Tuesday of this week, Christy and Patti raised a concern during our worship planning time. The second hymn – a hymn about healing – was problematic. Too long, they said. An unfamiliar tune, they said. Difficult to sing and too involved to teach the choir with so many other things going on at rehearsal this week, they said.
What’s your point? I asked. And they responded (appropriately enough, almost in chorus): we need to change the second hymn. So, the three of us began looking. There are six hymns in The United Methodist Hymnal that explicitly relate to healing. The Index to the hymnal suggests twelve hymns on the topic (including the six mentioned before). We went around and around trying to find a suitable hymn that was singable and addressed the theme of the day Sunday.
It has caused me to wonder why this was so difficult. Why are there so few hymns on healing when it was so central to Jesus’ mission and ministry? Why are we hesitant to wade in these waters poetically, prophetically, and pastorally? Is it because of the misuses of “healing ministries” in the past, its co-option by hucksters and frauds? Is it because we don’t understand the nature of it and are afraid to get close to the mystery? Or is it because we live in a post-modern, post-Enlightenment, scientific world that relegates all things “healing” to a medical profession that has a vocabulary, jargon, and way of healing that the complexities of which most of us can neither fathom nor begin to understand?
I don’t have a good answer. I do know that in the gospel of John (John 9), there is a remarkable story of Jesus healing a man born blind. The disciples equate suffering with sin; Jesus changes the conversation to God’s intentions for wholeness. The leaders of the people, the people, and the man’s own family think this has something to do with law; the man begins to understand something about mercy and grace. Everyone think this has to do with sight; Jesus suggests it may have to do with seeing in a very different way.
We’ll talk about all of this on Sunday as we continue our “Going in My Direction?” sermon series in all five services. The sermon will be “Hospital Next Exit” and we’ll reflect together on what healing and wholeness may look like in lives of holiness.
By the way, for those of you who will attend the sanctuary service, we settled on hymn 262, “Heal Me, Hands of Jesus.” Patti will sing the first stanza, the choir the second, and we will all sing stanzas three and four. The third stanza, especially, is a prayer we all can pray:
“Know me, mind of Jesus, and show me all my sin; dispel the memories of guilt and bring me peace within.”
See you Sunday. Grace and peace.