“Worship Heals” is the title of an interesting article I came across the other day. My initial reaction was, “Of course it does!” But then I remembered those times when worship has set me on edge, or made me uncomfortable in one way or another.
Often this has happened when I was in a situation with which I was unfamiliar, but it can even happen when I think I know that I am “safe” – familiar music, known participants, and so on. Of course, sometimes God reaches me in such circumstances to ask me to question what I’m doing, what I’m thinking, what I’m hoping to accomplish. In other words, challenges and discomforts can help to clarify what my relationship with God and my sisters and brothers is, and bring me to a closer understanding of what it is that would be most helpful to nourish and develop these relationships.
All of which is to say that I shouldn’t prejudge any situation, thus ruling out the possibility of growth on my part, because not only might I be prevented from discovering new ways of conversing with God and others, but I may also be inhibiting God and others from conversing with me. It may be that the healing I need will come from allowing myself to be reminded that I don’t have a corner on the best ways to do things, that what might make me feel really satisfied may not be helpful to others.
But in order to allow worship to “heal,” I – and others – have to ensure that no one is threatened by what happens. Sanctuary, a holy safe space, is what can be most conducive to a life of worship. We each have our own gifts from God and they should be allowed to flourish for the sake of all. Sometimes things can seem controlling. The article I read referred to situations where one person was seen to subjugate and overwhelm another, to “imprison” another and prevent that person from being able to function freely for the good of the individual as well as the community. The article asks how we can move beyond those actions, those words, those thoughts which can make us judgmental and adversarial. The writer offered the thought that “The act of worship casts us forward into our future before the throne of God. We become, if only for a moment, what we will one day be” – healed, wholly, by God.
“It is only in the act of worship that the ‘tongue’ of the other becomes comprehensible, because in the deepest place of worship, the language barrier is broken. We are transported, for a time, to a place where the barriers do not exist.” 1
One final thought, prompted by the article’s title: we’re blessed in The Episcopal Church by liturgies centered around healing. We have both formal and informal opportunities to intercede with God on behalf of ourselves and others. This may be done quietly by ourselves as part of our regular devotional life, or it may be done more formally when a person may be anointed with healing oil and prayers said on behalf of that person or another for whom concern is expressed. In either circumstance, we are reminded that the will of God is health and salvation, and that our physical, mental, emotional and spiritual well-being are all important to God. We should not hesitate, therefore, to bring to God our concerns about our wholeness, and the wholeness of all of creation.
On the first Friday of every month we celebrate with a healing liturgy in which we ask God’s blessing on our own lives and the lives of our families and friends and then we come to the Altar to receive blessing in the Eucharist. And after we have received Communion at the Sunday celebrations of the Eucharist we may ask for anointing and prayer for healing by remaining at or returning to the altar rail. Additionally, when you ask for a pastoral visit at your home or in the Church office, you may also ask for prayer and anointing for healing.
When we gather together to worship as a Community of Jesus’ Friends – whether the worship be formal or informal – we often discover then, and in the most surprising places and ways, that worship is a powerful means through which God seeks to heal, to renew and to revive us.
If you have any thoughts about this which you’d like to share with me, please let me know!