John 5:1-9 (People have come to Jerusalem for a big religious festival, and it's Sabbath -- a time just to rest and thankfully enjoy the sacred space and time together. At a sacred pool in the city, noted for its occasional healing power, Jesus encounters a man lame for 38 years and without anyone to help him get to the pool at the times of healing. So Jesus helps him find healing.)
Acts 16:6-13, 16-26 (Paul, already a rebel -- what today would be called an innovative leader, feels called to respond to a sense of need in Macedonia -- Macedonia??? -- and what comes of this adventuresome, open-ended journey, is a) a wonderful new community of faith in the gospel of Christ and the kingdom of God on Earth, and b) jail time and a legal warning for upsetting the city and the power of some of its established citizens.)
Preaching again -- after two weeks not. I hope the congregation feels as good about this as I do.
Two stories of healing. How can we not like them? Who doesn't love a healing story?
But the healings of Jesus and his followers are so different from "healing" that we know. These healings create immediate upset and civic disturbance -- and more than "the power to heal," this upset to the way things are seems to be the point of the stories.
For us, healing is usually individual and personal. A matter of "returning to normal" or "recovering health." And often it happens quietly and easily -- with medication; by patient process (no pun intended); and in a controlled, antiseptic, isolated environment. There's a certain "smoothness" and sanitariness to our experience and hope of healing.
In these stories, though, healing is anything but smooth, sanitary and peaceful. It happens against the rules. Upsets systems of power and relationship. Changes the whole game. Because of who is healed and set free, and how, and to what effect, people are honestly divided about whether what Jesus and his followers are doing is good or bad for their world, and whether they support it or not.
If there is good news here, it seems to be for those (including me, when I'm honest) whose "normal" involves being caught in prisons or brokenness -- big or small, of their own or others' design -- and needing a way out.
At the very least, it makes me ready to expand my understanding of what God's will to heal us (and others) involves, and how it may be seen at work in the world today.