This sermon was offered by Alison Fischer for the April 4th Healing Service in the All Saints Chapel at Church Divinity School of the Pacific.
“"I have no silver or gold, but what I have I give you; in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, stand up and walk." And he took him by the right hand and raised him up; and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong. Jumping up, he stood and began to walk, and he entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God.”
At an early age, I learned that two holy locations in our society are hospitals and churches and they actually are quite similar. Both strive to offer healing, are where we celebrate and bring in new life, are where we encounter and mourn death, and are where total strangers, from various backgrounds, have the opportunity to experience life together, in their most vulnerable and joyful moments, and become forever bonded. In both locations, the broken and the healers are often so intertwined that their roles merge.
I live with a genetic condition that affects my daily life and must admit, that in the past, to have found envy and frustration with these scriptures that teach of the miraculous healings from Jesus and his Disciples. If only the healing were so simple. I spend my time in predominately four locations; on campus or studying, the medical center, my home, and my field education site. It takes a tremendous amount of effort to keep my body functioning and even greater amount of acceptance and spiritual connection with the Divine to desire to keep waking up every day and living with the reality at hand. I don’t know anyone with a disability or chronic illness that has not at some point questioned where God’s presence was in their experience. The need for healing is a physical, spiritual, psychological journey towards God where we learn to survive, adapt, and still find reason to worship.
One of my coping mechanisms for living with a faulty body is to seek out the holy moments, and God continually shows up and off. Throughout my life, Christ has conveyed himself through other patients, and they are usually holy women and men who I have little in common with other than our mutual location. Sometimes they offer the ministry, sometimes it is me, most of the time, we worship our God together in our vulnerability and the opportunity to serve each other. These instances come during the long hours of being attached to an IV, the line at the pharmacy, or in the waiting rooms for Dr. appointments or for more imaging. These holy moments empower me to keep going just as much as my worship does. It is in these moments that profound wisdom is offered, comfort and compassion is freely given, prayer is shared, and the tears are given a safe place to flow. These moments connect our wounded spirits and wounded bodies to find meaning and purpose in life again through God and each other. We meet as strangers and leave bonded.
I have witnessed these holy moments on the CDSP campus, too. Maintaining a healthy community is not about who is pulling the most weight and keeping score, but more so, how do we best support each other through this unique experience and shifting the weight when needed? This community of broken people is quite magnificent and a beautiful example of individuals serving Christ through loving one another. My life has been transformed by witnessing the many faithful disciples living with their suffering and using it to minister to others.
In today’s scripture in Acts, we are called as individual Christians, as ministers, and as congregations to reach out to the stranger, the other, and each other. In the name of Christ, we can offer healing to those who are struggling; and through facilitating healing to others, we often heal ourselves. The scripture also calls for us to have confidence in our faith in Jesus Christ and trust that the healing or conversion is going to happen through supernatural works that is Christ’s doing, not ours. Peter did not require for the lame man to have faith in Jesus Christ to offer him healing, it was Peter’s faith that enacted the healing.
The disabled man’s community brought him to the Beautiful Gate to collect alms, but he was left outside of the Temple. In this ancient society, those with disabilities were often ridiculed and associated with sin; Peter’s healing of this man communicated that all people, regardless of appearance or ability, are welcome in God’s kingdom. We must meet the individuals at the gate, acknowledge their holiness, bring them into our circles to facilitate Christ’s healing. It was after this man’s healing that he was invited in. This leads me to wonder, how many individuals are we failing because we are expecting the same process of healing before worship? Who we are prohibiting from experiencing the healing of Jesus Christ because they are sitting at our gates rather than inside the temple or because of the physical and mental capacities that are different than our own. How are we limiting the opportunities for others to experience the wonder and amazement of God because of our self-imposed restrictions and judgements?
In this this Easter season, we celebrate that Christ could overcome death, sin, and afflictions and through Christ, we may find peace in this life, especially in challenges. By His life and wounds, we are healed but we must be proactive in the miraculous healing of ourselves and others; because no matter if it is physical, emotional, or spiritual healing, Jesus’ divine intervention can only do so much healing without our active participation and devotion. We must have faith and stand up and walk and put forth the effort of managing our own obstacles. Sometimes, healing through Christ entails accepting that a condition may be chronic or terminal and that Christ is working in every other aspect to allow healing and the ability for the person to live in whatever capacity they are able to. That is when these holy moments develop to strengthen each other’s journeys. Sometimes we are limping or needing to be carried ourselves, but we are still moving towards the Light of Christ as a body.
Stand up and walk. Or in the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr on the anniversary of his death, “If you can’t fly, then run. If you can’t run, then walk. If you can’t walk, then crawl. But by all means, keep moving.” Christ’s healing abounds for those of us who keep moving towards communion with our Holy Trinity and we may find comfort and peace in knowing that it is in Christ’s embrace, that our souls and bodies will be free.