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Isaiah 35:4-7a / James 2:1-5 / Mark 7:31-37

Jesus groaned and said. . .

Ephphatha. . .
Be opened. . .

And the deaf man’s ears were opened. . .
he could hear.

And now, when he speaks,
people understand him.

It’s a miracle!!!

Is it true?

Did it really happen?

Or did the early Christians just make it up
to push their case about Jesus
being the Messiah?

Or is there even such a thing as miracles?. . .
now that we moderns have science?

While at one time. . .
actually, just a few decades ago,
many professional historians
were skeptical about Jesus’ miracles.

But now,
no unbiased, professional historian. . .
even if they’re not Christian. . .

can seriously doubt that Jesus was a miracle worker.

Jesus’ miracles are recorded in
too many different sources. . .

They’re just too many eyewitnesses.

Even if the Gospels
didn’t have a single miracle story in them. . .

we still would know that
Jesus was a miracle worker.

The Jewish historian Josephus,
writing in the first century,
declared. . .

“He [Jesus] was a doer of startling deeds.” [Lohfink, Jesus, 128-9]

Ephphatha. . .
Be opened!!!

Jesus’ miracles fit in with the
main theme of his ministry. . .

the Kingdom of God is at hand!!!

So with Jesus’ miracles. . .

when He heals sick people. . .

when He drives out demons. . .

when He calms the waters and the storms. . .

when He raises the dead. . .

in each case. . .

Jesus is confronting the powers of evil and chaos. . .

Jesus is healing a damaged and distorted world
so that the reign of God. . .
the Kingdom of God is made visible!!!

With Jesus’ miracles
Creation is being restored with
the integrity
and the beauty
that God intends it.

Do miracles still happen today?

I’ve talked to several people
who have experienced a miracle themselves. . .

or know of someone who has!!!

Maybe you have too!?!?!?!

A man in our parish had a stroke. . .

And was barely to walk at all
without a lot of assistance.

One day at home. . .
he was doing physical therapy exercises
on an exercise mat. . .

and he heard what he knew
was the voice of Jesus.

Jesus told him to “pick up your mat and walk”. . .

and he did. . .
he got up and walked.

He’s walking among us today!!!

And don’t forget the
meticulous investigation
and study by doctors and scientists
concerning the miracles at of Lourdes. . .

and by the Congregation of Saints
at the Vatican. . .

both of which. . .
after exhaustive research conclude that
some of the healings can only be described
as miracles.

Dr. Craig Keener,
a New Testament scholar at
Asbury Seminary in Wilmore
in 2011, wrote a two-volume work
entitled Miracles. . .

and in this work he cited
medical and scientific evidence of
many modern-day miracles.

And based on surveys,
hundreds of millions. . .
hundreds of millions of people worldwide
claim to have experienced or
witnessed what they believe are miracles.

You Jesus’ miracles remind us that
the way things are. . .

are not the way things will always be.

Jesus’ miracles are signs that
God’s plan for us is not chaos. . .

but peace and harmony. . .

Jesus’ miracles are signs that
God’s plan for us is not brokenness. . .

but wholeness.

The Kingdom of God is at hand. . .

And with miracles. . .
It’s breaking through to a broken world. . .

to a wounded humanity.

But you know,
anytime we talk about miracles. . .
it presents a problem. . .

and the problem is this. . .

not everyone who prays for a
miracle gets one. . .

and it’s not even close.

While there are certainly many, many miracles. . .

sometimes they appear relatively hard to come by.

So our human brain tries to figure out
why I didn’t get the miracle I prayed for. . .

or why Aunt Sally didn’t get the miracle
she prayed for.

And the most common reason we come up with
is that those who don’t get their miracle
is because they don’t have enough faith.

I’ve heard that so often.

And while it does take faith to receive a miracle. . .
It does. . .

some of the most faithful people I know
have prayed for a miracle. . .

and it doesn’t come.

What can happen is that
many Christians end up treating
this miracle business as something
that is dependent on us. . .

dependent on how much faith we have.

As one author puts it, (Taylor, “The Problem with Miracles”)
some see the miracle business
as analogous to some of those strength tests at
carnivals and county fairs. . .

the ones that look like big thermometers
with the red ringers at the top.

It’s all of how hard you hit the
thing with a sledgehammer
so you can ring the bell at the top
and win the prize.

If I really have strong faith
I can ring that bell. . .
and win a miracle.

It’s so easy to make it all about us. . .

Make it about OUR FAITH. . .

And soon OUR FAITH becomes an idol. . .

I’ll impress God. . .
so He’ll give me what I want.

But miracles don’t work that way. . .

and faith certainly doesn’t work that way.

What does true faith in God look like?. . .

First, trusting that the God who
loves me infinitely will give me
exactly what I need. . .
when I need it. . .
whether it’s a miracle or not.

And true faith is recognizing that
every single breath. . .
everything good
is a surprise miracle from God.

And true faith is celebrating every miracle that
God does surprise the world with
as a sign of something wonderful
that will one come to us all. . .

and knowing with absolute certainty. . .
absolute certainty. . .
that in the end. . .
when Jesus comes again. . .

those who trust in God
will receive the ultimate miracle. . .

the ultimate miracle of being
transformed into a new creation . . .

and living in harmony with God and
the rest of creation for all of eternity. . .

living in a new heaven and a new earth.

All of that,
that’s what true faith looks like.

So don’t quit praying for miracles. . .
The world needs miracles. (Taylor, “The Problem with Miracles”)

And if we get one. . .
Give praise and glory to God.

And every time we hear about one,
celebrate the in-breaking of the Kingdom of God. . .

And knowing with certainty
that the greatest of all of God’s miracles. . .
is yet to come!!!

Ephphatha!!!
Be opened. . .

The Kingdom of God is at hand.

Holy Spirit 09/05-06/2021