Sunday, January 22, 2006

Videte Miraculum.

I preached this sermon on the Sunday morning after our day of healing prayer. I was asked to preach on the theme of healing so consequently I chose the readings and from them built this sermon. My intention was to challenge the way that people think about miracles, and what constitutes healing.

Sermon preached on 18th May 2003 at SS Peter and St Paul’s Swanscombe, based on 2 Kings iv:8-22, 32-37 and Mark viii:22-25

A boy lies unconscious.

To all intents and purposes,
he is dead.

A man gives the boy
mouth to mouth resuscitation.

The boy regains consciousness.
Is this a miracle?

A plague sweeps London.

A man injects a vaccine into a boy.

The boy does not get the plague.

Is this a miracle?

A man loses his son in a racist attack.

He forgives his son’s murderers.

Is this a miracle?

In your opinion,
what is a miracle healing?

Is it really what makes
a long drawn out recovery
in a hospital different from
being at Death’s door one minute
and being fine the next?

Is it really only the speed of the recovery?

Consider this.

A man lies in a coma,
a woman gives him
a white pill and a drink.

Within an hour,
the man is walking briskly
around the football pitch
as if nothing had happened.

Is this a miracle?

What if I now tell you
that the man had diabetes,
and all the woman gave him
was a lump of sugar
and a bottle of Coca Cola?

Does that change the way
we think about what just happened?

We associate miracle cures
with the pattern of Jesus’ ministry.

It seems that the Lord
just had to touch a person
and they were instantly
and completely healed.

A blind man comes to Jesus.
Jesus spits in the man’s eyes.

Doesn’t that sound revolting?


But look at this closely.

Remember that in Jesus Christ,
God is made Man.

This is fully human spit in the man’s eyes.

Double Yuk!!

Look one more time,
isn’t this a form of natural medicine?

The Lord is giving this man medicine.

And then the man is cured?

Yes? No! Yes and no!

The man can see a bit.

He sees trees walking around.

If you’ve got bad eyesight like me,
then this is precisely what you see
when you haven’t got your glasses on.

We suspect that this chap has cataracts.

But the man isn’t cured.

The Lord has blotted His copy book.

He has lost His power!

What hope for humanity now?

Let’s all go home!

No, look yet again.

The Lord repeats the action.

He gives the chap a second dose,
a second course of treatment,
a repeat prescription.

What happens?

The man is cured!

Question: is he healed?

Perhaps we cannot really
say that a miracle healing
is always an instant healing.

Let’s look at what Jesus
does from a rational viewpoint.

Can we explain how
Jesus can heal so effectively?

Can we scientifically
analyse the situation
and say "yes, it was a clear cut
case of temporary hysterical optical paralysis
and this is how we treat it"?

What about dealing
with someone who
has stopped breathing?

Well, as anyone in the St John’s Ambulance
would tell you,
you use artificial respiration,
mouth to mouth.

When was this discovered?

Is it modern science?

If you think so,
then watch Elisha restore
a woman’s son by something
very much like mouth to mouth.

Verse 35 of this reading
has two translations.

In the Good News Bible,
we are told that the
boy sneezed seven times.

This is one of two interpretations of the Hebrew,
the other is that Elisha
breathed into the boy seven times,
and this translation is backed up
in the Greek and Latin
(in fact the Latin says he yawned on the boy 7 times!).

What is even more interesting
is that even this isn’t the first time
artificial respiration is used!

Elisha was taught this trick
by Elijah.

Does knowing this stop the
healing from being miraculous?

What about the boy
in plague-swept London
I mentioned at the beginning?

Do you remember?

He survives after being inoculated.

It doesn’t sound much,
but what if I now tell you
that the man who injected the boy
was Edward Jenner,
the man who discovered
the vaccine for smallpox,
a man who was gambling on the hunch
that people who had cowpox
wouldn’t get smallpox,
a man who would have been hanged
if the boy had died?

Does that change anything?

I think that the clue
to what makes a miracle healing
is obviously the word "miracle".

"Miracle" comes from
the Latin word miraculum meaning
"a little something at which to wonder".

The "mira-" bit we can see
in words like admiration and admire.

We admire a sunset.

We admire Martin Luther King.

We admire Durham Cathedral.

We admire the strength of a mother
giving birth for the first time,
and we admire the courage
of the lady at number 42
who is dying of breast cancer.

These all have the essence
of "miracle" about them.

We can detect the power of God Himself
behind these occurrences.

We look and see God
in the gorgeous mixture of oranges
and reds in the sunsets.

We stand and hear the faith in God
of a man leading his race out of slavery.

We stand in giddy awe
as we imagine
a thousand devoted craftsmen
building a glorious temple for God.

We feel the force of God’s creative power
as a tiny scrap of life is pushed into the world.

We are amazed at the vitality of God
in the life of Margaret Jones at number 42,
who knows she is not going to get better,
but still smiles and laughs and praises God
despite the intense pain that eats at her body.

How can Margaret do this?

Because God has healed her.

He hasn’t cured her,
but He has enabled her
to enjoy her last days.

It was not an instant healing,
it took an agonising month or two
to come to terms with the fact
that the operations had failed.

But God has shown her
that she is still very relevant
to the very last.

Isn’t this a miracle healing?

We hear so many complaints about God,
how He chooses to create
a universe full of pain and suffering.

How often He hears
those dreadful cries of dereliction:
"why me?"
"Why must I suffer this?"
"What have I done to deserve this? "

Personally I find it miraculous
how God Who has the power to create
anything He likes,
chooses to create a
universe in which He too
suffers horribly and dies
with that cry
"My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken me".

Why should that be?
Who honestly knows?

But certainly despite our sufferings
there is the central fact that we matter.

That God has given
to each human being
a dignity,
a worth,
that cannot be removed
by sickness,
disability or death.

For me personally,
a miracle healing is
the gift of God
to love,
rejoice and delight in Him
despite the thick
and seemingly impenetrable darkness
of our suffering.

Do you agree with that?

If not,
what would you class
as a miracle healing?

In some instances,
the way that God helps us
to rejoice in Him is
by the immediate removal
of whatever is stopping us,
the blind eyes are opened,
the deformed jaw is repositioned,
the loss of a son leads to an acceptance
and thanksgiving for his life.

In others, nothing physical
seems to happen at all
and then one day
they wake up and realise
that they are healed.

For others
there seems to be no healing whatsoever.

The reason for why this happens
lies only within the private
and personal relationship
between the individual and God.

No one from outside can intrude
on that relationship or offer any answers.

We all eventually die.

As Christians, we know that
the physical demise of our bodies is not the end.

As Christians, we know that we have eternal life.

Every second of our lives
is unimaginably precious
to our God and Father.

What for us are seventy,
ninety years,
in comparison with an eternity of infallible love?

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