Friday, July 31, 2009

Healing Services

On Sunday, I served as Healing Service Assistant. I thought maybe I'd hold the oil while the ordained minister did the rest. I felt a bit of panic when I discovered that no, the 3 lay people assisting the minister would lay hands on people and anoint them with oil, while saying, "Receive this oil as a sign of love and forgiveness in our Lord, Jesus Christ."

My first thought is what always races through my mind: "I'm not ordained! I'm not worthy!" Then I remind myself that I'm a Lutheran, and we embrace Luther's concept of a priesthood of all believers. It's not like our ministers go to some kind of Hogwarts-like school where they learn to harness the power of God for human ends. I'm not sure why my brain always reverts to that default mode, when I know that I've had a more rigorous theological training than many ministers (some of whom have read a shockingly small amount of theology).

My next thought was, "But I'm not healed myself! How can I heal others?" Again, I had to laugh. It's not about me, is it? It's about God, and reminding people of God's power. I offer them a visible sign (words and oil), but I have no more power than that. The power comes from God.

I've been thinking of my own recent experiences being on the healing side of the healing service. During my youth, I attended fairly high-church congregations, people who didn't even like to shake hands during the passing of the peace, much less go into territories that border the charismatic, like a healing service. My current church, however, does a healing service on the last Sunday of most months. Last summer, after some trouble with the church I was attending (church council feuds, the realization that I wanted something so different than that church could be), I came to my current church during one of their healing services, and I went up to be anointed. I found myself dissolving into tears, yet after that service, I was able to let go of the hurt and anger at my old church situation.

This past spring was a time of tough belt-tightening at work, and I felt much despair. I walked the labyrinth, I prayed, I embraced that Lenten period of desert time. But I didn't come to any peace with work until I went to several healing services, including one at my current church and one at Synod Assembly. And now my mood seems to have shifted a bit.

With each example, I wonder if my mood shifted because of the healing service? As spring moved into summer, did my mood shift because we managed to avoid the worst calamities at work? Did my mood shift because I tend to be a hopeful optimist and my mood tends to reset to that setting?

I'm unsure, but I'm grateful for the release from my numbing despair. I'm mindful that tough times at work may return, that institutions may disappoint me, and I'm grateful to have been shown some tools for dealing with that.

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