Today I am remembering childhood friends Michael and Morris Maguire. They were Roman Catholic and introduced me to the practice of genuflecting as well as introducing me to the idea of holy water when I was 7 years old! Apart from that I had no close contact with the world of Catholicism until a few years ago when I spoke at a meeting for Catholic Charismatics. It was a humbling experience. I am not sure I have ever been in a meeting that seemed more open to the Spirit. It was a genuine joy and inspiration to be with them.
The remembered feeling though was I had stepped inside the Tardis. There was more to this Catholic thing than Michael and Morris’s local chapel in Bishopbriggs. There was a whole church world there that I knew so little about.
In a sense this time of illness has awakened a similar awareness. The world of people struggling with ill health, whose life seems governed by hospital appointments and physical or mental limitations is huge. I remember reading a remark by the Baptist preacher Charles Spurgeon that Sorrow has a large family, well so does illness and weakness.
I don’t think I have ever mentioned Spurgeon and Henri Nouwen in the same blog. Today though as I remembered Spurgeon’s comment I am remembering a phrase from Henri Nouwen; “It is not easy to be unwell.” I find that is a sentence that seems like holy ground to me. In a few words it seems to capture the awareness, the knowing the compassion of God for those who are not well.
I live most of the time in a wider church world that believes in healing that believes in cure. In such a world it is even more difficult to be unwell. It is not I don’t believe in God healing but somehow it is possible to feel like a failure to be ill in a church that believes in healing. If you are in such a church, I hope that you find the balance that I have found in my congregation that makes that difficulty easier: cure and care need to both be present .
I cant remember which of my present favourite writers said this -I think it was Jean Vanier. Whoever it was, they said in one of their books that cure without care can become aggressive and almost violent. I see this in some charismatic congregations. There is no thought about the effects of making an ill person stand for a long time, because that is the way the Spirit must work; folk have to stand to receive ministry. Can the Spirit not work if an ill person sits? I have seen on God TV ministers punching even kicking ill people. Somewhere they have heard of Smith Wigglesworth methodology and presume again that method is power.
Often odd behaviour is explained on the basis of one passage, namely that there was an occasion Jesus made some paste with earth and spittle and rubbed it on the eyes of a blind man. I have heard charismatic preachers defend the most bizarre ways of treating people based on that story. Listen; spittle was felt to have medicinal properties in Jesus day. What Jesus was doing was not odd in the slightest. On the contrary it was a sign that Jesus was offering healing. It was a sign that the blind man himself would have understood and taken great comfort not confusion from.
To those who care about cure, I want to ask a question; do you care about care? Many in this Tardis world of illness and weakness would be greatly blessed and helped if you remembered both when you pray for us and speak to us.
On behalf of those inside the Tardis
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