Sunday, January 22, 2017

Better than what?

Sermon for the Third Sunday after Epiphany
Do you think that Our Lord wants to make you better? Do you really believe it?
The leper comes up to the Lord and says, “Lord, if Thou wilt, Thou canst make me clean.” What happens next? Jesus puts forth his hand, and touches him, saying, “I will; be thou clean” And immediately his leprosy is cleansed.
That’s all well and good, but does this sound right in practice?
Do we come to Jesus with our ailments and say, “Lord, if Thou wilt, Thou canst make me well”? What do we expect to happen?
Some of us may say, “Hmph. I expect nothing to happen.” Others say, “well, it may be that Jesus doesn’t want to make me better.” Still others would say, “Perhaps, I am being given this ailment to teach me a lesson.” Do you stand with any of these?
Let’s put in a little context here. Is the leper that Jesus healed still alive? What about the centurion? What if they had prayed to God not to die? Clearly, the lives of all the people that Jesus healed have passed from our experience of the world. One might say that they have died and their lives are hidden with God. It’s quite clear that Our Lord does not intend to heal every sickness in such an obvious way, nor does He heal every ailment or pain within the seventy short years of this life. The leper is healed because Our Lord will and CAN do it, and the leper believes that Jesus CAN do it. The Centurion doesn’t even need to see Jesus. He trusts Him sufficiently that He CAN heal the servant. If we always look at who is healed, then we miss Who is doing the healing.
The miracles that Jesus does are a response to the faith of those who desire them. Of course, He wills everyone to be healed permanently from every ill or harm. This is why He manages to pull off His greatest miracle of all – the salvation of the World by His Life, Death, and Resurrection.
It’s never about the miracle itself. The miracle always points back to Jesus as King and Lord. If we want a miracle in our lives then we must expect that it will happen because we believe that Jesus is the Master of Creation! Our Lord does want wonderful things to happen to us, but we do tend to expect things on our own terms, not on His.
The miracle that we should desire most, with all our heart, is our transformation into the person whom Jesus wants us willingly to be. If we sincerely believe that this Jesus, this itinerant first century preacher, is in fact the Son of God, then we must remember that it is He who tells us who we are. We don’t define ourselves at all, because we don’t even know who we really are.
 The leper asks for healing on Jesus’ terms. The Centurion asks for healing on Jesus’ terms. It’s always about Him. 
And He is for us.
When we become members of the Church, we engage on a quest to seek first the kingdom of God and His Righteousness in our everyday lives. We don’t seek to find our own one true place in the Church because we usually seek it on our own selfish and short-sighted terms. This is so scary as it means giving up control of how we want our own selves to be in order to serve God. Yet, we come into the Church with the belief that whatever God is upto, it is for our best, and that this best is more wonderful than we can imagine as befits a God who goes so far beyond what we can imagine. This is our Faith.
When we join the Church, we sign ourselves up to believing the whole of the Creed, not for some rite of passage or some kind of arbitrary rule or religion. The Creed we learn is about Who we believe God to be, and what He can, will and really does for us. To deny any part of the Creed is to deny something about Who God is. To accept every part is to open ourselves up to believing God is Who He says He is, and beginning to trust Him more and more, even when things are dark, painful, and utterly miserable.
God wants to make us better – better by full a transformation of our entire selves, not just bits of us. He wants us to agree with Him that we are His children by adoption and grace. He wants to transform us into beings like Himself! That’s still a lifetime’s work, but with Christ, it is a lifetime of challenge, growth and worth that go beyond a world of pain, sickness and death.
If you want to be transformed in Christ, then you shall be.
Do you want to be made better? Really?

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