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Homilies by Rev. Andrew Collis unless indicated otherwise.

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Epiphany 4, Year B
South Sydney Uniting Church
January 31, 2021

Mark 1: 21-31


‘The Gift of Healing’

As the people watched and listened to Jesus as he offered them his ministry, they were obviously impressed by his capacity to heal. On one level, healing of others is indeed a miracle, whether it is done by Jesus, or one of us. Two members of my family had a gift of healing - my mother and one of my brothers, who is now  a Uniting Church Minister in Hobart.

Of course, a gift of healing can sometimes be dangerous to others if you offer it to them and they are not physically healed. Some conservative churches, particularly, when they fail to heal someone, often put the blame on the person concerned - telling them they are too sinful or lack faith. Some people commit suicide in response.  My radical Methodist Minister father taught my mother and brother to always include a special theology in relation to healing. They were to tell the person who they were healing that, as human beings, we cannot determine what God will do when we pray for healing. God may give us support in various ways, peace and love, journeying to death and a loving afterlife or specific healing. Whichever is God's gift, it embraces us with love and care and is not a form of punishment, even when healing is not obvious.

As a child and young person, I would see people step out of wheelchairs and walk for the first time,  by God for something which they truly regretted in their lives, was one of the most powerful forms of healing, as well as many other forms of healing. Shortly before she died, my Mother prayed over a child with a non-operable cleft palate which prevented him eating and ever being able to speak. The specialists who told his parents that nothing could be done were amazed when, after Mother's prayers, the cleft palate grew across and joined up so his mouth became normal.

If we listen carefully to our Gospel for today, we see a Jesus who did heal people. The first one in this account was obviously mentally ill - very clearly a disturbed person and Jesus healed him by removing the disturbing part of his mind from him. The second healing was, of course the healing of a physical illness in the body of Simon's mother-in-law. While some of us may seem to have special gifts which help us to be more obvious in the healing of others, I think we could all reflect more deeply about the nature of healing.

Before I retired, when I was the Minister of the Pitt Street Church in the City, one of the most significant things which I realised was that, to help people feel truly forgiven for something they regretted in their lives was one of the most powerful forms of healing. Many people found it hard to believe in a God who would forgive them and I found it necessary to create a special little chapel in one corner of the church which was dedicated to people who needed a powerful liturgy of forgiveness and ways of imaging that - like kneeling in sorrow and receiving receiving water on their foreheads as forgiveness was pronounced, water which symbolically washed away their sin.

Many people need healing from non-physical woundings in their life and we are called to express friendship and comforting which acknowledges this.

The little Blue Knot side chapel in our church reminds them of this and is there for comfort. Life can be very complex in relation to things which hurt other people - things which may mean nothing to us. However, if we care for each other, and respect what is significant to other people, that can be part of a healing gift for them.  To care enough about the well-being of others can invite in us a capacity to heal in unexpected ways. In doing this, we can be participating in genuine ways but without drawing attention to ourselves.

Healing can also often be expressed as we protest and act to bring compassion and justice in our communities and political life and in caring for the creation.

It is not simply an individual relationship. When we give a shelter in our hall for homeless people or offer plots in our community garden behind the church, that can be part of a healing process.  However we share in healing, we can learn from each other, both how to do that and the varied nature of human vulnerability. We can teach each other about that, without betraying other people's private vulnerability. This commitment can certainly lie in our life together - a true feature of a Christian congregation.

So, as we hear in our hearts the Gospel for today, let us carry love and healing into the world in a wide range of ways, rather than simply hoping for the gift of obvious miraculous forms of healing.

Amen

Dorothy McRae-McMahon

Homily by Rev. Dorothy McRae-McMahon