Friday, June 12, 2009

The Healing Ministry - As If Someone Would Scatter Some Seed on the Ground

Homily for Proper 11, Year B, 2009
Sunday, June 14th, 2009
Preached at the Lay Anointers’ Training Weekend
Manresa Centre, Pickering, ON
The Rev. Daniel F. Graves
Text: Mark 4:26-34

The following homily was preached at the Lay Anointers' Training Weekend on June 14th, 2009. This is a weekend in which lay people come together for training in sacramental healing ministry, offered by members of the Bishop's Committee on Healing (Diocese of Toronto).

“The Kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter some seed on the ground…”
--Mark 4:26

The view that the world has of the healing ministry is one of glamour, sensationalism, and curiosity. If we are to believe the images broadcast by the popular media (and many are indeed hard to believe), it is a ministry characterized by spectacular miracle followed by spectacular miracle. As the line up of those with every sort of affliction approaches the healer we witness the lame rise up and walk, ears of the deaf unstopped, and the blind receiving their sight. Whatever is happening in these televised moments, be it authentic miracles or the manipulation of charlatans, one thing is certain, for those of us involved the day-to-day work of the healing ministry, the continuous parade of miracles broadcast across our screen is anything but what we encounter in our ministries.

There will be those who suggest that if only our faith was greater, if only we used the right words, if only we did this, that or the other thing, we too would see the such miracles in our churches and amongst our people. This way of thinking is plagued by two mistakes, though. First, it places undue emphasis on what we do, and secondly, it assumes that all miracles take a certain shape.

Jesus told his disciples two parables. The first was about a seed that was scattered on the ground and grew as the farmer slept. The process was anything but spectacular and anything but sensational. The farmer simply scattered some seeds and went to bed. Day in and day out the plant, without his aid, began to grow. It grew and it grew and it grew until finally it ripened, producing a bountiful harvest.

As participants in our Lord’s ministry of healing we find that much of what we do is the work of scattering seeds. As someone approaches us and asks for anointing and healing prayer, we offer it freely and without reservation. We scatter the seed of healing and then get out of the way, leaving it to God, the ground of all being, to give the growth and offer His healing touch. This is not to say that we walk away or cease to care, indeed we can and should continue to care for those who seek our prayer and the sacraments of the church. Indeed, the farmer of this story is not uninterested in the growth of the seed, rather he marvels that it grows without his tending, and is humbled and reminded that it is God who is the one doing the work. He marvels that even in his simple act of faithfulness, in scattering the seed, God’s faithfulness produces an abundant harvest in the fullness of God’s time. It is a parable to remind us that it is God that gives the growth and that everything comes in season, not necessarily when we would wish to see it.

In the second parable, Jesus tells us about a mustard seed, the tiniest of seeds that when sown grows up to become the greatest of all shrubs, that even the birds of the air make their nests in its shade. This parable reminds us of the potential in one tiny seed. And yes, the seed we sow as we anoint and pray for another is a tiny seed indeed. We have but a small part in the work of healing, but what God can do with that tiny, planted seed is extraordinary indeed.

Finally, both parables speak to the reality that what is to come is hidden in very small and unassuming packages. This is so true of the healing ministry. We start small, and believe that God will turn what is planted into something grand and glorious not in the blink of an eye but in due season. To the trained eye, one seed can be distinguished from another, but to the average person, a seed, is a seed, is a seed; and certainly compared to the differences in the many varieties of plants that are produced, they all start off a lot alike. Yet, what is common in each seed planted is that it has within it, hidden, the kingdom of God. The healing ministry, at its very essence is a sign of God’s kingdom breaking through. The healing ministry, and every moment and piece of healing granted by our Great Physician points toward the healing of humanity and our reconciliation to a loving God. In every act and process of healing, in every tiny seed of healing, is nursed the healing of the cosmos.

What comes forth from those tiny seeds, what the branches and fruit might look like, is often a mystery. God alone knows how to nurture the seed of healing within us. For some it will be deliverance from physical affliction, for others it will be the coming to peace of a troubled mind or spirit, for others it will be the reconciliation of family and friends, and for some it will be a holy death. But whatever healing God gives, whatever surprising growth he gives to that little seed scattered and sown, in that seed, God’s kingdom is found and bursts forth.

For us as partners in the healing ministry then, let us not be discouraged when we see not the sensational results that we might hope or expect, rather may our Lord and Saviour simply teach us to be faithful sowers of the healing seed of Christ, patient gardener open to surprises, and humble servants who stand in awe of the abundant harvest of our God.

c. 2009 by the Rev. Daniel F. Graves

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