Two weeks ago, hundreds of delegates, representing various areas of South Korea, visited Pyongyang and the three-day summit meetings were lively broadcasted. It was their third meeting between the two Korean leaders within a year. Unfortunately, none of this was broadcasted in our country but I could watch some video clips from Youtube that was almost live (few minutes after actual scene). There have been lots of breaking news, for example, Kim Jong Un promised the dismantling of leading nuclear and missile sites, a joint military liaison team with South Korea, even he promised to visit Seoul within this year which will be a first-ever trip to Seoul by a North Korean leader. It was not confirmed at that time, but it was hinted that there will be a second summit meeting between Kim and Trump in a near future.
In the midst of a three-day summit in Pyongyang, some delegates visited a children’s hospital. The first lady of North Korea said to the first lady of South Korea that this is not the most advanced hospital and it needs to be improved. And there is another video clip in which a parent of a sick child said she is very thankful because they can come to hospital or visit a doctor any time when they need to without worrying money or insurance. As you know, North Korea has been on economic sanctions for last 70 years and it is a poor country. Yes, there is no medical insurance company or provider in North Korea not because they are poor, but because it is their RIGHT to be treated. In short, they don’t need a medical insurance, because health care is free for everyone.
I am very grateful that I have insurance policy for which our church pay about $17,000 per year. It is a LOT of money! Through my personal experiences, I have so many stories to share on this issue of medicine and health insurance providers. Unfortunately, those are all negative stories. But, I don’t want to share those stories with you today, because they still make me so sad and angry. Besides, you don’t need to hear them, because you already know the story or you might even be the story itself. Instead, I want to share a joke. Yes, sharing jokes is much better, I guess.
Did you hear about the health insurance provider who died and went to heaven? It was glorious. He was enjoying it immensely. After he had been there a week, St. Peter came to visit him and said: “I’m sorry but it’s time to leave.”
The health insurance agent said: “What do you mean it’s time to leave? I’ve only been here a week.” St. Peter shrugged and said, “Well, I’m sorry but your HMO only provides for 7 days.”
In today’s passage, James brings up a subject this morning that is very important and very much a part of the ministry of the Church, though often times it’s neglected. I think it’s neglected in the mainline Churches because certain portions of the Church have taken it over and in some instances made a mockery of it. What I’m talking about, of course, is the healing ministry.
Jesus did basically two things in his ministry: he taught and he healed. And he told us to continue his ministry. The early church took the healing ministry very seriously and became the first Health Maintenance Organization. They gathered to pray and anoint those who were sick and in need.
There are three types of sickness in the world. First, there’s Physical Sickness, that is caused by germs, disease, accidents and, sometimes, age. Second, there’s Mental and Emotional Sickness. (I guess you could separate these two but they are so closely tied together that they appear to be one). It’s absolutely amazing to me what we can do to ourselves through our minds and through our emotions. And then, there’s is Spiritual Sickness.
The point I’m trying to make is simply that there is sickness in the world. That’s why we need physicians, psychologists, psychiatrists and pastors. Each and every one of them adds to the healing process. Don’t get me wrong here, though. I am not saying only physicians, psychologists, psychiatrists or pastors do healing ministry. Not just them, but all of us, I believe, all the followers of Christ are called to be an extension of the healing ministry of Jesus.
As the church, we’re called to be a part of the healing ministry. I don’t believe that we’re called to replace any of medical personals or organizations. Instead we’re called each to do our part. Because, as we all know, these sicknesses are intertwined with each other, mental illness can cause physical sickness. Spiritual sickness can cause the mental and physicals sickness and vice versa. That’s where we come in. You and I, as children of God, have been charged by the Great Physician to spread the Good News that some medicine is absolutely free. I mean, God’s [healing] grace is absolutely free.
Of course, the greatest healing medicines of all are the Cross and the Empty Tomb. The cross offers spiritual healing to everyone who repents, confesses their sin and accepts Jesus as their Savior. And the empty tomb offers the final and ultimate healing of life eternal.
But there’s more to it than that, too. We’re called to be a part of the healing process. James writes: “Are any among you suffering? They should pray. Are any cheerful? They should sing songs of praise.” That’s what our prayer time is all about. We pray for those who are suffering and rejoice with those who are cheerful. James also says: “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 not something we have done very often, is it? I believe we need to be obedient to Christ. I believe we need to recapture an understanding of the healing ministry of the church without turning it into a spectacle or circus atmosphere as some TV evangelists do. And we can do that. We can do it with integrity. We can offer a much needed aspect of ministry for people who feel the need.
As you know, some of us are not doing well physically and some of us have to be a caregiver to their loved ones. I pray for God’s healing grace and sustaining presence every day.
When I visited Millie Miceli a couple of weeks ago, she was mourning for her two close relatives who just passed away. Besides, she was fragile and felt dizziness because of the medicine she was taking. Her physical activity is very limited. She was disappointed because she couldn’t drive for next six months and she couldn’t sing in the choir. She was frustrated with the insurance company because they kept denying coverage for some important tests.
Friends, how would you feel in this situation? What would you do in this condition? It was not a circumstance for which you are grateful. It was obvious that she was sad, disappointed and frustrated, but I have never seen her spirit down. Have you?
I went Millie’s home as a minister to pray with and for her. But, on that day, Millie seemed to be my pastor, (you know why?) because I was so touched by her uplifting spirit. I prayed for Millie, but it was I who was comforted and encouraged. Yes, once again, the role-reversal was happening, for which I am very grateful because sometimes pastors need a pastor as well. I was thankful because I felt the presence of God in her living room.
Last Monday, we had a clergy gathering at our parsonage. We gather once a month to share whatever we want to share about our ministries and our personal lives as well. We lift up our concerns; we celebrate our little victories. No one declare that it is our Covenant Group, but IT IS really a covenant group. I shared that day (that) I experience the Grace and Presence of God when I am with people of God whose spirit is uplifting even though their physical condition is not so great.
This is really important because as the Proverbs says, “One’s spirit sustains him/her in sickness, but a crushed spirit who can bear?” (Proverbs 18:14). It is very true for emotional and spiritual sickness as well. Sometimes, my friends, there are days when I have to repeat it to myself many times to keep my spirit uplifted. I am sure that there are those days for you as well. It’s Proverbs 18:14. Memorize it and don’t let your spirit be crushed. Here’s another verse that I really like: “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” (Proverbs 17:22).
Of course, “A cheerful heart is good medicine,” not just for the person himself/herself, but also those who around the person. Am I right?
The healing ministry is not a ministry that is looking for miracles. Rather, it is a ministry that offers help, care and love. Maybe we cannot offer miracles, but we can offer help, care and love. Please be aware that the scripture does not reserve this healing ministry to a certain favored few. There is no question that some individuals DO have a particular gift, but the ministry is committed to the CHURCH – it is the CHURCH that is the body of Christ, Christ’s arms and legs. Just as in any other area of our work, we are in this together. We are not alone.
The message to us is that we have been empowered for the sake of people. There are needs all around us. There are needs right here in our fellowship. And there is nothing more important among God’s priorities than people. All that we do is to share the healing power of God with human beings so they may be liberated to serve the living God.
Look around you. See the needs. Ask yourself, “What are the needs of this person and what can I do to minister to those needs?” We must first reach out to them in a way that touches their need. We must give them what we have – our time, our friendship, ourselves. As we do, we may ask for physical healing and receive a spiritual or emotional healing.
Almost every time I went to see a person in a hospital, I felt the grace of God. I was there to offer a healing ministry to a person who needed healing. Yet, I was also healed in many ways. So this is my advice. If you want to be healed, do a healing ministry. God will heal you in a mysterious way. One of the main points of James is this: faith must be exercised. Especially if it is to grow, faith must be exercised. May God stretch and increase our faith. And may our faith be a blessing to others. Amen.