Saturday, October 8, 2016

Year C, Proper 24, Psalm 121, Luke 18:1-8, Hedging our Bets

Nancy was incredible.  I met her when I began my Clinical Pastoral Education at Metropolitan Medical Center in Minneapolis some thirty years ago.  I had been referred to her by the nursing staff on the floor.  She'd be a good visit.  And she had just received the news that she was dying from cancer.  My expectations were set.

What I didn't expect is what I saw when I entered her hospital room.  She had taken it over and made it her own.  The walls were decorated with numerous calligraphy wall hangings of her favorite bible verses about healing.  On her bed was an Amish quilt.  On her side table were tapes about miraculous healing, tapes which she told me presented the case that healing was something any Christian could claim, regardless of the odds, if they just had enough faith.  She also went on to say that in order to insure that her faith remained strong enough (faith muscles, she called it), she banned anyone who did not share her faith from visiting.  The nursing staff had informed me that it was a miracle that she was still alive, it now being a year or so after having been diagnosed with a particularly aggressive form of cancer.  But in Nancy's mind, the promise of a miracle was greater than that.  She hoped for a complete cure.  Unfortunately, she died a couple months later.

 I lift up my eyes to the hills; 
from where is my help to come?

My help comes from the Lord
the maker of heaven and earth.

There is a risk of faith.  If one, like Nancy, cultivates within oneself this incredible faith that God will indeed hear our prayers and come to our aid, and cure us even when we are riddled with cancer, then when that help doesn't come one must ask why.  In our lesson from Luke Jesus talks about our need to "need to pray always and not to lose heart."  Persistence pays off the parable seems to say.  Until it doesn't.

Even as she spoke of her faith muscles being strong enough to insure her healing, Nancy also shared a deep yearning for heaven.  "I just want to sing in that choir!" she blurted out at one point.  And she wondered about that verse that said we were neither married nor given in marriage in heaven.  How could it be heaven without her husband by her side, she wondered.  

What do we make of it?  It's easy to give God the credit when we are healed.  But about those times when we are not.  Does God bear responsibility for that as well.  One of the statements I've made numerous times is that we cannot pray ourselves out of our own mortality.  Simple fact.  

This morning what I'm wondering about a different take on it all.  I wonder if being truly healed is not about being free of disease, but rather about being fully alive even unto death.

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