Sunday, September 30, 2012

Sermon: Pentecost 18B

It’s the kind of headline that boils your blood. Perhaps you saw it. “Parents Get Probation for the Negligent Homicide Death of the Their Son.”

According to the Huffington Post.

“An Oregon couple whose teenaged son died from a burst appendix because they don't believe in modern medicine accepted a plea deal to avoid jail.

“Last December, Austin Sprout became sick with flu-like symptoms. Instead of taking the 16 year old to a doctor, his mother and stepfather chose to pray for his recovery.

“In exchange to pleading guilty on Tuesday to negligent homicide, ‘faith healers’ Russel and Brandi Bellew will be on probation for five years...”

While we rightly look aghast at such abusive parenting, they might turn around and ask us if we believe the promises of scripture, or do we not? After all, they believed that they were following the bible’s guidance.

And the passage that they were following happens to be our second reading for this morning in the Letter of James:

“...are any among you suffering? They should pray. Are any cheerful? They should sing songs of praise. 14Are 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. 15The prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise them up; and anyone who has committed sins will be forgiven. 16Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective.”

Sounds good doesn’t it? And it is a passage we take seriously because we pray for the sick and the suffering every time we gather. And when I visit people in the hospital, it’s not uncommon for me to take a little jar of olive oil with me so I can anoint the poor soul in the bed. It’s an ancient ritual that began with the people of Israel and adopted by the early church. Olive oil was seen as the lifeblood of society, and therefore a symbol of God’s blessing, and the promise that God will provide all our needs.

But, of course, the fact that I am praying in the hospital - the very heart of modern medicine - puts me at odds with those who would deny the value of doctors and nurses in peoples’ healing.

You’re probably wondering why I’m bringing this up. After all, we’re not a church that denies the power of modern medicine in favour of prayer. I think I’m safe in saying that all of you take your family members to the hospital should they break a bone, come down with a nasty fever, or burst their appendix. At least I HOPE that would be the case...

But I bring this up because...(whole thing here)

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