Scripture Passage: James 5:13-20
James, the fifth chapter, starting with the 13th verse. In case my doctor’s watching, I’m going to be brief. Are any among you suffering? They should pray. Are any cheerful, they should sing songs of praise. Are any among you sick. They should call for the elders of the church and have them pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord. That’s what we’re going to do later on. The prayer of faith will save the sick and the Lord will rise. Raise them up. And anyone who has committed sins will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous is powerful and effective. Elijah was a human being like us, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain. And for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again in the heaven, gave rain, and the earth yielded its harvest. My brothers and sisters, if anyone among you wanders from the faith and is brought back by another, you should know that whoever brings back a sinner from wandering will save the sinners soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins. Friends, this is the word of God for the people of God. Thanks be to God. Amen.
Yeah. Thirty-five years ago, now it has to be. There was an evangelist going through Louisiana and he was hitting the smaller churches because the bigger churches knew better. And he would promise the churches that his revival would consist of an explanation of the book, of the revelation and what would happen in the end of time. And that to end it all, he would on the last night of the revival after his preach do a miracle healing service so that if anybody had any kind of ailments, they could come to church, and he would lay hands on them. And since he had the gift of healing, they would be healed. He was going to be at the Algiers Methodist Church over on the West Bank, and my friend J. Roddy Taylor called me and said, Doug, you want to go with me to Algiers tonight? I’m going to the healing service. So, Taylor, I don’t think so. You let me know how it turns out. Because what I knew that the healing evangelist didn’t know is that that week J. Roddy Taylor had broken his wrist and he was in a cast.
I couldn’t wait to hear the story. I said Taylor called me in the morning and tell me how your healing goes. So, the next morning, Taylor called me and said, I want to take you to lunch. I said, just tell me over the phone. Now I take you to lunch. OK, so go to lunch. Taylor, what happened? Well, he preached an incomprehensible sermon on the book of the Revelation. And then somehow, he got into the notion of healing, and he invited anybody that wanted to be healed to come to the altar of the church. And indeed, some people came, and he started at the far end of the altar in the Algiers Church, has a rounded kind of altar. And he started at the far end of the altar. He lay, he would whisper, and there would be a lot of whisper and lay hands on him, and he would have him stand up. And this is Sister Smith. And she was suffering from hypertension. And I laid hands on her. And she’s been healed of her high blood pressure. She’s good to go. And this is Brother Smith. And he has rheumatism. And I’ve laid hands on him and I’ve healed him of his rheumatism. Brother Smith, raise your arm. Show him that you’ve been healed.
So, he went kept going down the road and he was healing people. And they all had internal things that nobody could see. And J. Roddy said, I was at the altar with my arm, my arms like this, just waiting to be prayed over. I was the last one. And he got to me. And I said, what did you do, Taylor? He said, I slipped my coat back like this, and he saw the cast turned and walk the other way. He wouldn’t lay hands on you, Taylor, he wouldn’t try to heal your broken arms. No, wouldn’t heal the broken arm, because you could see that.
Oh. The church has had this ritual of healing and wholeness in our books for thousands of years, and we’ve used it effectively. But some people have violated our trust and God’s trust by claiming they had divine gifts that perhaps they did not have. Now, I believe that God heals, and I believe God heals miraculously. Just some stories for you to think about this morning as we get ready to do this. Jesus is in Capernaum. He’s been there while he’s in a house and it’s reported that he’s there.
Many gather around him and there’s no longer room for them even in front of the door. He was speaking the word to them, and some people came bringing to him a paralyzed man carried by four of them. And they could not bring him to Jesus because of the crowd. And because they couldn’t do that, they removed the roof above him. And after they had dug through it, they let down a mat on which the paralytic lay. I’ve always wondered what the homeowner thought of that situation. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, son, your sins are forgiven.
Now, some of the scribes were sitting there questioning in their hearts, why does this fella speak in this way? It’s blasphemy. Who can forgive sins but God alone? And once Jesus perceived in his spirit what they were discussing and said to them, why do you raise such questions in your hearts? Which is easier to say to the paralytic? Your sins are forgiven. Or to say, stand up, take up your mat and walk. But so that you may know the son of man has authority on earth to forgive sins. He said to the paralytic, I say to you, stand up, take up your mat and go home. And he stood up and immediately took up the mat and went out before all of them. The man has healed. And then the faith is found in the four friends. But Jesus starts by telling the man, I forgive your sins.
We don’t understand that sometimes our emotions lead to illness. Bernie Siegel on the late 80s wrote a series of books. The first one was called Love, Miracle and Medicine, and Siegel was an oncologist at Yale. And Siegel’s hypothesis was that some cancers are the result of unresolved emotional issues. He was, of course, immediately pooh poohed until research has sort of bore him out. Anger. Guilt. Some of those deep-seated issues. Show up physically.
It’s true, this man, what did Jesus say to him first? Your sins are forgiven. What likely had caused his paralysis? His guilt over a sin. So, before we dismiss that completely, we need to understand that we are holistic creatures. That some of that negativity that gets down in you. If you don’t work it out, and you don’t have it relieved and you don’t have it forgiven, will cause psychosomatic expressions. And psychosomatic does not mean you’re making it up, psychosomatic means there is a connection between your brain and your soul and your body.
For this man, there was something going on emotionally that caused him to be paralyzed and his friends. Helped bring about healing and so often healing involves a team and involves doctors and nurses and technicians and therapists and your family, who is there loving, supporting you and nurturing you, let them do it.
Second story. From Luke. You got to hear it and visualize it as you’re hearing it, the crowds pressed in on him. The crowds pressed in on him. Some of you don’t remember, but there was a time when they used to sell general admission tickets to rock concerts. And the nearest one to the door got the best seats. Crowds are pushing, pressing in on Jesus. Now, there was a woman who had suffered from hemorrhages for 12 years, and though and though she had spent all she had on physicians, no one could cure her.
She came up behind him and touched the fringe of his clothes and immediately she was healed, and Jesus said, who touched me? And they are sort of looking around, Lord. There are all kinds of people here. What do you mean who touched you? And Jesus said, power went out of me, and the woman confessed to touching him. So, crowds are pressing on Jesus. And the Greek says that she came up behind him and touched the fringe, the hem of his clothes, and immediately her hemorrhage was stopped.
Do you know how she touched the hem? Few years back, we had a seminary professor come talk to us about exegeting scripture and leadership group I was in, and she took us outside and she says, okay, I’m going to help you with your exegetical techniques. And she read to us this passage from Luke about the woman with the hemorrhage. She said, how did she touch the hem of his garment? The crowds are pressing in on him. How did she do it? And we gave ….. and she just every answer we gave, she shook her head and she said, okay, drop to the ground, get on your bellies and crawl. With all the crowds surrounding Jesus, how is she going to touch the hem of his garment? She’s got to get low. She’s got to make her way through the only space there is through their legs and around their legs.
And y’all, that’s how healing happens sometimes. we’ve got to be humble. We’ve got to assume the position of humility. It’s we cling to Jesus. That as much as we want to, a lot of things that happen to us, we can’t heal, and we can’t do anything about.
Last story from the Bible. That. It’s from the Book of Acts, Peter and John are going into the temple. It’s three o’clock in the afternoon and a man lame from birth, lame from birth was being carried in and people would lay him daily at the gate of the temple called Beautiful Gate so that he could ask alms from those entering the temple. And when he saw Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked them for alms, had his hand out. Peter looked intently at him, as did John. And they said, look at us. And he fixed his attention on them, expecting to receive something from them. Peter said, I have no silver or gold, but what I give you, I give you in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth. Stand up and walk.
I loved the description of what happens next. They took him by the right hand, raised him up, and immediately his feet and ankles are made strong, jumping up, jumping up. He stood and began to walk. He entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God. The touch of Jesus Christ continues through the church. Peter and John had the apostolic gift and witness, and they could heal. The book of James tells us that the church still has the healing power of Christ, that we’re invited to participate in that healing power. And in that continuum of healing.
Miss Gertrude was married to Eddie. Gertrude was in her late, mid to late 70s. Addie was a little older. Eddie was not in good health. Eddie needed a lot of care at home, and Eddie could do very little for himself. So Gertrude was the primary caregiver. Gertrude also had a daughter that had some challenges, and Gertrude spent a lot of time caring for the daughter as well. This is back in the good old days when they put you in the hospital, figure out what was wrong with you and then operate on you if you needed it, and they’d put Gertrude in the hospital. She was having all kinds of difficulty and she called me on an afternoon. She said, Preacher, you need to get up here and pray for me. The doctors have just diagnosed me with a double hernia. Then she said, yeah, preacher, it’s the kind you men get hernia. I didn’t know what that meant, but Gertrude was not happy about it. She said, you need to come. You need to anoint me with oil and pray for me because I’ve got to get out of this hospital. I can’t have surgery. I’ve got to take care of Eddie. Get up here, preacher, and bring your oil. Yes, ma’am.
Well, all I had was some 10w30 and knew that wasn’t going to work. So, I grab my oil, got my little jar headed the old Baptist Hospital on Napoleon Avenue in New Orleans. Got there. Gertrude was in a room, and she was just she was not having fellowship with Jesus at that moment. She was not happy. I don’t have time to have a hernia. I don’t have time to have surgery. They don’t understand. I’ve got to take care of Eddie. Preacher, do you believe in the healing power of Jesus Christ? Yes, ma’am, I do. The Bible says he heals. I think he’s still here. I think he still heals us. I brought my oil. I am ready to pray for you. She said, I want you to anoint me in the name of Jesus and pray for my complete divine healing. Yes, ma’am. So, I prayed that prayer of faith that preachers pray for complete divine healing.
Oh, Lord, I’m praying for Gertrude that you completely and divinely healer. If it be thy will. You ever notice how we tack that on to prayers we really believe for if it be thy will? That’s our escape clause. You know, must not have been God’s will. Well, I prayed it and in God’s name, and if it be thy will in Jesus’ name, amen. And then to prove I was a minister who had great faith in what I’d just done, I said, well, Gertrude, what time are they operating on you in the morning? Because I’m going to be here and pray over you. And she looked at me. Oh, she looked at me like, what did you just pray over me about? I’m not going to be here.
And her daughter said, Doug the surgery is scheduled for 7:30.
I said, thank you, I’ll see you in the morning. Gertrude said, I’m not gonna be here. God healed me. Yes, ma’am, Miss Gertrude. So, again, showing my great faith, I got up early the next morning and trudge my way to Baptist Hospital there on Napoleon, which is in the middle, all kinds of New Orleans traffic early in the morning. And I rolled my faith, believing preacher self into Gertrude’s room, and she was not in her room. But her daughter was. Have they already taken her? No, brother, Doug, they haven’t taken her. They’ve taken her down to MRI. They needed another image because a doctor came in this morning, and he couldn’t seem to find the hernia. Really? Really? Really?
And about that time, they rolled Gertrude right past me on the gurney. She looked at me like, what are you doing here? And then she said those words, what are you here for? Said, I’m here to pray for you. She said, you prayed for me yesterday that I’d be healed. And I am healed. And they are sending me home because I don’t have hernias. There’s nothing there. They don’t understand it, Brother Doug. But I know what happened. Now I’m going to go home and take care of Eddie. What are you going to do? I said, I’m going to go home and repent and work on my belief in God because obviously, Gertrude, you had more faith than I did.
The service of healing and wholeness is in the Methodist Book of Worship. So, you don’t have to worry that we’re about to get really weird. But what I’m going to do. I’m going to pray over the oil. It’s right here on the table. I’ll pray a prayer over the oil. I will invite you to come down. You can come down to pray or you can come down to be anointed with the oil and we will pray for you. Now, you don’t have to tell us why you’re here. Matter of fact, you don’t have to say anything, and the prayer we pray is a very simple prayer that we anoint you in the name of the father and the son and the Holy Spirit, and pray for your healing of all illnesses of body, mind, spirit and relationships. Amen. Or something like that. Chris’s prayer will probably be long because he’s reading it out of the book worship.
And after we’ve done that, you can return to your seat, you can come to the altar, you can pray, and you can do that or you can just stay where you are, because the thing I don’t want anybody to feel is uncomfortable. But I want God’s spirit to use you, and use this service to touch you. And this morning, I know I know what Chris is going to do after this service, because he’s already told me, but what happened in the early service is I’m standing there on the side. I’m just anointing people that, you know, there are a couple of people in the church that had cancer. So, they said, please pray for that. And we had specific prayers, and this one fella came up and he snatched my oil from me, and he said, I’m a notorious sinner in this church, but I anoint you in the name of the father and son, the Holy Spirit, and I pray for your healing. I lost it right there. I couldn’t talk for the rest of the worship service.
But it’s about your opportunity to have healing of body, mind, spirit, and relationships.
So, let’s pray.
Oh, God, the giver of health and salvation, we give thanks to you for the gift of oil as your holy apostles anointed many who were sick and healed them. So, pour out your Holy Spirit on us and on this gift that those who in faith and repentance receive this anointing may be made whole.
Through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.