The following was part of a sermon given at a healing service during the Coronavirus outbreak.
Over the past weeks and months the world has gone through turmoil in the wake of a global pandemic. Alongside all the many things that this situation has forced us to deal with, it has also impressed upon us a powerful truth: that healing is needed.
A pandemic like this is a vivid reminder that healing is needed. It’s a wake up call to the fact that for all the wonders of modern medicine, we cannot cure everything. Technology and innovation have done great things, but they cannot conquer every ill; they cannot make us completely safe; they cannot make us completely whole.
Healing is needed because we live in a broken and fractured world. For a great deal of the time we can persuade ourselves that isn’t the case. If all is well with us, and with those we love, we can think that the world is actually a safe and secure place. Indeed, this world is a place of great beauty and goodness and wonder, made by a loving creator God and with his mark on it. But it is also a fallen and broken world, the image of the creator marred and disfigured: still present but distorted and not as it should be. The Bible has a name for this situation we find ourselves in: the curse.
I don’t know about you, but ‘curse’ doesn’t strike me as a very Biblical word. It brings to mind images of fairytales and cartoon villains, and potentially a lot darker imagery. Yet the idea of the curse is something that does run through the Bible’s story. It explains the world we live in and the suffering and struggles we face.
The reason why healing is needed is because of the curse. It’s because this world is subject to the consequences of sin and death. Our illnesses, whether physical, emotional or spiritual, are not the way things are supposed to be. There is a break, a disconnect, between the way things were, and the way things are now. Sin and suffering have entered the world and brought it under a curse. And we experience that curse in so many different ways: anxiety, illness, depression, cancer, negative self-image, pain, sadness and, yes, coronavirus.
We know this. We live in this world. And if we didn’t know it we have had it brought home to us over the past weeks and months. But it’s not the end of the story. The curse may be where we live, but healing is our destination.
The Japanese animator, Hayao Miyazaki, once said this about one of his films:
“”We depict hatred, but it is to depict that there are more important things. We depict a curse, to depict the joy of liberation.”
You could say something similar about the story of the Bible, and about the book of Revelation. Revelation might not be the easiest book for most of us to grapple with but despite its difficulties, Revelation is also full of accessible and powerful pictures. In particular, as we come to the end of the book, it shows us where we are heading. And in the very final chapter of Revelation, and the very final chapter of the Bible, we find this promise:
“No longer will there be any curse.” (Revelation 22:3)
The picture that goes along with this promise is the river of life. Flowing through the streets of the heavenly Jerusalem, and flowing out from the very throne room of God. It’s an image brought from the Old Testament book of Ezekiel to show us abundant life flowing through and into God’s people.
By the river of life grows the tree of life. The tree produces abundant fruit, more than enough for all. And there is full and free access to this live-giving tree. In the garden of Eden, the consequence of Adam and Eve’s sin was removal from the garden, and from the tree of life. But now the curse is reversed, and God’s people can come again and taste from the tree of life.
This passage has a powerful picture of the curse overturned. It’s what Isaac Watt’s wrote about in his hymn ‘Joy the world’. We usually sing it at Christmas, but really it’s about the return of Jesus. It’s third verse says this:
No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make his blessings flow
Far as the curse is found
The curse is where we live now, but healing is our destination. The curse is our present but it is not our future. Healing is the promise of God, full and complete healing from all of the curse’s brokenness and pain.
This is why we can, and should, pray for healing now. Healing is our destination, and we will only experience that fullness of healing when Jesus returns. But God longs to heal, we know that because that’s what he has in store for us! And each and every healing, big or small, is a taste of what is to come. Every healing is an opportunity to see something of the coming kingdom. Every healing proclaims where God is bringing all who trust and follow him. Healing is our destination, which is a wonderful reminder during difficult days of fear and uncertainly. We can, and should, pray for God’s coming kingdom to break through in healing for ourselves, and for others, now and until that kingdom comes in its fullness.