Text used – Mark 5:21-34
This Sunday, we held our annual meeting which, at the Presbyterian Church of Oronoco, is something that happens in the midst of our service. We do a little business, then read Scripture. We do a little more business, then share our prayers and take our offering. We do a little more business, then celebrate the Lord’s Supper together. In addition to the business and communion yesterday, we also ordained and installed two ruling elders and two deacons for a new term of service. All said, it was an incredibly full worship service!
We’ve been following the Narrative Lectionary as a congregation since September, and the Scripture reading assigned for this Sunday was the above passage from Mark’s gospel – the story of Jesus raising Jairus’ daughter and the story of the hemorrhagic woman. They’re both stories of miraculous, life-changing healing. And as a congregation, we’ve had a lot of people dealing with a lot of things … a lot of life situations that could use some healing and prayers. So instead of a sermon in the midst of our super full service, we took a short time for healing and wholeness.
So here’s what we did ………………………………
Reading: We began with a reading from Kate Bowler‘s Everything Happens for a Reason and Other Lies I’ve Loved (pp. 121-122, 123):
“At a time when I should have felt abandoned by God, I was not reduced to ashes. I felt like I was floating, floating on the love and prayers of all those who hummed around me like worker bees, bringing notes and flowers and warm socks and quilts embroidered with words of encouragement. They came like priests and mirrored back to me the face of Jesus.
When they sat beside me, my hand in their hands, my own suffering began to feel like it had revealed to me the suffering of others, a world of those who, like me, are stumbling in the debris of dreams they thought they were entitled to and plans they didn’t realize they had made.
That feeling stayed with me for months. In fact, I had grown so accustomed to that floating feeling that I started to panic at the prospect of losing it. So I began to ask friends, theologians, historians, pastors I knew, and nuns I liked, What am I going to do when it’s gone? And they knew exactly what I meant because they had either felt it themselves or read about it in great works of Christian theology. St. Augustine called it ‘the sweetness.’ Thomas Aquinas called it something mystical like ‘the prophetic light.’ But all said yes, it will go. The feelings will go. The sense of God’s presence will go. There will be no lasting proof that God exists. There will be no formula for how to get it back.
But they offered me this small bit of certainty, and I clung to it. When the feelings recede like the tides, they said, they will leave an imprint. I would somehow be marked by the presence of an unbidden God.
It is not proof of anything. And it is nothing to boast about. It was simply a gift. …
Joy persists somehow and I soak it in. … I think the same thoughts again and again: Life is so beautiful. Life is so hard.”
Remember, friends, that you have the power to be that for those you encounter: an imprint of God’s love, of God’s grace, of God’s compassion and hope. That is the joy of our faith. That is the responsibility of our faith. That is the blessing of our faith.
Anointing: I invited all those who wanted to to come forward for an anointing.
As I made the sign of the cross on people’s foreheads with oil:
Then I placed my hand on people’s head:
Christ, have mercy.
Sending Out Our Prayers: In each bulletin, we included a “thinking of you” greeting card and envelope. Some had a simple message inside. Some were blank. As people were either waiting to come up for their anointing, waiting in their pews after they had been anointed, or waited in their pews while others were being anointed (for those who chose not to come forward), I encouraged people to fill out their cards for someone in their lives who needed healing – healing of body, healing of mind, healing of spirit, or healing of relationships. It could be someone in the pew next to them. It could be someone else in the congregation. It could be someone else in their lives, near or far.
While people were coming forward for the anointing or sitting in their pews filling out their cards, we played Laren Daigle‘s “You Say.”
Finally, we closed with a beautiful, beloved hymn of healing:
Wherever you find yourself in life right now – be it in need of healing and wholeness yourself or praying for the healing and wholeness of someone you love, may you find comfort and peace, reassurance and hope in the arms of a God who has known suffering, known sorrow, known pain, and through it all, known love above love. Alleluia. Amen.