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March 2020


A Contemplative Exercise for March


Saying for the month

“I am the Lord who heals you”             Exodus 15.26 (NRSV)

 To begin the exercise, first spend a short while in relaxation and preparing to be still; become aware of the sounds around you and put them aside; offer this time of prayer to God.

Say this introductory invitation to prayer, then keep a further minute or two of silence:

“Come to me, all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest” Matthew 11.28

 

Introduction to the first silence – a preparation for listening with the mind:

“I am the Lord who heals you”

There is little need to remind ourselves of the context of this word. The plagues, the flight from Egypt, the Red Sea crossing – all of these were, for the Israelites, the culmination of long years of captivity and bondage, of terrible treatment at the hands of Pharaoh.

Now at last, they are safe – Pharaoh’s troops have been swept away in the waters of the Red Sea and they are on the other side, saved by this great miracle – they fear the Lord, they believe. Now there are songs of victory and praise, one from Moses and one from Miriam, the sister of Aaron. Then they set off to cross the wilderness but after only three days they grind to a halt - because there is no water. They arrive at Marah (Heb. Bitterness) where there is water, but it is bitter: perhaps it was brackish, perhaps it was actually polluted. In any event, it needs a miracle to enable them to survive. And there is one – Moses throws a branch of a tree in to the water, and it ‘becomes sweet’.  God promises them that if they do right, if they heed his word, they will be kept safe from disease v 26 ‘for I AM the Lord, your healer’.

This is not a ‘healing miracle’ as we read about in the New Testament – there has been no event of healing, no blind men seeing or lame men walking. This is the promise of healing in its widest sense: this is healing of their remembrances of past suffering, of their anxieties about the present, of their fear of the future. It is healing of their lack of trust and of their failure of faith.

To us, being able to quench our thirst is one of the habits of our daily life that we do not even question. Until we look at the literature from Water Aid and other charities, we forget that it is a privilege rather than a right. So here is another point for us to consider as we try and absorb this Word into our minds - this provision of pure water is something that should remind us that God is continually surrounding us with examples of the way in which his creation enables and supports our existence.

We begin then, by trying to understand these words in their context: we begin to make them a part of our own experience. We join the Israelites as they embark on what was to be an immense journey, a journey into the unknown. Imagine the taste that they had had of what was to come, the three days in the wilderness of Shur, then imagine the arrival in v27 at Elim – there were 12 springs of water and 70 palm trees under which they camped, they rested, they reflected on God’s promise…

“I am the Lord who heals you”

A time is now kept for silence of the mind – between 5 and 15 minutes

 

The silence concludes with a short thanksgiving, and/or repeat the Saying:

 Father, we thank you for the gift of your Word.

“I am the Lord who heals you”

 

Introduction to the second silence – a preparation for listening with the heart:

“I am the Lord who heals you”

In John 5.6 Jesus asks the lame man at the pool of Bethesda “Do you want to be healed?” We have no record of the man’s answer to this question….. To be healed can be interpreted in so many ways – we are in need of healing at so many levels, physical, emotional, spiritual. So as we think about this saying “I am the Lord, your healer” we realise that, as with the lame man, Jesus has begun the healing process even before we have acknowledged our need, let alone answered that question  - “Do you want to be healed?”

Jesus ties this healing process up with sin, here and in many of the healing miracles: not because our weakness and lack of wholeness is a punishment for past misdeeds, but because he knows us, he knows the things we hide from others, he knows the places in our hearts where we don’t even dare to go ourselves. He sees these things, and he longs to cleanse and heal us: we are the mirrors in which God wants to be reflected. The wiping clean of the mirror, clearing the glass of the mist and the smears, is the first step towards our becoming spiritual people capable of reflecting God’s likeness.

And this is done, in part, by knowing that our sins are forgiven, by recognising God’s promise that he will heal us, that we will be brought closer to wholeness, towards complete healing. Our minds are lifted away from the morass of ourselves and our problems, away from our sinfulness, from guilt and tension, towards a deeper knowledge of God and of his love for us.

This promise is meant to help us to come closer that knowledge for ourselves, and even for its potential for humanity. We listen to the news and try to think responsibly about global warming and our carbon footprint – and we wonder what sort of problems and difficulties our grandchildren may face. At this precise time, we have huge concerns about the coronavirus and its impact on individuals, communities, nations and the global economy. Setting aside our natural concerns for those near to us and those we love, it may be of course that the longer term effects of the virus could be a rebalanciing of our values and our ambitions. The world may emerge with scars which, in the healing process, have caused us to foster a revised set of assumptions and priorities. It is too soon to tell. As it is, we have to discipline ourselves to trust in God’s essential goodness, to put aside fears and anxieties, and to remember his assurance  

“I am the Lord who heals you”

A time is now kept for silence of the heart – between 5 and 15 minutes

 

Conclude the silence with a short thanksgiving and/or repeat the Saying:

Father, we thank you that your Word is alive and within us.

“I am the Lord who heals you”

 

Introduction to the time of intercession – we use our will to reflect God's Word outwards.

All of us are in need of healing, of making whole as God wants us to be. There may be particular people or situations for whom we wish to pray – situations where there is brokenness and hurt as well as mental or physical illness. Into these and in our prayers for the country and for the world, we can speak these words of God, spoken to his people, in our time of intercession: “I am the Lord who heals you”

Say the name of a person or a group of people, and after a short pause, repeat the saying.

 

Conclude the time of intercession with words of thanksgiving:

Father, we thank you that your Word has gone out through us to those for whom we pray.

Use the Fellowship Prayer or another closing prayer to conclude your time of contemplative prayer.

Ever Loving God, we thank you for all your unsearchable riches which pour forth from you as light from the sun, in boundless profusion and generosity, whether received, ignored or rejected. And now we offer to you, in so far as we are able, as an emptiness to be filled with your divine fullness, ourselves, our souls and bodies; all that we are, all that we have and all that we do, until you are all in all and we are complete. Amen.


You may wish to say the Grace together before departing.

 

             This month’s exercise was contributed by CO