From our Reader

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  The Ministry of Prayer for Healing

The starting point for my interest in this ministry was my own experience of recovering from cancer of the colon and the contemporaneous experience of witnessing two Christian friends deteriorate and die from their cancers. Prayer both privately and publicly had been made for us all amid ‘the warring tides of faith and doubt.’

 
Current practice
 
Such prayer for healing is offered at St. Luke’s on the second Sunday of each month during the Eucharist. Those seeking this ministry are invited to the communion rail and prior to receiving Communion, the vicar prays, with each individual, a general prayer for healing. Those who wish for more specific prayer may join me in the choir vestry where as the Reader, I pray with them. In addition to this, a prayer basket is available at all services for prayer requests which are offered as part of the intercessions during the regular services of the week.
 
This provision of the ministry although regularly available seems to me only a token expression of the commission ‘to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick.’ Luke 9;2 
 
What do we mean by the term ‘healing’?
 
Understanding the term ‘healing’ is not to be limited to the cure of disease, the relief of pain, or the relief of chronic symptoms of age and infirmity as this reflects only the physical condition and nature of our being. We know we are more than our bodies, and human nature is a combination of several aspects- the physical, mental, spiritual, emotional and relational. When any one of these aspects is out of harmony with another, we may suffer any number of symptoms and conditions that need healing to restore that harmony and oneness that makes us whole.
 
In this sense healing is a process and progress towards ‘- a dynamic state of well-being of the individual and society, of physical, mental, spiritual, economic, political and social well-being- of being in harmony with each other, with the material environment and with God.’ (Archbishops Council report 2000, 18)
 
By contrast disease is ‘a failure in ease, whether physical, mental or spiritual in location of pathology or disorder.
 
Principles and methods  
 
A study of the healing ministry of Jesus as recorded in the gospels provides the principles and methods of healing used in the healing ministry today while recognising the holistic approach that is needed by the Church to address the inter related aspects of human nature and the healing that may be required.
 
Expectation
 
Although healing is not necessarily the cure of symptoms, this may be the first answer to prayer that is sought. Yet for some, health is not restored and this was certainly the case, in my parish, in relation to the two friends who died from cancer. Living with a ‘no’ from God is difficult and tests ones faith in the purposes and mercy of God.
However, one of the supreme examples of prayer for healing not being answered by the relief of symptoms must be that experienced by the Apostle Paul. ‘there was given me a thorn in my flesh...three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 2 Corinthians 12; 7-8. Ill health was not unknown to Paul and yet he found that the grace of God was sufficient for him to find strength in his weakness.
In the light of this, what can be expected from the ministry of prayer for healing?
 
It may be   
  • help to carry us through a prolonged illness or disability
  • a recovery more rapid than expected
  • experiencing our fear of death being driven out by God’s love
  • a healing which is so unexpected that we immediately want to thank God.
Relationship with medical science
 
The ministry of prayer for healing ‘should be carried out in a collaborative and cooperative manner with health care professions and others involved in providing care’ (Archbishops Council 2000,25) and should not exist in isolation advises the handbook of the Anglican Church. Its relation to other aspects of Church life is highlighted. Healing has a personal and corporate dimension and ‘True wholeness is enjoyed by those who are integrated into the worshipping community.’
 
The way forward
 
Any ministry for prayer for healing needs to be part of the whole ministry of the church. It needs to be part of the proclamation of the gospel and healing is not to be isolated as a commodity to be dispensed by a particular minister, team or congregation. The centre of ministry and worship remains focussed on Jesus through whom God reconciles the world to Himself.
 
Any overemphasis on this ministry is to be resisted while the neglect of this ministry is to be addressed by learning from scripture, being open to the guidance of the Spirit, by recognising the need for an holistic approach to healing, by responding to the commission ‘Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation....And these signs will accompany those who believe...they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.’ Mark 16; 15-18.
 
At the time of writing, as a church fellowship we are exploring our understanding of this ministry, looking for gifting in this area and inviting possible team members to share in the development of this practice.
 
Anne Smith - March 2014

Reasons why people don’t go to Church                 Reasons to go to Church

I’m not sure I believe everything you do                    Doubts are allowed

 All they care about is my money                                They care about me

 It’s full of hypocrites                                                  No one is perfect

 Is there a dress code?                                                  Come just as you are

 My life’s not sorted                                                    Its OK not to be OK

 Church is about a relationship not a religion

where

love is offered

   hope is alive

     forgiveness is available 

 


            Some thoughts on Pentecost and what it means for us

Abridged version of a sermon by Anne Smith

Reader at St. Luke's, Holmes Chapel: Sunday 27th May 2012

Pentecost after Christmas and Easter is one of the great Christian festivals. You know the story so well and the symbols of the holy Spirit are displayed before us here on our altar frontal.



Pentecost although now part of our Christian calendar was formerly a Jewish celebration, a harvest festival, fifty days after Passover. Pentecost celebrated the fruits of the earth and the giving of the Mosaic law. A great annual occasion which any devout Jew would ideally have liked to celebrate in Jerusalem. And many did congregate there for the occasion from every part of the ancient world as our Bible reading reminds us.

The disciples however were not in party mood as they huddled together in the house where they had been waiting and praying. What were they waiting for/ what were they praying about. While waiting and praying, they replaced Judas with Matthias and I’m sure they too indulged in nostalgia as they remembered their time with Jesus as he went about preaching, teaching and healing. The miracles they’d seen, the stories he’d told them , the promises he’d made but what now – for a short while he’d returned only to leave them again and the question voiced by the crowds in Jerusalem, I suggest was the same question on the disciples lips.

What does this mean?

While contemplating this question, Luke describes for us an experience that he can only use similes to express.
Wind and fire- such powerful images- not a gentle breeze but a violent wind- and tongues of fire that touched them all.

What does this mean?

This experience of the Holy Spirit delivered the disciples from their fears, doubts and inhibitions.

This experience of the Holy Spirit empowered them to share the good news of the gospel – each one heard in their own language.
This experience of the Holy Spirit assured them that ‘God has made this Jesus ...both Lord and Christ.’

What does this mean for us?

Pentecost is an experience promised to us all

Assured, empowered, delivered – by the Spirit of God. Wonderful! The effects of Pentecost in our lives, the promise of God to us. But that’s not all for it begins with being disturbed.

The experience of the Holy Spirit disturbed the disciples
There is no deliverance, no empowerment , no assurance before He disturbs us. The violent wind of God is not a gentle breeze, it will do more than ruffle our feathers, the violent wind of God is not going to be contained by our creeds, and liturgies, or confined to the worship spaces of St.Lukes’ church. His will and purposes are not going to be restricted to our set development plans.

The Holy Spirit disturbs and brings about change.

Pentecost, however is not the commemoration of a past event, it is a continuing experience, a present reality given by God in the first place to disturb us like the blowing of a violent wind. The disciples were all together in one place on that first Pentecost. Sitting together inside as we are.

The initial disruption the Holy Spirit caused was to send them out from that place, that place of safety and fellowship. So too, when we ask for this gift, lets not be surprised if we are sent us out from the places where we congregate together, perhaps to face ridicule, certainly to be challenged , perhaps to amaze and perplex ourselves and others as we take risks as we present this man Jesus to those we meet.

So let’s not be risk averse - success does not always look like success just as the cross of Calvary didn’t appear so. Victory may come disguised as defeat, ventures may fail but in their failure we learn from our mistakes. Mission is not guaranteed by our abilities but by God – we just try to cooperate with him. The disciples witnessed to what they knew, had seen and believed as the Spirit enabled them. It wasn’t done in their own strength.

Pentecost - What does this mean?

The gift of the Holy Spirit. In the Celtic tradition, some Christians chose the symbol of a wild goose to represent the Holy Spirit rather than a dove. Why? Because a goose is a noisy, troublesome bird and jars people with its honking – characteristic of the way in which the Holy Spirit may jar us out of our complacency, our certainties and nostalgia

Pentecost- What does this mean? - The gift of the Holy Spirit!!

Dare we ask for it, are we ready to receive it ?  Are we prepared to see wonders and signs of God’s presence amongst us or shall we stay together, sitting inside, safe in this place and go nowhere?  Food for thought.......!

© Anne Smith: May 2012- please acknowledge the source if you quote from Anne's sermon