Combined service with Methodists – 30 September 2012
Reading James 5.13-20
Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise. Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.
Elijah was a man just like us. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops.
My brothers, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring him back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins.
Brought up evangelical – monthly communion – choruses – extempore prayer – informal worship. Non-sacramental environment. Thought of anointing sick with oils only for Roman Catholics – extreme unction
St George’s Campden Hill – Anglo-Catholic – genuflecting – incense – exposition of blessed sacrament. Caused some strife – Mary Mason’s funeral – holy water – incense – Shine Jesus Shine.
Here in Cheddington – no tradition – no label – middle-of-the-road. Danger lukewarm – neither one thing nor other – get run over.
I prefer to think – best of each tradition. Baptism – signing with sign of cross in oils. Anointing sick – home communion.
If anyone questioned – point to scripture. James – emphasis on personal responsibility in moral issues. James follows tradition of Deuteronomy – singles out Elijah as example of good man whose prayers were answered because he prayed earnestly. Yet he was just a man like us.
James is certain his prayer leading to healing and anointing with oil done in the name of the Lord. Following example of Jesus himself. Or think of Mark – sending out of disciples on mission. Mark 6:13
12 They went out and preached that people should repent. 13 They drove out many demons and anointed with oil many people who were ill and healed them.
Anointing with olive oil widely used in OT – Leviticus 14 e.g. in relief of leprosy. Anointing if kings – like modern day ordination – set apart to be holy or for a sacred purpose. Other examples you can think of.
2 weeks ago – email. In hospital – finding it hard to write because I haven’t been to church for a while – but I’m in trouble and badly need your prayers. In people’s minds – some sort of link between sickness and wrongdoing. Why has God done this to me and my family?
Job – all about sickness and trouble – whose responsibility? Job’s friends are convinced his misfortune must be result of his sin. It isn’t – but even though unpalatable to modern sensibilities, surprisingly there is an explicit link in James between anointing with oil and forgiveness of sins.
Perhaps we should do healing services in Cheddington? When people come up – stand in line – two members of congregation pray for them – priest anoints both hands with oil – folds hands together in gesture of receiving healing – heal you of all that harms you.
We might be sensitive about charismatic healing – too many perversions and TV evangelists seeking donations to their Toronto-blessing style ministries. James is clear this is not so much a personal charisma, but a community ministry by church members.
He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.
So the sick are not left to pray for themselves, but the community joins in the effort on their behalf. I read an article last week about a young man diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma – a form of cancer. He listed help from his friends that he did not find helpful.
· Some things are meant to be – God’s plan
· Long battle against cancer – as if he fought it
· Berating God in prayer – always happens to nicest people
Best intervention from retired priest – no responsibility to pray for yourself – we are church family – we take on that task for you. Individual faith is commendable – but the plight of the gravely ill should not be made worse by feeling they are alone in their fight.
What then of link between healing and forgiveness? Did Jesus not pronounce forgiveness of sins before he healed? We are not Christ – but his body the church. If someone wanders from the truth says James it’s for us as a group of church members to bring him back. The link is clear – a community of support is to pray for a sick person – and a community of support is to care for those who have gone astray. We bear a mutual responsibility for each other.
The more we retreat into our own homes; the more we communicate only through email and social networking; the less we meet each other face-to-face – harder this becomes, and less effective. I sometimes think it’s harder to ask for help than to offer it. But love for others is essential component in Christian journey. Journey we make together, side by side. Like pilgrimage. We are all involved in each other’s lives, helping each other in our physical and spiritual journeys, and that’s the nub of the text from James.
Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.Amen