Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Noah's Ark: Really Not for Children

A child asks his Grandfather, "Grandpa, were you in the ark?"
He chuckled and replied, "Well, no I wasn't."
There was a pause, and the child looked up at him quizzically and asked, "Then why weren't you drowned?"
We always think of Noah’s Ark as a children’s story.
Many Sunday school lessons, VBS curriculums, and Christian Education programs have been about Noah’s Ark.
I suppose it is because there are animals involved and we think that the kids will love animals.
However, the story of Noah’s Ark is not really a children’s story.
It is a complicated story.
It is about God wiping out all of creation, men, women, children, all the animals, except Noah his family and two of every kind of animal.
It is about a God who is angry and takes that anger out on a sinful world.
I am not sure that is the image that we want children to come away with of God.
To understand sin and it’s complications we need a faith that is more mature than what kids have at this point.

Not only that but for our modern ears the story is hard to believe, but also the idea that forty days of rain floods the entire earth is a hard sell.
The idea that two of every living creature got onto the Ark is another hard thing to believe.
I saw a comedy special on HBO by Ricky Gervis he had a whole part of his comedy act where he mocked the story of Noah’s Ark from a book he had as a child.

So if this is not a children’s story, and it is a hard sell among people of the modern world, what are we to say this morning about Noah’s Ark?
I think that to start we all have to come at this story with new perspective.
We have to throw off our earlier notions of what we learned as Children.
Perhaps it is the hardest thing to do as an adult is to unlearn what we have learned.
To make the transition from the faith of Sunday school to the faith of someone who is an adult.
Our experiences show us that the world is complicated and the way our faith interacts with that world is equally complex.

It is not helpful with Noah’s Ark to try and explain in it in scientific or historical terms.
When we do this we get lost in the minutia of detail, and we miss out on the magic that really is the Noah’s Ark.
In other words, whether you think this story is an historical fact or not, is not the point.
What matters most is what the story is telling us about God and our relationship to God.
How can this story help us live today and make sense of the world around us?

It is really a problem that we have with our faith in general.
We want the Bible to confirm for us our preconceived notions of things, instead of allowing it to change us, and make us see things from God’s perspective.
We want the Bible to go along with our thoughts on how God should be.
In fact, in our lives this is often a problem too.
We think that God should do the things that we want God to do.
We demand that God act in a way that we think the world should work.
The good people should get rewarded for their good behavior, and bad people should be punished for their bad behavior.

The story of Noah’s Ark is wonderful because it does not conform into a nice neat box.
It starts with God being brokenhearted over the sin in His creation.
Instead of saying that it is good, as God did in the Genesis account of creation, God is sorry that he ever created human beings and decides to wipe them out, except Noah and his family.
So we might think ok there it is God wipes out the wicked and saves the righteous.

But then something amazing happens, God changes God’s mind.
Consider that God makes this covenant, at the end of the story, although he knows that “the inclination of the human heart is evil from youth” (back in Chapter 8)
The covenant that God makes is despite our inclinations God has promised to care for and love us.
That includes those who we deem evil.
It is stunning really.

In our reading from 1 Peter he interrupts the story of Noah and Jesus to say that Jesus went and witnessed to the evil people that God destroyed in the flood.
That God cared about even those evil people enough to not let the stay lost for eternity.
That God through water now saves us.
Water that God used to destroy has become the chosen vehicle of God’s saving grace.
“And Baptism, which this prefigured, now saves you.”
This is hard to comprehend, even for us adults.
I am not sure how we would think a child could grasp it.

I hear this all the time from people.
How can my loved one be suffering when there are so many bad people in the world who deserve it more?
That assumption is built on an unbiblical principle.
That God deals with sin by killing evil people.

The Biblical witness is much more complicated than this oversimplification.
The Biblical witness shows a God deeply wounded and hurt by our sin, but a God who is patient slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love.
The Biblical witness shows a God adept at working with human sin to bring about change.
It is actually a beautiful thing.
Because it says that no matter what we do, no matter who we are God will love us until we are found, whole, healed, and put back together.

The truth is that world is a harsh.
It is unfair and unjust.
There are lots of bad things happening all around us, all the time.
I am not trying to be downer here I am just stating what you all already know.
And the adult question we have to work through is where is God in all of it?
What is God’s role in our lives?
Is God that old man on the cloud protecting the good and punishing the bad?
Or is God something more to us?

When we grow in our faith we realize God is something more.
God is a God who makes covenants with us.
God comes to us despite our inclination to evil.
Despite what the world is God has promised to forgive and love.
And that is how God changes the world not through destroying everything evil, but loving it and forgiving it.

For me in my faith journey this is how God has interrupted my life by love and forgiveness.
I think of what I could have been, who I am now, and what I am hoping to be.
It is because of God’s love that I was not totally lost in my wild youth, It is because of God’s forgiveness that I can go about everyday with boldness, and because I know that God is not done with me I have hope for the future.
In this season of lent let us remember that covenant so that we can see God trying to win us over with love and forgiveness.
God is interrupting our lives to say that we are not lost but found in God’s grace.

There used to be a day when the church won people over with fear and intimidation.
Either you do this or else...God will get you.
But this morning let us look at the Noah’s Ark story and see a God who made a covenant of love and forgiveness with us in the saving waters of our Baptism that has nothing to do with how we act.
Let us remember that the covenant is still continues this day through Christ who suffered once and for all for our sins.
And may you live everyday in the saving waters of Baptism knowing of God’s love and forgiveness.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

New Wine and New Wineskins!

Traditionally we see lent as a somber time.
I remember once coming out of church on Ash Wednesday with some friends.
Something happened (I can’t remember what it was) and we laughed.
Instantly one of the older members of the congregation dressed us down for our sudden outburst.
“Lent is no laughing matter”, he said, in a voice that was both meant to intimidate us and show us our proper place.
I have often reflected on this.
I think there are times for silent contemplation.
I think there are times for somber reflections.
I just don’t think it belongs in lent.

“Why don’t your disciples fast.” The good religious folks ask Jesus.
Why are they not more somber like other good religious people?
Why are they laughing, eating, and having such a good time?
It would appear that Jesus is letting his disciples run wild, no discipline.
Jesus responds that while he is around there is only time for celebration and joy.
This is what lent is suppose to lead us to celebration and joy.
Lent is supposed to help us see our lives connected to Jesus and that is a joy.
Lent reminds us that while the bridegroom is with us no need to cry and lament, but to party and rejoice.

We have been told that lent is a time to take inventory of all the things that we have done wrong in our lives.
That what we need to do during these next forty days is really feel bad about our sin.
This reduces Lent to merely a self improvement time.

To me that is like putting new wine into old wineskins.
You see when you put new wine in a wineskin it would start to ferment and expand, and new wineskins, made out of animal skin, would expand with the wine.
But if you used an old wineskin then it was already pushed out, and it would explode when the new wine expanded.
The good news of Jesus Christ is that we are always being expanded by God, we are being made into more than merely sin and called into a new life of grace and mercy.
When we have old wineskins we have no room to let God into our lives.

Lent is about God growing closer to us.
It is about seeing the newness of our lives in relation to the story of God.
It is about expanding our lives of faith.
If all we do is fast because that is what we are suppose to do than we are not opening ourselves to what God is currently doing in our lives.
If we walk around sad and somber for the next forty days than we are not allowing our lives to be expanded by God.

For those of us who have been Christian for a while putting on new wineskin is difficult.
We have become somewhat complacent.
We think we know what this is all about and we are comfortable.
We are like the old wineskins that are already stretched out and break with the new wine.

Which is why it is good that we have lent every year it helps us to remember that we are always being called by Jesus to throw out the old and welcome the new.
What are the new things in our lives that we have to make room for?
What are the ways that Jesus is stretching us to grow and change?

I once had a friend who was teaching confirmation.
She asked her class how we are saved.
“By grace through faith.” they obediently responded.
They knew the answer but had no love for it, no passion for it, they had new wine but only old wineskin.
And by trying to put one in the other they were destroying both.

Perhaps that is what we do too often.
We take outdated forms of being and believe that if we merely stick some new message on it than all will be fine, maybe if we just do the right action, or know the right formula than we will be able to get everything right.
Jesus suggests that the new message of the Gospel has to be accompanied by totally new ways of being and living.
Knowing Jesus causes us to throw off the old forms of convention and live in a whole new way.
It means we embrace who we are and live in the grace of God.

It means getting rid of the piety that is empty gesture to really getting down to the nitty- gritty of our faith.
It means getting rid of the pretense that we have it all figured out, and we got everything together.
Our relationship with Christ is an honest reflection of who we are, “We are dust and to dust we shall return.”
Within this day there are new opportunities to grow in our relationship with Jesus by recognizing that Jesus is right there with us.
Within today I can throw off my mistakes of yesterday, and I can ask for and receive forgiveness.
I can see new ideas and possibilities.
I can see new ways of living this message of the Good news of Jesus Christ.
I can see new ways that the kingdom of God has broken through into the world.
I can see new ways of seeing myself and my life.
Today I can own my failures, I can own my sin, and today because of the grace of God I can live a new life.

This is what Lent is about.
It is about the joy that comes with recognizing God as our constant partner in this life.
It means we don’t have to fast, or pray, or feel guilty, or feel good, or accept the way things are.
No today we can live knowing that the bridegroom has come.
Today is the day of the wedding feast and the day of celebration.

This is what life looks like from the other side of our baptism.
It looks different.
Today I want to invite you on your way out of worship to wipe away the Ashes on your forehead in the baptismal font.
As a reminder of the covenant that God made with you in your baptism.

Sure we are dust, and dust we will return, but because I know the bridegroom I can rejoice in the water that washes away and brings new life.
I can rejoice that this life is not the end.
I can rejoice that there is a tomorrow and Jesus is in it.
Today I can laugh because there is no sadness in recognizing my own sin, only the joy in the good news of Jesus Christ.

This is why we give things up in lent.
The purpose is to show you Jesus in your life and remind you of his presence.
To remind you of your mortality and sin, so you can remember your salvation and forgiveness.
This is how one person explained what fasting did for them, “Several years ago I followed a fast through the forty days of Lent and found that it changed my view of Easter, and that it changed me.
Fasting and meditating on my weaknesses helped me grasp the intense significance of the crucifixion, and gave me a deep and powerful longing for the resurrection, which then became joy on Easter Sunday.”
That is what Lenten disciplines are supposed to do for us help us see the significance of Jesus for us.
They are not meant as self improvement tricks, or empty pietistic gestures.

What is it that will help you see Jesus in your life?
What will help you to grasp the meaning and value of what the good news means to you?

I know that many people take this from all kinds of different angles.
I know some people make it a point to be nicer to someone at work that makes them mad.
I know some people that devote more time to reading the Bible.
Some people give more to the poor.
Some people do nothing, because what they need in their spiritual journey is to let go of trying too hard.
Some people add more time with their family.
Some people have less time with their family.
I could go on and on, but the point is that for all of us it is going to be different.
There is going to be something different that you will need in order to know that Jesus is with us in our lives and rises us out of the ashes.
There is something different each of us needs to be ready to accept the new wine that Jesus is pouring into us.

Whatever we do during Lent let it lead us to celebration, joy, and laughter.
Let us wake up every morning to experience the new thing that God is doing so that we are ready through faith to accept the good news of Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Get Off the Mountain

If you have ever been hiking (living in New Hampshire we certainly have the opportunity to hike) you will know that it makes sense that we can experience God on Mountains.
In fact we call experiences of encountering God mountain top experiences.
Mountain top experiences are those moments when you are suddenly in the presence of something magical and mystical.
I am not much of a hiker, but the times in my life when I have hiked I certainly can tell you that you feel closer to God when you are just below the clouds looking out over the majesty of God’s creation.
Today the Peter, James, and John have an incredible mountain top experience.
They come in the company of great religious figures like Moses and Elijah.
They see the inner part of Jesus shine through, and get a glimpse of the glory that is to come.
And yet they don’t seem to understand.
They don’t know what to say, or how to explain what they just saw.
What they do know is that something extraordinary has happened, something has been revealed to them that has not been revealed to the others.
Why they misunderstand is that living an ordinary life filled with service is also extraordinary.

I think our reaction to these mountain top experiences is the same as Peter’s.
We want to capture it, memorialize it, and then relive it as much as possible.
Peter wants to build a dwelling place for Moses, Elijah, and Jesus.
Perhaps this could be were pilgrims will come to worship and celebrate this moment.
They could sell little religious trinkets to tourist and remember this time of great revelation.
But Jesus has other plans.
It is time to get off the mountain and go back into the world.
It is time to get back to the job at hand.
It is time to set his face towards Jerusalem and his death and resurrection.
And so God commands the disciples to “listen to him”.
It is much easier to worship Jesus than it is to listen to him.

Listening to Jesus means putting away our idea of glory for God’s.
It means sacrifice and pain, over glory and victory.
I would much rather build the booths than do what Jesus says must be done.
Just a few verses before the transfiguration Jesus tells his disciples that he must go to the cross, die, and be resurrected on the third day.
We would much rather live on the mountain that have to walk back down into the humdrums of ordinary life.

I have had many mountain top experiences in my life.
Times when I have been grateful for the God’s presence in my life, times when I felt like God was breaking through.
I can tell you that not one of them stayed forever.
I always had to go back into the world; I always had to live my life.
One of them happened to me when I was on internership in Philadelphia.
I was in my car driving home for dinner.
The sun was setting just over the buildings.
I had this moment of clarification about my life.
I had a feeling of gratitude came over me that I can not to this day fully explain.
But I knew that all was right in the world.

Have you had that moment?
The thing is it was only a moment.
I had to go home to my wife who was upset that I was late for dinner.
I had to go back to the church that night and participate in a council meeting were people where upset because the church was not meeting their every need.
I had to go back to a neighborhood with shootings and drug deals.
I had to go back to the homeless people who asked me for money than stole the television from the church building.

The mountain leads us back into real life.
The story of Jesus is that he exists and operates on both planes.
Jesus is transcending of this world and the cares of this world.
There is a glory that shines from Jesus that no one can stamp out.
And Jesus is fully enmeshed in a world of sin.
Jesus does not stay in that transcending state removed from our ordinary complicated lives.
Jesus returns to work casting out demons, hanging around prostitutes, sinners, the poor, and the outcast.
Jesus is there in the middle of everyday life and death.
When I walked around the neighborhood in North Philly I often imagined that Jesus was right there with me.
What I realized is that these were just people trying to get by, living lives of extraordinary faith despite circumstances.

Perhaps that is what Jesus teaches us more than anything else that we must engage in the world because it is there that we experience the wonderful grace of God.
Sure it is nice to have the mountain top, but it is in the trenches that God is most active.

Most of us spend our lives searching for that mountaintop experience trying to find happiness.
And the truth is that it almost always eludes us.
We go to work at a job that is maybe not what we thought we would be doing, with people who annoy us.
We come home from work and we find dishes that need to clean, kids who need to be disciplined, spouses also unsatisfied with their lives.
We wonder where is the magic and majesty of life?
I believe it is right there in your life.
Not every day is lived on the mountain, sometimes it is in the valley below, it is on the long walk to the cross.

I knew this man named George he was 45 when I knew him.
He had it all.
He had a good job, a loving family, a nice house, two cars, and white picket fence.
And yet he was not happy with his life.
It was not what he thought it would be.
He thought there was something more out there, something better more glamorous.
He searched for it in all kinds of ways went on elaborate vacations, spent money on fancy things, tried to find it in hobbies.
None of these things are bad, but they kept him from seeing what God had given.
It kept him from seeing the true beauty and wonder of simply being a good husband, father, and co-worker.

In comparison, I did a funeral for a parishioner’s husband once.
Before the funeral his wife told me, “He wasn’t anything extraordinary. He just was a good husband, a good father, went to work, and loved to drink Dunkin Doughnuts.”
I disagree, doing these seemingly mundane tasks are extraordinary.
Working hard for your family, loving your wife and kids, helping out friends, giving to others are all things that we should uphold as really wonderful gifts.
Unfortunately, we don’t.
We want the mountain.
We want the extraordinary to be about amazing stories of white lights flashing and important religious figures showing up out of nowhere.

Today I am telling you to get off the mountain and come back into the valley.
It will be here that you will find Jesus toiling among ordinary people living extraordinary lives.
It is here you will see Jesus sharing a meal with the despised tax collectors, touching women with blood diseases, and drinking wine at weddings.

Because the ultimate mountain top experience for Jesus will be at Golgotha on a cross alone and deserted.
It will be there that he will show us true sacrifice and obedience.
It will be there that all of us will be invited to experience true forgiveness and healing.
It will be there that we will be challenged to truly practice discipleship which is about seeing beyond our own happiness to the good of all.
As St.Paul wrote, “We do not proclaim ourselves; we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus’ sake.”

As we walk through the valleys, may we all be able to live ordinary lives and experience in them the extraordinary grace of God in Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Say Nothing to Anyone!

“See that you say nothing to anyone.”
It is an interesting part of Mark’s Gospel.
It is what scholars call the messianic secret.
Jesus after healing people, and casting out their demons, insist that they not tell others what he is up to.
Why not?
Why wouldn’t Jesus want people to know about all the healing and casting out demons?
Any preacher/pastor would be psyched to have a throng of people coming to hear them.
But Jesus does not seem to want it.
It is weird.
Wouldn’t Jesus want everyone to know that he is there, that the kingdom has come near, that God’s reign has broken through?
Jesus only has a couple of years before his death he better use his time wisely and get the message out quickly.
He could set up a nice big mega church with stadium seating.
People would come from miles around for the show.
He would heal people tell them about kingdom, he would change the world, make a difference, and maybe have a nice little life for himself.
After all this is what we all want.
We want to be noticed, to have influence, and power.
Jesus could have had it all.
But he is blowing it because he is trying to keep it a secret.
When reading the Gospel of Mark we have to answer this question to understand the Gospel.

Healing was part of what Jesus did to show what the kingdom looked like, but it was not his mission.
Jesus was on a bigger mission.
Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem and to the cross.
Jesus knew that people could not understand the kingdom properly without the cross.
People misunderstood if they just thought of Jesus as a healer.
It was too small a role for him.
People could not understand what Jesus was doing without the cross.
So he wanted people to keep the healings a secret until they could be brought into their proper perspective.
Without suffering, without sacrifice, without service to others, there is no kingdom.

It is a hard thing for us to understand.
People say all the time, “If God is all powerful why is there such suffering in the world?”
Why doesn’t God do away with all the bad things in the world?
Surely if God had enough power he would, or if God does have the power and doesn’t do it than God is just cruel and uncaring.
Jesus wanted people to see the bigger picture, to understand God’s larger purpose and plan.
There is no world without suffering; there is no resurrection without sacrifice and pain.
It is not really a very popular message.
It is much easier for us to believe that if we have faith or no some secret than God will take away all of our problems.
It is much easier to see the victory than to live in the mystery of a real world living God.

The first funeral I was involved in after becoming a pastor was a five year old girl.
She died of some rare heart problems.
It was one of those times when you just think that the world is unfair.
It didn’t make any sense for someone so young to die.
Where was the justice in it?
It wasn’t right.
Her family was not members of our congregation.
She had been a student in our preschool.
Some members of our congregation asked me to go visit with her and the family in the hospital before she died.
I did and built a relationship with the family.
After she died the family informed me that the church they went to did not allow funerals in the church.
I thought this was really strange.
But you see their church was a healing church.
They believed that if you prayed hard enough, and believed hard enough you would be cured.
They also believed in modern medicine, but they just preached that God was a mighty God who would cure every disease of people who had faith in him.
They had crutches on the walls of their church from people who could not walk but had been healed.
Surely they had prayed for this five year old girl, they had faith that the mighty God would heal her.
And she died anyway.
So you see, they could not allow that funeral in their church.
It would prove them wrong, or perhaps worse that God was wrong.
I offered to let them have the funeral in our congregation, and said that their pastors could even come and do the service.
The family insisted that I be part of it, which I did and out of respect for the family I accepted the rather bogus theology of those pastors.
Don’t get me wrong it was tempting to be around them.
They had a mega church with five services filled to the brim.
They bragged about who they used to have a small church like ours until the healings started then they had to tear down walls and build bigger.
Victory is a much more attractive message for people.

I tell you this story because you can see the danger of resurrection without the cross.
We deny the reality of life.
We deny the true power of our faith.
We box God in to a particular set of preconceived theological notions.
Jesus did not want this to be his ministry.
Jesus wanted people to hear the message.
He wanted people to accept the Good News.
But they couldn’t if they simply thought he was a miracle worker.

The cross proved that God is with us through everything we face in life.
It does not remove us from the pain of the world.
It does not stop bad things happening to us.
It gives us strength and faith to deal with life as it is, not as we wish it could be.

For us the cross has real consequences.
It means that as a community of faith we cannot hide from realities of life.
We too must live into them.
We must deal with life in all of its unfairness and cruelty.
We must deal with our own mortality.
And then we must give ourselves over to the one thing that can really truly save us God’s amazing grace given in Jesus Christ.
Grace tells us that on the other side of grief there is joy, on the other side of suffering there is healing, on the other side of death there is life.
But we have to get through those things first.
There are no short cuts to the kingdom.
There are no short cuts in our lives.
There is no magic pill, or words.
There is only life in all of its hardships and disappointments, and faith in the good news.

This week we will have Valentine’s Day with all of its pronouncements about love.
Valentine’s Day is about all of the niceties of love with candy and hearts.
But if you have ever been truly in love you know that love is not always nice.
It means sacrifice and giving of yourself for others.
It means daily dying to yourself so that you can be reborn a child of God.
Real love is found through the cross of Jesus Christ that tells us not to seek our own satisfaction, not to seek our own happiness, but the happiness of others.
We cannot understand the wonder and mystery of God without the cross.

“See that you say nothing to anyone.”
When we tell others about our faith let us tell them about our pain and loss and how God got us through.
Let us live with others in their pain and loss so that we might be able to tell them the greater mission of God’s kingdom that comes from knowing his Son.
Let us love then…with real purpose.
Let us live with cross so that we might believe in the Good News.
That Jesus Christ died for us and loves us enough to live with us in our pain and sorrow so that we might be resurrected to live a life like his filled with sacrifice, and giving.


Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Praying For A Miracle!

I am praying for a miracle.
I am hoping against hope.
I believe maybe foolishly that God’s power is greater than our power.
When we read stories about Jesus healing people we want to dismiss them, or explain them away.
Sure Jesus healed people in the Gospel, but that does not happen today.
When Mark was writing his Gospel he misunderstood healing powers of medicine and science for healing powers of Jesus.
These explanations might make us feel better about our lives and how difficult it can be to have faith when we are experiencing sickness and death, but it is not what the Biblical writers are trying to convey.
I want to state from the start that I am not against science or modern medicine at all.
And I do believe these things can be and are instruments of God’s healing power.
I am saying this morning that the Gospel’s are not about trying to explain everything that happens in terms of scientific truth.
They are trying to convey to us something unique about Jesus and his mission to bring the Kingdom of God to earth.
The healings that Jesus performs are meant to reveal to us that Jesus has the power over all things in our lives that stop us from fully living.

When we pray don’t we believe that God has the power to do what we ask?
If we take the Biblical witness seriously we have to believe that God has the power to heal.
That what we consider miracles are just a part of what God does on a regular basis.
If not then why do we even have a prayer list?
Why do we lift up these names every Sunday?
We do it because we believe in the power of God.
We believe that God can and does cure and heal.
I bet that if I asked everyone of you could tell me some miraculous story of when God healed and saved.

Jesus taught us that healing and curing were central to the mission of God.
The Kingdom is about total restoration of our mind, bodies, and souls.
To be a person of faith is to believe in that power even though it might seem foolish or hopeless.

I have known plenty of times in ministry and in my life when people of earnest faith prayed for healing, and the person died anyway.
Healing is not just about a physical reaction.
Healing is not just about being able to get up and walk again.
Every time we pray God acts.
Healing is offered to the person, not always in the way we had hoped or wished.
That is the hard part of faith to accept that even though we pray for things to happen in a certain way it does not always work out that way.
Perhaps God has another way to heal that we had not thought about.
For some a physical death is healing.
I know many prayers that started out as praying for physically healing ended up praying that the Lord be merciful to the person and take them home.
That too is a miracle.
Eternal life is miracle, and a major part of what we believe as Christians, and what Jesus taught.

This week I had a person call to ask for help from our congregation.
He needed money to get some things out of a storage unit.
I could not help him with this.
I explained that this was not a good use of the congregation’s resources.
We use that money to help people keep a roof over their head.
He understood.
He then went on to tell of all the hard breaks he has had in the last year.
He said to me, “You know what I really need is prayer pastor. Could you put me on your prayer list.”
This morning in our prayers we will be praying for this man.
It does not matter that you don’t know him or what his problems are; all that matters is that we will lift his name up to God for healing and wholeness.
God knows this man and what he needs, and now we will be the voice of God’s people crying out for his hurt and pain.
That is why we pray.
We pray for healing for a miracle.

I know that many of you out this morning have prayer concerns.
Many of you are looking for miracles.
Many of you are hoping against hope.
This morning I am telling you that Jesus Christ is here to heal and to restore.
This is the place to bring those concerns.
We pray because we believe in Jesus power, in God’s power to raise us up, just as he did to Simon’s mother in law, just as he did for all the people in Capernaum that day.

This week I was visiting with some of our members who are sick, who are dying.
We will pray for them this morning too.
Some of them are hoping for a miracle.
All of them are experiencing miracles.
Perhaps the miracle comes in more time with loved ones, enough time to say I love you and goodbye.
Perhaps it comes in God offering enough comfort and promise to be able to say that it is ok to die, because we believe in eternal life.
Perhaps it comes in the forming of real world healing, or a health professional giving really good care.
Perhaps the miracle is that we are all here this morning praying together in faith that God’s power will be experienced.

I need a miracle for my mother who is sick, for some friends who are sick, for people I know who are dying.
This is where we as the church belong next to those who are suffering.
In order to remain close to our lord we have to be with those who are not alright.
When we are close to those who suffer we remain close with our Lord.
Only after all things are lost do we remember that it is our faith that sustains.

One of the lessons I have had to learn over and over again is that prayer is sometimes the best medicine.
I cannot heal, but I know that Jesus does!

One of the things about Jesus is that he does not have to go looking for people to help.
They flock to him.
They crowd the door way of Simon’s house.
He attracts people who have needs.
People who are sick in mind, body, or spirit seek out Jesus because he is the one they know can heal completely physically and spiritually.

The same is true today.
We come to Jesus in those moments because we are looking for a miracle.
We are looking for a place to help heal us and restore us.
I notice that even people with no faith commitments will search out God when they are sick or dying.
People seek out God in the worst of times because that is the right place to turn, it is the place we go for miracles.
It is only God who saves.

There are many needs in our congregation, in our community, in our world.
I know that God in Jesus Christ can save.
That is my statement of faith.
I believe it because I have seen it all the time.
I am still holding out for a miracle.
I am still hoping against hope.
I still believe in God’s power to heal and send away restored.

We will sing in our hymn of the day today, “O, my soul praise him, for he is your health and salvation!”
This morning as we sing those words let us believe them with all our hearts.
As we pray this morning for all those in the world who are brokenhearted, powerless, sick, and dying let us believe that Jesus has the power to heal and save.
Let us leave worship this morning praying for miracles, hoping against hope, and praising the Lord for he is our health and salvation!