In 1998, the Inter Lutheran Coordinating Committee on Ministerial Health and Wellness published a booklet concerning issues of health, faith and ethics, titled A Letter on Peace and Good Health. The “letter,” which was the outcome of three years of joint study by representatives of the ELCA and the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, was sent to all ordained ministers and lay professionals of both bodies.
Since not all our readers may have read this compact and enlightening document, we offer this brief synopsis, hoping it will spur you to read the entire 36-page report.
The author is the Rev. Dr. James P Wind, president of the Alban Institute. The letter begins with praise for God’s blessing of life and health that we so often take for granted. Wind points out that in this age of amazing medicine, the true meaning of health has become ambiguous, and we often put our faith in “an idol that frequently comes draped in medical garb and regularly seeks to seduce with its offers to perfect our bodies and souls.”
Stating that all is not well in our congregations and denominational systems, Wind calls church leaders to “recover the life and health-giving treasures at the heart of our faith.” The picture of health, says Wind, is a picture of people in perfect relation to God, neighbor, self and cosmos.
Wind reviews Hebrew and New Testament scriptures, giving examples of God’s healing activity in a world that, although created in God’s perfect image, has fallen deep into sin and imperfection. Yet God has not forsaken his creation, says Wind, and God’s healing activity continues today.
Jesus’ resurrection has propelled a healing community, the church, into the world. “The peace experienced in encounters with the risen Christ released the Holy Spirit, a healing and forgiving energy that continues to heal the world in this day.” Table fellowship, the ministry of healing, and care for the poor were the earliest forms of this new healing community.
Yet, even in the church, the multidimensional reality of health has been obscured by the successes of medical science and technology, and health has been reduced to physical functioning, Wind points out. What is needed, he says, is an understanding of health that returns to a scriptural framework.
The work of the church is to proclaim the good news of God’s healing in Jesus Christ to the world. And God has given leaders in the church today many means to experience and promote healing. The sacraments of Baptism and the Eucharist have brought new creation to all life. The Sabbath rest allows participation in God’s wholeness and practices of compassion.
Perfect health, says Wind, is an illusion; but God has a greater wholeness to offer—a wholeness established in healthy relationships with our God, our neighbors and those who may be strangers.
The editors recommend that you dig this little book out from wherever you may have filed it and keep it handy, especially for those times when health and wellness seem an elusive reality.
If you would like an additional copy, contact Pastor Stephen Ganskow-Wold in the ELCA Division for Ministry at 773-380-2881.