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License to Heal
by Rev. Frank Schaefer
Matthew 9:35-10:8 (9-23)

"Then Jesus summoned his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to cure every disease and every sickness."

Whenever we hear someone yelling: "Is there a doctor in the house?" we immediately realize that there may be a medical emergency: someone is facing a life-threatening medical condition, someone needs help--now!

Well, I imagine in Jesusís mind calling for people who would minister was just as urgent. He said: "the harvest is plenty, but the laborers are few. Pray for more laborers." Why? Because this world is dying--people all around us have serious conditions--and they need healing--right now!

And looking around, he points at his disciples and says: "you go and be healers!" And he continued: "go and deliver people from mental diseases, physical, yes . . . and all kinds of bodily ailments, including , but not limited to cancer, AIDS, and heart conditions. Heal them all--I give you authority to do it."

I imagine the disciples turned around to see who on earth he was talking to, until they realized he was talking to them.

"What do you mean, Jesus, we canít heal people, weíre not Messiahs, we donít even have a nursing degree or anything like that. What do you mean: go and heal people?"

And what do you mean we have the authority? No we donít. Well, maybe Peter or John could do it. They seem to be pretty much with it, they seem to be natural leaders.

You see, Godís idea of authority--who has it and who doesnít--is quite different from what we think. In our minds, there is always a ladder of authority. From top reaching down to the bottom. And we even apply this ladder principle to the spiritual leaders in our congregation. Some desperate preacher submitted a great illustration to this point this week. The ladder of authority in the local church:

Pastor: Leaps tall buildings in a single bound, is more powerful than a locomotive, faster than a speeding bullet, walks on water, gives policy to God.

Sunday School Superintendent: Leaps short buildings in a single bound, is more powerful than a shunting engine, just as fast as a speeding bullet, walks on water if the sea is calm, talks with God.

Lay Leader: Leaps short buildings with a running start and favorable winds, is almost as powerful as a shunting engine, is just a little slower than a speeding bullet, walks on water in an indoor swimming pool, talks with God if special request is approved.

Organist: Barely clears a prefabricated hut, loses tug of war with a locomotive, can fire a speeding bullet, swims well, is occasionally addressed by God

Board chair: Makes marks on the wall when trying to clear tall buildings, says "Look at the choo-choo," wets himself with a water pistol, can stay afloat with a life jacket, mumbles to himself.

Secretary: Lifts buildings and walks under them, kicks locomotives off the tracks, catches speeding bullets in teeth and eats them, freezes water with a glance . . . She is God.

What this humorous piece and Jesusís message have in common is the surprising fact that when it comes to spiritual authority, we cannot view it in terms of a corporate ladder. It is given to us all. All of us have received freely Godís grace and forgiveness of our sins, we have been made new creations in Christ, and we all have received the Holy Spirit. Martin Luther made the phrase: "priesthood of all believers" prominent. Empowered by the Holy Spirit all of us are like priests unto God.

All of us have what it takes to be a healer in our community, our neighborhood, and in our families. "Freely we have received" says the well-known hymn, and now we are called to "freely give."

Jesus says it like this in our lesson: "Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. You received without payment; give without payment."

You may ask: " Well, donít Corinthians and Ephesians among others suggest that there are different gifts for different believers?" And the answer is: yes. Within the body of Christ, there are different gifts and graces. Some are called to be a full time preachers, some are called to be missionaries, some have special gifts of discernment, evangelization, counseling . . . . all of us compliment each other.

But when we are out in the field of harvest, which is our every-day life--Jesus says to us: "go and be healers--all of you!" The Spirit of God will empower you as you need it.

A neighbor may share with you: "Iím at the end of my rope. I donít even want to live another day . . . my ex-husband is suing me for custody, I am three months behind with my bills, my kids cry themselves to sleep every night. . ."

And you may sit down with your neighbor and the Holy Spirit will guide your thoughts, and you will hear incredible words come out of your mouth--words of life, of hope, of encouragement. And as you touch this woman and pray for her, tears may run down her cheek and next she is thanking you for the words of life you have shared with her. And youíll think: "this wasnít me talking. This was God talking through me!"

Jesus says to his disciples: "you donít need schooling, you donít need a special gift, you donít need to wait until youíre worthy, until you are perfected in this life. I am giving you a license --a license to heal! Go to my lost sheep and heal them. Give freely as you have received freely. And I will be with you every step on the way. Trust me . . . just go--youíll see."

And the disciples came back and reported to Jesus: "wow!! God healed the people we prayed over ...and even demons were under our authority. And Jesus probably thought: "I told you, didnít I?"

And Jesus says to you and me: "I give you a license to heal . . .freely you have received, freely give. Go to my lost sheep . . . and heal them. And I will be with you every step of the way. Trust me . . . just go--youíll see." Amen!