Bishop Ward uses the story of Jesus healing a woman in Luke 13 to share the Methodist tradition of engaging in healing ministries.
Grace and peace to you in the name of Jesus Christ.
We Methodists have a long and strong heritage of being engaged in healing ministries. This goes all the way back to our founding. John Wesley was fascinated by healing ministry and trained himself so that he could offer “physic,” as it was called in his day, to the poor who had no access to doctors or to public health. He encouraged Methodists to do this wherever they found themselves. He even compiled a book called “Primitive Physic.” He wrote down remedies for all sorts of ailments and his book outsold the Bible on the American frontier.
In the last quadrennium, we have been engaged in healing ministries as we raised over a million dollars for the Imagine No Malaria campaign of our church. As we move into the next quadrennium, we as United Methodist people will focus on healing interventions for children around the world.
The text for next Sunday is one of my favorite healing stories. Jesus is teaching in a synagogue and there is a woman present who has been bent over for 18 years. Jesus says to her, “Stand up” and she stands up straight. The people are amazed. The opposition to Jesus’ ministry begins to pelt him with questions. He has healed her on the Sabbath day and they accuse him of breaking the Sabbath. But Jesus says, “Shall not the God of all mercy offer healing to people at any time.”
This story is a beautiful example of God’s healing grace. It is one of my favorite stories for a number of reasons. Several years ago, on a retreat with a couple of very close friends, on Saturday evening we found ourselves talking about the story of the bent-over woman. We began to talk about how each of us had experienced her story as our own story, in our own lives, in healing which we had sought in relationships, in our spirits, in our bodies, and the way that this story had ministered to us across the years. The next morning in worship, the pastor rose to preach and she said, “I will preach from the text appointed for today. It is Luke 13: 10-17, the story of the woman who was bent over.”
We looked at each other in astonishment, not realizing that the appointed text was the very text we had conversed about as we had dinner the night before. After the service, we said to the preacher, “We cannot believe this convergence. Just last night, we were sharing with one another the powerful impact of this story about our lives and here this morning, you preach on this text.” She smiled a brilliant smile and said, “That is the work of God in your lives.”
May this text work in our lives as we approach it this next Sunday and may we always engage in God’s healing work in our world.