Well, I am sure that many of you have have heard of these two places in Europe, Lourdes and Maggiore, that millions of people make pilgrimages to, in the hopes of receiving a miraculous physical healing.
Now, a few years ago, 20 of us from Douglas UCC went to another place of healing miracles. It was a place here in the US in New Mexico, called Chimayó. Chimayó is known as the Lourdes of North America. And when we were there, we saw thousands of crutches, canes, leg braces and wheelchairs that were left behind by people who were healed in Chimayó.
Our group got to go into a little basement area underneath the chapel in Chimayó where there is a hole in the floor. And we got to take home some of the soil from this healing place. The soil there is said to be very sacred, it's said to be a healing soil. So much so that people rub it on their ailments and sometimes even ingested and claimed that they have been cured physically of diseases like cancer.
I share this with you this morning because our gospel reading today for the Sixth Sunday of Easter is about another healing place, the pool of Bethesda. If you go to the Holy Land today, you will not see the pool, it doesn't exist anymore, but you can see the ruins of it. Water is no longer flowing to the pool. But back in Jesus's day, the pool of Bethesda was known as a place of healing water. People came from far and wide to this pool in hopes of being healed. They would sit at one of the five porches around the pool. And as soon as the water was stirred up, the first person in the pool was said to be healed.
It was believed that an angel descended upon the pool just once a day, and stirred up the water. And the first person in after the stirring was healed. Now it's the stirring or “troubling” of the water that we sing about in that beautiful African American spiritual Wade in the Water.
Even though the pool of Bethesda doesn't exist anymore, there are many bodies of water around the world where people make pilgrimages, in order to experience a physical healing in the water. So for example, millions go to the Ganges River in India, or to the Dead Sea in Israel. Or right here in the US, many people go to natural hot springs for healing.
So how do we make sense of this?
I mean, we say here at Douglas UCC not to check your brains at the door when you come to church. So how do we make sense of places like Lourdes and Maggiori, and Chimayó?
Well, we can look at the healing miracles of Jesus, because throughout the Gospels, there are plenty of examples of healing miracles. I loved in our Words of Integration and Guidance this morning that Greg read for us, that we hear in all these healing miracles. Jesus never wants the credit. Not one time. Every time someone is healed in the Gospels, Jesus never takes credit for it.
So for example, the woman who touched the hem of His garment, he says, “Go Daughter, your faith has made you well.” To the blind man who was healed, He says, “Your belief has made you whole.” To the Centaurian who seeks healing for his daughter, Jesus said, “Your belief has made it so.” He never says, ‘Go I have healed you.’ ‘Go my power has made you whole.’
No, it's your faith, your belief that made you whole, that made you well. Jesus was a remarkable teacher. That's why his students called him Rabbi. That's what it means – teacher – and he wanted to teach to us, that we could do everything he did.
Read the Bible. His exact words are, “All of the things that I have done you can do.” And then he added, “these things, and greater.”
Jesus was trying to teach us that we have within us this power, this power to heal our lives and our world.
Now, a few years ago, I talked with you all about a woman whose name was Louise Hay. She passed away a few years ago. She wrote one of the best-selling books of all time, You Can Heal Your Life. It is one of the very first books to establish the Mind-Body-Spirit connection. And we believe that the mind, body and spirit are all connected.
And so Louise Hay believed that if there was a disease of the body, then it must have its root in your thoughts and in your beliefs and in your emotions, since they're all connected. So she said, that disease which she spells in the book with a hyphen, dis-ease, is caused by things like worry and stress and fear, by negative thinking and emotions. And if we want to heal the body, we need to heal those thoughts and emotions, because everything's connected, Mind-Body-Spirit.
Now, modern medical science has come around to not only believing this, but proving it and promoting it – the power of positive thinking when it comes to physical healing. Thoughts held in mind produce after their kind. Thoughts held in mind produce after their kind.
So for example, many of you are familiar with the placebo effect. Doctors give patients a fake pill. It's just a sugar pill. It's not real, but they don't tell the patient that. And in so many of those cases, patients do experience healing. Even though the pill is fake. That's not about the pill. It's about the belief in healing.
Now, please don't get me wrong, we are not dismissing Western medicine. We are so grateful to be living at a time of so many great medical discoveries and breakthroughs that are helping people live long lives. But those discoveries happened because doctors and scientists had the power of the mind, the power of belief, where other people see the impossible, they see the possible. And they were able to make these breakthroughs, these healings happen.
So we too, have the same power. But we've got to get out of this limited thinking. You know, that's why the man at the pool at Bethesda was going every single year for 38 years. He had a very limited belief. When Jesus talked to him, he's like, “Yeah, well, I can't really get in the pool. Nobody will carry me there. And then when I tried to get there, someone else is always in front of me.”
And how many people do we know have that limited thinking, about lack and limitation in their lives? Oh, I'm too old. I don't have enough. You know, that limited thinking. We need to break free from that. To tap into that power within us, that power of God.
In Jesus's other miracles, the ones that don't have to do with physical healing, notice they are about lack and limitation. People would come to him and say, ‘We don't have enough wine for the wedding.’ That was his first miracle, remember. They say ‘We don't have enough food. We don't have enough fish and bread to feed all the people.’ When they said, ‘Our boat is sinking, a storm is coming, we're gonna sink.’ Lack, fear. Jesus was able to turn water into wine, to multiply the loaves and the fish, and to calm the seas. Because he didn't see lack, limitation, and fear.
He saw the truth. And again, he said that we could do it too.
Now I know, I hear people say all the time to me, ‘Pastor Sal, you know, my mother, she was a woman of great faith, she had positive thinking, and yet she's still died of cancer. So what you're saying isn't true.’ Well, your mother may have died, yes, she may not have been physically cured.
But you know, there is a difference between curing and healing. To cure means to return to our previous state of being. To heal means to experience a new state of being. In the Gospels, yes, there are people who are physically cured. But there are many others who are spiritually healed. So my answer would be your mother may not have been physically cured of cancer. But that does not mean that she did not experience healing, that healing didn't take place.
Jesus says in the scripture that we have been given the power to heal our lives. Most of us though, don't believe that. We really don't. Now Albert Einstein, a man who believed that science and spirituality go hand in hand, that they're not mutually exclusive. He said, “There are only two ways of living your life. One is as if everything is a miracle, and one is as if nothing is a miracle.”
You get to choose. It's the power of your thinking. You get to choose. You can look at life as if nothing is a miracle. Or as if everything is a miracle. When you begin to see life, in that way, you realize that you're the miracle.
Now, our Friendship Hall, back in 2015, it was renovated, and the renovations were due in a large part to a very generous donation from Pam Pearson, in memory of her husband, Joe. And we have a plaque to Joe in the Friendship Hall. And on it is a quote, it's something that Joe would often say to people when he was saying goodbye to them, Joe would say, “Now go and make that miracle happen.”
I love that.
And Pam, every time I see that, I'm reminded of that in my own life. Go and make that miracle happen.
We can be miracle workers. Jesus wanted us to know there can be miracles when we believe.
And so my friends, on the Sixth Sunday of Easter, in this time of new growth and new life, let us go forth on this day, to see miracles and to be miracles. For all of us are called to be miracle workers, to heal our lives, and to heal this world.
Rev. Salvatore Sapienza
Words of Integration & Guidance
By Richard Mekdeci
Jesus never took credit for any of the healing miracles depicted in the Bible. The woman who touched the hem of Jesus’ garment was healed without his intervention. He told her, “Daughter, your belief has made you whole.” In another miracle, Jesus tells a similar thing to a blind man who is healed: “Go, for your faith has made you well.” And, in today’s gospel reading, Jesus asks the man at the pool of Bethesda: “Do you want to be made well?”- indicating that the man had to take part in his own healing. Similarly, the centurion who asked for his daughter to be healed was told, “Let it be done to you according to your belief.” In our current understanding of the nature of God, our relationship with God, and our own nature, we see that healing is not given to us by any outside power or entity. Healing is brought forth or “revealed” according to one’s belief. How does one acquire faith powerful enough to heal oneself? For healing to occur, we need only have the same faith in our own divine nature that we would have placed in Jesus himself. Jesus said, “These and greater things YOU can do.” He knew his job was not to heal but to inspire healing by his example. The healing miracles in the Bible are possible to anyone who has the same faith in themselves to heal as those in the Bible stories had in Jesus to heal them. We are not made whole by some mystical outside power, but by the power of our own belief.
What did you think?