St. Matthew’s Sermon 02-25-2018


St. Matthew’s Sermon 02-25-2018

Prayer PLUS Action

Genesis 9:8-17, Psalm 25:1-10, 1 Peter 3:18-22, Mark 1:9-15

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O God. Amen.

I’ll start my message with some additional readings from the Gospel of Mark. Each one is a part of a healing story and, as I read them I’d like you to pay attention to the method Jesus uses to make the healing happen.

Mark 1:23-26 Just then there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit, and he cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.” But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying with a loud voice, came out of him.

5:27-29 She had heard about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, for she said, “If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well.” Immediately her hemorrhage stopped; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease.

8:23-25 He took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village; and when he had put saliva on his eyes and laid his hands on him, he asked him, “Can you see anything?” And the man looked up and said, “I can see people, but they look like trees, walking.” Then Jesus laid his hands on his eyes again; and he looked intently and his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly.

9:28-29When he had entered the house, his disciples asked him privately, “Why could we not cast [the demon] out?” He said to them, “This kind can come out only through prayer.”

10:51-52Then Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?” The blind man said to him, “My teacher, let me see again.” Jesus said to him, “Go; your faith has made you well.” Immediately he regained his sight and followed him on the way.

What I hope you noticed is that in none of these five examples does the healing happen by the same method. In the first, the demon is cast out at Jesus’ command. In the second, the woman’s hemorrhaging was cured because shebelieved it would be so. In the third, was the practice of medicine. (we might find it odd, even disgusting, but saliva was used in ancient medicine and even modern science is rediscovering its benefits). In the forth, the demon is cast out through prayer; and only through prayer. And, in my fifth selection, another blind man regains his sight through his own faith.

The points (plural) that I’m trying to make are, 1) there’s not only one way that Jesus did his healing, there are many. 2) Not all of them are his action alone. And 3) every one of these methods is something that you don’t have to be the Messiah, the Son of God to perform; they are something that you and I can do.

 

Our world, today, needs a lot of healing; there is no doubt about that. Not only are there physical ailments of mental disorders, also known as demons, and bodily malfunctions, and literal blindness; there are also the rampant demons of hatred, discrimination, and oppression; the malfunctions of justice and peace in so many forms; and the blindness of those who cannot, or will not, see the evil of their own ways much less the evils of the institutions that resist change, the required changes, that would cast out the demons and heal the constant bleeding.

Two weeks ago, there was yet another school-shooting added to a rapidly growing list. And that is only the biggest attention-getter over all the other killings, thefts, and bullying that occur day-in and day-out every day in our communities, our nation and our world.

So what can we do about it?

“Thoughts and prayers” are a good start. But as my social media feeds have been so justifiably pointing out, we need more than “thoughts and prayers”.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I do believe in the power of prayer; but just as Jesus himself didn’t rely on prayer alone, we cannot simply pray and expect everything to be made well.

The Pope recently commented on this very point that explains my thinking quite well saying, “We pray for the hungry, then we go out and feed them; that’s how prayer works”!

Prayer is our first step, but prayer should draw our focus to the problem at hand, encourage us to take action, and embolden us to apply another of the means of cure appropriate for the that problem.

 

There’s another thing that can be drawn from my examples of Jesus’ healings; in each one, and as far as I can discover in every other healing story, there was direct engagement between Jesus and the one requesting help, either by physical contact or with dialog. There is no account of Jesus waiving his hand over a crowd and healing all in need; no instance of Jesus kissing the ground as he entered a village and every resident being healed. Even in the feeding of the thousands, there was a connection between Jesus, his disciples, and the one who provided the few loaves and fish that were multiplied sufficiently to feed everyone.

Here, too, we can learn about what we can do to help heal our world.

Just as prayer can draw our focus to the problem, encourage us to act, and embolden us to apply a cure, Prayer should also encourage and embolden us to enter into the sickness, whatever it may be; to engage the sickness, those afflicted by it, and the institutions or people that are the cause of the affliction.

Going back to my mention of the Parkland school shooting; Prayer is a start, but it is only the start. Prayer alone isn’t going to purge our world of such evil acts or any of the other illnesses of our world. We must act; we must engage the problem directly. Using our voices to call out for the needed changes, we can make a difference. Using our presence in being counted among number of those demanding a cure, we can make a difference. By lovingly touching of the hearts of the afflicted, we can make a difference. And by demanding, commanding, those in places of power who can do something about it to do so, we can make a difference.

You don’t have to be the Messiah, the Son of God to perform miraculous healings. Pray, then engage. Pray for the hungry, then go out and feed them. Pray for the sick, then go out and heal them. Pray for the possessed, then cast the demon out of our society. Pray for those too blind to see how sick our world is, then place your hands on them that they might see more clearly. And believe that through faith put into engaged action you can do something about it; you can heal this sickened world

Amen.

 

Genesis 9:8-17
9:8 Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him,
9:9 “As for me, I am establishing my covenant with you and your descendants after you,
9:10 and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the domestic animals, and every animal of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark.
9:11 I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of a flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.”
9:12 God said, “This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations:
9:13 I have set my bow in the clouds, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth.
9:14 When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds,
9:15 I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh.
9:16 When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.”
9:17 God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant that I have established between me and all flesh that is on the earth.”

Psalm 25:1-10
25:1 To you, O LORD, I lift up my soul.
25:2 O my God, in you I trust; do not let me be put to shame; do not let my enemies exult over me.
25:3 Do not let those who wait for you be put to shame; let them be ashamed who are wantonly treacherous.
25:4 Make me to know your ways, O LORD; teach me your paths.
25:5 Lead me in your truth, and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all day long.
25:6 Be mindful of your mercy, O LORD, and of your steadfast love, for they have been from of old.
25:7 Do not remember the sins of my youth or my transgressions; according to your steadfast love remember me, for your goodness’ sake, O LORD!
25:8 Good and upright is the LORD; therefore he instructs sinners in the way.
25:9 He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way.
25:10 All the paths of the LORD are steadfast love and faithfulness, for those who keep his covenant and his decrees.

1 Peter 3:18-22
3:18 For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, in order to bring you to God. He was put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit,
3:19 in which also he went and made a proclamation to the spirits in prison
3:20 who in former times did not obey, when God waited patiently in the days of Noah, during the building of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were saved through water.
3:21 And baptism, which this prefigured, now saves you–not as a removal of dirt from the body, but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,
3:22 who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers made subject to him.

Mark 1:9-15
1:9 In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan.
1:10 And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him.
1:11 And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”
1:12 And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness.
1:13 He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.
1:14 Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God,
1:15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”