April 22, 2012 - The Third Sunday of Easter

Healing with the Power of the Spirit
Pam Birrell
Acts 3:12-19: Psalm 4; 1 John 3:1-7; Luke 24:36b-48

"I don't have a nickel to my name, but what I do have, I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk!"

Hallelujah, brother, walk! I tell you, get up and stand on your own two feet! Hallelujah! He walks on his own two feet; he who was lame since birth! Hallelujah!

And the rest of you stand around here astonished! Why are you so surprised? You can see him who was crippled since birth walking and dancing. 

Why do you stare at me as though it is my power that made him walk?? It is the power of God in Jesus Christ who made him to walk and dance, the Jesus that you killed! You no sooner killed the Author of Life than God raised him from the dead—and we're the witnesses. Faith in Jesus' name put this man, whose condition you know so well, on his feet—yes, faith and nothing but faith put this man healed and whole right before your eyes. 

Hallelujah, brothers and sisters, Hallelujah!!

Let’s face it. As proper Episcopalians and as those who value the normal, practical, and scientific mind, if Peter were to show up today he would embarrass us all. We would find ourselves cowering in mortification if he were to start preaching like this from the steps of our church. We might even invoke our No Trespassing sign to drive him off as a nuisance to the public order.

Faith healing—our modern minds hardly know what to do with it. Yet there was a zeal and an experience of the spirit of God alive in Peter’s time that has largely cooled and congealed today under layers of rational and supposedly scientific thinking. We would explain this healing away. We would say that the man’s condition was psychosomatic—all in his head—and that he got over his malingering due to wishful thinking and self-delusion.

And yet, if we allow ourselves to really listen to this story and others like it; we have to begin to question our own rational mind. There was a power moving here; a power that Jesus possessed in abundance, a resurrection power that was alive and loose in the world.

And yet even then, how soon it got silly. How soon this numinous and powerful experience got translated into tricks to get people to “believe”. In the Acts of Peter, dated anywhere from 20-100 years after the Acts of the Apostles, Peter is credited with causing a dog to speak. This apparently not being enough to get the crowd to believe, he set about raising a smoked fish from the dead. He kept the fish alive long enough for the people to feed it, as reported in the Acts of Peter, “seeing this, many followed Peter and believed in the Lord.”

We still think like those surrounding Peter in the 1st century. Human nature hasn’t changed. We look for miracles to prove our faith, whether it be healing the lame or the 21st century equivalent of talking dogs. And if miracles don’t happen we begin to doubt. Why weren’t our prayers answered?? That’s the nature of mind and that’s OK. We just need to remember that we don’t have to believe everything our mind tells us to!

And it does make a kind of sense. It is much, much easier to believe in Jesus as savior and to believe things about him than it is to actually follow him. Even though we are promised that we will do the same works as Jesus and “even greater works” than these (John 14:12), it is still easier to relegate acts of healing to him and the early apostles rather than trusting that they still can happen routinely, or even at all. It is much easier to say the words of the creed than to risk the uncertainty and wild desert lands of the heart where we may encounter insecurity, a vast landscape of feeling beyond our imagining, and perhaps even the death of who we think we are along with our cherished attitudes and petty intolerances. And yet, if we follow this path of the mind alone we also avoid the spirit, that experience of inner aliveness that can be felt by ourselves and transmitted to others in acts of healing and light.

Agnes Sanford , the great Christian healer of the early 20th century describes the experience of the movement of sprit as being as actual and real as the power of cosmic rays or electricity. She says it can be felt as a tingling or heat, or as the power of rushing wind, or seen as fire or light. She bemoans our lack of faith and spiritual perception because we are so caught in the web of mind and thoughts. We fear that if we try to tune in to the power of spirit that we won’t succeed, and begin to doubt our faith. But if we turn on the light switch and it doesn’t work we don’t begin to doubt the power of electricity—we try to find out what’s wrong with the connection. It is the same with our connection to God—if we are not able to experience that connection why do we not look for what might be causing the disconnection?

In my beginning work with energy healing, I know this to be true. I have felt and seen the power of the spirit move to heal things from bruises to chronic suicidality. I have also experienced how quickly the mind can interfere with my connection with healing power, either through doubting and analyzing, or taking over to try to manipulate this power for its own ends. This power works only through love. Peter is right. I know that whatever healing I have done is through me, not by me. 

My experience has led me to think deeply about what healing actually is, and what and who is healed in the experience of healing. It is clear that healing is not raising smoked fish from the dead or talking dogs. And it is much beyond the simple idea of getting over an illness. True healing is from the heart and comes about through a kind of grace. It can happen anytime, and in any place. It may come about simply with a smile from a stranger, the breeze blowing through the trees, the song of a bird — some reminder of our connectedness and wholeness — the beauty of Life just as it is at this moment for us. 

Healing is an experience of wholeness, of meaning, of deep resonance with all being, even in the face of death. It is an aliveness that the thinking mind cannot grasp but can only be experienced throughout the heart and the body. True healing embraces suffering as well as joy and excludes nothing. In fact, if we are cut off from suffering, we will stunt our capacity to feel for ourselves and for others.

Healing is connection—or perhaps the experience of connection—since nothing can separate us from the love of God except our own small mind that holds to its small vision of separateness. Healing is open to us if we are willing to let ourselves go into the wholeness of the spirit of God.

There are many gift of the spirit—wisdom, prophecy, faith, discernment and others, along with the gift of healing. We are not all be called to be healers, but we are all called to be open to the power of spirit—to change our lives and move us in the unexpected direction of joy and resurrection.

On this celebration of Earth day, let us pray for healing—healing of the earth and all its denizens, healing or our communities, and healing of ourselves so that we each can spread the resurrection energy given to us by Christ Jesus. And let us be open to healing energy in whatever form it takes without closing the doors of the mind.

And one thing we can know for sure. It is not different now than it was in Peter’s time. The healing power of spirit and resurrection is alive and well in our time and infuses our world just as it did his. Our connection to it is alive as well, if we have the courage and the humility to follow our hearts into the consuming power of love to heal and make whole. We can say with conviction, 

Alleluia! Christ is Risen!
The Lord is Risen indeed! Alleluia!