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6 OT B ~ "The God of Mending" ~ Susan McGurgan, D.Min.


One of the names of God is

Jehovah-Rapha.

The word “rapha” is typically translated

“heal”

meaning, “The God who Heals.”

But, the heart of this word means

“to mend, repair, or restore” something.

 

Healings in scripture are much more than stories

about a person on his or her luckiest day.

They are also compass points,

mile markers,

notches in the tree trunks along the path,

laser pointers,

marking and illuminating

the ways and places the God of Mending,

the God of Repairs,

the God of Restoration breaks into our world.

 

There are dozens of powerful healing stories

in the New Testament

in which people on their luckiest day

encounter Jehovah-Rapha.

Bent-over women stand up.

Leprous skin becomes fresh and whole.

Fevered women arise.

Demons plunge over a cliff.    

Bodies exit the tomb.

 

And yet,

despite these miraculous stories of

mending, repairing, restoring,

we know that Jesus was unable to heal

everyone.

And we know that each person Jesus healed;  

each person brought back from the dead,

each person restored to health and wholeness,   

Eventually died.

 

All healing this side of eternity

is temporary and partial.

 

So, the healing stories,

like the one we encounter today,

must be primarily about Jesus

and who He is.

 

They are encounters with the living God.

Encounters that offer a small glimpse of heaven.

Encounters pointing to

the richness and abundance of the Kingdom.

Encounters that shout the Good News

that the God of Mending is with us;

the God of Repair shares our pain;

the God of Restoration longs for us

to become whole.  

 

Jehovah-Rapha breaks into human life

and human conditions,

shattering bonds,

removing barriers,

unlocking chains

and setting captives free.  

 

But these healing stories are more.

Much more.

They go far beyond the issues of wellness,

healing, abundance, and glimpses of new life.  

 

Healing stories are also provocative,

even subversive at times.  

They usually place Jesus directly into the

margins of society,  

face-to-face with people and places and situations

that challenge and disrupt business as usual.

 

His healings,

like this one today,

raise difficult—

even dangerous questions of shame,

Prejudice,

Purity laws,

Boundaries,

Sin,

Resource allocations,

Power structures.

 

Serious illness does more  

than wound our bodies—

it cuts deep into our souls.   

Chronic and acute pain  

can sever relationships and poison love.

Disease can weaken us,

even as it constructs barriers,

erodes finances,   

generates fear and anxiety.

 

Illness has a long reach.

Its grasp extends far beyond the patient,

taking up residence with family and community.  

It can generate disruptive memories

and troubled conditions that linger

long after physical health is restored.

 

Jesus, the embodiment of Jehovah-Rapha,

wasn’t as interested in curing disease

as he was in mending,

restoring,

repairing lives to wholeness,

and constructing and sustaining

communities of wellness.   

 

These healing stories remind us

that there are public consequences to illness

and public blessings in wellness.  

 

His healing ministry took direct aim

at issues that isolate us from each other,

in issues that poison love and fracture relationships.

Issues such as prejudice,

racial hatred,

purity laws,

inequity,  

indifference,

poverty,

toxic leadership,

mis-use of power.

 

Jesus healed people

that society rejected as worthless.  

He touched people

that the world labeled as unclean.

He spoke to people

that others shunned.

He walked those lonely paths

that lead directly to the borders.

He stepped into the margins

and brought healing

into dangerous and forgotten corners

where the demons of broken lives flourish.  

 

These healing stories invite us to consider:

Which leprous bodies are visible in our world?

Whose cries do we hear?

What boundaries do we dare to cross?

Who in our world

receives medical and pastoral care?

Who is refused?

Cast aside?

Left behind?  

 

Like Jesus,

we cannot heal everyone.

But that doesn’t mean healing is unimportant.

We cannot focus so narrowly

on the next world,

that we ignore the needs

embedded in this world.

 

God became incarnate.

God took on flesh, and bone, and sinew;

God became weight and color and form.  

 

God became embodied.

 

And because of this,  

our bodies matter.

They have value.

Like our spirit and our sparks of creativity—

Like our joy

and hope

and faith,

our bodies connect us to God

and reveal a glimpse of the divine.

 

Healing stories invite us

to bring an embodied faith

into the world--

to imitate the healing ministry of Jesus

by valuing wholeness and restoration.

 

Healing stories invite us to see that

individual suffering affects the community.  

That the illness of one body

affects the whole Body of Christ.

 

In the end,

healing stories are almost always

sending-out-on-mission stories.

They often conclude with the leper,

the demon possessed,

the newly sighted,

the standing upright person  

evangelizing,

witnessing,

proclaiming a new story.

 

Their witness reminds us that

the blessing that comes with healing and restoration

is not a personal privilege,  

it is rocket fuel,

launching us back into the community

to share the Good News that Jehovah-Rapha,

the God of Mending,

continues to break into our world.

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