Sunday, December 30, 2007

Healing Sunday

Today was Healing Sunday at All Saints Church. In some ways EVERY Sunday is a Healing Sunday at All Saints Church, as we always offer the laying on of hands and prayers for healing in the side chapels during communion.
But on this Sunday, the last Sunday of December, we pray together a Litany for Healing and the whole congregation is invited forward as we pray for God's healing grace to touch, heal, transform and empower in body, soul, mind and spirit.
It is always profoundly moving and maybe even more so today, as layered onto the hope and healing and prayers and petitions voiced in the Sunday morning service was the echo of the sermon preached the day before by our rector, Ed Bacon.
The occasion was the Memorial Service for a husband, father and parish member who had tragically lost his battle with depression and alcoholism just a week before Christmas. I share some of Ed's words of hope and healing here -- along with prayers of all those who struggle with issues of addiction and recovery. From Ed's sermon:
We have come together this morning in this sacred space to honor and celebrate Jeff'’s life and relationships. And we must honor our calling this hour to distinguish the transitory from the eternal all the while acknowledging the extraordinary within the mundane, the sacramental, and the remarkable within the ordinary.

Because we are gathered together and gathered with God in a church, we must note the elephant in the room. Furthermore, because every soul in this room is enveloped and held like a shawl by the love of God – a love, which is undying, unconditional, and victorious over every one of love’s foes, you and I must celebrate that the elephantine reality in the room has already been put in its place. Of course I’m referring to the reality of disease and death.

My own father died of the disease of cancer, which even after medical treatment overtook his lungs, then my father’s stomach, and then his entire body. Marly’s and James’s father died of the disease of alcoholism, which even after treatment overtook his imagination, then his will, and then his entire mind. Because Christianity and other religions have perverted our understanding of addiction by saying that it is a moral choice rather than a medical disease, we must remind ourselves that this disease that took Jeff’s life is “ cunning, baffling, powerful!” (Chapter 5, page 58-60 of the Book, Alcoholics Anonymous)

Whereas the disease of cancer attacks certain organs, alcoholism attacks the mind and the self. Alcoholism attacks one’s own inner genius and keeps its victims from seeing and feeling and experiencing that every moment is full of grace and prevents its victims from allowing all the love that surrounds us every moment of our lives from getting in. Addiction attacks the soul so perniciously that it makes little if any room for letting love in.

But the overwhelming, larger reality this morning is that disease and death have their moments and then they pass, but they are not what is eternal. What lasts – what is eternal – is the power of love and love’s sacraments – the outward and visible and tangible signs of love that are eternal. Love always wins. Love always defeats disease and death. That is the hope we call Easter hope. God is always on the side of Love overcoming disease, hopelessness, isolation, despair, and death.

For those of us in this room there have been times in the past few days that didn’t feel like Christmas. But I want to tell you why it still can feel like Christmas.

My father was a very complicated person. Despite a joyful successful public persona, personally he struggled with an inner sadness and tough emotional battles, but after his death I had a dream about my father and it gave me the confidence with which I say the following words to you: I know that there is life after death. I know that Jeff now lives without disease and death. Love has overcome those impediments to love. Nothing in Jeff’s mind now resists letting deep into his core all the love that surrounds him. It is from Jeff’s position in the Greater Life of Unimpeded Love that he now reaches out to grab our hands asking us to reach out to the hands around us to squeeze them and let others know how much they matter to us.

Because of Jeff's new life of wholeness, you and I can know a future that is full of hope and that can be seen as “all is calm, all is bright.” Amen.


Serenity Prayer
God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time;
enjoying one moment at a time;
accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
that I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
forever in the next. Amen.
Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971)
For Families Torn by Addiction
We pray, O God of hope,
for all familiesfor all families
whose lives are torn and disrupted
by drugs and alcohol.
Enable them to identify the illness.
Strengthen them to seek help.
Bless them with the power of your love,
which imparts transformation and wholeness
to those who trust in your name.
Grant that as they walk this tortured road,
they may journey together
and bound close in the bond of love.
Vienna Cobb Anderson

1 comment:

Jim of L-Town said...

Dear Rev. Russell:

As an alcoholic I know the pain I inflicted on myself, but more importantly on the people around me.
There but for the Grace of God go I. I lift in prayer the grieving family and echo Rev. Bacon's remarks about the tragic disease of alcoholism.
My last drink was in August 1985 and it took years of working in a AA 12-step program, which is religiously based, to heal from my addiction.
It has taken me longer yet to repair the broken relationships that were caused by my alcoholism.
While alcoholism is a disease, and in some cases likely genetic, it can be beaten with willpower, support and prayer.
I will still frequently visit fellowships in my area and share my story and offer support to those trying to free themselves from addictions of many types.
When I lay my head on the pillow tonight I will think of those currently struggling and those who have crossed over and pray for them.
Anyone struggling with addictions of any kind should seek help, and my recommendation based on a very personal journey, is the 12-step AA model.
Holidays are particularly tough on those struggling with addictions as so many others are freely imbiding and enjoying.
Just this Christmas I received a bottle of wine from a friend who should have known better. I laughed it off and gave it to my wife, who does not share my addiction, but does enjoy a taste of the grape.
I urge others to be careful, even with offering communion, (at our church we have several recovering addicts and always offer the bread only option for communion) to those struggling with alcoholism.

A sinner saved by God's Grace.

Jim from Michigan