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The Healing

by The Rev. Ross Putnam

Ross Putnam AGLuke 8:44

“She came up behind him and touched the fringe of his garment, and immediately her discharge of blood ceased.”

The Bible tells us the woman who “touched the fringe of (Jesus’) garment” stopped bleeding.  We don’t know if that interaction “healed,” or “cured” her.

Does it make a difference? Chances are she would not have made a distinction.  And perhaps neither would we.  However, Rev. B. J. Beu, co-leading a workshop on the changing church with his wife Rev. Mary Scifres, reminded the group there is a difference.

“Cure,” for the sake of this discussion, contains or at least leans toward the hope that whatever problem faces us can be eliminated.  Generally this has to do with the physical realm.  Who has never prayed or wished for that?

Rev. Beu suggests that in concentrating on cure (the eradication of the causes of war, poverty, hatred, etc) we prevent full access to and understanding of healing, which, he says, is a relationship with the Eternal Holy.  And it occurs at the psychological, spiritual and emotional levels of our being.

Rev Beu says this healing is obtained by pursuing an on-going, developing, deepening relationship with The Holy Other.  A relationship encouraging ever-more involvement in and commitment to applying our raison d’être.  It can be likened to the difference between scattering seeds on the ground and going to the extra time and energy consuming effort of preparing the seedbed.

Working, in spite of obstacles, to prepare and tend the seedbed where good works flourished is what kept Mother Theresa going in.  It gave Rosa Parks the courage to refuse to sit in the back of the bus even though everyone knew discrimination laws would never change.

Still, many of us live by the creed, “God, give me patience and give it to me now!”  We hope our visit to the cradle — this year — will finally shower us with the grace, mercy and peace we convince ourselves we need.  Like Tevya’s impossible plea in “Fiddler on the Roof,” “Lord, who made the lion and the lamb, . . . would it spoil some vast eternal plan, if I were a wealthy man?”  To one extent or another, too many put too much credence to the idea that church in general and Christmas in particular are dispensaries of easy solutions to our woes.  Cures, if you will.

If that describes you, I have just the church.  When I was in seminary, our class visited a church specializing in curing (fixing on the spot) what they believed to be a malady; people having one leg longer than the other.  Maybe only an inch, but enough to put people off kilter, thus preventing a right relationship with God.

The pastor asked for a volunteer.  A classmate who said later his reason was to prove this was a hoax, stepped forward. Sure enough, his shorter leg grew for all to see.  He may have been cured but not healed.  His skepticism remained.  His growth as a Christian was not advanced.

As preposterous as that example may seem, there are many real, cannot-be-denied situations in our lives which we want to be cured. Use any word that fits — fixed, relieved, removed, taken away etc.  When we find ourselves chasing down or demanding an “instant” resolution of an issue ranging from a noisy neighbor to world peace, we do not engage the healing process fully.

This applies to personal and communal lives in the church and world.  “Just get me through the teen years,” we pray.  “Then the kids will be on their own and I won’t have to think about their problems again!”  The implication being that life without this or that responsibility (read ‘burden’) would be more complete and thus more enjoyable.  Our issue(s) would be cured.

There is an alternate path yearning to be trodden.  Moses experienced God calling to him from the burning-but-not-consumed bush.

My interpretation is that the bush represents society and the fire the tumult within.  It suggests God’s Spirit finds itself in the turmoil but neither destroys nor offers magical extinguishing of problems within society.  Rather God spoke to one caught up in the dynamic events if the day (Moses) and invited him to begin a long, difficult journey toward being a community of the people of God began.  And it continues today.

In the Christian Testament, Jesus’ birth did not instantly eradicate the evils of the world. His visitors in Bethlehem went home as challenged by life as ever.  They, like Moses, were invited to stay in the midst of turmoil while beginning their journey toward discipleship.  How many of those who saw the infant Jesus followed through?  We don’t know.  But the gift to move toward deeper discipleship is as fresh today as ever.

Christmas is an invitation to be radically changed and enter a forever-deepening, challenging commitment to follow in Jesus’ foot prints.  It is a gateway to a transformational, sacred relationship.

It may be obvious but we need to be reminded:  Jesus did not wave a magic wand at birth and fix the social construct.  His birth was an invitation for people of every stripe, economic strata, social standing — male and female — to take not just the alternate path but a dramatically different, path.  It is a way of life we are beckoned to follow as well.

Issues press in from all fronts today.  The Christmas story continues to shine a light down a different path; the healing path.  What that path looks like for each of us varies according to where we are on our journey.

Let this be the beginning of a discussion about that calling and community.  It is only in committing to traveling and learning from each other that the healing will continue.

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Rev Ross W Putnam divides his time between support ministries (interim, spiritual direction, pulpit supply, pastoral mentoring), writing, photography and abstract art.  He lives with his wife, Rev Paula Elizabeth, in Newport Beach.

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