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Thursday, May 22, 2014

The mystery of healing

A Homily at a Public Service of Healing
May 22, 2014 - All Saint's, Rehoboth Beach
(the Rev'd Dr.) Elizabeth Kaeton

Whenever I'm asked to preside at a "Public Service of Healing," I always have the same conversation with myself. It goes something like: "What do you think you're doing? You lay hands on people and anoint them with oil and think you're healing people? How arrogant can you be?"

So, let me explain a little of what I've learned about one aspect of healing in the last 28 years of ordained ministry. I think it has a little something to do with what we read in today's first lesson (Acts 7:55-60) about the stoning of Steven. 

Hang on. I'll be connecting the dots for you before this homily ends.

I have learned that there are three sentences - three words each - nine words total - which can begin the process of healing. 

The first is: "I am sorry."

In order to say this, you have to acknowledge that, even if you didn't intend to, you hurt someone. Or, betrayed them. Or, maybe you don't even know what you did wrong, but you do know that you hurt someone you care about. You are going to have to let go of anger - at yourself and the other person - and the resentment you may be feeling and the need to be right.

That  process of examination begins the healing in you, so that, when you say, 'I am sorry', the other person might actually believe you. And, even if s/he doesn't, the process of healing has begun in you.

The second is: "I forgive you."

In order to say this, you have to acknowledge that you have been hurt and that you have a right to your hurt and your anger. But, if you hold onto that hurt and anger - as they say in 12 Step Programs - it's like eating rat poison and expecting the other person to die. Being able to forgive someone begins the process of healing in you - as well as the other person. 

It's all about repentance and forgiveness. Those are the two key elements to healing.

So, let me give you a bit of a story as an example.

My father was a nice guy. Except when he was drunk. Then, he became mean and abusive, both verbally and physically. I got out of the house as soon as I was old enough to leave. And, I never came back. 

I also spent a lot of years being angry with my father. And then, he got old. And, sick. Very sick. He had dementia and Alzheimer's. A few days before he died, I went to see him in the nursing home where he was staying. 

He would have periods of lucidity and I happened to be there during one of them. We were walking in the hallway when he stopped to look at a painting on the wall. 

I turned to hm and said, "Dad, I just want you to know that I forgive you."

My father looked at me, smiled and said, "Well, good. Because, you know, I forgive you, too."

And I laughed out loud. Because, you know, he was absolutely right!

As much as a disappointment as he was to me, I have no doubt that I was a disappointment to him. I'm quite certain I'm not the daughter he thought I would become when he held me in his arms as a newborn. My life has taken a completely different track than I thought it would.

I can't imagine his surprise. I'm delighted. I'm sure he wasn't. 

So, I looked at my father and I said the third most powerful, three word sentence which begins the process of healing. 

I said, "I love you, Dad."

And, he said, "I love you, too."

And, right there I'm quite sure I heard the heavens open and the Angels applauded and the Cherubim and Seraphim began to sing and Jesus laughed and God grinned. 

That's what happened, I believe, after Stephen was stoned and before he died.

When he pronounced his forgiveness for those who stoned him, he was healed, and so was a certain man in the crowd whose name was Saul. 

But that's another sermon about another form of healing for another time.

Now it's time for us to pray and for me to lay my hands on you and anoint you with oil.

I'm still not sure how the healing will happen. I only know that, if healing does happen for you, repentance and forgiveness and love probably have something to do with it.



Martie Collins said...

It really made me sad to hear about your problems with your father. I also had father issues; we were cheated!

But anyway, about healing services: My church has a healing service about once a month, and I usually "go up." Since I have rheumatoid arthritis, I can usually find something that could use some help, even though my arthritis is "mild to moderate". (One time I even had lice! I was so mortified! I asked the priest not to touch my head and later at coffee hour, when I was sure no one would hear, I explained. Of course, probably having heard a lot worse in his career, he wasn't shocked and was very understanding.) And receiving a blessing does help me -- physically. But what is even more important is that by going up, I am telling myself that I can receive healing and the healing is from God and this affirms not just my belief, but the fact that I believe. I am constantly wondering just how sincere I am and whether I am like all those Pharisees who were convinced they were doing things right.
I'm sure I don't have to tell you that you are doing more good than you know. Thank you.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

I have a blog post in my head about the power of intention as prayer. I think it's absolutely essential.

Thank you, Martie.