Healing

(Year C St Luke) (Isaiah 35:3–6, Luke 10:1–9)

May the words of my lips and the meditations of
all our hearts be from the all-loving G*d;
Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.

 

So tradition has it that Luke the Evangelist was one of
those Seventy (or Seventy-Two) who were Sent Out,
with the instructions we’ve just heard.

Tradition also has it that he was a physician;
hence his patronage of (among others) physicians & surgeons

How interesting then is the final instruction given to them:
‘cure the sick who are there, and say to them,
“The kingdom of God has come near to you.”’

Now, I’m sure that for almost all of us here,
the field of medicine has always done us
much more good than harm.

But I’m afraid that isn’t always the case.

Although, this is somewhat down to one’s worldview,
so let me share with you what informs mine, regarding this.

 

I wonder how many of us here have heard of
the various models of disability.

Now, I am going to over-simplify.

And please know that I am aware
some of us already know this very well;
bear with me in case some of us don’t.

By and large, the most prominent view regarding disability
has been the Medical Model of Disability.

Broadly, this regards the body — or perhaps mind —
of a disabled person as rather like a machine;
that there are faults, flaws or bugs which require fixing.

Therefore, the way to address disability is to work towards
curing, treating, or otherwise mitigating impairments
so that the person fits more easily into society.

In this, the person without impairments
(as if there is such a thing)
is normal and persons with impairments are not.

 

So what is healing?

I’m writing this half-expecting not to be able to deliver it
in person, in some trepidation of the spectre of the
Great Westcott Plague.

I am very glad to be here with you!

We can and do heal ourselves —
as those who are already ‘over’ the lurgy have.

But in order to heal, we have to be kind to ourselves,
we have to create amenable conditions by resting
and giving our bodies time and energy to heal.

This is one sense of healing.

In what other senses do we use the same word,
sometimes uncritically?

Even in our sermons or prayers?

Are there nuances between treatment, cure and healing?

I wonder how closely we as Christians should understand
healing to connect w the holistic wellness of G*d’s shalom?

(I wonder if that does read back into the text…)

Does Christ offer (and indeed give) a straightforward
medical-type cure to those whom he meets,
or does he offer something more nuanced: shalom?

 

I said I’d share with you models of disability:
the best way to explain the Social Model I have found is
to share this proclamation, by the Union of the Physically
Impaired Against Segregation, in these isles in 1975:

“In our view it is society which disables physically impaired
people. Disability is something imposed on top of our
impairments by the way we are unnecessarily isolated and
excluded from full participation in society.”

If we understand disability more broadly of course,
we could also read: people with mental health issues,
or what we call ‘learning difficulties’.

I have so far found that this is the understanding which
underpins stuff like the Disability Conference I attended
and helped with at St-Martin-in-the-Fields on Saturday.

One of my comrades there, the hymnist, composer,
professor, liturgist and theologian June Boyce-Tillman
pointed out something much more profound than
I could have come up with:

Is the risen Christ’s resurrection body healed?

 

That made me grin broadly.

It’s such a simple thing to have never considered.

We here are a Christmas people, and we have the privilege to
study and ponder G*d’s Incarnation.

G*d took on human nature fully, completely and utterly.

But when Christ was resurrected, did he give all of it up?

 

Having taken on our quirks, our vulnerabilities,
even our impairments, he continued to carry the scars of
his mortal death after his immortal resurrection!

What does that mean for the hallowing of our impairments?

 

We all have vulnerabilities.

(I hope you know this.)

G*d created us.

G*d created our abilities and vulnerabilities, either at the
beginnings of our lives or in our subsequent formation.

I won’t be the only one to have noticed the default
utilitarianism of our culture discourages us from
acknowledging, accepting, admitting and celebrating
our vulnerabilities.

I think I’m right in saying that our society,
and if we’re really honest,
the very depths of our own attitudes
into which we’ve been enculturated,
thinks that ‘the eyes of the blind should be opened,
and the ears of the deaf unstopped;
the lame should leap like a deer,
and the tongue of the speechless sing for joy.’

(By the way, generally, referring to groups of people as
‘the blind’ or what-have-you isn’t great.
It can be a bit dehumanizing.)

Why should someone who can’t see very well want to
‘be cured’ (assuming it’s even possible) when they could be
just as included by, for instance, decent printed materials,
where someone’s bothered to do the research
and follow appropriate guidelines?

 

Thanks to my dyspraxia, I’m fantastically bad at
the process of writing essays.

Do I want or need my brain re-wiring so I can do this
as easily as many of you my comrades?

Would I even be me if I were?

No, I want or need to not be put in the situation where I have
no choice but to write a dozen of them a year.

 

How often do we assume we know what best for someone?

Do we assume we know what is illness
and what is just how someone is?

‘cure the sick who are there, and say to them,
“The kingdom of God has come near to you.”’

NOT:
“you have come near the kingdom of God”

What would we have to do,
how would we have to compromise our own preferences,
our own comforts,
if we realised that all that many people need
in order to ‘be healed’
is for us to make adaptations
(preferably before they are needed);
all they might need is for us to make them not only
welcome to come in, but also able to do so.

 

Remember — in our ministries there will be opportunities —
blessings from G*d — to be a part of
enabling people’s healing, but we
cannot heal without understanding.

 

Dan Barnes-Davies, 17 October 2016
Given at Westcott House Chapel, 18 October 2016

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *