Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Fourth Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 8; Ordinary 14; 24 June 2012

The stories of Jesus healing the sick and raising the dead are problematic for those of us who consider ourselves even somewhat sophisticated in our theology. We envision sleek, white-suited charlatans, smacking the gullible on the forehead and calling forth the not inconsiderable power of placebo effect with a shriek of the words, “be healed!”  How gauche

There is, however, no way to safely remove the healing, exorcism & resurrection stories from the gospels. Too many pages would have to be excised. What would remain would resemble four pamphlets more than four books. So what shall we do?

Writing in the “Healing Word” section of Homily Service for this week in 2009, Jennifer Copeland takes the centrality of healing to Jesus’ ministry seriously, while directing us to a different way to contextualize that healing.
Healing is so much a part of Jesus’ identity that it saturates even the clothes on his back. All the hemorrhaging woman had to do was touch his garment to experience the wholeness and the health that Jesus embodied. For twelve years, her community has ostracized her. She had to be ostracized because she was unclean. It was not her fault, but a rule is a rule, and the rule was this: if she were hemorrhaging, she could not have a normal relationship with her family, particularly her husband, and she could not participate in any religious rituals. We may not like those rules, but that’s what Jesus had to work with and you’ll notice he didn’t change the rules; he enabled this woman to return to a normal life within the guidelines of her community. He gave her the gift of wholeness. The physical healing that he offers is no small thing, but more than the healing, he offers social well-being.
Our culture places faith and medicine in separate spheres for all of the best reasons; prayer might cure pneumonia, but most of us would prefer to have antibiotics as well. Hallisey suggests that social healing can be a useful focus of our preaching instead. In what ways do you recontextualize the healing stories from the gospels?

Jennifer Copeland. “28 June: Proper 8: Ordinary 13,” Homily Service 42:3:54

Jennifer Copeland is serves as the United Methodist chaplain at Duke University and as director of the Duke Wesley Fellowship.

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