"a still more excellent way"

Woodbury, CT

We really enjoyed our day off in the rectory (just visible in the picture), getting clean and rested. Heather finished the last chapter of the novel she's been writing with her mom. And we both spent some time reading a book on healing prayer by Francis MacNutt. I was impressed by how he presented healing as multi-dimensional (physical, emotional, spiritual, relational) and as a complex matter that requires great discernment and patience. It's not just about being bold and having enough faith. There can be many reasons that a person is not immediately healed; this is not a reason for discouragement or guilt. What is then called for is further discernment and continued prayer to find God's will and healing in the situation.

I like that. It makes me more willing to pray for healing for people (such as those who come to retreats) and more interested in learning how prayer can help free people from certain physical, emotional, and spiritual problems that are dominating their lives. I know there are others at Plow Creek who are interested (and experienced) in this as well.

MacNutt wrote well of Jesus' desire for people to be liberated from those things that oppress them, including physical and emotional illness. I wondered, though, if in his focus on healing he overlooked the other forces that oppress and dominate us. For example, a person can be freed from a physical limitation only to run right into the economic and political (social) pressures that just as powerfully dominate the lives of people with no physical disability. In my experience, these forces tend to be even more pervasive and difficult to overcome than disease in our day. Jesus also offers liberation from these forces, as I've written often enough, though it requires not just prayer but also a radical change of life to find freedom.

I also wondered whether a strong focus on healing prayer can lose sight of Jesus' main purpose and message. It's not just about demonstrations of God's power. Jesus even seemed to move away from healings near the end of his ministry, as he turned toward Jerusalem. There, in complete weakness on the cross, he would demonstrate what love really meant. Showing us that full freedom comes through faith, through complete dependence on the love of God, even to the point of death. Healing can also point to this (when it's done as Jesus did). But, as Jesus demonstrated, there are even more clear and powerful ways to encourage full dependence on God. The way of self-sacrificing love.

As Paul wrote at the end of 1 Cor 12: "Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all possess gifts of healing? ...But earnestly desire the higher gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way"—love.

When we left this morning, I mentioned this, and thanked Todd, Sarah, Tom, and Amy (and their parents) for the love they showed us the past two days, taking the risk on two strangers off the street. We were well-cared for and generously provided for, and embraced as friends. We also hope to demonstrate self-sacrificing love out here on the road, to be available for encounters like this last one, to prepare ourselves to have something good to offer the poor in retreats in the future, and to try to be examples of radical trust in God.