Wednesday, October 18, 2006


Jesus the Healer was the theme for worship last Sunday. The text was Mark 1:40-45 where Jesus healed the leper who approached him saying "If you will, you can make me clean." I talked about how leprosy was the AIDS of Jesus' day, no cure, no hope, total ostracism from life. We spent time looking at hopelessness, when we feel there is no more option, no next step. Then I asked "How far gone are you? How long have you had you disease? your issue? your situation? If you feel hopeless, you have a friend in this leper."
As the service ended I gave the congregation an invitation to come forward to a kneeler or off to the side to a prayer room where our Associate Pastor was stationed. There we would annoint their heads with oil and lay hands on the heads or shoulders and pray for their healing.
The response after the first service was small, but significant. While the worship team played, 4 or 6 people came forward for prayer. But after the second service, it was a flood. People kept coming and coming, both to the front of the sanctuary and to the prayer room off to the side. The worship team played and played and played as a small group of people just waited for their turn to come forward. And when they did, I leaned forward and asked "How can I pray for you?" And that's when I was overwhelmed with the needs, the hurts, the wounds, the unconfessed sins. I prayed brief simple prayers after annointing their heads and pronounced a triune benediction. Then came the next one, and the next and the next. When it was over, I could not speak. When I returned my wireless mike to the guy in the sound booth, watching the whole thing, he shook his head and hugged me. It was that overwhelming. I could not go out on the patio and visit. I had to go straight home and gratefully drive off right away for 2 days in San Francisco with my wife.
It's during times like these that I am clearly aware that I'm not leading this congregation. I'm not in charge. God is doing something deep within us, among us. Whew!!


At 4:00 PM , Anonymous tim said...

Great commentary on what God is doing. We recently had a line up of people waiting to be anointed by our Parish Nurse and a brand new Stephen Minister, Todd. Todd, in particular, was left nearly speechless, in effect asking "Is this what it's like?" Yes, thank God. Not every Sunday, but yes. The beauty and weight of being a burden bearer.

At 9:47 AM , Anonymous Erika Carney Haub said...

I'll never forget the first time we did something like this at Irvington Covenant. I too was amazed at the hunger revealed: the hunger to come forward, to be touched and blessed, to feel and smeel the oil that graced us. To bring our need for healing to an altar of hope. Similarly, we held a service once where we heard teaching on confession of sin that was followed by the invitation to come forward and simply confess to one of five or six people stationed around the sanctuary. That night remians one of the most significant nights of Christian worship I have ever experienced.

At 7:03 AM , Anonymous Gary Means said...

There is such a hunger for a place where we can be real, can safely share the parts of ourself that deeply wounded or deeply afraid. Last night, in a small group mostly made up of people unaffiliated with any congregation, people shared how much our time of fellowship means to them. One man, in his sixties, shared that he has never seen this kind of fellowship in the church before. I was gratified that he felt that way, but I don't believe we have even begun to explore what it means to love one another.

Aside from my marriage and the birth of my two sons, the most significant day of my life was when I spent the day with two mentees as they did Step Five of the Twelve Steps with me. The day was set aside so that they could each go over the results of their Step Four, a "fearless and searching moral inventory". They shared their deepest secrets, their most painful scars, their fears. They bared their souls completely, revealing intensely personal information.

I cannot express the beauty of that time. For me, because of the superlative gift that they were giving me - total trust. And for them, it was so incredibly healing. They were completely vulnerable, each sharing their real selves, and were met with understanding, love, and acceptance by me and the other brother. I believe that an experience like that goes a long way toward helping a person internalize and personalize the concept that God loves them precisely as they are.

So, the hunger expressed by your congregants is a beautiful thing. We all desperately need to know that we can share who we are behind the mask and that we will be met with understanding, grace, and love. Thanks so much for sharing this. It's awesome to see God working like that.


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