Searching for Sunday: Anointing the Sick
In the section of Searching for Sunday about anointing the sick, the focus is on church as a healing place. She makes an important distinction between curing and healing, using curing to mean simply dealing with an immediate problem and healing to mean a more relational process. I’m not sure the distinction in language will really catch on, but the point is a good one.
The church is not primarily in the curing business. Often when we get into that mindset is when we do the most harm. If somebody comes to us in an abusive relationship, we can say we “cured” the problem by calling the police for them. But the victim probably still has a lot of healing to do. She might need counselling. She might need legal support. She definitely needs people to be there with her, offering a safe space over time. Those are the kinds of things that heal, not simply cure the most obvious symptom and walk away.
Another key point is the importance of centering the marginalized. Rachel points out the Gospels refer to two groups of people who followed Jesus: the Twelve and the Women. The Twelve were really bad at understanding what Jesus was saying, such as his repeated references to his own death. They just couldn’t wrap their heads around the idea that complete healing of Israel – and the rest of the world – happened through Jesus dying, not through Jesus slaughtering the Romans.
The Women, on the other hand, seemed to get it much faster. They were still there with Jesus as he was killed. They were there as soon as they could to care for the body, leading them to discover the Resurrection while the Twelve and the rest of the men were in hiding. It was a woman who kickstarted Jesus’ ministry at the wedding in Cana. It was a woman who washed his feet with anointing oil – there’s the thematic connection – preparing Jesus for his burial, while the men were still in denial that Jesus would die. Every time we tell the stories – if we do so honestly – we are forced to centre the women and other marginalized groups because they actually were central to the story. And the marginalized should still be central to the story in part because they still “get it” a lot faster than those with more privilege.
A tangential note to close: Rachel makes an offhand comment about belief in supernatural healing gifts. It sounds like she would tend to be more skeptical of the existence of that gift, but definitely was not arguing against those who believe in it either. I believe in it, although I also have never felt the particular motivation to seek it out for myself. In any case, like other disputable matters, it wasn’t a focus here.