Tuesday, April 27, 2021

City Notes | A Time to Heal: Sozo, Shalom, and Kintsugi Gospel


Kintsugi serves as a compelling metaphor for what it means to be a true healer in the name of Jesus. To approach this accurately, we must refrain from attempting to fix people. We must refuse to attempt to heal ourselves. We do not attempt to hide the brokenness. Instead, we attempt to see the fissures, to behold the brokenness, and invite Jesus, our Kintsugi master, to usher forth healing and wholeness. + J.R. Briggs, A Time to Heal

Below are excerpts from what I'm already sure will be one of the most impactful books I read in 2021: A Time to Heal: Offering Hope to a Wounded World in the Name of Jesus.

Sozo Jesus Who Brings Salvation and Healing in His "Wings"

If we could choose one word for Jesus' Church to embrace in this cultural moment, it would be the Greek word sozo. The word means to save, to deliver, and to rescue from danger or deliver from evil. But sozo has another meaning: to heal. Additionally, the Greek word soteria is translated as both salvation and healing. Our English word salvation finds its root in the Latin word salve  an ointment we put on our skin to soothe a burn, scrape, or blister. When we read a passage in the Gospels which records a person healed and we read another passage about someone who was saved, we're reading the same word. Saving is healing, healing is saving. In the gospels, we see Jesus engaged in all sorts of sozo activities. The gospel of Luke, written from his unique perspective as a physician, is keenly attuned to the healing acts of Jesus.

The mission of Jesus was rooted in the sozo reality: to speak good news to the poor, to free prisoners, to heal those who are sick (Luke 4:16-21). This concept of sozo is central to the mission of Jesus because it is rooted in the cosmic redemption plan of His Father to restore shalom. God's nature is embedded in healing. In the final chapter of the Old Testament God says, "Not a root or a branch will be left to them. But for you who revere My name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healings in its rays" (Malachi 4:1-2). Some translations say healing in its wings

Remember the woman suffering from her condition of bleeding (see Mark 5:25-34)? In many cases of healing found in the gospels, Jesus touched the infirmed. Sometimes He spoke a word and it happened. But in this instance, the woman touched Him. She was ceremonially unclean; Jesus, a rabbi, was ritually pure (see Bible Project: Leviticus and Bible Project: Holiness videos for some history and clarity on ceremonial and ritual purity). Even in a crowd, touch was off-limits. Yet, in her desperation, she reached out to touch the hem of His garment anyway. Why is this significant? Because in Jewish tradition, it was believed the edges of a garment or a prayer shawl were like wings. Could it have been that the woman was thinking of Malachi 4:2? Could it be that this woman believed Jesus was the one who possessed healing in His wings? Jesus stopped in His tracks and asked who had touched Him. Peter believed the question was ludicrous amidst a crowd crushing in on Him, but Jesus felt something change within Him. Power had left His body. No wonder the woman trembled when she identified herself  the utter terror of being outed for contaminating a ceremonially clean rabbi. And yet, Jesus recognized her faith and acknowledged that, yes, there is healing in My wings. She had, indeed, been healed. In 1739, Charles Wesley penned the Christmas hymn Hark! The Herald Angels Sing highlighting Jesus' healing power: "Hail the heaven-born Prince of Peace! Hail the Sun of Righteousness! Light and life to all He brings risen with healing in His wings." The salve of Jesus.

Jesus Sends Those Who Follow Him to Heal Others

In Luke 9:1-2, Jesus gave His disciples (whom many scholars believe were teenagers) the ability to heal the sick, cast out demons, and proclaim the good news of the Kingdom. Four out of the five times, Jesus commanded His disciples to declare the Kingdom message; He also authorized them to heal the sick. Jesus and His disciples were bringers of healing  and the healing opened up opportunities for preaching and teaching. For Jesus' followers, healing involved paying attention to and joining with this sozo Jesus.

The spiritual-felt needs of people in the past allowed for the entry point of the good news to be Jesus saves. And now, with the spiritual- (and emotional-, physical-, mental-, relational-, and financial-) felt needs of our world, the most strategic entry point for our communicating the Good News is also Jesus heals

For an example, in John 5, Jesus arrives at the Pool of Bethesda and interacts with a lame man who longs to enter into the waters when stirred, but has no one to help him get in. He's stuck. Jesus looks at the man and asks directly, "Do you want to get well?" (John 5:6). It is a question that penetrates us deeply in the midst of our collective woundedness. Jesus calls us to follow Him  and in doing so, we become wounded healers in His name. We could label this call our Sozo Mandate. We must compassionately, humbly, and courageously ask, "Do you want to get well?"

The Paradox of Becoming a Wounded Healer Like Jesus

The late Catholic priest and author Henri Nouwen, in his prescient book The Wounded Healer, wrote, 

The Messiah ... is sitting among the poor, binding his wounds one at a time, waiting for the moment when he will be needed. So it is too with the minister. Since it is his task to make visible the first vestiges of liberation for other, he must bind his own wounds carefully in anticipation of the moment when he will be needed.

When followers of Jesus grasp this facet of the sozo gem they become healing communities. As Nouwen wrote, "not because wounds are cured and pains are alleviated, but because wounds and pains become the openings or occasions for new vision. ... Community arises where the sharing of pain takes place, not as a stifling form of self-complaint, but as a recognition of God's saving promises."

If we are also wounded and in need of healing ourselves, how can we offer any hope and healing to the world? If we can't be the strong ones, how can we provide the healing which is so needed through our weakness? The great irony of the gospel is that we bring the news of healing when we ourselves need this good news, too. Henri Nouwen added: "We do not know where we will be two, ten, or twenty years from now. What we can know, however, is that man suffers and that the sharing of suffering can make us move forward." He also wrote that the minister "is called to be the wounded healer, the one who must look after his own wounds but at the same time be prepared to heal the wounds of others."

But as Dr. Susan Harper reminded me, we see in the gospels Jesus and the disciples healing others  not themselves. In our Western culture, which celebrates the Sovereign Self, we can be easily tempted to approach our suffering with the trendy self-help approach. The biblical vision, however, is not focused on self-help, nor is it giving us some seven-step formula for how I can heal myself. Jesus' vision is the opposite, rooted in the posture of self-sacrifice. Our calling, like John the Baptizer, must involve employing our index fingers and pointing them outward toward Christ, the true Wounded Healer.

Kintsugi Gospel of Beholding Beauty in the Brokenness

Kintsugi is a Japanese art form dating back to the late fifteenth century. Kintsugi, which means "golden joinery," is an artistic expression of utilizing broken pottery by highlighting its flaws, rather than attempting to hide them. It is a similar approach to the Japanese art form called Wabi-Sabi, the art of finding beauty in imperfection. When the broken shards are put back together again, gold powder is mixed into the adhesive in order to highlight the beauty of the brokenness. World renowned artist Mako Fujimura befriended a Kintsugi master, who leads workshops to help people experience the process of artistic repair and redemption.

Everyone brings a broken object to the workshop and the Kintsugi master shares with the participants that while they came to fix an object, they won't actually be fixing anything. Instead, they will behold the brokenness and look at it long enough until they can see the beauty. Then, and only then, will they try to mend it and try to make it new. 

Kintsugi serves as a compelling metaphor for what it means to be true healer in the name of Jesus. To approach this accurately, we must refrain from attempting to fix people. We must refuse to attempt to heal ourselves. We do not attempt to hide the brokenness. Instead, we attempt to see the fissures, to behold the brokenness, and invite Jesus, our Kintsugi master, to usher forth healing and wholeness. It is the gold adhesive of the good news of Jesus Christ which mends and brings beauty. It is a process with others of mending and trying to lead us toward something new (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Jesus is our wounded healer who, in His outlandish grace, sent out His disciples with instructions to preach the good news, deliver those who are oppressed, and heal the sick (Matthew 10:7-8). And He sends us out as well to offer this hope to a world desperately in need of it. He longs for us to create Kintsugi art in a world filled with people with shards deeply embedded in their lives. 

The world continues to look for healers. Will it count us among them? And if so, are we showing them Jesus, the wounded healer?

The content above includes sections from Chapter 2: What is the Hope We Have and Have to Offer? in A Time to Heal: Offering Hope to a Wounded World in the Name of Jesus by J.R Briggs

For two additional articles that complement the above, check out:

And here's a song to sing this theme of holy healing with the Wounded Healer:

Maverick City Music, 2021 A.D.

The Spirit of The Lord is upon me, I’m anointed to bring hope.
The promise fulfilled in a moment, we’re still watching it unfold.
There’s good news for the captive, a proclamation for every soul.
This liberty is for the broken, an invitation to be made whole ...

Listen for the free man singing, "He’s delivered me!"
Look out for the woman shouting, "His garment made me clean!"
Listen up, for the season's changing, He’s rebuilding everything.
Listen for the people shouting, "This is Jubilee!" 
(Repeat Verse + Chorus)

There is true joy in His freedom, so open your heart and receive it,
There is a hope to believe in Jesus ... Jesus!
Can you hear it? ... This is the sound of Jubilee.

Here are links to previous City Notes books:

Christ is all,

Rev. Mike "Sully" Sullivan

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