I don’t believe in Miracles

I don’t believe in miracles.
It’s not that I don’t believe that God could do all sorts of wondrous and spectacular feats that we think of when we think miracle. That’s not it at all.
But, you see something I learned early on was that when we put our faith in miracles, it often means that we’re going to be terribly disappointed, hurt, and well lost. And folks, let me tell you. I’ve been there, and I don’t want to go back. Because you know what, I’ve been that woman in the crowd—no, not the one who as in our story from Mark’s gospel who was cured of some disease or had some problem miraculously disappear. No, I’ve been that other woman, and if we honest, there’s a lot of folks, a lot more folks out there who have worn their knees bare in prayer, who have cried out for relief for self and as so many of us do countless times a day, cried out for a cure a miracle for someone else, someone loved, someone in pain, someone lost. And honestly, more often than not that miracle just doesn’t seem happen. So no, I don’t believe in, I don’t have faith in miracles.
What I do believe in is God.
Our faith is in God. This is the God who didn’t stay up in heaven waiting to see if we prayed hard enough, waiting to see if we were good enough, and did and said all the right things to then dispense a miracle here and there. No we believe in a God who stepped down, way down and into the realness of life—it’s pains, sadness, disappointments, joys, even its day to day, some might say un-remarkableness.
Now I’m not saying miracles don’t happen, and I agree with folks who point out that faith is what makes something a miracle. When there is a miracle, God’s in it. When there isn’t God’s there to. That’s what the bold belief is all about, it’s not about miraculous cures and amazing feats; bold belief is when it doesn’t go the way we want, and we turn to God, turn to one another still holding onto Jesus.

So, while we don’t put our faith and trust in miracles, we do believe in God. We certainly believe that the woman who was so desperately ill,

Image: Crossan, Linda. Untitled,
from Art in the Christian Tradition,
a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN.

who had suffered so much and for so long. Those twelve long years. We certainly believe that she heard about the amazing thing and power of this Jesus, and she got up the courage to give it one more chance—that she would do whatever it took to even as an outcast, someone unclean and avoided for so long to charge boldly into that crowd, to press herself so close to Jesus, to fall down at his feet, to touch just the corner of his robe, and be healed. We believe that’s the kind of thing God does.
We also believe that that leader of the synagogue, that congregational leader was so desperate, so committed, so bold in his powerlessness and helplessness that he threw himself to the ground in front of Jesus and in front of his neighbors, in the presence of all to throw himself in the dirt to boldly beg for Jesus to turn aside from wherever he was headed, to interrupt his schedule and plans and to come and heal his daughter. We believe that Jesus could go into a room where death had taken hold, where grief, and pain filled the emptiness and raise a girl only 12 short years old. We believe that’s the kind of thing God does.
Today we are to live boldly in this faith in Jesus. It is faith that lets us be honest in our prayers, honest in our joys when they seem to go our way, honest in loss when they don’t—believing no matter what in the God of Christ Jesus our Lord who we can also reach out and touch on bended knee, who gives us the hope and promise of healing that is far deeper than a cure as we will, hold onto him in the bread and wine, the body broken, blood shed given for and to us, for the sake of the world—that’s what we believe is the the kind of thing God does.

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Where does it hurt? (Sermon from Feb. 12, 2012)

Pic provided by Ms. Shayla Montgomery (a creative young lady and up & coming artist in our neighborhood)

Where does it hurt? As a mom, I’ve asked this hundreds times, if not more. I’ve been asked it too, where does it hurt? It is a logical question, we can’t always see what’s going on; we can’t see the problem. That, however, isn’t necessarily the case in our gospel story for this morning. After all, this guy is a leper. Now he may have suffered from the actual disease leprosy. Or he may not. That label was given to all sorts of conditions and diseases that we now know are not the same thing. But they didn’t. What the folks of his time and place did know though, was that one way of keeping disease at bay was to send the sufferer away. This also took care of any issues of guilt, because in their thinking the guy was probably being punished for something. That’s how it worked—so they thought.
So let’s see, where does he hurt? His body, for sure from the pain of disease. And his heart as well from the pain of unease, the pain of being cast aside and away, torn from mother, wife, brothers, children, aunts and uncles, from that guy who always lent a hand, and his other friend, the one who knew the best jokes. Where does it hurt? It hurts in the places they used to be.
Now before we get all high and mighty about how simple-minded and ignorant those bible-time folks were way back when, there’s a lot of folks walking around in pain today. Yeah sure, we all know someone struggling with disease or the conditions of aging. We know what it’s like to lose more friends than we make. Where does it hurt? Well right in our own homes, and in our families, in our own hearts—that’s where it hurts—even if it’s not all that obvious right away on the surface.
Like it is for others. You know the ones we’ve pushed to the curb so to speak. One thing about being the church here in town on our corner, we will probably see someone this morning. Some man or woman walking down the street (hopefully on the sidewalk). He may be just be walking, just to keep moving, to keep warm, to get to a meal site or some shelter. She may be walking these streets hoping to make some money for herself, for her kids, maybe even for some drugs. We don’t know; we can’t see all the pain. These are folks through the choices they made with the limited options they were given, who walk a different wilderness—not a desert far from rest of us, but a wilderness of loneliness where we can see, we can see some, at least some of where it hurts.
The thing about Jesus is though we don’t hear him ask the question. The man begging for his life simply says, “You know if you wanted to, you could do something about this.” So, Jesus raises his hand with the answer. But, his hand doesn’t shoot up in the air, but down to touch the man right where it hurts. Jesus could have just said—be clean, be healed—you know in that best authoritative lord and savior tone of voice. But that would have just removed one piece of the pain puzzle.
Instead Jesus does what, frankly a lot of us, would think at least twice before doing. He puts his hand on him, and I’m pretty sure this wasn’t some tap on the shoulder, keep your chin up old man. Jesus put his fingers, his palm, his hand on the man, he put it right where it hurt, in that lonely spot. Think of it this way, it’s just about as if Jesus kissed him and made it better. You know, like I’ve done so many times as a mom, as perhaps you’ve done as a parent, or perhaps your mom or dad did for you. You know that healing miracle of touch. Of course, every time we do that, we know the boo boo, the bruise, the cut—we know that the body will continue to repair, the blood will bring these wonderful white blood cells, and clotting agents, and ok that’s the end of my biology knowledge. We know the body will attend to the damaged tissues.
But when I’ve asked where does it hurt, and I’ve bent down and held my little one close and kissed him. There’s been a healing, and you know sometimes the hurt really does go away.
I remember one evening as child—I was probably a tween somewhere between 11 – 13ish, and I was upset. Ok I was crying—sitting in my room, on my bed sobbing. And that night, not my mom, but my dad came in, sat down next to me, talked to me, put his arms around me, and actually held me. The thing is, I remember all that. What I don’t remember is what brought me to tears that time. I don’t remember why I cried. Now I couldn’t tell you anymore where it hurt.
I think that’s what happened to that guy. He wasn’t running all around town, knocking on everybody’s door rehearsing his sufferings. Woe is me. He was done with that. Look where that had got him. So he isn’t telling us where it hurt. Instead he’s got a whole new story that whether Jesus likes it or not is gonna get out. The news is gonna spread that he’s been held and healed.
The thing is, wherever it hurts for us, Jesus is still reaching out to embrace and to heal—not just the broken bodies, but the broken hearts, the broken relationships, the broken trust, our broken communities, our broken world. Yeah, things may not on the surface look much better, but the healing is going on. It’s as if, when we come here together, when we are alone at night on our knees or in the very least in prayer, or walking down the street ourselves—the divine one of immense love bends down to kiss us and make it better.
Like I said though on the surface we may not notice the change at first, but Jesus is still doing this and when we look deeper at ourselves, at what’s going on here, we believe that Jesus is still doing this, and get this—he’s using us to be that touch.
When we offer more than just a handshake (nice to see you this morning). But in putting our hand-out we offered more, offered our hearts. We would stretch out not just an arm but a life. Now just a note. What Jesus did was risky and unconventional. What he did had consequences. The thinking back then was that Jesus was contaminated with the disease, with the punishment, with the guilt, with the consequences. Well, while we understand the spread of disease a whole lot better. By stretching out more than just our hand, it still takes more than a handy wipe. Things may get dirty, they may get messy, things would take longer. When we sit with, especially our elders, alone in their apartments, rooms in the nice nursing homes we’ve built for them to fill. You know it takes more to actually hold a hand in love and listen. If we really sit with and listen, not just to the superficial stuff of stories, but really look at each other, at the person who wanders in off the street, if we sit with someone at Community Night or our Lenten journey and really listen and look for where it hurts, things will change. We will be changed.
Jesus went to where it hurt, and the thing is he stayed there. The crowds forced him to stay outside of town—so that’s where he stayed. We stay there too because he stays in, with and through us. We stay so that one day, we can Jesus touches us, and frankly we don’t know where it hurts anymore. Alleluia. Amen.

You’ve got a beautiful Body

“If I tell you you have a beautiful body, would you hold it against me.”  My husband has told me that’s from a song, but I first heard those words as a child spoken by my mother.

Yeah,that’s the kind of home I came from.  No wonder I entered the ministry.

Putting all the inappropriate innuendo aside.  I’ve got to say “You’ve got a beautiful body.”

Yes, I mean you dear reader whoever you are, whatever size or shape or color or whatever you are.  You and your body are beautiful.

While our bodies are not perfect, we are rockin’ some amazing feats of mechanics, biology, chemistry, etc. and so forth. The body is part of God’s good and glorious creation.  It isn’t something to be ignored and despised.   But,     and this is a big but.  Our bodies are not to be worshipped.  Nor are they to be objectified. It seems we can’t get it right.  On one hand we abuse the body with all sorts of unhealthy living and activities.  On the other we judge people by their bodies.  In the church we have been guilty of separating the body from the soul.  We have exploited some body/spirit dichotomy.  It’s as if all we will hear on Sunday morning is Paul’s words about punishing his body to enslave it.  All our talk, preaching, and singing of disembodied souls reuniting with lost loved ones behind pearly gates misses God’s emphasis on healing in the present.  For the last several weeks many of us Christians have been hearing stories of healing from the Bible.  This coming Sunday is no exception.   Our first lesson tells us the story of Naaman’s healing from 2 Kings 5.1-14.  Our reading from Mark’s Gospel tells us that a  leper came to Jesus begging him, and kneeling he said to him, “If you choose, you can make me clean.” Moved with pity, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, and said to him, “I do choose. Be made clean!” Immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean. (Mark 1:40-42)  God doesn’t despise the body and seek to simply free us from these earthly fleshy casings. God doesn’t despise her creation. Matter matters from the smallest drop of ocean water to richest and most influential celebrity and in between–everything and every body.

Speak with Authority

Everyone’s got an opinion today. OK, opinions have been around since the beginning. However with the proliferation of posts on Facebook,  blogs, media,  opinions just seem to be everywhere.  Experts,  newscasters, talk show hosts, paid commentators, the guy/gal sitting in front of the computer,  everyone feels like they have to get in their 2cents. It seems like everyone is talking, and no one is really listening.

Perhaps that is the main difference between true and false prophets. True prophets approach this task with humility, openness to God and to the people around them. True prophets are not eager to be heard. Often her words are difficult, not because they are are simply harsh, but because God’s Word is in the business of healing. True prophets know that they are part of the problem, that the call to renewal is directed to themselves just as much as it is to others.  Demons are real and  the systems we all are a part of  are broken.  Yet the ultimate goal is not destruction but reconstruction (resurrection).  Listening deeply to God’s Word of love and mercy and listening to one another allows us to speak with authority and authenticity.  To hear is to be heard.