Honoring the Nestorian Christians

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Woman at the Well: The First Evangelist?

Woman of Samaria at the Well: The First Evangelist? (John 4:5-42)
A story is told of three men who died and went to heaven. God was in a good mood and so he thought of giving each of them a chance to return to earth in any form they would like to be. So the first man said, “Lord, I want to go back just as I am except that I would be ten times smarter.” So God made him return to earth as a man but ten times smarter.” The next one said, “Lord, I want to be better than the first guy, so make me a hundred times smarter.” So God made him return to earth as a man but a hundred times smarter. The third one said, “Lord, I want to be the best. Make me a thousand times smarter.” The Lord thought for a while and then he made the third guy return to earth---as a Woman!

Today’s reading is about a smart woman whom Jesus encountered at the well. She was a Samaritan woman, meaning she was a mixed race, not a full-blooded Jew. In those days, the Samaritans were a segment of the population called Gentiles, despised by the Jews. The Jews, including the disciples of Jesus, would not like to be associated with the Samaritans and it was unbecoming of Jesus as a rabbi or teacher to be conversing with a Samaritan. But there must be something in the woman, which caught the attention of Jesus. It was the smartness of the woman. She was a good conversationalist. Let us examine the topics of their discussion:
The first topic they talked about was social ethics. How ethical or how appropriate was it for Jesus as a rabbi to ask the woman of Samaria for water? The Samaritans were called by the Jews as dogs and the woman, even a Jewish woman, was a considered second class citizen. To be a Samaritan woman would therefore be worse than a dog. So the woman asked Jesus, “Sir, how is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?”

Jesus responded by saying, “Woman, if you only know the gift of God and who is it that asks you for a drink, he would have given you living water.” Now this was interesting and so the woman replied with the second question, which is about history: “Sir, you have no bucket and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our ancestor, Jacob who gave us this well?”  According to history, the Jewish faith come from the progenitor Abraham and handed down from generation to generation. God has been described as the “God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.” The woman was not only knowledgeable of the history of the Abrahamic faith; she was also expressing that she and the Samaritans are part of that faith. Why? Because Abraham was not only a father of the Jews but the “father of many nations”---both Jews and Gentiles.

That was a discussion close to the heart of Jesus. When Jesus was born, he took on the Jewish culture and was born a Jew. But his bloodline comes from Mary and Mary as the Jewish girl came from the lineage of David and David comes from the lineage of Jesse, and Jesse comes from the lineage of Obed and Obed comes from the linage of Boaz who married Ruth, the Moabite. You remember the story of Ruth and Naomi when Ruth said to Naomi “Entreat me not to leave you; where you go, I will go; where you die, I will die. Your people shall be my people; your God shall be my God.” You remember that it was Naomi, Ruth’s mother in-law who helped Ruth marry Naomi’s cousin, Boaz? In other words, Jesus was not pure Jew because his bloodline can be traced back to the mixed marriage of Boaz and Ruth!. Do you get the special interest of Jesus here? It was this woman from Samaria, unconsciously, who was reminding Jesus where he comes from. She was reminding Jesus of his true cultural identity! Just like Moses who first thought that he was an Egyptian prince when actually he was a son of a Hebrew slave; so here was Jesus coming to the consciousness that he was a not a pure Jew. While at first he thought he was called to save only the lost tribes of Israel, now he is being challenged to think that he was actually called to be savior of the whole world---Jews and Gentiles alike!

At this point, the curiosity of the woman about the living water intensified so she asked Jesus where to get this living water and Jesus replied, “Go call your husband and come back.” We seem to think that the woman began to flirt with Jesus here when she said, “I have no husband” but Jesus said, “You are right to say that you have no husband, because you have had five husbands, and the one you are now living with, is not your husband.” So Jesus knew the reputation of this woman. Not only that she was a Samaritan; she also was promiscuous and had a bad reputation. But Jesus was not judgmental. Rather, the teaching moment moved to a higher consciousness when the woman said, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain but you (Jews), say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem.”
What followed was the most profound, the most important teaching of Jesus about the presence of God.”Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But I tell you, the hour is coming, and now has come, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. God is spirit and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” 

God cannot be contained in Jerusalem (the City of God for the Jews). God cannot be contained in a mountain (the truth of the animists). God cannot be contained in the temple; God cannot be contained in the church. God is bigger than all of them. “Heaven and highest heaven can not contain thee,” according to Solomon. The spirit of God broods over the whole universe and all nations are like a drop in the bucket. God was not to be a tribal God but a universal God. God cannot be contained in one religion alone; God cannot be put in a box---and if our hearts are not big enough for God, then God’s heart is so big enough for all of us. This is the kind of worshipers that God seeks; they who worship God unrestricted by their ideas about God! 

The woman had one final question that makes me believe that she was the first person whom Jesus gave the messianic revelation. The woman said, “I know that the Messiah is coming---and when he comes he will proclaim all things to us” and to this Jesus replied, “The one who is speaking to you is he. I am the Messiah!” What a tremendous privilege. In such a short and fleeting moment, the woman experienced an amazing encounter with the One whom the world had been waiting for, for a long, long time. Amidst the perplexity of the apostles of why Jesus talked with her, the Samaritan hurriedly left and told everyone she met about this wonderful Messiah, the Savior of the world! Jesus saved her for two reasons: one small and one big reasons. The small reason---that she may have eternal life; the bigger reason---she will be a bringer of the message of eternal life to others!

For me, this simple, sinful Samaritan woman, even a woman of ill-repute, became the first Christian evangelist---ahead of St. Peter, ahead of St. James, ahead of St. John, ahead of St. Paul. It is amazing that God is no respecter of persons; no matter how lowly and sinful we are, God can turn us around and use us as a mighty instrument in His gracious hand! The people, whom the woman had witnessed to, would later experience the salvation of Jesus themselves. They said to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know now,  that this Jesus is truly the Savior of the world." 

May we, like the Samaritan woman, be used by God, to bear witness to His Name. Amen.

The Rev. Dr. Winfred B. Vergara, The Episcopal Church of St. Michael & All Angels, Seaford, New York. 3/27/2011. Commnets Below.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Japan-Taiwan: A Human Interest Story

Every adversity brings a new opportunity; every challenge a new victory; every need a new prayer.

The Episcopal Asiamerica Ministry Missioner (Fred Vergara)  in close working relation with the Partnership Officer for Asia and the Pacific (Peter Ng) and the Mission Personnel Officer (David Copley) organized the Prayer Service for Japan last Friday, March 11, 2011 that set-off a chain of similar prayer meetings among our network.

A number of churches, seminaries and dioceses here and abroad have reported doing and will do Prayer Services and Benefit Concerts using our liturgical setting.

Here’s another human interest story: The Episcopal Diocese of El Camino Real (EDECR) received a request from a parishioner in Cambria, California asking for a priest to baptize a “brain dead” baby in Taipei. The child’s family were evacuated from Japan due to the earthquake and tsunami. EDECR sent the request to the EAM Office which we readily forwarded to the Diocese of Taiwan and to the Rev. Diane Wong, who was formerly in Taiwan and now is in Boston.

In a matter of time, we received a letter from Rev. Herbert Baker, priest in charge of the English Congregation of the Good Shepherd Parish in Taipei and it says, “Dear Fred; I and (Rev.) Lily Chang, our rector, visited the Carter family this afternoon at Taipei University Children’s Hospital. Baby Karina Carter has received baptism. We offered prayers of blessing for Karina and her sister, Baby Emma, who is hospitalized also for tests to insure that she is not at risk from the still unknown condition that has afflicted Karina…We will continue to provide pastoral care to the Carters and their infants during their time in Taipei. Thank you for notifying us of their need.”

Marybeth Powell, editor of The Kings’s Highway, diocesan newsletter of EDECR wrote in reply: “We. in the Diocese of El Camino Real are grateful for your help and for the worldwide community that so readily responds to a family’s need for their infant daughter. I sit here with tears of gratitude for this gift given to the family and their babies… It is stunning!”

Please join me in fervently praying for a healing “miracle” for Baby Karina and her twin sister, Baby Emma. Let us also continue to pray for God’s divine intervention and mercy for Japan, especially as they are still stuggling to contain and eliminate the danger of radiation from the destroyed nuclear reactors. Pray for wisdom, skill and eneergy for their workers and for those who are still engaged in rescue and recovery efforts.

Please also continue to pray for Christ Church, New Zealand and other disaster areas (including the Middle East) .

I thank the EAM Network for the way in which our prayer chain connects us all with the suffering and hope of people in the world

March 27 at 4:00 P.M. - HOLY CHILD EPISCOPAL CHURCH, 5038 HYLAND AVENUE, SAN JOSE, CA 95127  Contact: Rev. Ruth Casipit-Paguio at email: ruthcasipit_paguio@yahoo.com

April 2 at 7:00 P.M. - A Benefit Concert for Japan by Christ Church Sei Ko Kai (San Francisco) and Holy Child & St Martin's to be held at 777 Southgate Avenue, Daly City, California. Contact: RevLeonardOakes@gmail.com.

April 10 at 7:00 P.M. - Benefit Concert for Japan Tsunami victims at St. Patrick's Episcopal Church, 3241 Brush Drive, Falls Church, VA 22042. Performers include Marcolivia (violin and viola), The Washington Saxophone Quartet, Burnett Thomson and friends, classical FX, Hidetaro and Zeyda Suzuki , emma Respini and Sejoon Park. Contact Marico Hiller at marikohiller@gmail.com

Yours truly,
Fred Vergara
Facebook: Fred Vergara

Today's Quote: "Prayer is the website which we set up in order to have a more direct contact with God." - Motivational speaker, Timothy Robbins

Monday, March 21, 2011

Guest Column: Reflections on Japan by Dr. Jim Kodera

(Note: The Episcopal Church Center, through the offices of the Episcopal Asiamerica Ministry (EAM)and the Partnership for Asia and the Pacific held a Prayer Service for Japan last March 18, 2011 in Chapel of Christ the Lord, New York City. The following is a reflection from Dr. James Kodera, President of the EAM Council in another prayer service held in Wellesley College, Wellesley, Massachussetts. More Prayer Services are being planned in other places.) 

Vigil for Japan
16 March 2011
Houghton Memorial Chapel, Wellesley College
Reflections by T. James Kodera

                It is at times such as these that we see ourselves standing before our Maker, no matter what our heritage. There is so much to say, but we find it difficult to put words to our raw feelings inside. Do we have to say everything for us to be heard by our Make, by each other? A Hindu prayer instructs us: “Oh Thou before whom all words recoil.” We can hear each other out without words. Our Maker certainly knows our helplessness, our cries for help, in the silence we keep, in the tears we shed, in the warm embrace we exchange on this day and the days to come. Our Maker hears us, reaches out to us and comforts us in our solitude but especially through the circle we form that shall not be broken.

                It was at this time sixteen years ago in 1995, when I shared with the Wellesley College community what it was like to witness the earthquake of Kobe a day after the city of 1.5 million was reduced to rubble with 6,500 dead. It was the greatest quake since the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923 that claimed 140,000 lives in Tokyo and its vicinity. They were magnitude 6.8 and 7.9, respectively, on the Richter scale. The quake that hit the Tohoku region of Japan last Friday was 9.0. Unlike the other two, the Tohoku Earthquake was followed by the tsunami with tidal waves nearing 30 feet. Once the tsunami got going, we are told it accelerated its speed to one comparable to a jet airplane. That is why it took only six or seven hours for the tsunami to reach the islands of Hawaii. We will not know the final toll of this earthquake. The nuclear power plant in Fukushima Prefecture continues to heat up, leaking radioactive fumes and liquid. The reactors shut themselves off when the ground first shook, as so designed. But the structure was damaged so badly that they could not be cooled. Uranium, which is said to simulate the heat of the sun, supplies inexhaustible energy, but also radiation. After the atomic bomb, so we were told, no plant life would ever return to Hiroshima for a hundred years. But today, as the students who were there in January know, the Peace Park in Hiroshima is covered with grass with trees and flowers. Would this happen to Fukushima? Chernobyl remains uninhabitable since 1986, the worst nuclear disaster to date.

                Kobe is where I grew up in junior and senior high school days. After walking several hours with train tracks twisted like spaghetti and roads turned into raw sewage, I found my parents and grandmother huddled together in a house with no external wall on one side, just like a Hollywood movie set.  And old lady next door was crushed by the heavy roof tiles and died. After a few hours of sleep without water, food or heat, I went to the Ward Office to do volunteer. Because of my height, they promptly put me in charge of telling people at the entrance not to bring any more dead bodies there. My job was to direct them to different make shift facilities where the dead could be properly cremated and buried. I could not return to Wellesley for the start of the spring semester.  The College President encouraged me to stay in Kobe as long as I needed. I finally left Kobe for the airport on the back of a scooter, driven by a friend. Since then, Kobe has been rebuilt with the latest technology, guaranteed to withstand another earthquake 6.8 or worse. 

                Japan is earthquake prone. 20 % of all the earthquakes higher than 6.0 on the Richter Scale have hit Japan. Massive tidal waves are known for their Japanese word, tsunami. This time, the earthquake, the tsunami and the nuclear fiasco are the worst in Japan’s history. The Prime Minister declared that it was the greatest disaster since the World War II. The Emperor of Japan, Akihito, spoke on television yesterday. No emperor of Japan ever spoke on television. It recalled to many the day after Japan’s “unconditional surrender” in August 1945, when Emperor Hirohito spoke on the radio, commending his subjects who had “endured the unendurable” during the War. This time, his son, Akihito said he was “deeply worried “about the ongoing nuclear crisis at several stricken reactors and asked for his subjects to act with compassion “to overcome these difficult times.” He also thanked over 90 nations that had offered to help.

                Natural disasters bring out the best and the worst in human nature. What is particularly moving is that the people of Korea and China, who have legitimate gripes against Japan for its war-time atrocities, were among the first to arrive to help. Endless television coverage has also shown the orderly behavior of the Japanese, even after their loved ones have been washed to the sea or buried in the mud under the rubble, and their houses gone. So far, there has been no instance of looting or fighting. A friend in Tokyo reported that it took four hours to drive eight miles, bumper to bumper. And yet, there was no honking. A Wellesley alumna relayed to me that Diane Sawyer, Wellesley Class of 67, who was in Japan as a television reporter, was offered food by the victims of the earthquake and tsunami. Speechless, she simply wept. Some 50 workers at the nuclear plant have been hailed as heroes. They remain at their work place, trying with all their might to cool down the reactors, minimizing the damage to others, while they were being exposed directly to radioactive materials. After the Great Kanto Earthquake 89 years ago, some Japanese turned against the Koreans living in Japan, accusing them of poisoning the well water. And they went on a rampage, killing the Koreans on the streets. It continued until a police officer told the angry mob to bring a cup of the well water poisoned by the Koreans. In front of everyone, he gulped the water. There was no poison. Japan that once sought to equal the Western nations through military buildup and colonial expansion, have since turned itself into a peaceful nation with technology and trade as tools of international competition. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton remarked two days ago: since Japan is one of the most generous nations in the world in times of need, the United States should do all it can do help Japan. And yet, those in Japan who live far away from the areas affected bought up all the food and supplies “just in case.” Perhaps, the ugliest is what we have seen on some websites in the last couple of days. Some Americans have linked the disasters in Japan to Pearl Harbor. For them, it is “pay back time.” Is it, really?

                A continent and an ocean away, what can we do? What should we do? That is where we find ourselves helpless, speechless, standing in front of our Maker. Be a friend, comfort one another, renew our hope that love conquers hate, hope overcomes despair. Our good will reach across the globe, and touch those who need us.

                Fukushima means the “island of riches.” Today, it is an island isolated and rich with radiation. Tomorrow, it will be an island, rich with affection and hope. Let the circle never be broken.

(The Rev. Dr. Takihiro James Kodera is professor at Wellesley College and President of the Episcopal Asiamerica Ministry Council.- Fred Vergara)

Wednesday, March 16, 2011



In the Aftermath of the recent Earthquake and Tsunami
and the danger of nuclear meltdown

Friday, March 18, 2011 - 4:00 P.M.
The Chapel of the Risen Lord
The Episcopal Church Center
Second Avenue
New York, NY 10017

Opening Hymn # 390: “Praise to the Lord..”
Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, the King of creation!
O my soul, praise him, for he is thy health and salvation!
All ye who hear, now to his temple draw near;
praise him in glad adoration.

Praise to the Lord, who over all things so wondrously reigneth,
shelters thee under his wings, yea, so gently sustaineth!
Hast thou not seen how thy desires ever have been
granted in what he ordaineth?

Praise to the Lord, who doth prosper thy work and defend thee; surely his goodness and mercy here daily attend thee.Ponder anew what the Almighty can do,
if with his love he befriend thee.

Praise to the Lord, who, when tempests their warfare are waging,
who, when the elements madly around thee are raging,
biddeth them cease, turneth their fury to peace,
Whirlwinds and waters assuaging.

Praise to the Lord, who, when darkness of sin is abounding,
who, when the godless do triumph, all virtue confounding,
sheddeth his light, chaseth the horrors of night,
saints with his mercy surrounding.

Praise to the Lord, O let all that is in me adore him!
All that hath life and breath, come now with praises before him; Let the amen sound from his people again,
gladly for all we adore him.

Words: Joachim Neander (1650-1680), 1680
trans. Catherine Winkworth (1827-1878), 1863;.Music: Lobe den Herren (also known as Praxis pietatis) (Stralsung Gesangbuch, 1665)

Welcome & Opening Prayer
Prayer in Japanese

First Reading: Ecclesiastes 3: 1-11
There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens. A time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and time to build, a time to weep and time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing, a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.

What do workers gain from their toil? I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race. He has made everything beautiful in its time, He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. (The Word of the Lord)

People: Thanks be to God.

Psalm 23: “The Lord is My Shepherd”
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want
He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters; he restores my soul. He leads me in right paths for his name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff---they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies, you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord, my whole life long.

2nd Reading: Romans 8:18-25
I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now, and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. For in hope, we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is not seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

Likewise, the Spirit helps us in our weaknesses; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words.
 (The word of the Lord)

People: Thanks be to God.

Sharing: Brief Personal Stories, Newsclips, ERD

Messages from:
The Archbishop of Canterbury
The Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church
The Archbishop of Nippon Sei Ko Kai

Hymn: “Servant Song”
Brother, sister let me serve you; let me be as Christ to you; Pray that I may have the grace to let you be my servant too.

We are pilgrims on a journey, and companions on the road We are here to help each other, walk the mile and bear the load.

I will hold the Christ-light for you, in the nighttime of your fear; I will hold my hand out to you, speak the peace you long to hear.

I will weep when you are weeping; when you laugh I’ll laugh with you; I will share your joy and sorrow till we’ve seen this journey through.

When we sing to God in heaven, we shall find such harmony, Born of all we’ve known together in Christ’s love and agony.

Brother, sister, let me serve you, let me be as Christ to you Pray that I may have the grace to let you be my servant too.

(Maranatha Music; Scripture in Song, c. 1986)

LEADER: Let us name before God those for whom we offer our prayers (Prayer needs or names of people, places and events will be announced)

LEADER: God of our Faith, you made the world and everything in it; you formed us in your own image and given us the breath of life;
PEOPLE: We praise and thank you, Lord.

L: God of our Hope, you come that we may have life and have it more abundantly; your will for us is health, healing and salvation;
P: We praise and thank you, Lord.

L: God of Love, you make our bodies the temple of your Holy Spirit; in you we live and move and have our being;
PEOPLE: We praise and thank you, Lord.

L: Merciful God, pour out your compassion upon the people of Japan who suffer from the devastation brought about by the recent earthquake and tsunami. Grant your healing grace to all who are sick, injured, or disabled, that they will be made whole;
P: Hear us, O Lord of life.

L: Grant to all who died the hope of eternal rest and enable those who mourn the comfort of your loving embrace;
P: Hear us, O Lord of life.

L: Enable those who are anxious, fearful or in trouble, the knowledge of your will, awareness of your presence and the comfort of your word;
P: Hear us, O Lord of life.

L: Mend broken relationships and restore those in emotional distress to soundness of mind and calmness of spirit;
P: Hear us, O Lord of life.

L: Bless the rescuers, physicians, nurses, and all others who minister to the suffering, granting them wisdom and skill, energy and strength; sympathy and patience;
P: Hear us, O Lord of life.

L: Bless the efforts of the Japanese government and the global community to find ways and means to contain and eliminate any further damage or danger to people, land, air and sea and supply them with specials skills and know-how in safety and security.
P: Hear us, O Lord of life.

L: Restore to wholeness whatever is broken in our humanity, in our lives, in our nations, and in the world and give us peace that surpasses human understanding;
P: Hear us O Lord of life.

L: Lord, You are the God who does wonders.
P: You have declared your power among the peoples.

L: With you, O Lord, is the wellness of life and in your light, we see light.
P: Hear us, O Lord of life; heal us and make us whole.

L: Everlasting God, you have given us grace to pray with one heart and one voice, and you have promised that where two or three are gathered in prayer, you are in their midst; fulfill now, we pray, the longings of your people. Heal the land and people of Japan, rescue those who are in danger and restore the wholeness of your creation. Amen.

Silence  As Japanese flute music is being played

Words of Blessing

Closing Hymn #680 “O God Our Help in Ages Past”
O God, our help in ages past, our hope for years to come; Be thou our guide while life shall last, and our eternal home.

Under the shadow of thy throne, still may we dwell secure; sufficient is thine arm alone, and our defense is sure.

Before the hills in order stood, or earth received her frame; from everlasting, thou art God, to endless years the same.

A thousand ages in thy sight, are like an evening gone
Short as the watch that ends the night, before the rising sun.

Time like an ever rolling stream, bears all who breathe away; they fly forgotten as a dream, dies at the opening day.

O God our help in ages past our hope for years to come
Be thou our guide till life shall last and our eternal home.

Clergy and Lay Ministers Assisting in the Service
Rev. Dr. Fred Vergara              The Rev. David Copley
Mr. Peter Ng                            Mr. John Colon
Mr. Samuel Cheung                Mr. Shoji Mizumoto
Ms. Kumiko Buller                  Ms. Kyoko Toyama

The Episcopal Asiamerica Ministry and Partnership for Asia and the Pacific of the Episcopal Church Center wish to thank you all for your presence.

To donate to Japan relief and to support the work of Nippon Sei Ko Kai, please send your check to Episcopal Relief and Development  (ER&D) for “Japan Earthquake Response Fund” and send to ER&D, The Episcopal Church Center,
815 Second Avenue
, New York, NY 10017.

Candles are provided for those who wish to light one for your loved ones.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Scary footage: Tsunami waves raging, buildings burn after 8.9 Japan eart...


Monday, March 7, 2011

HEALING 101.1: What is the Healing Ministry?

Healing Service Within the Episcopal Church Liturgy: Healing is one of the most practical aspects of congregational ministry. In a parish, the first thing I would do is to organize a “Pastoral Team” who will minister to people who need healing. After the Eucharist, I invite those with needs to come and be prayed for with laying on of hands. Those who come may also ask prayers for their loved ones who are sick.
I would pray from the Book of Common Prayer: “N., I lay my hands upon you in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, beseeching our Lord Jesus Christ to sustain you with his presence, to drive away all sickness of body and spirit, and give you that victory of life and peace which will enable you to serve him both now and evermore. Amen” (BCP, p.456).
I would also dip my thumb in the holy oil and make a sign of the cross on the forehead of the person and say, “N., I anoint you with oil in the Name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.’
Sometimes I would compose my own prayer such as:” Heavenly Father, in the name of Jesus Christ, your Son and by the power of the Holy Spirit, give this person, (N.) the healing of mind, body and spirit and enable him to live the fullness of life in this world and in the world to come, life everlasting. Amen.” The team members serve as prayer support and may also lead in prayer.
This series of teaching will help your team know more about Christian healing and how this ministry can enhance your church life.

Personal Testimony
I discovered my gift of healing in 1978 during my first year as parish priest of the Philippine Independent Church in Dagupan City, Philippines. A month after my first mass, the church treasurer, who operated a boarding house for college students, asked me to pray for one of the students who fell from the ladder and dislocated her joints. She was poor and could not afford to go to the hospital and so they believed that prayer could heal her. I laid hands on her forehead and anointed her with holy oil. The following day, she came to the church to give thanks, offering us with rice cakes that she cooked. She was completely healed! The word spread around, and although I did not really pursue healing as my priority, I was always being called to pray for the sick.

The other experience I remember was about a large family who claimed that they were cursed, “bewitched” or bothered by ghosts. I was requested to investigate the matter and learned that the house they were staying used to be an illegal abortion clinic. They claimed that they would hear babies crying from the concrete walls. A number of them got sick and the doctor could not diagnose their illnesses. I conducted a Requiem Mass and prayed for the eternal repose of the dead. After that memorial service, one by one, the family members got healed. The ministry of healing helped in the revival and growth of that parish.

What is Divine Healing?

Divine healing is God’s gift and work of restoring, often supernaturally, the wholeness, health and holiness of man’s body, mind and spirit. The resources from Scriptures, Tradition and Reason/Experience (often called the “three legged stool” of faith-understanding among Episcopalians), suggest as God is Trinity, the human being is also “trinity.” 1 Thessalonians 5:23 says, “May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

We are spirit, mind and body. Our body (soma) is the seat of our senses: seeing, hearing, feeling, tasting and smelling. Our mind (psyche) is the seat of our thoughts, our wills and decisions. Our spirit (pneuma) is the seat of our conscience, insight, sensitivity, creativity. A healthy person is therefore one who enjoys wholeness of spirit, mind and body.

As disease (dis-ease) is a separation, a disruption or rupture of this holistic relationship, so healing is the restoration of this wholeness. It is interesting to note that in the Episcopal Church catechism, the mission of the Church is “to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ” (BCP, p. 855). As Episcopal Christians, we are therefore called to be healers.

Health is the absence of ruptured relationship in this trinity of body, mind and spirit.  I believe that in healing prayer, the Holy Spirit first touches our spirit, which then communicates healing to our minds which begin to transmit the knowledge so that our body will respond. Harmonious relationship in our whole being is health and salvation.

3. Biblical Basis of Healing Ministry

Probably the most prominent self-introductions of God in the Old Testament is that He is  Jehovah Rapha, “the God who heals” (Exodus 15:28). In the New Testament, Jesus was also introduced as one who “went about Galilee preaching the kingdom of God, healing the sick and delivering people from demonic oppression” (Matthew 4:23; Luke 13:52 ; Matt 11:4).

The healing ministry of Jesus was apportioned to his twelve disciples who were commanded to heal the sick. (Luke 9:12) and who reported many signs and wonders. Later this delegated authority was also given to “the 70 others” who were empowered to heal the sick (Luke 10:9) even as they proclaimed that the kingdom has come near.

The gift of healing was promised to all believers who follow Jesus (Mark 16:18) and believed in His name. The early Church, born in Pentecost (Acts 2) and empowered by the Holy Spirit, generally practiced the gift and ministry of healing. The ministry of healing was a normative and prominent feature of the early missionary movement. The apostles Peter had a tremendous healing power to the extent that people would bring the sick into the streets and laid them on beds and mats “so that at least Peter’s shadow might fall on them as he passed by” (Acts 5:15). Philip preached in Samaria and exorcised many evil spirits and healed many cripples and paralytics (Acts 8:5).

In many instances, healing leads to transformation. The Christian persecutor, Saul, was one of those who stood by when the apostle Stephen was being stoned to death. He was on his way to Damascus to hunt for more Christians, when he was struck by lightning and became blind. It was after his healing that he was changed. From Saul, the ruthless persecutor of Christians, he became Paul, the Christian missionary par excellence (Acts 9:11 – 18). Many healings were attributed to his prayer as well.

Today, healing ministry (and such other ministry of “signs, wonders and miracles”) is still relevant. Despite the tremendous advances of medicine, science and technology, there are still so many who undergo intolerable suffering, sickness and pain. Many physicians believe in the power of prayer to assist the medical profession. Sometime ago a team of professionals from Stanford University Hospital conducted a study and found empirical data that those patients who are praying and have people praying for them had more incidences of speedy recovery than those who had none.

The Bible claims that “Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). Despite the many changes in the world, I believe that God never changes. God’s love, faithfulness and compassion remain forever.

I also believe that in every time and age, God continues to apportion spiritual gifts to the Church, the Body of Christ, through the Holy Spirit. And I believe that if we need it and ask for it, the gift of healing can be ours as well.  “These signs will accompany those who believe: In My name they will drive out demons…they will lay their hands on the sick and they will be healed” (Mark 16:17-18).

The Healing Ministry can help your church grow as you minister to the needs of the world around you.