terms of Kingdom he doesn’t mean a physical place located in this world or the next.  Nor does the word ‘heaven’ mean somewhere beyond this life.  The kingdom is perhaps better described as a way of being – and more accurately described not using the word king (which has lots of other often unhelpful connotations) but talking of the reign of God.  The reign of God is when we allow God to live within and through us, when we seek to align our hearts and minds with God’s values, when we open ourselves to the work of the Holy Spirit and when we become Christ-like.

So though we use the words ‘kingdom of God or kingdom of heaven’  There is much more to it than that.  It is a concept much more in line with the Hebrew concept of ‘shalom’ – another multi-faceted, multi-layered word variously translated as ‘peace’, ‘wholeness’ and ‘healing’.  The idea of the kingdom of shalom is a place – not physically located, but based in the hearts of human beings – where there is harmony and the broken things of this world, of our lives, of all creation, are put back together again.

It’s not a destination, but a calling, not a one off but a lifetime journey. It’s a state of being to which we relate, and one into which we are growing.  It is a place of resurrection and renewal, integrity and wholeness and the deepest healing – where we find ourselves in loving relationship with our true self, with God and with others.

It’s a kingdom of healing.

Everytime we gather to celebrate the Eucharist we are proclaiming and celebrating this kingdom.  Every time we pray ‘your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven’ we are commiting ourselves and expressing our yearning for this kingdom. 

And here this evening we are again opening ourselves, intentionally, carefully, prayerfully to this hope, this desire for healing.  Not just for ourselves – that our past hurts may be healed, that our bodies and minds might be made whole, that our spirits receive the balm of Christ-life.  But for the whole world, that all might know their part within the kingdom of heaven, the kingdom of healing.

When we talk about salvation we often think about being ‘saved from eternal perdition’ or ‘rescued’ from something.  The very root of that word is, though, a kingdom word – coming from the same root as salve, in the same way that we place a salve upon our wounds.  Salvation is the ultimate healing – and salvation comes through God’s reaching out to us in Christ and offering us his own salve for our troubled souls, and for the world which he embraces.

Here this evening, as a symbol of our hope for healing – both for ourselves and for our loved ones, for the church and for the world – we are invited to receive, just for a moment, the laying on of hands at the altar rail, an anointing with holy oil as an echo of the oil of healing and forgiveness talked of in scripture.  It’s a symbolic act – and if there are other issues you would like to talk about and seek prayer for I would encourage you to make use of the gift of our healing ministry team and seek one of them, or indeed one of the clergy should you so wish, for specific prayers for healing.

More than anything what we celebrate here today is a hope, and a longing, for healing.  For ourselves, for friends and neighbours, for our society and for all creation.  We seek the deepest healing –and I would encourage each one of us to receive this act of laying on of hands anointing.

May we continue to enter more fully into the reign of God in our hearts and minds, and know the wholeness, integrity and life of the kingdom of shalom. Peace be with us all.  Amen.


Anonymous said...

A refreshingly authentic interpretation of the Kingdom of God. Short of Lloyd Gaston (et all) Vancouver School of Theology , Professor of New Testament.

Lloyd gave thanks for two things: The forth gospel of John and apostolic writings of St. Paul.

Without these two jewels, the Christian Way would be void of meaning.

Nothing short of amazing!

Happy Easter

Rev Pz

Richard Routledge said...

I love this sermon. Having just been reading the Gospel of Thomas, for me your words harmonize the seemingly-different messages of that mysterious gospel and the familiar canonical ones. You've just summarized for me a lot of material I've been trying to integrate! Thank you.
Richard Routledge