My Uncle Dave’s Witness

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Just because we pray for healing and don’t receive it the way we think we should, doesn’t mean God doesn’t care about us, or isn’t working healing in us.  Sometimes we feel like we pray and pray and pray and we don’t get any answers from God, but maybe we’re not looking in the right places or we don’t notice how God is working in our life because we have tunnel vision as to what we want God to do for us.

Year B; July 1, 2012

Lamentations 3.22-33; Psalm 30; 1 Cor. 8.7-15; Mark 5.21-43

Pastor Renee Splichal Larson


Grace to you and peace from the One who brings healing and life, Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.

This morning I’d like to tell you about my uncle Dave.  My uncle Dave was my dad’s oldest brother.  I grew up in the same town as my uncle, so I got to see him a fair amount of time.  From the stories I have heard of my uncle when he was in his teens and 20’s, it seemed like a good idea if one would just stay out of his way.  He was quick to fight and drag race his car.  He was certainly one who would go to all the parties by the lake.  At some point in his life he had developed an addiction to alcohol.  I myself, as a child growing up never noticed this, but I did however, notice when he quick drinking all together. 

My uncle Dave went through one of the greatest transformations I have ever witnessed.  And he would be the first person to tell you that his transformation was because of Jesus and his relationship with him.  It was around the time in which my uncle stopped drinking that his faith and relationship with Jesus became very deep.  And it was not long after his life was changed by God that he was diagnosed with cancer in his mid-30’s.  My uncle was not given very long to live…just a few years if he went ahead with treatments of chemo therapy and radiation.

My uncle, who had a wife and 3 children, decided to go through the treatments.  They made him very sick.  One time I went to worship at his church because he was giving the message.  With a sunken in face and a thin body from the treatments, my uncle spoke of his struggle with cancer, and at the same time boldly proclaimed God’s love and faithfulness, and his trust in Jesus.  For me, being a teenager at the time, it was incredibly powerful to hear him speak of his faith when I knew how much he was suffering.

My uncle Dave made it into his 40’s, already living a few years longer than the doctors gave him.  It was then in which he decided to stop treatments all together.  They made him so sick and his cancer was terminal.  The doctors had told him that he had tumors all over his body, but that he should come back to continue to get check-ups.  After one of his check-ups just he and I had a conversation in my grandmother’s kitchen at Christmas.  This is what he told me:

“At my last appointment I had tumors all over my body, so I finally decided to stop treatments and trust in God to heal me.  If God does not want to heal me it is okay because I know God has been with me through this whole thing.  And do you know what happened when I went back for my last check-up, Renee?”

I shook my head no.

“The doctors could not find a single tumor.  They are all gone!  Jesus has healed me.”

My uncle had so much joy and confidence in his voice.  This was the first time I had ever heard about a healing story, at least one in which the one being healed attributed the healing solely to Jesus.  I had no idea what to say.  This story was totally out of my realm of “normal.”  And me, even being a believer in Jesus, had trouble rejoicing with him because things like that didn’t happen in the world as I knew it.  I even knew stories like the ones we read today in our Gospel reading of the bleeding woman who was healed and Jairus’ daughter being brought back to life, but no one I knew had ever talked to me about being healed by Jesus.

I have thought about my conversation with my uncle Dave so many times.  I believe him that Jesus worked powerful healing in his life, not only of his cancer, but also of his illness of addiction to alcohol.  I think if my uncle were around today, he would tell you of the many ways, both obvious and not so obvious, in which he experienced healing.  Unfortunately, he is not here today because cancer finally claimed his life at the age of 46.

Now you might be thinking, Well, he wasn’t healed!  He died anyway.  Yes, he did die, as we all will, but he always spoke of the healing he was receiving from God, even throughout his battle with cancer.  So what then, is true and real healing in this life?

I think it is safe to say that we live in a world in which some people are healed of their disease and some are not.  Some people die young, and others don’t.  In light of this, it is easy for us to ask: Why are some healed and some not?  Why do some escape death for a while and others don’t?  There are really no answers to these questions.  But what I do know is that it is not because someone’s life is worth more than someone else’s.  It is not because someone prayed harder.  It is not because God loves one person more than another.

Just because we pray for healing and don’t receive it the way we think we should, doesn’t mean God doesn’t care about us, or isn’t working healing in us.  Sometimes we feel like we pray and pray and pray and we don’t get any answers from God, but maybe we’re not looking in the right places or we don’t notice how God is working in our life because we have tunnel vision as to what we want God to do for us.

Theologian, Michael Lindvall, writes this about prayer: “Prayer is not simply a matter of bending the vector of divine God’s will toward my will, my needs, and my hopes.  More profoundly, to ask something of God is to edge into deeper relationship with God.  God’s mind may or may not be changed, but I—my mind and heart—may be (Feasting on the Word, p. 192).”

Michael then shares an example of this through this story:  “I have a friend,” he writes, “a man of deep faith, who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease when he was still in his fifties.  He and his wife prayed that he might be healed.  Twenty years later, he is in the last debilitating stages of the disease.  Nevertheless, he once told me that his prayers had been answered.  He said in all sincerity, “I have been healed, not of Parkinson’s disease, but I have been healed of my fear of Parkinson’s disease (pp. 188-190).” 

Sometimes healing comes to us in surprising ways.  And there are people like my uncle Dave and the man with Parkinson’s disease who witness to us that healing isn’t always physical or obvious.  Both, even as they’re dying, speak of the healing power of Jesus Christ.  God works in many and mysterious ways to bring us healing.  Maybe we receive healing through forgiveness, or healing through acceptance of our situation, or even healing through reading the Bible or coming to worship as the Spirit creates and renews faith in us.

My uncle's witness and the stories of healing in our Gospel reading today create faith in me.  I am particularly moved by the story of the woman who had been bleeding for 12 years.  Our Scriptures say that “she had endured much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had; and she was no better, but rather grew worse (Mark 5:26).”  Because she had been bleeding for 12 years, she would have been an outcast in society.  It was even against the law that she was in the crowds where Jesus was the day she encountered him because she was thought to be unclean.

Can you imagine what that moment was like for her as she saw Jesus passing in the crowd?  She believed that if she could just reach out and touch his clothes that she would be healed.  What faith.  What desperation at the point of exhaustion.  Our story tells us that upon touching Jesus’ clothes she was healed and Jesus took notice.  After touching his clothes and realizing what happened to her, the woman could have run.  Jesus, too, could have ignored what he felt and kept going. 

But Jesus, on his way to a dying child, stops everything and calls out for the one who touched him.  By touching Jesus clothes, the woman breaks all kinds of laws that have extreme consequences. But instead of running, the woman comes forward to Jesus with fear and trembling and tells him the whole truth.

And then Jesus says, to her, "Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease (Mark 5:34)."  Jesus shows her mercy and love.  He calls her, daughter.  Jesus welcomes an outcast woman into the family of God.  It was not enough for Jesus to simply heal her.  He desired to know her, to see her, and to be in relationship with her.

Healing can happen in our lives in many ways.  For my uncle, his healing was at times physical and always spiritual.  For the man dying of Parkinson’s, he received healing in that he no longer had fear.  For the woman, she received healing from 12 years of incredible suffering, but she also received healing from her isolation in being welcomed into the family of God.

Perhaps a more challenging question than ‘what is true and real healing in this life, is “How do we still trust God and have faith in the midst of our pain and struggles?”  This is so difficult, but I have seen the most incredible faith in people who have deeply suffered.  In the midst of our pain and struggles, it is truly a mystery of faith in which we can say verses 22-24 of our reading from Lamentations this morning:  “22 The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases, his mercies never come to an end;  23 they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.  24 "The LORD is my portion," says my soul, "therefore I will hope in him."