When I hear the words “healing service” my first thoughts are not very positive ones. I think about the services that televangelists in the 80’s sometimes had where someone would come onstage and they would reach out their hands and cry “be healed!” and then suddenly the person would be knocked to the floor and rise again without their crutches, or suddenly be able to see again, or hear again. I thought it was hokey and fake back them, and I’d still run the other way today from any preacher who told me they could do that. Because healing doesn’t work that way.
There’s a difference between being healed, and everything being changed back to how it was before. When we are healed, the bones don’t unbreak, the depression doesn’t immediately lift, the cancer doesn’t suddenly reverse course and leave our bodies the way we were before. The ones we love don’t come back.
Healing is different than that. And at first glance that might make it a little disappointing. It’s not a quick fix. What it is is a way to ask for God’s love to be with us especially during a difficult time. It’s a way of acknowledging that we need something more than ourselves when things get really bad. And it’s a way of being open to what the Holy Spirit is able to do to transform those places where the pain and the brokenness are happening.
Many who go to church on Sunday go the rest of the week, maybe quietly, without anyone else knowing they are fighting a hard battle. But that means that on Sunday, you are in a place with a lot of other people who might not know exactly what you are going through, but who have some idea, and want to travel this path with you. When the hardest times in our life come, we have a community that surrounds us. More than that, the body of Christ surrounds us, and it pays attention, and journeys with us.
I sometimes get called by hospitals or by funeral homes when someone is sick or someone has passed away and the family has no faith community. And I’m always glad to go and pray or say a service or help out. But I always feel bad. Because I see the way that this whole community, and not just me, surrounds a person who is going through something hard and stays with them. The best part of the church is not the clergy; it’s all of the people. That’s the ministry of the church and what it means to be Christ’s body together. And I wish that everyone could have that, because I think that they would find that Christ’s healing, more often than not, comes in community, and not in isolation, because Christ often chooses to work through others.
In this Lenten season, that healing takes on a particular importance. This is a time when we are called to heal our own relationships with God, and to draw closer to Christ. We accompany Christ symbolically through his times of greatest challenge, and greatest pain. And we learn what it is both to be healed, and to be healers.