“I’m taking you to a ‘real’ church! The first words, after a short introduction, uttered by Dot, an energetic 75-year-young woman who felt led by God to provide a room for me during my studies at Duke Divinity School. Before I could set down my suitcase she led me back outside to her car and forcefully exclaimed, “I’ll drive!”
“As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man who had been blind from birth.” (John 9:1)
As we entered the crowded church everyone was exuberantly singing and clapping. We were ushered to the only seats available, on the first row, directly in front of the speakers.
It had only been a few short weeks since leaving the business world to become a preacher and here I was on the front row of a crowded worship service having no idea what was going to happen next. Dot merely smiled and gave me a smile that implied, “Trust me.”
“’Teacher,’ his disciples asked him, ‘why was this man born blind?’ Jesus answered. ‘He was born blind so the power of God could be seen in him.” (2-3)
The music was energetic and easy to sing. I was beginning to relax and enjoy the service. The speaker stressed the importance of individual fasting and prayer. “We cannot be an example for others unless we are willing to practice what we believe!” he said.
Nothing unusual so far, but then —
“Then he (Jesus) spit on the ground, made mud with the saliva and smoothed the mud over the blind man’s eyes. He told him, ‘Go and wash in the pool of Siloam” (Siloam means Sent). So the man went and washed and came back seeing!” (6-7)
The preacher pointed to a young woman and mentioned a recent divorce and how God would help her cope as a single mother. He spoke to a young man about struggles with alcoholism.
Then, the minister looked directly at me and asked me to stand. He told everyone I was a new minister (that much he knew) but then he shared a few personal details about my life he could not have known. He asked everyone to pray for my ministry and let me sit down.
Now I was uncomfortable and my head was spinning. “What just happened? How did he know about me?”
“His neighbors and others who knew him as a blind beggar asked each other, ‘Is this the same man – that beggar? Some said he was and others said, ‘No, but he surely looks like him.’ And the beggar kept saying, ‘I am the same man!’” (8-9)
Then, as if by unspoken command people began slowly moving to the front. The minister approached one woman, gazed into her eyes and mentioned a severe blood disorder. “In the name of Jesus, heal her!” he said.
The woman responded by spreading her arms into the air. She screamed and fell backwards — right into my arms. Two women immediately and gently eased her to the floor. Then they discreetly covered her with a sheet.
“So for the second time they called in the man who had been blind and told him, ‘Give glory to God by telling the truth, because we know Jesus is a sinner.’ The man replied, ‘I don’t know whether he is a sinner but I know this: I was blind and now I can see!’” (24-25)
I left the service that night with more questions than answers.
- Are special healing services necessary for God to respond?
- How did the preacher know so much about me?
- What about people who are not healed?
What does it really mean for a church to be involved in a healing ministry? For years I have struggled with the questions presented by this story.
Next week: Answers.