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Dr. Jesus
June 9, 1996

MATTHEW 9:9-13, 18-26

Have you heard why Jesus was born in a barn? Joseph and Mary had an HMO! If you are finding HMOs complicated, here are some steps to help you:

Step One: Decide on the diseases you and your family are going to have in the coming year.

Step Two: Identify the best doctors and hospitals for those diseases.

Step Three: Find out what plans all these doctors and hospitals belong to.

Step Four: Select the cheapest plan.

Step Five: If there are no plans with all the doctors and hospitals you want, go back to the beginning and pick some new diseases.

How refreshing to realize we have another doctor to whom we can go without HMOs! Dr. Jesus. Whoever wrote the gospel of Matthew was a teacher who organized his material in sections. He grouped Jesusí teachings together into chapters 5-7, which we now call the Sermon on the Mount. Right after the teachings, he grouped Jesusí healings together in chapters 8-9; thereby acknowledging that healing was a very important part of Jesusí ministry. Dare we believe that Dr. Jesus still heals?

The healing is not automatic, or magical; nor does it usually happen without our cooperation. Dr. Jesus prescribes for us two acts: prayer and faith. The leader of the synagogue had a strong faith in Dr. Jesusí ability to heal his daughter who had died. The woman with the hemorrhage reached out and touched the fringes of Dr. Jesusí garment. She had a strong faith in Dr. Jesusí ability to help her. Faith makes healing possible.

Prayer is the means by which faith is expressed. Praying for yourself and praying for others provides a vehicle, a means, by which God can act. I believe in intercessory prayer. I believe that the Holy Spirit gathers the energy of the pray-ers and thereby increases the power of the Holy Spirit. Dr. Larry Dossey, a medical doctor and author, spent years studying the positive effects of prayer on the healing process. Dossey and other scientifically trained physicians ran a raft of methodogically precise experiments to test the healing power and effectiveness of prayer. The results demonstrate what believers have long known-- prayer changes things. Patients who were prayed for had significantly better rates of improvement, fewer complicating problems, and reduced need of medicine.

Parenthetically, please do not make the mistake of concluding that if you or someone else does not get well, it means you or they didnít have enough faith or didnít pray hard enough! Donít add more guilt, and think that your lack of healing is somehow your fault! Herb Caen wrote about a T-shirt which read, My Mother Was a Travel Agent for Guilt Trips.

Dr. Jesus can heal. Through prayer and faith, Dr. Jesus can heal. Jenny is one of my Family Campers who is now attending seminary to be a minister. She sent me two of her sermons which she preached for her preaching class. Let me read some excerpts.

When I was fifteen I suffered from the heavy burden of eating disorders. I fell prey to anorexia and bulimia.. After about five months of starving myself I was too weak to walk even the two blocks home from school. I had to stop every half block and rest.. Besides the physical weariness this burden inflicted on me, it also brought along mental and emotional weariness. Depression and hopelessness soon set in, and I began to feel like I was battling this beast all on my own. I was sure that God had abandoned me.

..My parents sought counseling for me... My symptoms went away on the outside. But on the inside, I was still weary and in a lot of pain.

(Years later while in college, her story continues) One day I was so weak and my stomach was in so much pain that I could not walk from my car to my dorm room. I had to crawl from the parking lot to my door. It was then that I knew a real change had to take place... Shortly after this incident I went home and heard a sermon... on the scripture, Matthew 11:28, Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest... I suddenly realized what had been missing from my life. I had always prayed to God and had a strong faith in God. But I had never really completely given my life over to Christ. And no one had ever told me that when you give your life to Christ, you get to give him the bad stuff too. Frankly, I never thought Jesus would want it. I had always had this belief in my mind that in order to give your life to Christ, you already had to be perfect...

During the prayer after the sermon, I closed my eyes and I could see an image of Jesus in my mind with his arms reaching out to me. And Jesus said to me, "Come to me. I love you and I will take care of you, if you would only come to me. You donít have to suffer alone anymore." It was then that I let down all of my defenses and opened my heart to Him. At that moment I felt a huge weight lifted from my shoulders and from my heart... Those five years of battling anorexia and bulimia did not go away instantly. But now I had a partner who would never leave me... I had peace and rest... By leaning on Jesus completely, the burden was lifted from me and since that day it has never returned.

Dr. Jesus heals. Dr. Jesus heals minds, bodies, and spirits. Dr. Jesus heals people. And Dr. Jesus can heal divisions, disagreements, hostilities, and prejudice between people. We are part of such a healing process now. Mt. Pisgah African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church is worshiping in our Social Hall on Sunday mornings because an intentionally set fire damaged their building. We are sisters and brothers, not only in Christ, but through our common Methodist heritage. Their denomination is celebrating its bicentennial this year. In 1796, at Johnís Street Methodist Episcopal Church (which is the old name of our denomination) in New York City, black worshipers were forced to sit in the balcony, and were pulled away from the altar when they came forward for Communion in order to let white people go first. Blacks were also refused ordination. James Varick had enough. He took 120 black people with him, left Johnís Street Church and began worshiping in a blacksmith shop. The AME Zion Church was born.

Can Dr. Jesus heal these ancient wounds between blacks and whites, wounds which have separated and divided the body of Christ, even within Methodism? Letís look again at our Scripture lesson this morning. With which character in the story do you identify? The leader of the synagogue who was deeply concerned about his daughter? The woman with a hemorrhage who needed healing and believed Dr. Jesus could help her? The little girl who was healed by Jesus? The curious crowd who watched? Jesus? M. Scott Peck tells of a conference of 600 Christian professionals where Harvey Cox asked the same question. Of the 600, only six people identified with Jesus. Peck wrote,

Something is very wrong here... Maybe more actually identified with Jesus but were afraid to raise their hands, lest that seem arrogant. But again, something is wrong with our concept of Christianity if it seems arrogant to identify with Jesus. That is exactly what we are supposed to do! Weíre supposed to identify with Jesus, act like Jesus, be like Jesus. That is what Christianity is supposed to be about.

Some of you have the spiritual gift of healing. You can be Dr. Jesus and bring healing to people. Most of us can be Dr. Jesus and help heal racial prejudice, divisions and hostilities between people. We Christians must get off the sidelines and get active. We must be instrumental in healing hatred and suspicion. We are the body of Christ. We are the physical body in the world today of Dr. Jesus. If we only watch, who is going to do the healing?

Do you believe Dr. Jesus can use you in the healing process? When Karen, a United Methodist in Morristown, Tennessee, was pregnant with her second child, her 3-year-old son Michael began a relationship with his unborn sister by singing to her every night. Night after night, he sang his new sister a song. When it came time for Karen to give birth to the baby, there was trouble with the delivery. The baby, in serious condition after she was born, was immediately rushed to the Neonatal Intensive Care unit at St. Maryís Hospital in Knoxville. As the days crawled by, the infant grew weaker. The doctor began to prepare the family for her expected death.

During this time, Michael asked continually to see his sister. He wanted to sing to her. Finally, in the second week, they dressed Michael in an oversized scrub suit and took him in to see his sister. The medical personnel refused to let a 3-year-old in the ICU, but his mother insisted. Michael made his way over to the bassinet that held his sick little sister, and sang,

You are my sunshine, my only sunshine;

You make me happy when skies are gray.

Youíll never know, dear, how much I love you.

Please donít take my sunshine away.

Did you realize the song ends with a prayer? The next day, instead of a funeral, they took her home. Womanís Day magazine called it the miracle of a brotherís song. We know it was Dr. Jesus.

Even 3-year-olds can be Dr. Jesus. Even you can be Dr. Jesus. Will you sing other people back to life and faith? Will you sing down the walls that divide people from people? Thereís a world out there dying because they havenít heard the music of Godís love. Thereís a world out there dying for a word of healing from Dr. Jesus, delivered by you.

ã 1996 Douglas I. Norris