Thursday, 21 July 2016
Healing in the city
As part of our summer series; 'God in the City", this Sunday will focus on thinking about where God is in our health care systems. Here is the list of passages that will help get your thinking going on the topic: Rev. 2:1-5, Mark 2:1-12, Psalm 103: 1-5, Luke 6: 17-19, John 5: 1-18.
This morning a man came to our church doors to ask for help. He is a middle aged AISH (assured income for the severely handicapped) recipient who lives with his mother. He is divorced and has two adult sons, one lives on the streets in another city, and one is always far from the city and working on oil rigs. This son sometimes helps out, but is largely unavailable by choice.. The man was diagnosed with diabetes a year ago, and is struggling to develop healthy habits.
He came to the door almost in tears. His first words were something like; "I feel so ashamed to ask for help, but it is so difficult." Over and over he expressed shame and guilt as he apologized for asking for a grocery voucher.
We sat down and talked for awhile. I feel a lot of empathy for this man. My husband was a case worker for AISH about 17 years ago. Even back then, the $800.00 or so dollars was not enough to pay for rent and food, let alone phone bills, transportation, and entertainment. If recipients earned a bit of money on the side, it was clawed back from their AISH. Caseloads were so high, that caseworkers had minimal ability to help clients, people who by definition, could not adequately help themselves. It doesn't sound like anything has improved in 17 years, perhaps it has even gotten more difficult.
I could easily see this man as one of the crowd in Luke 6, pushing to touch Jesus in a quest for healing, except he is not physically able to get to the front of the line. He is more like the paralytic in John 5 who needs help into the healing waters of the Bethsaida pool, but he is terribly reluctant to ask for that. He certainly doesn't have friends, like those in Mark 2, to lower him through a roof and into the presence of a healer. What he does have is ill health, special needs, an elderly mother, broken family relationships, and insufficient money.
The stories of Jesus healing people are wonderful, yet frustrating to me as I search for an understanding of how an individual Christian or a church is supposed to be part of the healing ministry. Jesus healed with a touch, then moved on to the next town. What happened to the healed people? What ongoing help did the former paralytic require to adapt to a new life? Job training? Housing? Community connections? We can't just heal with a touch and move on. Very few healings are instant or complete.
Jesus also did something much bigger than physical healing. He forgives sin, which is a harder thing to do than to heal a body. Jesus said, "Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, "stand up and take your mat and walk?" Mark 2:9
We, in both the singular and plural senses, are called to be a part of the ministry of Jesus. To reach out with physical touch and healing, and with forgiveness to one another. It's not easy. It's not instant. It is important.
I tried to listen compassionately, acknowledging the difficulty the man had in asking for help. I was able to give a grocery voucher to help with his immediate need for food. I prayed for him. He seemed to be less distraught, he was smiling when he left our church. I hope this was a small touch of healing and hope, but it will take more for him to be healed. Maybe I, and the church I represented today, managed to give him a band-aid. What would it be like to offer a more complete healing?
What is our healing ministry in our city? How can it be more than responding to symptoms, but offer complete healing?