Friday, January 23, 2009
Christians face to face with disease and suffering
“that they may become one in your hand”
II Kings 20: 1-6 Remember me, O Lord!
In those days, when Hezekiah was mortally ill, the prophet Isaiah, son of Amoz, came and said to him: "Thus says the LORD: 'Put your house in order, for you are about to die; you shall not recover.'"
He turned his face to the wall and prayed to the LORD:
"O LORD, remember how faithfully and wholeheartedly I conducted myself in your presence, doing what was pleasing to you!" And Hezekiah wept bitterly.
Before Isaiah had left the central courtyard, the word of the LORD came to him:
"Go back and tell Hezekiah, the leader of my people: 'Thus says the LORD, the God of your forefather David: I have heard your prayer and seen your tears. I will heal you. In three days you shall go up to the LORD'S temple;
I will add fifteen years to your life. I will rescue you and this city from the hand of the king of Assyria; I will be a shield to this city for my own sake, and for the sake of my servant David.'"
Ps 22: 1-11 Why have you forsaken me?
For the leader; according to "The deer of the dawn." A psalm of David.
My God, my God, why have you abandoned me? Why so far from my call for help, from my cries of anguish?
My God, I call by day, but you do not answer; by night, but I have no relief.
Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One; you are the glory of Israel.
In you our ancestors trusted; they trusted and you rescued them.
To you they cried out and they escaped; in you they trusted and were not disappointed.
But I am a worm, hardly human, scorned by everyone, despised by the people.
All who see me mock me; they curl their lips and jeer; they shake their heads at me:
"You relied on the LORD--let him deliver you; if he loves you, let him rescue you."
Yet you drew me forth from the womb, made me safe at my mother's breast.
Upon you I was thrust from the womb; since birth you are my God.
Jas 5: 13-15 The prayer of faith will save the sick
Is anyone among you suffering? He should pray. Is anyone in good spirits? He should sing praise.
Is anyone among you sick? He should summon the presbyters of the church, and they should pray over him and anoint (him) with oil in the name of the Lord,
and the prayer of faith will save the sick person, and the Lord will raise him up. If he has committed any sins, he will be forgiven.
Mk 10: 46-52 Jesus asked: What do you want me to do for you?
They came to Jericho. And as he was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a sizable crowd, Bartimaeus, a blind man, the son of Timaeus, sat by the roadside begging.
On hearing that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, "Jesus, son of David, have pity on me."
And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he kept calling out all the more, "Son of David, have pity on me."
Jesus stopped and said, "Call him." So they called the blind man, saying to him, "Take courage; get up, he is calling you."
He threw aside his cloak, sprang up, and came to Jesus.
Jesus said to him in reply, "What do you want me to do for you?" The blind man replied to him, "Master, I want to see."
Jesus told him, "Go your way; your faith has saved you." Immediately he received his sight and followed him on the way.
How often Jesus encounters the sick and is willing to heal them! Common to all our still separated churches is the awareness of our Lord’s compassion for the sick. Christians have always followed his example, by healing the sick, building hospitals, dispensaries, organizing medical missions and caring not only for the souls but also the bodies of God’s children.
This is not such an obvious response; the healthy tend to take health for granted and forget those who cannot take part in the regular life of the community because they are sick or handicapped. And the sick? They may feel cut off from God, his presence, blessing and healing power.
The deep rooted faith of Hezekiah supports him through sickness. In a time of sorrow, he finds words to remind God of his grace. Yes, those who are suffering might even use words from the Bible to cry out or struggle with God: Why have you forsaken me? When an honest relationship with God is well established, grounded in language of faithfulness and thankfulness in good times, it creates space also for a language to express sorrow, pain or anger in prayer when necessary.
The sick are not objects and not only at the receiving end of care; rather, they are subjects of faith, as the disciples must learn in the story of the gospel of Mark. The disciples want to continue directly along their way with Jesus; the sick man on the edge of the crowd is ignored. When he cries out, it is a diversion from their goal. We are used to caring for the sick, but we are not so used to their crying loudly and disturbing us. Their cries today may be for affordable medicine in poor countries, which touches the question of patents and profits. The disciples who wanted to prevent the blind man getting near Jesus have to become the messengers of the Lord’s rather different and caring response: Come, he is calling you.
It is only when the disciples bring the sick man to Jesus that they come to understand what Jesus wants: to take time to meet and talk with the sick man, asking what he wants and needs. A healing community can grow when the sick experience the presence of God through a mutual relationship with their sisters and brothers in Christ.
God, listen to people when they cry to you in sickness and pain. May the healthy thank you for their wellbeing, And may they serve the sick with loving hearts and open hands. God, let all of us live in your grace and providence, becoming a truly healing community and praising you together. Amen.
Posted by contrarian 78 at 5:33 AM