The second of two sermons (this one delivered by. Rev Barbara Chandler) on healing ahead of the licensing of the Healing Team by +Mark on 1st December.
CHRIST THE KING 24th November 2019
This morning is not a meagre two for the price of one, it’s a three for the price of one sermon.
Firstly: Today is the festival of Christ the King. This is the last Sunday of the liturgical year and next week we enter into the penitential season of Advent. Pope Francis describes this Sunday as the crown in the liturgical year: a celebration of Jesus, Lord of all, King over all creation.
Secondly: we are going to pray particularly for the healing ministry of our church. Next Sunday Bishop Mark will come to commission the healing ministry team. These are people who have set aside time over the last few months to study, reflect and pray about healing and will offer this ministry within our church community. As part of the preparation for this, Julia asked Norma and I to speak about our work within medicine. Norma last week described her role as chaplain at the Highland Hospice and today I will tell you a little bit about my day job in Rehabilitation Medicine.
Thirdly, we have the appointed scripture for today and a gospel which shockingly does not seem to right for the celebration of Christ the king: where does the crucifixion fit in to healing and kingship.
I will start with healing. Modern medicine is not primarily about healing A controversial statement and it would be good to break into groups and discuss but perhaps we can leave that for coffee at the end. I can remember in my introductory week at medical school the dean of medicine quoting Amboise Pare, “the art of medicine is to cure sometimes, to relieve often, to comfort always”. I really didn’t understand the implications of this statement at that stage, as coming into medicine through a passion for science my intent and that of my fellow students was to cure people, to fix the disordered physiology and anatomy and make people better. It is with the passage of time and meeting real people, in real life, that the complexity and enormity of true healing becomes apparent. The journey through medical school has its ups and downs and gradually changes people. Our youngest daughter is approaching her final year of medical studies and she used to be just a normal person, but she has now crossed that line into a different view of the world and I will share with you a message. I “whatsapped” her last Friday as usual, just the standard greeting, “Hope the week has been good” and she replied “Yes it’s been fun. I saw some awfully strange urine today. Hope you’ve had a good week xx”. !!
Within medicine there is a breadth of careers. If you don’t really like people you can do pathology, if you don’t like touching people you can do psychiatry, if you like seeing what’s going on inside then surgery, if you like mechano then its orthopaedics. My own choice was to work with people who have complex disabling neurological conditions. Apart from those I see who have had a mild brain injury, none of my patients will be cured. What we do and as in all medicine it is a team approach, is relieve symptoms and care. We walk alongside individuals on their life’s journey and do running repairs and when a point is reached where repair is no longer possible, we just sit with them so that disease or disability is not experienced alone. In the face of profoundly limiting illnesses or trauma, we see that a person is not merely mind and body, but spirit as well. And at times when it is not possible to fix the body, the mind can be treated and the spirit comforted. Recognition of the spiritual dimension of personhood is not the sole prerogative of Christians. I remember a nurse who I worked with some years ago in Newcastle talking about patients with what is now called a prolonged disorder of consciousness, what used to be called vegetative state, people who have no apparent awareness of their surrounding and no communication, and she said I could not care for these people unless I had an awareness of their spirituality. She connected with them as people beyond mind and body. The insight we are given as Christians, is the knowledge that what we perceive as spirit, is God within each of us. We do not just bring human love and care, we bring Christ into each encounter and that brings hope beyond our imaginations. I would also say that all who care, whether they know it or not, are acting within the love of God. A prayer from the Northumbrian community that I often say as I walk into Raigmore is Lord be in the heart of each to whom I speak and in the mouth of each who speaks unto me.
The greatest healer of all time is, of course ,our Lord Jesus Christ. He cured the lame, the blind, the deaf, those with fever, those who had lost consciousness, but he also cured the erosion of the soul from love of money and power and wealth and despair. His greatest act of healing is in our gospel this morning and it is also his greatest act of sovereignty, of kingship.
King Jesus was crucified at the criminal execution ground, as Graham Kendrick wrote in one of his hymns, Meekness and Majesty; Manhood and Deity … Fathers pure radiance perfect in innocence … suffering to give us life … and as they crucify prays Father forgive. One of Jesus fellow victims of crucifixion mocks him with the crowd, but the other sees through the sacrifice to the Creator of the universe, saying Jesus remember me when you come into your kingdom. What greater act of healing than Jesus’ words, “today you will be with me in paradise”.
Jesus is our Lord, King, Saviour, comforter, healer. He walks life’s journey with us and never abandons us. He has trod life’s path through pain and death ahead of us. As we try and work out which political leader we want to trust we know that all have failings just as we have failings, but we have a King to follow to the end and beyond. A King in whom trust need never fail.
As Christians we are given the power to heal. We can’t all do open heart surgery, but we have all been given hands to care and in a short meditation to close, I invite you to open your heart and mind to what God calls you to in the service of our King:
Place your hands on your lap palms down; look at the skin, perhaps there are wrinkles, signs of the years of work and toil, of wisdom and experience, perhaps the skin is smooth well creamed and cared for, perhaps the skin is dry and broken due to work for others and neglect of self; turn them over palms uppermost; hands that can receive a gift, the gift of the love of God, hands that can give, hands that can touch and hold the pain of others; hands that give friendship, comfort and love; hands that may have held a loved one as they journey into the mystery of death, hands that may have held the mystery of new birth; and think of other hands – the hands that have scars, the nail marks of our King, the marks of love beyond love, beyond understanding. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven by making peace through the blood of his cross, Amen.