WELCOME to this plan for worship service for us all to share from our homes or wherever we may be. Follow along with the readings and recordings. May we not only be drawn close to God but also to all who are offering these same prayers, hearing the same songs, and studying the same scriptures. More information is available in the weekly Bulletin, here on the website. Next week, February 13, we plan to be open for service together in the pews of #2 Mount Street, Digby. 🙂
Psalm 40:1-3 (Passion translation)
1 I waited and waited and waited some more,
patiently, knowing God would come through for me.
Then, at last, he bent down and listened to my cry.
2 He stooped down to lift me out of danger
from the desolate pit I was in,
out of the muddy mess I had fallen into.
Now he’s lifted me up into a firm, secure place
and steadied me while I walk along his ascending path.
3 A new song for a new day rises up in me
every time I think about how he breaks through for me!
Ecstatic praise pours out of my mouth until
everyone hears how God has set me free.
Many will see his miracles;
they’ll stand in awe of God and fall in love with him!
HYMN # 517 The Solid Rock
Opening PRAYER: We lift up our hearts to You, Holy One; may we not be disappointed. We rise to see the light of Your goodness shining upon us and our bitter world. We do whatever we can to stay close and connected with one another, in this strange time of limitations. O Healer of every ill, we gather our praises and prayers together for the sake of everyone. Our bodies are amazing yet fragile, our minds and hearts bright yet fading, our relationships rich yet tarnished. Show us Christ within us, the hope of glory.
We give ourselves in worship; give Your Spirit to us again, we beg You. We give our offerings for our work and worship, done in Your name. We give our time this day to be refreshed and given new hope. Give us enough that we overflow with hope to our world!
The Lord’s PRAYER
STORY Big Journey: Ch. 6 – read by the author, Tyler Van Halteren
SONG Footprints – sung by Joyce Marshall, 2020
SCRIPTURE John 4:46 – 5:18 read by Bev & Peter Dickie (Thanks for some personal words also.)
SERMON: Faith & Healing (Jeff White) James 5:14 Are any among you sick? They should call for the elders of the church and have them pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 The prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise them up; and anyone who has committed sins will be forgiven. 16 Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective.
So wrote James, author of a letter near the end of our Bibles. Faith and healing: how do they work together? We all want to know. We all put our faith to work, for the sake of healing sickness. People ‘send prayers’ all the time.
From John 4 and 5 we read a couple healing stories, in which Jesus was the healer. What interesting stories. What real stories, with such reactions from people.
Look at that first scenario. Perhaps it feels familiar to our experiences. A child needs healing. The parent has to travel for healing – walking to a town 20 kms away. He begs for attention, and the child is at the point of death!
At first he seems to get some not so comforting words from the healer. But then is told the kid is cured. The man travels again, hoping, trusting, but surely has to stay somewhere overnight on the way home. What wondering about the child must have haunted his journey, and that night away from home.
The next day, traveling, he gets a message: Yes! The boy is healed! The man truly believes; everyone believes!
The world we live in is very different from first century Palestine, yet we Bible followers today surely try to make connections with our own experiences, in our faith, and our quests for healing.
Our grandchildren are visiting for a couple days and nights this weekend. As many of you know, the younger one, Amelia, has had a few serious health problems since her premature birth, almost five years ago.
Her time in her mother’s womb had to be ended abruptly in March of 2017. Born at 26 weeks, she weighed just over one pound. Her first 118 days she spent in the IWK, in neonatal intensive care. Her breathing, her feeding, and other functions were not good – she wasn’t ready for birth! It was an intense, emotional roller-coaster, especially for her parents. For instance, many times her breathing stopped, and her little body had to be prompted to take her next breath.
So the parents went through a lot of traveling that year. Traveling and staying away from hope, hoping for the healing of their child, not knowing what would happen. They begged for attention from every medical professional – and Amelia got it. They pleaded with God over and over when the little one was near death! Sometimes, the direct words of doctors or nurses did not sound comforting or compassionate. But amid the many warnings of the worst that might next happen, there was progress, and healing. There was life! There was survival and growth. As ‘Nana Sharon’ said many times, there were hundreds of miracles.
We all believed and feared, at the same time, over and over. After years of oxygen, and feeding tubes, medications and medical appointments, Amelia lives her happy life. Still feeding mostly by a feeding tube. Still on one medication. Still wearing pull-ups. In pre-primary now, she is almost five years old, delayed in every way, but on her way into a life of big, bright hopes.
Many children do not make out so well. Many others have it pretty easy, getting to age five very healthily. Amelia’s is a story of faith and healing, for her parents, and grandparents, and many friends. Sharon and I thank you again for being part of this personal story.
Jesus as Healer is a prominent way many of us seek Him. Just as it was in His earthly lifetime in a small area of the Middle East. Each event of curing was unique. Like your experiences and mine of the Great Physician.
As I studied the scriptures last week, I considered how Jesus’ healing was limited, and unlimited. It was limited in a few ways, really. That royal employee whose boy was deathly sick, he had to do some waiting and worrying. Walking all that way to the town where Jesus was. Probably hoping this miracle healer would pay a house call in Capernaum, Jesus abruptly said, ‘he’s healed.’ Good news, but could it be believed? All that Jesus said does not seem particularly comforting. Jesus did not always make a big show of things, or answer a personal problem just as people hoped He might.
Yet there is the unlimited side of healing in our Faith also, seen here in these examples of Jesus. The boy very quickly recovers from death’s door, beginning at the very moment, it turns out, when Jesus simply declared the cure. What happens to that young fellow inspires the whole household. John calles this healing the second sign, as he tells the Jesus story. What happened pointed the way, shone some light, for people to follow.
Immediately, John chapter 5 begins with the next healing saga, told briefly but with many details in the plot. This time Jesus heads back into the city, Jerusalem, and by a pool used for ritual Jewish washing are ill and crippled people. One man has been unwell in poverty there longer than Jesus has been alive. Does the crippled man even show any faith? Yet, he gets healed by Christ. When the fellow gets in trouble with the religious authorities, he puts the blame on the healer, whom he does not even know by name. Later, after getting better acquainted with Jesus, he tells the authorities who He is, and for breaking Sabbath regulations, Jesus gets in deeper trouble.
Nevertheless, it is a healing miracle, again. Jesus, the unlimited Miracle Worker, as the Hand of God, heals this fellow also without fanfare, without him having to get into the healing pool at the magic moment he’d been waiting for all his life. Jesus’ miracle is not even limited by the man’s lack of showing any faith. He did not even answer when Christ asked if he wanted to be made well! The crippled man did not even need to know who Jesus was, what His name was, or anything. The powerful grace of God is unlimited. And, perhaps it extends to the whole person, not just the body. When they meet again Jesus tells him not to sin any more, so nothing worse happens. Many commentators have seen this being about the spiritual, emotional, mental life of the man above and beyond his now healed body.
Healing, miraculous healing, without limits, is what many people of Faith hope for, and even have great confidence in. Others of us are more cautious about miracles. We hope. We pray. We wait and see.
Because the unlimited power Jesus shows is also limited. As I look at this story in Jerusalem, by the pool of Bethsaida, what about all the other folks there? What about them? Were they healed? Doesn’t look like it.
And you could look at the one man healed – after 38 years of disability – and wonder why it took so long. Some of you have asked this same thing about people who suffered a long time before relief came. ‘How long, O Lord?’ That is the cry of the Psalms also.
There are limits on the healings in the prayers of the people. Not everyone gets healed.
As I got ready to speak to you this week, I at first thought most of my sermon could be me reading you a long story, as told by our friend Jennifer, years ago, about her suffering and treatment for ovarian cancer. It is an amazing testament about faith and a quest for healing. Once again, I’ll leave the whole, beautiful and dramatic saga for another occasion. Today, here is an excerpt from these Facebook posts she shared in 2019, with all her friends. She was in hospital at the time. Just listen for how amazing Jenn’s attitude – her faith – was, in this time.
June 1 8:09 pm Odd things and observations from life in the VG. We know we are exactly where we are supposed to be and God is allowing me to convalesce and recover here daily. The staff is wonderful. Everyday is interesting! It is an adventure! [Here are 8 of about a dozen points:]
1. The water is contaminated. I can not shower. I cannot wash my hair. I need to wear a mask and close my eyes to wash my hands and flush. If cancer doesn’t kill me…. the water could. Jon cleans me up with bottled water from the kitchen for sponge baths and to try and wash my hair in the sink. Refreshing!
2. It costs $14.50 a day during the week to park our car here.
3. Anytime my friends come to visit me in the daytime on a weekday there is no parking in the lot. Or on any nearby streets. Parking is a real problem here.
4. The internet is slower than our internet on the mountain that comes over satellite. I think Jon said the wifi is .3 to .78 Mbps.
It also kicks him off every two hours. He can get his work done on it and we are glad for it. Apparently until recently only one floor had it. Thank you to whoever fought for it and paid for it for patients on this floor!
5. There is a nice little cafeteria in the building but it does not feed patients. Patient meals are prepared at the infirmary site and shipped out to the other hospitals and they are later heated somewhere here. you have to order them a few days ahead or they pick what you get. My first meal was burnt spaghetti on a disposable plastic plate. Not sure how that happens… I have had good bad and ugly delivered but I have also had to throw so much food away it sickens me.
6. The nurses are amazing. I haven’t had one yet that I haven’t liked or that hasn’t taken wonderful care of me. The lab technicians each morning are great too. The doctors are fantastic!
7. Last night one of my neighbours was rather irate about the mice running around and no one seemingly doing anything about it. Pretty sure I saw one in my room last week. I didn’t announce it. I feel like I’m camping here. There are always rodents when you camp. I do feel bad for Jon because his bed is closer to the floor than mine. We gave our nurse a peace offering for her to give the man and apparently it may have helped soothe him.
8. Last night one of my neighbours died.
Jennifer beautifully wrote a number of other updates about her journey, some of them very creative and entertaining. This was June 1st, 2019; she died June 20th.
Jesus the Healer is limited. They are His own sovereign limits, we might say. There is a lot of mystery in how and when ‘miracles’ are done. And Christ is also unlimited.
As one of my Pastor friends always says, God heals in three main ways. Sometimes, by some miracle: unexplained, prayed for, perhaps sudden. Sometimes healing comes through treatment and medicine and surgery and better diet and so forth. And sometimes God’s healing comes by dying and entering the completion of eternal life.
Our personal faith and our healing develop during our lifetimes. They develop as we share them with one another. They grow as we live, and as we die. For we also say, with Christ, we never die.
Remember Jesus, again and again. Christ is the author of our faith, and of our healing, and of our resurrection.
PRAYER after the Sermon: Saviour, like a written prescription: may these thoughts about scripture be good for our complete health. Master, like the medicines we take: may our next steps be healthy ones. Jesus, like the air and water and food we receive: may we also feed on You in our souls, and be renewed, day by day. AMEN.
Celebration of Ministry – Take a look at the notes in the Bulletin. Annual lecture series at Acadia (online) will be important, February 15-17.
PRAYERS of the People: Saviour of all creation, we pray before we end our sharing in worship. After another winter’s storm we look into the calm and cold with gratitude for the beauty and bounty of our world. Forgive our taking for granted of the safety and riches that are all around us. Forgive our clouded vision that does not see those who are neediest and most vulnerable. Forgive our forgetfulness of the spiritual activities that keep us on track: prayer and praise, scripture and sacrifice. Yours, Jesus, is the healing power for our souls and our fellowship with others. Make things right!
Sovereign God, from Ottawa down to Digby, the challenges of our leadership are great. We cry out to You, for the coronavirus and all our precautions seem more and more divisive, pitting people against one another, in every community. How can there be healing, O God, in our relationships? We see reports of protests in various places here in Canada. We pray again for peace and justice, fairness and protection among all our people.
We also invoke Your power to heal and help those ill with COVID-19, and those whose healing for other problems is hindered by the pandemic. Eternal One, we do rejoice in answered prayers, healing help, and medical treatments that have been helpful and successful. Praise You, for the great blessings we’ve seen!
Now with these words, we ask for grace in every situation:
HYMN #238 Because He Lives – Cairine R., organ and chimes, 2020
BENEDICTION: 3 John 2
Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, just as it is well with your soul.
And may the presence of God – Abba, Christ and Spirit – live in, around and among us every day. AMEN.