"As I stood there at the foot of his hospital bed, there was a part of me that desperately wanted to reach out and touch him, even his toe, and declare with complete confidence, 'Be healed!'"
"Such faith" I believe is largely lost among us.
More on that, but first, an observation: In spite of nearly 500 years of evangelical preaching in the tradition of the reformation, and for that matter, nearly 2000 years of hearing the Gospel, we still cannot get over our obsession with sin, morality, and the works we do. Works righteousness is alive and well among us. "He is worthy. . ." Even as we proclaim the "Gospel" we do so within the context of behaviors that are right or wrong. Our focus is almost exclusively on what we do, and forgiveness is proclaimed as the remedy for our sinful actions.
And yet as we read through the scripture, those grace filled moments that define the Gospel often have nothing whatsoever to do with our "works", but often with our "situation in life". Healing is central to the Gospel Jesus lived. How much of his time was spent devoted to this? What if instead of "Confession and Forgiveness" being the standard rite for the beginning of worship, we considered focusing on healing? The "Gospel" for one who has Stage 4 cancer does not focus on their "works", but on their need for healing. But we are more confident in God's willingness and ability to forgive, than we are in his willingness and ability to heal.
"Go." and he goes. "Come." and he comes. "Do this." and he does this. Such faith. Dare we to believe any more that Jesus does indeed have the power, not only to forgive, but to heal?
Do we dare believe that reconciliation is possible with those from whom we are estranged? Dare we believe that the lonely and isolated in this world might, through the Gospel, find love and community? That wars might cease? That liberation is the work of God's hand. That the goodness of all creation might be restored? Dare we believe that Jesus has the authority to say "Go.", "Come.", and "Do this." Do we have such faith as to lay hands on the sick and heal them in the name of Christ Jesus?
My head is not right. Bipolar they call it. When I sit down for worship in the fits of depression, the last thing I want to hear about is 'my sin'. In those moments I'm much more focused on the 'wrongs' God has done to me, than the wrongs I have done. And how quick I am to believe that this is an incurable life long malady, and how little hope I have that full healing can occur. It can be managed, perhaps, but healed, no. "I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith."
A charismatic Christian that I am quite fond of took me aside one day and shared that she had discerned in me the gift of healing. And that I needed to use that God given gift for the sake of my parishioners. "No you don't, your not putting that onus on me." was the response deep in my heart.
You see, I am much more comfortable telling people that we cannot pray ourselves out of our own mortality, than I am saying, "Rise, take up your mat and walk, for your faith has made you well." Oh, I have stood at the foot of many a hospital bed, like the seminary professor that I quoted above, and wished, just wished, that I could lay my hands on them and heal them. Would that Jesus had given me that authority. It is the fear of failure, or perhaps better put, a lack of hope, that prevents me from even trying. The focus is admittedly on my own inabilities. But it carries over to a lack of faith in what Jesus can do.
When a couple in my parish had not one, but two children born with spinal muscular atrophy, desperately I wished that I could call upon the name of Jesus and heal those children. But they died according to the timeline of that disease's progression. All very predictably.
"Such Faith". Does it exist anymore?
There is part of me that would like to conclude this meditation with a wonderful story of healing and hope, and the promise that this is possible for all of us, if we but believe.
But instead, perhaps because of my own struggles for healing, I'm simply left with a question. Can we still believe that the God who commanded light to come out of darkness, who breathed life into the dust of the earth, can say "Be healed", and we will be healed?