Jesus’ first day of public ministry starts with a bang. He bags an unclean spirit; heals a woman, all before dinner. The opening of ministry for me started out strong, too. I brought my first sermon, to a close, “Now in conclusion,” and a miracle happened. I raised the dead. Well they looked dead to me. My words brought them back to life, smiles, high-fiving. Hadn’t happened since, though.
From my youthful days, I thought TV faith-healers were – well, rather interesting, driving out demons, headaches, insomnia, chapped lips, and cash from your wallet. My favorite was Dr. Denny. He could do “Creative Dental Miracles.” Many a soul’s faith was shattered when they attended a crusade, hoping to be healed – only to leave just as they had come. We Episcopalians – sophisticated, intelligent, and modern look to medicine, psychiatry, and drugs to treat such matters. Miracles: some doctors tell me, “The cancer inexplicably disappeared. Has to be a miracle.” What is going on?
Healing and deliverance from evil when Jesus arrived signaled the beginning of God’s kingdom. Something eternal and cosmic has been set loose. So, don’t confuse Jesus with snake-oil hucksters we sometimes see about today.
Jesus arrives at Andrew and Simon’s house for dinner. Simon’s mother-in-law is down with a fever. Jesus goes in, takes the woman’s hand and, “lifts her up.” She’s lucky Jesus stops by, just in time for a miracle so she now can fix the boys their dinner. But more is going on than this. He “raises, lifts her up” – get that? A divine messenger at Jesus’ empty tomb tells the women, “God’s raised the one you seek.” Jesus once says when he’s lifted up, he’ll lift us all with him. The divine in-breaking is changing everything. Curing a fever, unhitching a demon riding a man into a synagogue – that’s good and powerful stuff. When such things happen, and they sometimes do, that’s a glimpse of God’s will and our destiny.
Every Sunday we gather to worship is Easter. God is raising – lifting us up in our prayers, hymns, praise – and at this Altar when we receive the sacrament. In worship God heals broken lives and troubled spirits. Baptism marks us as resurrected people. Daily we are nourished by the new life the Spirit seals us into. The “kingdom to come” is here now – becomes tangible and visible – life-giving here on earth through us. It happens when we serve others; as we feed the hungry; house the homeless; tutor the children; remember the forgotten; pray for our enemies and those who don’t act like God exists. By loving this world and all peoples with God’s passion, Jesus’ spirit – through us lifts up folks on earth – now.
When has an unknown hand lifted you up? When did you last lift someone up – comfort them, sit beside them in their dark – hold with them their pain and loneliness – drive away destructive spirits of evil, prejudice, or hatred. As we do this, God brings heaven to earth – a foretaste of what God’s will and nature.
People say they don’t see much evidence of God’s kingdom around. Worldly powers and dark forces seem to have the upper hand. You don’t have to look far to see that. If God’s been at it for thousands of years, maybe Woody Allen’s right, “God’s an underachiever.” Or some think they attain God’s kingdom when they die, if they’re good enough on earth. They never learned Jesus brings heaven here now. Maybe that’s why evidence of God’s reign is scarce – so invisible, almost impotent.
Healings and exorcisms Jesus gives, as strange and miraculous as they sound, reveal God’s will and reign. And through us, the divine power of love and life continues to touch people who are sick, hurting, broken or possessed by darkness. We may not cure people, but when we are in sync with Jesus, we heal and lift up – not tear down.
Do you realize how much people hunger for healing, hope and wholeness – love and authenticity? In a way you and I are faith-healers. Remember that. How I wish a simple touch or word could cure the sick – that we could banish tormenting forces of evil. On this earth, eventually we run out of cures, and all we do will not finally overcome evil or death. That’s in God’s hands. So are we, and all will be. In the meantime, you people baptized into Jesus’ life – God empowers us all to lift the hands of ones who are broken and hurting, to oppose and resist what is evil and harms others, to pray with others, love and encourage others; ask God’s peace to break through for them. And in all we are and do, let us love, care and compassionately lead others into Great Physician’s hands.
That may not effective a cure, but God can bring a healing presence through us. May others see in us that the reign of God is under way, and will lift all into God’s love and life. We are, after all, faith-healers.