Keawalaʻi Congregational Church
United Church of Christ (USA)
Week of Prayer for Christian Unity
Sunday, May 20, 2012
The Rev. Kealahou C. Alika
This season of Easter is coming to a close. Like the early disciples we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus knowing that in time he was taken up into heaven and now sits at the right hand of God. (Mark 16:19)
Before leaving the eleven disciples he said to them: “Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole of creation. The one who believes and is baptized will be saved; but the one who does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: by using my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes in their hands, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.” (Mark 16:15-18)
Did Jesus intend that these words were to be directed to the eleven disciples and not others? I have often imagined that given their direct and personal relationship with Jesus, the eleven disciples were empowered to cast out demons, speak in new tongues, pick up snakes, drink deadly substances, and heal the sick.
But did Jesus intend for you and I to be able to do the same? Down through the centuries and even today, there are those who have laid claim to such power.
My mother took my sister, brothers and I to a church where it was a common practice by the pastor and other adults to cast out demons and speak in tongues. Since snakes were and remain illegal in Hawaiʻi, we were never afforded the opportunity to pick them up. Drinking any deadly thing is hardly something my mother would have allowed to occur.
I suppose of all the signs that made sense to me regarding the mark of being a disciple of Jesus Christ, it was the sign of the healing of the sick. That seemed plausible to me especially since the church was located near what was the old community hospital.
Some of you heard that I had a bit of a mishap this week. While walking my dog early Tuesday morning in Wailuku, I was knocked unconscious for about five hours, after becoming entangled in her leash. I saw a neighbor and her dog near Wells Park on our way back home.
It was 6:00 a.m. I was scheduled to board a flight that morning at 7:30 to attend a meeting in Honolulu.
I remember approaching her and her dog and acknowledging one another
and that our dogs had met on a couple of previous occasions. The
last thing I remember is our dogs sniffing each other.
I vaguely remember being told “they” were going to take my dog home. I remember being put in a neck brace. I remember the medical technician telling me that he was going to do a brain scan to determine if there were any internal injuries from my fall.
When I was fully alert I looked at the clock from my hospital bed in room 443 and it said 11:00 a.m. Five hours had gone by.
The doctor came by and said I would need to remain in the hospital overnight for observation because there were signs of some bleeding on my brain. I indicated to her that I could not remember anything after I fell.
The nurse said they would be monitoring my condition every hour until 8:00 p.m. and after that every two hours. I slept well even though I was awakened frequently so that the nurse could check my blood pressure, respiratory rate, and my eyes.
I slept well. I ate all of the food. So some things had not changed.
By the next morning I felt better. No headaches, just a very stiff neck that was the result of falling and hitting the ground.
I know that the prayers of those who were aware of what happened have been helpful to my recovery. I also know that I worried a bit about our service today.
Each year we set aside a service for healing and today is that time. I wondered if it made any sense for me to be here so soon after my mishap.
Then I realized it was my desire more than my doubt that compelled me to say, “Yes. I want to be here.”
I don’t know that I can cast out any demons. I know I do not have the gift of tongues. I am in no way tempted to drink anything deadly and thankful there are no snakes for me to pick up. But I can, we can offer prayers for healing for each other.
I invite you join me in a guided meditation with a blessing to follow.
Close your eyes and notice at this moment where you are seated. Quiet your mind and pay attention to your breathing for a few moments. If you can hear the ocean, let that shape the rhythm of your breathing. When thoughts come into your mind, let them go.
Begin to pray for yourself with the following words: “That all may be well with me. That I might be free from unnecessary suffering.”
Repeat this phrase slowly and with space for paying attention to your breathing and continuing to quiet your mind.
Now begin to pray for a special friend or family member. Let someone close to you come to mind.
Pray a similar pray for them – “that all may be well with (adding the person’s name as you say the prayer). That he or she might be free from unnecessary suffering.” Again, repeat the prayer.
Now think of someone that you’ve only just encountered, such as a person who works in a shop you visited yesterday or someone you met walking on the beach. You probably won’t know their name. Just think of them and repeat the prayer – “that all may be well with (think of the person) him or her. That he or she might be free from unnecessary suffering.”
Now think of someone with whom you are having some difficulty. Bring them to mind and repeat the prayer again – “that all may be well with (the person’s name); that he or she might be free from unnecessary suffering.”
Finally, bring each person – yourself, your good friend, a stranger, and the person with whom you are having some difficulty right now- one by one into the light of God’s love. And as you open your eyes, we invite those of you who wish to come forward for the anointing of oil and the laying on of hands as an affirmation of all of the prayers we have offered this day.
We offer a blessing for strength and light using the koa bowl as a symbol of strength and the kukui oil as a symbol of light.
(Pause for the anointing of oil and the laying on of hands)
Let us pray: We give thanks to you, O God, for the Risen Christ. Through him we are empowered to be in the world. We do not retreat from the world with its pain and suffering. Instead, we are to stay in the world under your protective love and care. We are to live, as disciples of the Risen Christ, amidst the complexities of the world and to offer bring your word of healing to all. He pule kēia ma ka inoa o Iesū Kristo. Amen.