Summary: Funeral sermon for Melvia Jean Harrison, victim of interstitial lung disease.
“Bless the Lord ... who heals all your diseases.” What an
astounding claim! What an extravagant promise! The Lord
heals all your diseases. Not some of them, not most of
them, but all of them. Do we believe that? Do we think that
Then, if the Lord heals all our diseases, what about Melvia
Harrison’s disease? Why did not the Lord deal with
interstitial lung disease? Can we who knew and loved Melvia
Harrison bless a Lord who heals all diseases, but who
missed this one?
True, we have gathered today not so much to wrestle with
theological questions as to say farewell. We have come
together not for a seminar in logic or a short course in
theology, but we are here to hear good news and to be
assured of eternal life. Our minds are not set for dealing with
unanswerable questions today. Nevertheless, the issue
lingers: can the Lord heal all our diseases? Melvia Harrison
believed it and prayed for it. Some of you sat with her in her
living room, as did I, and prayed with her toward that. “All
your diseases” – is it empty promise, claiming too much; or is
it a precious reality we have not understood? “All your
diseases” – is it breezy salesmanship from the Lord, like the
used car salesman who promises that his wares will run
forever? Or is it something more profoundly true than we
have ever thought? We deserve to know. And Melvia’s
memory is best honored by discovering the “allness” of all!
The Psalmist seems very committed to “allness”: “All that is
within me, bless his holy name .. do not forget all his benefits
.. who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases.”
Is there truly good news in this “all” business?
I first came to know Melvia Harrison as more than someone
sitting in our pews when I visited with her as she was
considering membership in this church. She had been here
on several occasions, and I had noticed her. She was not
hard to miss, with the breathing tubes and oxygen tank. I
wanted to respond to her interest in our church, and I wanted
to know more about her health concern.
I found out that Melvia Jean Harrison was a great deal more
than a sick person. She was not going to be defined by her
disease. She was going to be vastly more than a person
whose options were limited by illness. She was going to be
far more than someone struggling for the breath of life.
Melvia Harrison did not define herself as nothing more than a
suffering patient; she saw herself as one who was being
healed and becoming whole. In our visit, Melvia told me
about her disease only because I pressed her for
information. But she was far more interested in talking about
other things. She was clear that I was there to meet Melvia
Jean Harrison, the whole person, and not just Melvia the
bearer of breathing tubes!
Does that give us a clue about the God who is presumed to
heal all our diseases? Listen to the way the Psalmist points
to the allness of God.
“Bless the Lord, O my soul, and do not forget all his benefits
– who forgives all your iniquity.” God’s desire for us to be
whole begins with His intention to deal with all of our spiritual
sickness. God forgives all our iniquity; God deals first with
our spiritual disease.
I trust that no one will think me guilty of lack of respect if I
speak of Mrs. Harrison as in need of forgiveness, because all
of us are in need of forgiveness. The Bible says that “all
have sinned and come short of the glory of God”. There’s
that “all” word again. There are no exceptions. All have
sinned, all need forgiveness. But hear the good news: the
Lord forgives all our iniquities.
Melvia Harrison found that. Her heart yearned for a profound
and life-changing encounter with the living God. Like more
than a hundred members of this church, Melvia worked
through a discipleship course called, “Experiencing God”.
This course forces anyone who participates to examine his
own heart, to scrutinize motives, and, above all, the
“Experiencing God” course focuses on obedience – knowing
and then actually doing the will of God for your life. Melvia
worked through “Experiencing God” and there renewed her
confidence that God had dealt with her, not just out here on
the surface, but down at the very core of who she was. God
had dealt with the issue of sin.
If God is going to heal all our diseases, He must begin with
all our iniquities. He must begin with our spiritual selves.
Nothing else really happens until that is done. So today we