by Christina Auch
Wholeness, healing and restoration of body, mind and spirit, are themes throughout Scripture. The psalmist sings out: “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me. Do not cast me away from your presence, and do not take your holy spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and sustain in me a willing spirit.” (Psalm 51:10-12)
The psalmist characterizes a right spirit as one that is joyful, willing and remains in the presence of God. When we experience crisis, conflict or illness, we often experience dissonance, discord or disruption of our spirit. It is in these times when we can be strengthened or even carried by our community and seek resources to help us heal and recover. In addition to physical rehabilitation, spiritual resources can help. Those can include Taize worship, centering prayer, spiritual direction and worship, and pastoral care or counseling. Forging connections with other people through service or support groups can also help.
Healing takes place in community. We are not created to be alone or isolated. In the New Testament, the gospels include stories of Jesus and the disciples healing broken bodies, as well as wounded spirits, and restoring people to their communities. Throughout the biblical narrative, we have clear examples of how healing is not only physical but also spiritual, emotional and social. To this we might add intellectual, financial and vocational.
In Paul’s first letter to the church at Corinth, we begin to see how we each are called to participate as ministers and care for each other:
“Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” (1 Corinthians 12:4-7)
God is at work in our communities through us, not only through our pastors or our missionaries, but through each person who comes into the faith community.
Later in the same letter, Paul employs the metaphor of the congregation as “the body of Christ,” writing, “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ” (1 Corinthians 12:12). The many varied and beautiful gifts that God has given each of us equip us to serve.
Throughout the epistles, Paul draws attention to our dependence on one another, recognizing how we are one body, one church, one people. United by faith in Christ, we are equipped by God to share the good news of God’s love, mercy and forgiveness with the world. In his letter to the church at Ephesus, Paul exhorts Christians to:
“…lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.” (Ephesians 4:1-6)
It is by this spirit that we are called to love and care for one another, using our unique gifts to attend to the whole person, and to the needs in our communities and in the world.
1. Have you participated in healing in a worship setting (for example, anointing, prayer vigil, centering prayer, Taize worship)?
2. How is the need for healing included in your prayers or those of your congregation?
3. What gifts do you have to minister to others in your congregation, neighborhood or community?
May the God of peace sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and will do this. Amen.
(adapted from 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24)
Christina Auch is an ELCA pastor at Ascension Lutheran Church in Shelby, NC and celebrated 17 years in remission from cancer earlier this year.