Healing Ministry

Sermon – Healing Touch – St. Andrew’s United Church, Port Moody.
Nov. 2, 2003

One of the lectionary readings for today is Mark 12:28-34, the Great Commandment. It summarizes our whole religion – Love the Lord your God, and your neighbour as yourself.

But that is not an easy commandment to follow – we seem to want to love ourselves more than God and more than others. So we are living in a world with many hurts – physical, emotional and spiritual – a world in desperate need of healing.

You may have noticed that there are several themes related to healing running through this service, from the need we have for personal healing, to stories of Jesus as a Healer, to the ability we have, with God’s help, to heal others.

However bad things are in this world, Christians have always tried to be agents for change – to be healers. The overall intention is to do the will of God and care for others. There are many ways of doing this service. Our healing touch ministry is just one and it is the one that I am going to talk about today. My main reference is the book Healing From the Heart, a Guide to Christian Healing for Individuals and Groups, by Rochelle Graham, Flora Litt and Wayne Irwin.

To begin, I want to point out that in doing this work we make a distinction between ‘healing’ and ‘curing’. It is possible to be cured of physical symptoms without being healed in a broader sense of having a balance restored to life. It is equally possible to be healed in that inner sense without being cured of the physical symptoms. Healing happens on many levels. Our word cure comes from the Latin ‘cura’, meaning care of souls. Today’s meaning usually refers only to successful treatment, getting rid of or correcting something wrong within the body. I believe “healing”, Christian healing, comes closer to the original meaning of the word cure. Christian healing seeks to restore a balance on all levels of our being.

We have a good example to follow – one-fifth of the Gospel accounts are occupied with Jesus’ healing ministry. He used many methods, often involving touch of some sort, but his words and actions also touched the hearts of those he healed. Jesus commissioned his followers to go and do likewise. The disciples helped people with physical, mental, and moral problems. Paul identified healing ministry as one of the ‘gifts’ of the Holy Spirit.

The early Christian community practiced and taught healing, and saw a person as an integrated whole – spirit, soul, and body. The laying on of hands, along with the anointing with oil, was performed by families as needed. During the 2nd century, however, there was a revival of the philosophy of Plato, which saw spirit and body as separate. Eventually the church began to be influenced by the secular thought of the time. No longer did it minister to the whole person, but only to the spirit. By 1123, the Catholic Church’s Lateran Council issued an edict that forbade the clergy to care for the sick, except as spiritual directors. The soul was important; the body with its evil inclinations was to be brought under submission. The anointing with oil for healing became the last rites for the dying and was meant to ensure the soul’s eternal salvation rather than to provide healing for the whole person. During the middle ages, a time when a hierarchy of authority was quite rigid, the laying on of hands was exercised only by kings and others at high levels of authority. With the birth of science in the 16th and 17th centuries, scientists were so enamoured of the powers of the mind that they had little regard for the body. In spite of the general trend, the church’s healing ministry never did disappear entirely and today healing touch is being reclaimed in the church. Rites of anointing as prayer for wholeness of life and healing liturgies are once again in practice in churches.

In our society now, holistic medicine is becoming more popular and many techniques such as acupuncture, are being recognized as valuable additions to mainstream western medical practices. One of these is Therapeutic Touch, which has been used in hospitals for many years now and is taught through Healing Touch International. Although science has yet to explain fully how it works there are numerous reputable studies that indicate that it is a valuable addition to standard treatments.

The Healing Pathway that is taught through Naramata is based on Therapeutic Touch, but adds a more spiritual dimension to the work, giving it the added power of prayer. Rochelle Graham began to adapt the Healing Touch Program for the Christian communities and the Healing Pathway has been formalized in response to growing interest and the desire to be accountable within the church community. The current Director is Catherine Awai. It consists of 5 Phases. The first two are weekend workshops such as the one we are sponsoring later in November. The next three phases involve more commitment, with Phase 5 being the training to instruct others on the Pathway.

But what is Healing Touch? It is an energy-based approach to healing. By working within the energy field surrounding an individual, practitioners can influence that field, and bring about changes. These changes can be physical, mental, emotional or spiritual. Many of the things we do from day to day are in fact ‘healing touch’ – a sincere handshake, a meaningful hug, an encouraging pat on the shoulder, a rub on a sore spot. Healing Touch as we practice it is not ‘faith healing’. Nor is it ‘touch therapy’ or body work such as massage. It is not confined to or owned by one tradition or profession. It has been known for centuries in India, China and Egypt. In each place people have noted that there are places on our bodies where the energy flows more noticeably. These are the energy centers, or charkas. It seems as though our bodies continually metabolise energy from our environment. A smooth even flow within us and around us indicates a sense of balance or health. Areas where the energy gathers and stagnates, or does not flow easily can be felt by the practitioner, and often smoothed out.

The whole idea of energy fields may be easier to understand if we think of our bodies not as solid, but of consisting mostly of tiny particles in motion. Einstein said that “Matter is nothing more than energy.” If you picture an atom, with the nucleus the size of a grain of rice, than the 1st particle orbiting it would be as far away from it as the length of a football field. We are 99.9999% space. It is also easier to accept that one person’s energy field can influence another’s if we think of how easy it is to ‘catch’ bad temper from others or to become caught up in another person’s euphoria.

All of us use Healing Touch. The training that some of us have received just helps us to use it more intentionally and in a more focussed way. We set our intention to be channels for God’s healing power. Some find it a useful metaphor to compare us with an extension cord. The power, God’s love and light, is always there. We just help others to plug into it, and use that power for their own healing, on whatever level it is needed.

As I journey on the Healing Pathway, I hope that I have been able to help others. I have certainly been aware of personal benefits. One of these is the progress I have made towards being better able to focus my awareness. It has been challenging for me to stay ‘present in the moment’. We practice finding that quiet center in the midst of our brain’s usual buzzing around. I have found this a useful skill in high stress times in my daily life. The present moment is, after all, the only one we really have.

It is on the spiritual level that I have received the most benefit, and that was quite unexpected when I started. I have always struggled with the instruction to ‘Let go and let God”. The whole point of being a Healing Touch practitioner is, however, to be a channel for God’s healing power. We have to give over control and be open to spiritual guidance, so I have had to practice. Of course it is not easy, and we are all seeking a closer relationship with God in order for the healing to be more effective. Healing Touch has been an incentive for me to reach for more spiritual depth in my life. We always need to be conscious that, although we may be called healers, it is always God who does the healing.

To return to the Great Commandment we are being asked: to love God – to recognize with gratitude that God is the source of all power and life, to love ourselves – and live centered in the present and not burdened with guilt about the past and worry about the future, and to love our neighbour the same way – accepting them and helping them so that we may live in a healing society. Offertory Prayer We bring our gifts to you, God. Here is the work of our hands, And here is the love of our hearts. Accept them and use them, Through Christ our Lord, Amen Benediction Go into the world in peace. Love the Lord your God With all your heart, With all your soul, With all your mind, With all your strength, And love your neighbour as yourself.



Sermon – June 27, 2004

St. Andrew’s United Church, Port Moody, BC – Jan Morrissey

Called to Freedom, Gifted to Serve Principles for Healing Ministry

Let us pray: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight, Oh God. Amen

For the first part of the sermon today, and for some of the prayers we have used in this service, I want to acknowledge the help we have received from the planning package for “Seasons of the Spirit”, the curriculum that has been used in the Sunday School.

Our focus scripture today is the reading from Galatians, chapter 5. This section is the culmination of Paul’s response to the Jewish-Christian missionaries who were teaching the Gentiles in the Galatian church that being a Christian required following the Jewish law. The law encompassed the fist five books of the Bible with their history of the relationship between God and the people, the Ten Commandments, and instructions for worship, family and community life, and service to God. The Jewish-Christian missionaries were trying to impose the marks of Judaism on new Christian converts. Paul did not reject the law, and even instructed the people to hear the law, but he did not hold to the belief that new Gentile converts needed to embrace Jewish tradition in order to experience grace. Paul contends that through their experience of Jesus and the guidance of the Spirit they could remain free of the constraints of the law. Actually, he says they would become enslaved, but to one another in love rather than to selfishness. The paradox is that this type of servitude both stems from and engenders freedom.

But how would the community know if the Spirit were guiding it? Paul describes such a community as marked by love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. By contrast, a community that follows the desires of the flesh will be known for its strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissentions, factions, and envy, along with all manner of behaviours that break down community and harm individuals.

Paul is speaking about motivating forces that guide and shape community, but he has some pretty harsh things to say about human nature. Without the guidance of the spirit a community, or an individual, can be in for a lot of unhappiness. In verse 15 he says, “if you act like wild animals… you will completely destroy one another.” I have heard recently that our human genetic makeup is very little different from that of other mammals. It is no wonder that in human relationships so often it is a matter of ‘might makes right’ and ‘the strongest wins’. It is a big challenge for us to overcome basic human nature, but Paul calls us as Christians to rise above it. In verse 24 he says, “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have put to death their human nature with all its passions and desires.” What makes us different from the animals is our capacity to be open to the Spirit. We are called to freedom from our selfish desires. We are called to share in God’s shalom. In Hebrew “shalom” means to be whole, to be sound, to be safe, and to be in peace.

This possibility of shalom is one of the basic principles underlying the healing ministry. I am going to spend the next few minutes outlining some of the others. These were summarized by Catherine Awai, who is the Director of the Naramata Healing Pathway, and are drawn from the book “Healing From the Heart” which is the resource book we use for the Healing Touch Ministry. You will notice that these principles are pretty much the same as the basic Christian ideas.

First of all, we believe that God is the transcendent, the Creative Power of all creation, beyond conceptualisation and beyond all names. God is also closer to us than breathing, nearer to us than a heart beat. Christians believe that God is the Divine Presence, made known to us through the incarnation of Christ in Jesus of Nazareth.

It is God’s intention that we, and all humanity, live lives of fullness and balance. Jesus referred to it as ‘abundant life’. That is God’s shalom. And ‘healing’ is our journey toward that state. Human beings are a created unity of body, emotions, mind and spirit, and are interconnected with one another and all creation.

Although we are essentially spiritual beings, creatures made in the image of God, in this earthly dimension we are subject to experience joy, pain, love, fear, grief, and all the other effects of imperfect choices and responses. On all the levels of our being we are subject to hurts of all kinds, and yet we strive toward wholeness. Think about a serious cut. Without attention it will heal, but it will leave a scar, and possibly cause other troubles later if the muscles do not re-attach properly. With a few stitches it will heal more quickly and cleanly, but there will still be a scar. The same applies to emotional, mental and spiritual hurts. Partially healed hurts allow us to function. More completely healed hurts allow us to live more abundantly. In my experience there are two kinds of hurts that most human beings carry around with them only partially healed. One of them is emotional – the hurt of feeling unloved. All of us carry wounds of this kind, some of them stemming from very early on in our lives, when we were too small to realize what was happening to us, when all we knew was that we were separated from a loving caregiver and were frightened. We have all healed, or partially healed these hurts as best we could. Sometimes we cover them over with telling ourselves we don’t care. Sometimes we try to avoid further hurts by avoiding similar situations. Often we protect ourselves from the hurt by blocking our memory of it. The other very common hurt we carry is a spiritual one – the hurt of guilt. Again, some of the guilt comes from very early in our childhood, when we tend to see things as either one way or another and not to see shades of grey in anything. Things are either good or bad and it is easy for a child to assume a load of guilt for small misdemeanours. Often we reinforce those hurts by our negative self-talk, blaming and scolding ourselves far more harshly that we would others. All of the unhealed, or partially healed hurts we carry with us affect our lives. They can influence the ways we interact with others and the way our bodies cope with stresses. In the language we use in energy work for healing, blockages in any part of our energy fields can impact other parts. In the language of modern medicine there are always psychological and spiritual dimensions to physical problems.

So what are we to do to move toward healing and wholeness? In colloquial language we are called to “get over” our “hang-ups”. In the language of Paul we are called to be free of our selfish human nature and guided by the Spirit to love and serve others As Christians we believe that love is the power that heals. God’s love can overcome our feelings of hurt and separateness. God has the power to offer us forgiveness. As we open our hearts to Christ’s Spirit of compassion we can be healed. In the gospel stories, and even in contemporary stories we are told of instant transformations where people’s lives were completely turned around by one incident. For most of us though, the healing is a long-term effort and there are many ways that it can be facilitated. As we mature it can be personal experiences, or the experiences of others that help us to become more fully the people God wants us to be. Prayer of any kind can help, as can reading and studying and growing in understanding of others and ourselves. Meditation is another useful technique, as is centering prayer. The Healing Touch treatments we offer are another pathway. Sometimes they are useful for immediate aid to physical injuries and illnesses, but they also can reach deeper and heal long buried hurts. It is a bit like peeling layers off an onion. Sometimes the hurts are covered with many protective layers and it is difficult to let them go. Even letting go of a few layers can help a person feel better.

As healers we believe that through prayer and spiritual discipline we can open ourselves to the healing presence and power of God and act as transmitters of that healing energy and transformative power. In the reading from Mark we heard how Jesus felt the power go out of him when the woman was healed as she touched his clothing. We join the many other people in all walks of life who act as channels for God’s transformative power in our world. We do not always feel the power working through us, but have faith that the Spirit is using us.

We also believe that the church is called by Jesus to continue the ministry of healing. The passage from Luke that we heard this morning records how Jesus sent out his disciples out on a walking tour to preach and to heal. In his final commissioning he sent them into all the world. In the last few hundred years the Christian church has been concentrating on healing spiritual and social ills, but the Healing Touch Ministry offers us a way to help with physical healing as well.

In conclusion let us remember that all of us are called to freedom, called to let go of whatever selfish hang-ups separate us from letting the Spirit be our guide, and let us be aware of how we are gifted to serve. If we are open to the Spirit there are many ways in which we can love and care for others, and participate in bringing about even a little of God’s shalom.



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