Back to the bandstand and a time to intentionally connect with the unseen as well las the seen. Here’s what Steve and I came up with, this Sunday, which culminated in laying hands on Grayden. for healing and wholeness and the touch of Raphael..
We started naming angels we could think of – Gabriel, Michael, Lucifer… but what of Raphael? And how did we in 21st century western culture view angels these days? This led to the sharing of stories of times we have felt we have encountered angels ourselves, or stories known to us of Padre Pio and of Nadim Ednan Laparouse, who saw angels as his daughter, Natasha, was dying from her allergic reaction to sesame seeds (Do access that Radio 4 interview – A bright Yellow Light – on Youtube)
Then a bit of background on Raphael:
Rapha in Hebrew means healer and Raphael means literally, ‘God has healed’ and can be translated ‘doctor’. The Jewish concept of healing is associated with Shalom – wholeness, and so Raphael is connected with the mission to restore wholeness.
He is the central figure of the book of Tobit in the Apocrypha – a book probably written by an Egyptian Jew around 180 BC. It tells how Raphael cured Tobit’s blindness and bound a demon enslaving his wife-to-be, Sarah. Only at the end does it become known that he is an angel – an archangel in fact.
He also appears in the apocryphal book of Enoch, a book referred to in the New Testament book of Jude, which had been very influential at the time of Jesus & early Christianity. There, God commands Raphael to heal the earth and to bind a demon Azazel. He is depicted here as a watcher / observer of the human race.
In Jewish legend he is credited with giving Noah a book on medicine, after the flood, healing Abraham of the pain of circumcision, of being one of the three angels to visit Abraham and Sarah in Genesis 18 and to have been sent to heal Jacob after his thigh injury after wresting with his mysterious adversary at Peniel.
‘Touching the sacred’ is a book we have used two or three times at ThirdSpace, using words by Chris Thorpe and artwork by Jake Lever based on 12 century Romanesque frescoes of angels transferred from hilltop churches in northern Spain to the Palau National in Barcelona. Each of these paintings depicts a hand. Where the hand is of an angel, we are told, ‘The all-seeing eyes of the seraphs, piercing the hands like wounds, watchers of both the human and the divine.’
The image of the hand of Raphael is entitled ‘Raphael- the call to touch’ – which seems incredibly poignant in this time we have lived through and are still living through. It urges us to recognise the touch of God and to open ourselves to the idea of entertaining angels unawares.
With all that in mind, we had a hand-out with the image of the hand and the following words to lead into prayer:
Raphael – sent to bring wholeness and healing
‘The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.’
(Jesus, quoting Isaiah, Luke 4:18-19)
What am I in need of?
What am I imprisoned by?
Dare I ask for Raphael’s touch?
Who else do I want Raphael to see, to visit and to touch today?
Returning to the bandstand, Steve reflected on recent lockdown stories of our lives. He gave us all bright, deep red petals from a peony and had a bowl of water in the centre of the bandstand. This is how he led us:
Take a petal. We all need healing in one way or another and we have all received healing – physical, spiritual, emotional, psychological. We all bear the healed scars of former wounds. The stigmata of life’s experiences that makes us individually and uniquely who we are. Redeemed survivors. Bought for a price and restored.
Sense the petal in all its fresh fallen glory. It can represent our healing for which we give thanks. All the people placed knowingly and unknowingly along our way, to companion us to Shalom. We give thanks for them, for our healing and for this moment of shalom.
We turn to the healing of the world for which we pray.
For the land and the sea and the sky which cry out for restoration.
For our fellow creatures for whom we have so often demonstrated a dearth of care and stewardship.
For the nations of the world in their fractious and turbulent restlessness.
For those we know in need of healing now.
It was here that Grayden shared his concerns and Paul led us in prayer as we laid hands and asked for provision of all that he needs at this time…
Cast your petals on the water. They can now represent these prayers committed to God and to Raphael’s healing waters.
And so to BREAD – touched by the sacred – made by the toil of human hands – all things will be brought to renewal in Christ’s body.
And so to WINE – pressed by the toil of human hands – transformed by the divine leaven – all things will be brought to renewal through Christ’s blood.
Restored and co-missioned companions – we pray for the continued blessing of healing on YOU and You and you and you…