Resurrection Lutheran, Monticello, honors healing through Victory Sunday
Each year on the first Sunday in November, congregations gather together to honor the saints who have passed away in the last year. Among those saints are often those who fought the battle to overcome illness.
But, what about those who prayed for healing and survived? Churches pray to God for healing and give thanks in their prayers when God heals the sick. And yet, there is not a Sunday dedicated to honoring their journey.
Pastor Jedidiah Scharmer of Resurrection Lutheran Church in Monticello, Minnesota, told Metro Lutheran that a 17-year-old parishioner forced him to face this question when she approached him about thanking the congregation for their loving and prayers during her battle with cancer.
Seventeen people donated their hair to Locks of Love.
To honor her request, Scharmer created a service to honor healing, both for this parishioner and others in the congregation who had also overcome serious illness. The event, which appropriately took place on June 5, National Cancer Survivor Day, became known as Victory Sunday.
“In the fall we honor the dead; in the spring we honored healing,” Scharmer said. In planning the event, they had to determine, “How do we give a voice to those who have been healed?”
They determined a few powerful ways to do so. Scharmer focused the week’s biblical message on healing in the Bible. And, the week’s hymns were specific to healing. They also honored those in need of healing. Noting that many members of the congregation were in need of healing, Scharmer said the congregation took a moment during the service to lay hands on and offer a prayer for them.
Most memorably, the young parishioner who had inspired the event, along with a breast cancer survivor, both shared testimonies and offered thanks. And, while they celebrated healing, the testimony of the 17-year-old woman also became a moment for her to share that she had found out that her cancer had come back.
“In January, she claimed victory. She’s going to claim it again,” Scharmer said, noting that she at first didn’t want the congregation to know the news that her cancer had come back, but in the end chose to share it with them that day and thank them for their prayers.
“She claimed victory in the battle, but the war is not over. As much as it was a celebration of victory, the cross was very real in that room,” Scharmer said.
A special offering
Victory Sunday has reached many more in the Monticello community than just those regularly in attendance on Sunday mornings. Scharmer notes that it is common for the congregation to pray for those they don’t know. As part of the Victory Sunday celebration, many members who had friends and family on the congregation’s prayer list invited them to worship with them.
And beyond this, they reached out to the community through their offering. As part of their offering, members donated hair to Locks of Love, a non-profit organization that provides hairpieces to financially disadvantaged children suffering from long-term medical hair loss. They hoped for at least three people to have their hair cut on Sunday morning. Instead, they ended up with 10 volunteers who were willing to cut off 10 inches of hair to be made into a wig.
“This was a tangible way of offering something up. You can’t just buy hair,” Scharmer said.
The hair was cut and given during the offering. The donors then went to the back where stylists awaited to give them a fresh cut. One family was so inspired by the event, they came to Scharmer after the service and said they wanted to also donate their hair. Another family in the congregation had friends who had grown their hair out for Locks of Love who chose to make their donation along with the others from Resurrection Lutheran, rather than going to a salon to do so.
In the end, 17 people donated their hair.
Scharmer admits he was living in a theology of scarcity before the event, worrying about finding just three people to offer a donation. In the end, he said instead he had to run to the Aveda store at the last minute to seek volunteers to style the freshly cut hair.
His lesson learned? “God provides for healing.”