The Eternal hope
A Homily for Trinity 12
All Saints Anglican Church, Prescott, AZ
Text: Mark 7:31-37
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be always acceptable in thy sight, O Lord my strength and my redeemer. Amen
When we think of a miracle, we think of it being a supernatural thing, often something that transcends and suspends the natural and theological laws. Yet, is this a fair treatment of a miracle? When we look at the gospels and read the accounts of Jesus healing the sick, helping the lame walk, healing the blind, or even turning water into wine, do we see the natural law being suspended?
C.S. Lewis would have said no and purposed that miracles are an interference with nature by supernatural law. That is to say that – the natural law isn’t broken, only sped up, supersized, or magnified in some way. He uses the example of the virgin birth to prove his point. That all though the supernatural was involved in Mary becoming pregnant, the pregnancy itself was, from all accounts like any other pregnancy. This morning I want to briefly look at the wedding feast in Cana and the miracle of turning water into wine to get a better understanding of this.
We have read St. John’s account of the wedding feast. Jesus turns water into wine and not just any old wine, but really good wine. To further Lewis’s point let’s think for a moment about how wine is made.
The vintner plants grape vines, slowly they grow into full sized plants. Then the plant flowers, is germinated and the seed and fruit grow. The fruit is picked, juiced and fermented. But for all of this to work, the farmer needs to water his grapes. The water is a critical part not only in growing the plant but in the growth of healthy fruit.
As we can see from this little example the natural law isn’t broken, only sped up and a few steps were skipped. None the less, water regularly becomes wine naturally.
Now, you may be wondering what this has to do with Jesus healing the deaf man, for certainly deaf humans don’t normally get gain hearing at least not without major surgical intervention.
So, we need to back up. Let us first think about this poor man and his deformity, in perspective of what we’ve talked about in the past.
We have talked, at least briefly how sin entered the world in Adam and Eve’s rebellion against God. In their simple action of eating the forbidden fruit things started to unravel. No more would humans walk with God in perfect harmony for all of time, no longer would his creation be very good, but the good and the bad would mingle, light and dark would struggle. Though darkness can never overcome the light.
We have also talked about the question of theodicy, why bad things happen to good people, why our bodies fail, why storms destroy our homes, and things just don’t work as they should. We wake up in the morning and are stiff, our jobs doesn’t bring us joy. All of these struggles have the same answer.
A careful examination of the creation and fall narrative in Genesis tells us this isn’t how it should be. We shouldn’t feel pain, work should be joyful, and we should be able to walk with God in the cool of the day. Yet, we don’t. When Adam chose to eat the fruit, he welcomed evil into their paradise, and paradise was lost. These pains and struggle, our brokenness stem from this simple moment of rebellion.
The man’s hearing had failed and his speech was impeded because all too often in our broken world things don’t go as they should. Although we don’t see this in this lesson, the Pharisees took this teaching a step further. We see in other parts of the gospels that they would taught that the infirmed or his parents had some grievous sin and this impediment was a judgement on them. We see this same fallacy in our world now. The fundamentalist who teaches a disaster was a judgement on our country because of sexual sin in rampant. Or even that we are personally facing divine retribution when bad things happen to us.
On the reverse side, we have false teachers telling us that if we just will it we can have our best life now, all we have to do is be good, or think good thoughts. No, God’s main purpose isn’t to give us a good earthly life when we behave ourselves, or to correct us with angry retribution. The Holy Spirit is working in us to draw us nearer to the Lord through Christ.
The brokenness of the world stems from the fall of Adam and Eve in the first days. For this reason, we ache, we hate our jobs, people sin against us, and us against them, and nature sometimes destroys. I hope that the difference between the belief that our world is broken and corrupted by sin, and divine retribution very clear. The worldview of recognizing the brokenness of the world changes how we believe and behave. It gives us hope for the better things to come and enlivens our hearts with compassion. This view, is the view of Christian optimists, because we long for the way things will be.
Back to our man who was born with imperfections that haunted him his whole life, but we know that he can’t become better without medical intervention which won’t be mastered for near 2000 years. How can this be an example of the supernatural being imposed upon the natural law, not breaking it but speeding it up?
We have looked at the beginning, and now we need to look at the end. When you have read the Book of Revelation you read that all things were made right.
In the end: there will be judgement and the unrepentant will face the sorrow for their sins and the wrong they’ve done. Vengeance belongs to the Lord, not us. The repentant will be cloaked in Christ and judged not for their sin’s but for Christ’s righteousness.
In the end: there will be a New Heaven and a New Earth.
In the end: the faithful will share in Christ’s resurrection
When we are resurrected, we will not retain the bodies that we have now but new, glorified bodies. For we know when Christ was resurrected, though he still wore the marks of the crucifixion he was not immediately recognized, and although he broke bread and ate, walked and dwelt among his disciples and hundreds saw him, his body seemed to not completely follow the laws of nature as we know them.
On the last day thing will be made as they were meant to be. Humanity will walk with God in the garden, our tasks will be tasks of joy, and there will be no more pain.
This coming re-creation is what the deaf man experienced. It was partial and temporary, sped up, not perfect for he eventually died, but the brokenness in his body was healed.
There is one other parts of this story that is worth talking about.
Why did Jesus not perform this miracle in front of the crowd but went aside?
Was he feeling shy? Or did he just want to have secrets?
Jesus knew that our human nature urges us to make divine, eternal hope an earthly, temporal hope. The temptation is to hope that things will work out that we might have a better life right now. We saw this with Adam and Eve who wanted to delight in the earthly pleasure of the forbidden. We saw this with the Israelites who wanted a king. Not because there was any real advantage to having a king, but it was a status symbol among the neighboring kingdoms and they were afraid these other lands would overrule them. We saw this with the disciples who thought that they would be the king of Israel’s right hand men. They did not understand that they were ushering in the kingdom of heaven. They genuinely believed that their rag tag band of men were going to overthrow the Roman’s occupation of Israel. We see it in our time too, prosperity preachers promising health and wealth in the here and now. But we best not be too quick to point fingers, because we see it in ourselves as well. We often want quick fixes to our earthly problems. God cares for those problems, and we bring them to Him in our prayers, but he cares more for our souls. He cares that we learn to depend upon him fully and that we are learning to walk with him.
So, Jesus withdraws from the crowd, for he knows that their tendency will be to worship him because of the great acts that he performs, but not focus on the words that he preaches. Christ came into the world to usher in the kingdom of heaven, and if we are too focused on the earthly miracles, how can we possibly be looking forward to the coming kingdom of heaven.
This was his call on the disciples, to spread the good news, to spread the kingdom of heaven. This is also our call to be lights in the darkness, to believe the words of Christ, and to participate in the kingdom of heaven in the now that we may be prepared for our eternal heavenly participation.
As he withdrew to not make a show of the miracle, so we are to minister in word and deed. Speaking the truth in all we do and seeking to do good in the world and to all who we meet. We participate in our local Christian community, and partake in the sacraments that we might get a foretaste for the things to come. Because of Christ’s death and resurrection we can walk with God in the here and now in our imperfections and one day we will walk perfectly with him in the eternal kingdom.
While, on the surfacel this Gospel lesson seems relatively simple. It gives us an interesting perspective into the life of Christ and the coming of the kingdom of heaven. The Kingdom of Heaven is a dichotomy of already but not yet. For the church is to be mini-embassies for that kingdom. Glimmers of hope in a world that is often marred with frustration, death, hatred, and sin. We are to be lights and beacons for the kingdom of God.
Yet, we know that the kingdom is not yet established for it doesn’t take much looking to see sin. Whether it be in our own life and action, our failures to love, obey and trust God or be charitable to our neighbor. We see sin in watching the world around us as people behave poorly towards their friends, and we see it when we turn on the evening news. We see how broken the world is and we see how things so often fall apart. We see how people are filled with inexplicable hatred and maliciousness for others. Instead of growing discouraged let use these dark spots to help us look forward to the day when the Lord comes again when this brokenness no longer rules the world and to give hope to the hurting and sorrowful we meet.
And as we hope – we pray come Lord Jesus come. For in the last day all will be made right, our sins will be forgiven, and our bodies will no longer ache and fail us. So, come Lord Jesus Come, let our hope in Him be a mighty hope. A hope not placed in worldly possessions, nor in miraculous solutions, but in eternal communion with the King of kings. Let us hope boldly and come to the thrown of grace with joy-filled hearts.
In the name of the father, and the son and the holy ghost. Amen.