So, we are in the middle of a full-blown Healing Service from the Kenyan prayerbook. We usually replace the prayers of the people with healing prayers, but this is a new year, and I wanted to use the full service this time. There's so much richness there. Some things you may have noticed are the references to “ancestors.” We refer to God as, “God of our ancestors,” and he is the God of our ancestors. Why this focus in the healing service?
Well in Africa—and Kenya is part of Africa—there is an emphasis on ancestors, because a lot of these people came from cultures in which ancestral worship is a big thing, and the reason these tribes and cultures converted to Christianity is that the missionaries who served them were able to convince them that the one true God was the God of their ancestors and that their ancestors were not gods themselves. Translating scripture into the native language usually unlocks a passage, like Acts 17, that resonates powerfully with a culture. Once that transfer of allegiance is made, the reminder that God is the God of their ancestors needs to be repeated, for a reminder, just as everyone in the Old and New Testaments had to be reminded. How many times is God referred to as the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob? Peter references the ancestors in our Acts passage. People back then understood God in context of the ancestors.
We don't have that issue in the Western world, so we tend to not think about our ancestors in relation to God, but maybe we should, and this is why: because the root causes of our present day problems are past problems. Just like a genetic disease can be passed down from father to son, so spiritual diseases can be passed from generation to generation. We know that emotional diseases are passed down. Romans 5:12 reads, “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death came through sin, so death spread to all because all have sinned.” This is not just a philosophical statement. This is plain truth. Sin is transferred from person to person like a very contagious disease. Sin is so pervasive, that we sometimes wonder that maybe we should ask God to take away our free will instead, since we can't seem to get rid of sin. If we just allow God to control our every action, at least the sin won't spread.
Every time there is evil without repentance, the effects of sin and the pain that goes with it are passed down through the generational lines. We can't escape our parents. We can't escape our parents' parents. We can move across the country to escape, but their effect follows us wherever we go. I'm not just picking on parents. We could be affected by any relationship: a brother, a son, an aunt, a niece. Whenever one of us turns away from God, we turn to something else, and that 'something else' then becomes our god. Even if that turning away was temporary, the new god has been allowed into the generational line. And that god takes on life—there's a demon out there who is perfectly happy to attach itself to that false god we created—and then he won't go away, unless we order him to through the name of Jesus Christ.
These tribes and cultures in Africa and other places, their ancestors were usually at war with other tribes, and so the gods of revenge and unforgiveness were allowed into the camp. Not knowing the name of Jesus, the tribe never commanded the gods to leave. Alcoholism and sexual abuse are two effects of sin that permeate our own culture, but because we don't really delve into genealogy in our culture, until we are in our later years, we never understand that that some kind of emotional abuse we received at the hands of an immediate relative can be traced back to perhaps physical abuse that relative received at the hands of someone we never even met.
Another activity in the western world that is often overlooked is occult involvement. People way back in our family line may have joined organizations or clubs that have rituals, or were involved in new age practices—had someone read their palm once, for example—and that stuff blocks healing from happening. The demons associated with those things clung to someone in the family tree and has not let go. We need to renounce those things, even if we are unaware that anything like that has happened. It's not just a problem with the person engaged in that activity. It's so easy to say, “well, that's THEIR problem, and all I can do is pray for them.” No, their funk gets on us, because we are attached to them through invisible family ties, and we have to renounce them for ourselves. We have the clean out the attic, so to speak, and Jesus has the best broom. There are things that we don't know about, but Jesus does, and when we are up here, at the altar, picture Jesus cleaning out our attics, so that his healing power can work our lives.
Jesus is also the way to forgiveness, as we all know, and we know that abstractly, but have we ever pictured Jesus in the scenes of our lives that disturb us most? That remembrance that we bury in the furthest part of our minds, that we don't want anyone to know about, even ourselves, have we ever thought about that incident in the context of Jesus? There's that horrible remembrance of abuse, or that things that we ourselves did that we most regret, and we can't bring ourselves to think about it, but what if we did? What if we pictured the scene in our heads, in crisp detail, because those incidents are remembered most vividly, and this time we put Jesus in the room, too? Why not? HE WAS THERE. He was in that room when that thing happened, that thing you blame yourself for, or that you blame another for. Jesus was there, and he was holding us in our grief, but we denied his presence, and so we didn't feel him there. Perhaps this time, we can picture Jesus there, and give him his rightful role to play. Perhaps this time we can turn the pain and the hurt over to him, let him bear those things for us. As it says in our Isaiah passage, “he has borne our infirmities and carried our diseases.” That is not an abstract thought. Not a metaphor. He is the bearer of all the sin in the world. Really. All the worlds sin, every ounce of the millions of tons of sin that the people of the world have produced through all time can be laid upon Christ's shoulders, and he can bear it. He is God, and he can bear a God-sized load of sin.
Then we can ask Jesus to forgive that person his or her sin. Jesus was there. Just because the incident happened years and years ago, doesn't mean this asking of forgiveness is impossible. Jesus works across the space/time continuum. Then we can ask Jesus to forgive us, too, if we feel we are to blame, and we are harboring this pain and hurt. We can ask forgiveness for being unable to forgive the other person. Jesus does the work. We picture the scene in our heads an watch as Jesus does the work for us. Then we have removed the obstacle to true healing.
In the hours of his death on the cross, the sky turned black, and he cried out to God, “why have you forsaken me?” He was taking on the sin of the world. Then he died. In those three days between death and resurrection, he obliterated all that sin. Then he defeated death itself and rose again. He took care of sin and death in just three days, surely he can take away that disturbing remembrance that keeps us from being truly healed. Let us give all our sins over to Jesus and ask his forgiveness for ourselves and others. AMEN.