Real Time

Lk. 9:37-43

Some time ago, I attended a luncheon that featured as its speaker a newspaper editor. He spoke about ethics and the media, religion, and the news. During the discussion period, I commented that religion was featured in the news primarily in terms of “event.” Seldom is a person’s faith identity seen as informing the work-a-day world, or the totality of an average person’s life. To make my point, I told the following story.

A parishioner remarked to me that his office was under a lot of strain because one of the key players was seriously ill with cancer and the son of another employee also had cancer. Morale was low. Many were not only concerned but also upset. One Thursday about a month later, my parishioner called and asked if we had a healing service in the church. Several fellow employees had come to him and said that they knew that he was a churchman and they needed to pray as a group. I replied that at our regular 12:10 p.m. Thursday Eucharist we read the prayers for healing, intended either for the recipient or someone whom they hold dear in their heart. These prayers are found in our Book of Common Prayer. We also anoint worshipers with the holy oil of healing. There is no mumbo jumbo, just straight Anglican liturgy. His friends were welcome to come to that service. It is a low-keyed service, attended by ten regulars. Our little chapel seats thirty.

Twenty-five persons came over from my friend’s office. Nearly everyone came forward for prayers of healing and anointing. Almost all took communion.

The point of my story, I remarked, is that religion plays a major part in the lives of those individuals. Yet when I read a newspaper, I get the impression that lives are reported out of the context of a person’s faith. This may be necessary, but it is a false picture. People do pray about hard choices. They even consult their clergy. Yet they are almost always presented as secular individuals.

Our editor-speaker smiled and said, “I happen to know the individuals of whom you speak, and I am aware of the trip to your church. People all over the country have prayed for those two individuals. In one case there is now no trace of cancer and with the other it has gone into remission and has been so for six months.”

It is easy to speak of coincidence. Certainly there is a convergence of modern medicine and faith. Even a little improvement is “a miracle” regardless of how short the time. I cannot help but believe that God’s healing love transcends space and time. If love can heal the heart, can it not sometimes also heal the body? Amen.