All I had to say at the beginning of the church service was, “welcome, the service starts on page 67.” That’s all! Nothing more than seven little words that I had said a hundred times before and in exactly that order. All these years later, I cannot remember what I said. It was probably more like gibberish than actual words. I was devastated. Clearly, to all who know me, perfection has never been a goal of mine. However, neither is flubbing up something so simple in front of such a large congregation.
I wanted to crawl under the altar, wait for everyone to leave and go home. Not to be overly dramatic, but I felt sick. I still had a whole service to complete and a sermon to preach. I stammered through the simple introduction again, finally getting it out on the third try. It was then that I looked up at the congregation and I saw Gerry, a big man, a pillar, perhaps even the pillar of the community. He was looking straight at me with the biggest, happiest grin any man could manage. It was not a look of ridicule, it was the look of love, acceptance, forgiveness. It was exactly the look I needed. Gerry smiled the smile of Christ that day.
The stories of healing in scripture are wonderful: the lame walk – the deaf hear – the dead live. But dig down a little and the healing stories take on deeper significance. The stories in today’s lectionary are a good example (1 Kings 17:17-24 and Luke 7:11-17). Both are stories of sons brought back to life and we are in awe of God’s power. Digging down a bit we see stories of widows in danger of losing their sons and their only source of livelihood and safety.
The healing stories in scripture aren’t just about God’s power, but about love, acceptance and forgiveness. In our healing stories today restoration to fullness for the person being healed and the people who rely on that person is what it’s all about. When we experience this kind of love, acceptance and forgiveness we see the face of Christ.