Summary: A sermon about healing in the community of faith.
“Being Human Together”
In Darkness Is My Only Companion: A Christian Response to Mental Illness, the author describes her tortured journey through ten years of extreme depression and bipolar disorder.
Concerning the importance of Christian fellowship while in recovery, she writes, “This is why it is so important to worship in community—to ask your brothers and sisters in Christ to pray for you…
…Sometimes you literally cannot make it on your own, and you need to borrow from the faith of those around you.
Sometimes I cannot even recite the Creed unless I am doing it in the context of worship, along with all the Body of Christ…
…When reciting the Creed, I borrow from the recitation of others.”
Our Scripture Passage for this morning from James is about healing.
And not just plain old healing, it’s about healing in community, in the community of faith.
There really is no such thing as Christianity outside the Church.
And when I say this, I’m not talking about institutions and dogma.
Nor am I talking about 4 walls.
I am talking about brothers and sisters in Christ.
Other human beings who are being human together by trusting, and hoping and believing in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior—and by loving one another, lifting one another up in prayer, listening to one another without judgment, sympathizing with one another—just being there.
And in being together in Jesus’ name—Jesus is with us, the Holy Spirit is with us.
How many of you have ever been so broken, so hurt, so sick, so down that you either did not know what to pray for or you just couldn’t pray?
In Romans Chapter 8 Paul writes a most astonishing thing.
He says that “the Spirit comes to help our weakness.
We don’t know what we should pray, but the Spirit himself pleads our case with unexpressed groans.”
And the Holy Spirit is with us, and works through the community of believers which is the Church.
I remember when I was going through a particularly tough period of time.
It seemed as if everything was crashing down around me, and I didn’t know what to do.
I felt that I was at the end of my rope.
I hadn’t shared my situation with anyone, but the next day I got a call from a fellow church member.
He said, “Ken, the strangest thing happened last night and I just have to tell you about it.
I woke up at about 1 in the morning and felt God calling me to pray for you.
I wanted to roll over and go back to sleep, but the feeling just got stronger and stronger.
God was telling me that you were in trouble and I needed to pray for you right that minute!!!
So I did.”
To say I was blown away is an understatement.
I don’t have to tell you that at about 1 a.m. the answer to my groanings had come, and when my brother was praying for me—through the power and knowledge and love of the Holy Spirit—that is when I was made well or healed.
Prayer is one of those great mysteries.
The world is in pain, groaning as in birth pangs.
And we, as the Church, are to be open to sharing this pain.
And one of the main ways we do this is to surround everything we do in prayer, whether we are happy or sad, suffering or cheerful.
You know, the Psalms are prayers, and they were often used as the natural prayers of Jesus’ earliest followers.
It’s powerful, not to just read the Psalms, but to pray with the Psalms.
And anointing with oil is mentioned in the Psalms.
It’s a very simple act, and yet is a profound and effective sign of God’s longing to heal.
Prayer is mysterious; yet for those who take what James, Jesus’ younger brother, says seriously, they will find it is filled with meaning and power.
Heaven and earth meet when, in the Spirit, we call on the name of the Lord.
And when we are praying we stand with one foot in the place of trouble, sickness and sin and with the other foot in the place of healing, forgiveness and hope.
Prayer is also taking responsibility for the larger world, for our brothers and sisters in Christ.
And sure, there are plenty of times when we are able to articulate our prayers, but there are other times when all we can do is to be still in God’s presence and allow The Holy Spirit to plead on our behalf, with groans too deep for words, and allow the Searcher of Hearts to search and to recognize what it is we need to be praying for.
As the Church, we are called to be a “praying community.”