The Fire Before the Finish

“The Fire Before the Finish”
December 06, 2015
(Second Sunday of Advent)
By John Partridge

Scripture:  Malachi 3:1-4    Philippians 1:3-11     Luke 3:1-6

This morning we are going to begin by filling in the missing words from some well known, and some lesser known, sayings.
1) When we suspect that something is wrong we have said, “Where there’s smoke there’s ______.”

2) The leader of the 21 gun salute said, “Ready, Aim, ________.”

3) The coach was disappointed by how his team was performing. He said that he needed to “Light a ______ under them.

4) The famous baseball player, Ty Cobb, once said, “I never could stand losing. Second place didn’t interest me. I had a ______ in my belly.”

5) Bernard Williams said, “Talent is a flame. Genius is a ______.”

6) Mae West said, “A man can be short and dumpy and getting bald but if he has ____, women will like him.”

7) Finally, President Richard Nixon once said, “The finest steel has to go through the hottest _____.

If it isn’t obvious by now, the answer to all of these was “fire.”

But on almost all of these, fire is the thing that happens at the beginning. Fire is the creator of smoke, the fire is what makes the gun go “boom,” fire is what motivates athletes, geniuses, and dumpy bald men. But President Nixon was in the right ballpark for today’s scripture because in Malachi 3:1-4, God warns his people that when the Messiah comes, things are going to get hot.

3:1 “I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,” says the Lord Almighty.

2 But who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand when he appears? For he will be like a refiner’s fire or a launderer’s soap. 3 He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver. Then the Lord will have men who will bring offerings in righteousness, 4 and the offerings of Judah and Jerusalem will be acceptable to the Lord, as in days gone by, as in former years.

In a prophecy that describes the coming of the Messiah, we see that Jesus is the messenger that we desire, and Jesus is the rescuer and redeemer that we have been looking forward to seeing, but when he comes, not everyone will be happy about it. Malachi tells us that his coming will be like a refiner’s fire or a launderer’s soap. He will be the one who drives out the impurities but the process of refining silver or gold is to place them in a fire until they melt and keep them there until the impurities float to the top. For the people of God, the fire didn’t happen at the beginning of the story, it comes at the end. It is after we have been refined that God will find our offerings to be acceptable because it is then that righteous men and women will bring them.

And so, as we celebrate Advent, we remember that life isn’t always going to be easy. God isn’t always going to let things go our way. Sometimes, when we feel like we are in the fire, we are. And we are there because God intends to drive off some of our impurities.

Not surprisingly, we hear echoes of this in the Christmas story as well. Reading from Luke 3:1-6, we hear these words:

3:1 In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar—when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, Herod tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of Iturea and Traconitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene— 2 during the high-priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. 3 He went into all the country around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 4 As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet:

“A voice of one calling in the wilderness,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord,
make straight paths for him.
5 Every valley shall be filled in,
every mountain and hill made low.
The crooked roads shall become straight,
the rough ways smooth.
6 And all people will see God’s salvation.’”

I want to point out that God found John in the wilderness. God didn’t wait for John to be doing something important. God didn’t wait until John came to the Temple in Jerusalem to call him. God called John from where he was, at the moment that he was needed. And when God called, only then did John leave where he was and go into the countryside to preach.

From time to time, each of us may feel that we are in the wilderness. We may feel that we aren’t doing anything important or we might feel that we are far from home, or away from the hustle and bustle, or away from the places where important people gather. But Luke’s message is that when God is ready, he will find us no matter where we are.

The second point that we should take from this passage is that John’s entire mission was to prepare for the coming of the Messiah by proclaiming a message of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. John was the one who was “preparing the way” for the arrival of Jesus.

Today, we are in John’s place.

Today, we have been given John’s mission.

As we celebrate Advent, we are reminded that today, we are called to prepare the way for the arrival of the Messiah, Jesus.

To do that, there is something that we must do. We must do as John preached; we must repent of our sins (and remember that ‘repent’ means to turn around, to change directions, and go another way) and we must prepare our hearts for the arrival of the Prince of Peace.

In Philippians 1:3-11, Paul reveals even more of this fundamental principle and why our season of preparation is important.

3 I thank my God every time I remember you. 4 In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy 5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, 6 being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

7 It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart and, whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me. 8 God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.

9 And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, 10 so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.

Paul reminds the followers of Jesus that God has begun doing something amazing in their lives. God himself has begun doing something good in each of us and we, like Paul, are confident that if God has begun something, he will surely continue doing it until that thing is finished.

And so, let us remember these things:

Remember that life isn’t always easy, but it may well be that, in the hardest times, when we feel like we are in the furnace surrounded by fire, God is refining us so that we may be, in the end, purer and more beautiful than ever before.

Remember that Advent is the season of preparation. Let us repent of our sins and prepare our hearts for the coming of the Prince of Peace.
Remember that we have inherited the mission of John the Baptist and are called, from wherever we are, to proclaim the coming of the redeemer and rescuer of humanity.

And as we do these things, remember that God is working in each of us so that we might love more, know more, see more, understand more, so that we can make better choices and become more righteous. Paul’s desire, and ours, is to become pure and blameless on the Day of Judgment but, moreover, that we will become so much like Jesus, that we will live our lives like Jesus and pour out God’s love into the world around us.

The Future Shapes Our Present

“The Future Shapes Our Present”
November 29, 2015
(First Sunday of Advent)
By John Partridge

Scripture:   Jeremiah 33:14-16 1      Thessalonians 3:9-13      Luke 21:25-36

I want to share with you two statements that, at first, just seem wrong.

The course of our lives is straightened when we remember the future.

What will happen in the future, changes the present.

These statements seem a little odd to us. We are accustomed to sayings like “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” (George Santayana) And it makes sense to us to remember the past. It is likewise sensible for us to learn from our own past mistakes as well as our successes. But how can we learn from the future, or have our present shaped by the future, if the future itself is unknown to us?

That just seems obvious doesn’t it?

We cannot know the future. Right?

Fortune tellers and psychics are just scam artists. Aren’t they?

And the answers are, of course we can’t and of course they are…

…Unless, of course, God is the one who tells you the future.

This idea of God telling the future (I do not use the word “predicting” because God doesn’t predict or guess, God knows) is both a critical and a key factor in the story of Christmas. When God foretells the future, we have a name for that, and we call it prophecy. As an example of what I am talking about, let us begin this morning with Jeremiah 33:14-16, where we find God’s prophet, Jeremiah, warning Israel that their corruption would bring God’s judgment upon the entire nation. But amid all of the destruction and death that was to come, there was also good news of hope.

14 “‘The days are coming,’ declares the Lord, ‘when I will fulfill the good promise I made to the people of Israel and Judah.

15 “‘In those days and at that time
I will make a righteous Branch sprout from David’s line;
he will do what is just and right in the land.
16 In those days Judah will be saved
and Jerusalem will live in safety.
This is the name by which it will be called:
The Lord Our Righteous Savior.’

Through Jeremiah, God proclaims that he will keep his promises, that despite Israel’s judgment, and despite the coming destruction, that God still intends to place a descendant of David on the throne as king. In these words, it is not difficult to see a foreshadowing, a foretelling of the future, of the birth of Jesus. But we must remember that Jeremiah lived at the same time as Ezekiel, Habakkuk, and Obediah more than six hundred years before Jesus was born. Psychics and fortune tellers do not come even close.

When God speaks of the future, God doesn’t guess. God knows.

And so, because of Jeremiah, and hosts of other Old Testament prophets, we know, and have great confidence, that God knows exactly how the future will unfold, and will, occasionally, share that knowledge through his prophets. In fact, in the story of Jesus alone, we can find more than 400 prophecies of the Old Testament prophets that were fulfilled. And so, with this understanding and confidence, we look forward and find Luke 21:25-36, where Jesus proclaims a prophecy that is fulfilled in two parts. First, Jesus presents a prophecy that was fulfilled in our past and second, an unfulfilled prophecy that remains in our future. Jesus said,

25 “There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea. 26 People will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken. 27 At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. 28 When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”

29 He told them this parable: “Look at the fig tree and all the trees. 30 When they sprout leaves, you can see for yourselves and know that summer is near. 31 Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that the kingdom of God is near.

32 “Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. 33 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.

34 “Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you suddenly like a trap. 35 For it will come on all those who live on the face of the whole earth. 36 Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man.”

In this, we see these two parts, those parts of Jesus’ prophecy that have been fulfilled, as well as those that remain in our future. These two parts are common elements of prophecy, and are often referred to as the “already and not yet.” In this particular passage, some of these things were seen and understood to have happened in 70 AD with the destruction of the Israel’s temple by the Roman army. But, at the same time, many of these elements have clearly not yet happened and so, even today, remain in the future.

And now we put these pieces together. First, God has proven to us that he knows the future and that he sometimes shares that knowledge with his people. Just as the people of Israel were comforted by knowing that “the years the locusts had eaten” (last week from the prophet Joel) would be returned to them, and that the promised Messiah would one day be their king forever, we trust that the words of Jesus are true. Jesus not only foretold the sacking of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD, but was also warning us to watch for the signs that signaled the end of time. Jesus warns us that there will be a time when the good times are rolling, when the wine will flow and the parties will rock, this will also be a time when the stress of day to day life will weigh us down as a terrible burden. It may be that the drinking and partying will be a way of destressing or forgetting our stress for a few hours, but however it happens, Jesus says, if we are not careful, that day will close on us like a trap. We are warned not to allow the alcohol, or the partying, or the worry and stress to distract us from what is really happening. No matter what else is going on around us, we must keep our focus on Jesus, live justly, and be ready to stand in judgment.

And so, if that is the future that we expect, how can, how should, our present be shaped by it?

In his letter to the church in Thessalonica (1 Thessalonians 3:9-13), Paul answers exactly that question.

9 How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy we have in the presence of our God because of you? 10 Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you again and supply what is lacking in your faith.

11 Now may our God and Father himself and our Lord Jesus clear the way for us to come to you. 12 May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you. 13 May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones.

How can we thank God for the people who have come into our lives and given us joy? We can pray that we would see them again, that God would bless them, and supply what they need to grow stronger in their faith. But more than that, we should love more, love each other more, and love everyone else more. And finally, we should pray that God would strengthen us so that we can live lives that are just, blameless, and holy.

As we begin this season of Advent, God call upon us to both remember the past and look to the future.

We must learn from the past, so that we may become more than we used to be.

But we must also learn from the future…

…so that we can become the people that God intends for us to be.

Rising Above the Crowd

“Rising Above the Crowd”
July 26, 2015
By John Partridge

Scripture:

2 Samuel 11:1-15

Ephesians 3:14-21

John 6:1-21

Have you ever had an absolutely phenomenal day? One of those days that sounds like something from the movies when they say things like “It’s my time to shine” or “Seize the day” or a day when you “stand above” or “stand out” from everyone else? But most often, when people rise above the crowd it is because they have prepared themselves for that moment. Our astronauts do some amazing things, but nearly all of them are the very best in their fields. Some of them are among the very finest pilots in the world and others hold doctorate degrees in science. They stand above the crowd because they have the chance to do amazing work, but also because they invested much of their lives to prepare themselves for just such an opportunity. Likewise, our Olympic athletes shine in front of an international audience, but they have spent years, and countless gallons of sweat, preparing for that moment. This morning we are going to read three scriptures in which we see three people prepare themselves to do something extraordinary. The first of these is David, who makes a series of choices that prepare him for disaster, the second is Jesus who prepares a miracle that reveals to the world who he really is, and the third is you.

We begin in 2 Samuel 11:1-15, where David makes a string of bad choices that will cause him, and Israel, incredible pain.

11:1 In the spring, at the time when kings go off to war, David sent Joab out with the king’s men and the whole Israelite army. They destroyed the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah. But David remained in Jerusalem.

2 One evening David got up from his bed and walked around on the roof of the palace. From the roof he saw a woman bathing. The woman was very beautiful, 3 and David sent someone to find out about her. The man said, “She is Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam and the wife of Uriah the Hittite.” 4 Then David sent messengers to get her. She came to him, and he slept with her. (Now she was purifying herself from her monthly uncleanness.) Then she went back home. 5 The woman conceived and sent word to David, saying, “I am pregnant.”

6 So David sent this word to Joab: “Send me Uriah the Hittite.” And Joab sent him to David. 7 When Uriah came to him, David asked him how Joab was, how the soldiers were and how the war was going. 8 Then David said to Uriah, “Go down to your house and wash your feet.” So Uriah left the palace, and a gift from the king was sent after him. 9 But Uriah slept at the entrance to the palace with all his master’s servants and did not go down to his house.

10 David was told, “Uriah did not go home.” So he asked Uriah, “Haven’t you just come from a military campaign? Why didn’t you go home?”

11 Uriah said to David, “The ark and Israel and Judah are staying in tents, and my commander Joab and my lord’s men are camped in the open country. How could I go to my house to eat and drink and make love to my wife? As surely as you live, I will not do such a thing!”

12 Then David said to him, “Stay here one more day, and tomorrow I will send you back.” So Uriah remained in Jerusalem that day and the next. 13 At David’s invitation, he ate and drank with him, and David made him drunk. But in the evening Uriah went out to sleep on his mat among his master’s servants; he did not go home.

14 In the morning David wrote a letter to Joab and sent it with Uriah. 15 In it he wrote, “Put Uriah out in front where the fighting is fiercest. Then withdraw from him so he will be struck down and die.”

In this passage we can clearly see that David, despite his allegiance to God, made choices that prepared him for moral failure. First, although it was traditional for kings to lead their armies, and although David had built his reputation as a warrior, on this particular occasion, when the army of Israel went out to do battle, David chose to abandon his duty and stay home. One evening he went out on the roof to stretch his legs, and probably to cool off. Since stone and brick buildings accumulate heat all day in the sun, David probably wanted to get outside where he could enjoy the evening breezes and, most likely, the palace roof offered the one of the coolest spots in the city. But while he was there, he witnesses someone else doing the same thing. One of his neighbors was enjoying a bath on her roof, and again, this was probably not unusual. What was unusual was that David not only saw, he looked… and he made the choice to keep on looking. Granted, David was a man and as a man, if your beautiful neighbor is taking a bath on her roof, it was probably hard not to notice, but David didn’t just look. David didn’t look away. David didn’t walk away. David didn’t even just enjoy the view and go back inside. Instead, David looked, watched, and lusted in his heart. David wanted her.

And so, David not only lusted, he acted on his lust, first by sending someone to find out who she was, second by sending messengers to get her and bring her to him, but then again by choosing to spend the night with her. When she turns up pregnant, David makes the choice to cover the whole thing up but that doesn’t work either because Uriah is more honorable and loyal than David expected, and, honestly, more loyal and honorable than David himself. David even allows Uriah to stay in town for several days, perhaps hoping that Uriah’s willpower will dissolve as he sleeps on the doorstep of the king only a few steps from his home and his beautiful wife. But Uriah will not dishonor his king or his brothers-in-arms and so David again chooses poorly and plots to have this honorable man murdered.

David made a great many poor choices and each one brought him one step closer to disaster. This series of choices is one that caused David, and all of Israel great pain, misery, and death. David’s choices led him to stand out from the crowd… for all the wrong reasons.

But fast forward to John 6:1-21, where we find the descendant of David, Jesus, fully prepared to do something totally amazing.

6:1 Some time after this, Jesus crossed to the far shore of the Sea of Galilee (that is, the Sea of Tiberias), 2 and a great crowd of people followed him because they saw the signs he had performed by healing the sick. 3 Then Jesus went up on a mountainside and sat down with his disciples. 4 The Jewish Passover Festival was near.

5 When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” 6 He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do.

7 Philip answered him, “It would take more than half a year’s wages to buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!”

8 Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up, 9 “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?”

10 Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” There was plenty of grass in that place, and they sat down (about five thousand men were there). 11 Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish.

12 When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, “Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.” 13 So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten.

14 After the people saw the sign Jesus performed, they began to say, “Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world.” 15 Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself.
By this time, Jesus was well into his three year ministry and had spent countless hours in prayer as well and much of his life in the synagogue. It is apparent from scripture that Jesus, and most of the disciples, would attend worship in the synagogue whenever they were able. This preparation brings Jesus to the side of a mountain where they were far from everything. There were no nearby towns, no handy fast food drive-thru’s, no food trucks or even a hot dog guy with a box around his neck. And so Jesus sets out to feed ten to fifteen thousand people (remember that our scripture said that there were five thousand men). Just to buy bread for so many people would take six months of wages and would only give a bite to each one. But Jesus forges ahead anyway. Jesus begins with one sack lunch from one small boy, five miniature barley bagels and two sardines. Not much. But Jesus takes this small offering, gives thanks for what the boy has offered to God, and passes them out to the crowd with each person taking as much as they wanted. And when everyone was finished and had eaten all that they wanted, they filled twelve baskets with the leftovers. We should especially note that John says that the baskets were filled, not simply with leftover bread, but specifically leftover pieces from the five barley loaves. I think John wanted to be sure that everyone knew that there was not some other source of supply, people had not brought their own lunches, but that all of the people had eaten, and all of the baskets were filled from the remains of what the boy had given and which God had blessed.

Because of this great miracle, everyone knew that Jesus was sent by God.

Finally, in Ephesians 3:14-21, we hear the words of the Apostle Paul who wrote this prayer for the people of the church in Ephesus and, in effect, all of the followers of Jesus everywhere.

14 For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

Here, Paul prays that God would strengthen his people through the power of the Spirit that lives within you. He prays that Christ might live in your hearts through faith and that each of you would be so rooted and established in love that you might fully understand how big, how great, and how powerful Christ’s love for you really is. Paul prays that you are filled with the fullness of God. That last part is a big deal. Paul prays that you (that we) would be filled with the fullness of God, but remember that little boy on the side of the mountain with Jesus. His sack lunch was filled with the fullness of his mother and that was enough to feed one little boy. But when that boy made the choice to give his lunch to Jesus, and when Jesus prayed that God would bless that sack lunch, it became not just filled with the fullness of his mother, but filled with the fullness of God. When that sack lunch was filled with the fullness of God, it not only fed that boy, but ten or fifteen thousand other people.

The fullness of God is often far more than it appears.

Something, or someone, that is filled with the fullness of God is capable of doing far more than they might appear from the outside. Someone that is filled with the fullness of God does not rely only upon their own strength and their own abilities but also on the strength and ability of the creator of the universe.

The choices that we make lead us to our destination.

If we make poor choices like David, we can choose our way into disaster, pain, suffering and death.

But if we make choices that lead us toward Jesus, if we make choices that allow us to be empowered by the Spirit of God and filled with the fullness of God, then God also gives us the ability to rise above the crowd as we do far more than we could ever ask or imagine.

Your “time to shine” may come after a lifetime of preparation and a lifetime of choices. Choices to pray, read scripture, attend church, to attend Bible study, to learn, to think, and to act like Jesus.

When that time comes, will you be ready?

What will you choose?

Visions of Home

“Visions of Home”
July 19, 2015
By John Partridge

Scripture:

2 Samuel 7:1-14

Ephesians 2:11-22

Mark 6:30-34, 53-56

Over the years I have made a number of friends who were born in other countries. Some of them were in the United States for a limited time and others had come here to become American citizens and to make a new life. In either case, when they told stories of home, it was much, much different than simply reading stories about that place from a book. When these people told stories, the descriptions were alive with details of sights, sounds, smells, family and friends. When you heard their stories, you could feel the connection that they had, that their heart had, with a place called home. You can hear it in the voice of someone who was born in the south when they talk about the smell of magnolias in the springtime, or when fans talk about the baseball stadiums where they saw their first game. Their voices change and suddenly the story isn’t just a story, it comes alive, because in it, are visions of home.

This morning we are going to read three very different stories, stories which, at first, don’t seem to have a lot in common, but which, in the end, all include these very sorts of visions… visions of home.

We begin in 2 Samuel 7:1-14, where we find King David, resting in his newly constructed palace reflecting on the fact that the Arc of the Covenant was still kept in the Tabernacle, the tent, that Moses had made in the desert a thousand years earlier. Granted, it was a nice tent, and undoubtedly well maintained, but something still didn’t seem right about it…

7:1 After the king was settled in his palace and the Lord had given him rest from all his enemies around him, 2 he said to Nathan the prophet, “Here I am, living in a house of cedar, while the ark of God remains in a tent.”

3 Nathan replied to the king, “Whatever you have in mind, go ahead and do it, for the Lord is with you.”

4 But that night the word of the Lord came to Nathan, saying:

5 “Go and tell my servant David, ‘This is what the Lord says: Are you the one to build me a house to dwell in? 6 I have not dwelt in a house from the day I brought the Israelites up out of Egypt to this day. I have been moving from place to place with a tent as my dwelling. 7 Wherever I have moved with all the Israelites, did I ever say to any of their rulers whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, “Why have you not built me a house of cedar?”’

8 “Now then, tell my servant David, ‘This is what the Lord Almighty says: I took you from the pasture, from tending the flock, and appointed you ruler over my people Israel. 9 I have been with you wherever you have gone, and I have cut off all your enemies from before you. Now I will make your name great, like the names of the greatest men on earth. 10 And I will provide a place for my people Israel and will plant them so that they can have a home of their own and no longer be disturbed. Wicked people will not oppress them anymore, as they did at the beginning 11 and have done ever since the time I appointed leaders over my people Israel. I will also give you rest from all your enemies.

“‘The Lord declares to you that the Lord himself will establish a house for you: 12 When your days are over and you rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, your own flesh and blood, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. 14 I will be his father, and he will be my son.

This is a great story and we can draw a lot of lessons from it, but today we’re looking behind it just a little bit. Today we are listening for that change of voice, that vision of home, and some insight into the nature of God. And in that sense, there are a couple of things that I heard. First, God says that he was never really concerned about where, on earth, that he lived. He never commanded that he live in a gold-plated palace. Being a nomad, wandering from place to place, never bothered him. Second, God promises that God is the one who is the ultimate builder. He is the one who is building the kingdom; he is the one who made David a king, and he is the one who is building our future. Third, God tells David that despite all the great things that he has done, he is not the one that God has chosen to build his house. In another passage of scripture God insists that because David is a man of blood, because he was a warrior, he is not to be the one who builds God’s house. Instead, God will choose David’s son, Solomon, who was a man of peace.

In Mark 6:30-34, 53-56, we hear this story that, at first sounds completely unrelated.

30 The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. 31 Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”

32 So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place. 33 But many who saw them leaving recognized them and ran on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. 34 When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things.

53 When they had crossed over, they landed at Gennesaret and anchored there. 54 As soon as they got out of the boat, people recognized Jesus. 55 They ran throughout that whole region and carried the sick on mats to wherever they heard he was. 56 And wherever he went—into villages, towns or countryside—they placed the sick in the marketplaces. They begged him to let them touch even the edge of his cloak, and all who touched it were healed.

At first this seems pretty random. At least until we start looking for those visions of home, and then we realize something about Jesus’ personality. Even when they were worn out and dog tired from all the time that they had already spent ministering to other people and caring for their needs, even when they were so tired that Jesus said, “Let’s get out of here for a while and take a break,” even then they still did more ministry.

Why?

Even when they had every right to take break and get some rest, Jesus kept on teaching crowds of people and healing as many as could be brought to him.

Why?

Because, our scripture tells us, Jesus had compassion. Jesus cared about people. Jesus cared about their suffering. Jesus cared what they knew and how they thought. Jesus cared so much that his own comfort, even his own rest and his own sleep, were put aside until they could be taken care of. And that is a vision of home. It tells us something about how Jesus thought and felt, and it tells us something about his father and the things that are important to God. It tells us a little about what God’s home must be like. If Jesus cared so much about people who live here on earth, how much more must God care about the people in his own house?

Finally we arrive at Ephesians 2:11-22. Here again, this passage of scripture, appears to be a random selection that has nothing at all to do with the first two, but again we need to listen for that tone of voice that gives us a vision of home.

11 Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” (which is done in the body by human hands)— 12 remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

14 For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, 15 by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, 16 and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. 17 He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.

19 Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. 21 In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22 And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.

Paul is talking about Jesus. How Jesus came, not to bring peace, but to be peace. Jesus came to bring hostile groups together, to bring people together, and to make peace, not only between groups of people, not only on earth, but to bring peace between human beings and God. Not only to bring people together, but to bring human beings and God together.

Paul says that, because of Jesus, we are no longer strangers to God. We are no longer strangers and foreigners regardless of our differences, regardless of the color of our skin, and regardless of our nationality. And if that is what Jesus was doing on earth, just imagine what that means in his own house.

And so, even though you won’t find a chapter of the Bible that tells you all about heaven, if we look carefully, we can find, behind scriptures like these, glimpses and hints of what Jesus’ home must be like.

From these short passages we found that God is building his kingdom, not in a gold plated palace, but in the lives and hearts of human being beings. God is also building our future, he is moving us to places we need to go and bringing people into our lives that we need to meet so that we can have the life that God intends. God is a god of peace. Even though he loved David and called him a man after God’s own heart, he wanted the world to see that the builder of God’s house had to be a man of peace and not a man of war and blood. And that was a foreshadowing, a preview, of the Messiah that was to come. Jesus was not a man of war but a man of peace, a savior who not only brought peace into the world; he came into the world to be peace, to bring people together, and to bring peace between humanity and God. Jesus was a man who was so filled with compassion that he set aside his own needs to bring comfort and healing to others.

In all of these passages, and in many others, we see glimpses of God’s character and clues to what we will find in heaven. Jesus has invited everyone to come; all are welcome regardless of the color of your skin, or nationality, or personality or anything else. We are invited to a house so filled with compassion that there will no longer be suffering or pain or death, a place where there will be no strangers nor will we be strangers to God.

These are just a few of the things we can find in scripture when we read carefully.

These are examples of how we can begin to live our lives here and now, lives filled with peace, love and compassion toward others, even when they appear different and strange to us.

These are images of the future.

Visions of home.

A Promise Kept

“A Promise Kept”
July 12, 2015
By John Partridge

Scripture:

2 Samuel 6:1-5, 12b-19

Ephesians 1:3-14

Mark 6:14-29

After General Douglas MacArthur escaped from the Philippines in March of 1942, he famously proclaimed “I came out of Bataan and I shall return!” More recently, the Terminator robot, played by Arnold Swarzenegger, announces in several movies in the franchise, “I’ll be back.” A great many people have promised an even greater number of things, but most often those promises aren’t worth much. All we have to do to remember how fragile a promise is, is to remember the promises of our political candidates, or the treaties that our nation made, and broke, with the American Indian tribes. Chief Joseph once said, “It makes my heart sick when I remember all the good words and the broken promises.” Actress Mae West may have summed it up best when she said, “An ounce of performance is worth pounds of promises.”

A promise only has value if the one who promises is willing and able to keep it.

And that is the pivotal thought behind all of today’s scriptures. We begin in 2 Samuel 6:1-5, 12b-19, where we find both David and God keeping promises that were made to one another and to God’s people.

6:1 David again brought together all the able young men of Israel—thirty thousand. 2 He and all his men went to Baalah in Judah to bring up from there the ark of God, which is called by the Name, the name of the LORD Almighty, who is enthroned between the cherubim on the ark. 3 They set the ark of God on a new cart and brought it from the house of Abinadab, which was on the hill. Uzzah and Ahio, sons of Abinadab, were guiding the new cart 4 with the ark of God on it, and Ahio was walking in front of it. 5 David and all Israel were celebrating with all their might before the LORD, with castanets, harps, lyres, timbrels, sistrums and cymbals.

So David went to bring up the ark of God from the house of Obed-Edom to the City of David with rejoicing. 13 When those who were carrying the ark of the LORD had taken six steps, he sacrificed a bull and a fattened calf. 14 Wearing a linen ephod, David was dancing before the LORD with all his might, 15 while he and all Israel were bringing up the ark of the LORD with shouts and the sound of trumpets.

16 As the ark of the LORD was entering the City of David, Michal daughter of Saul watched from a window. And when she saw King David leaping and dancing before the LORD, she despised him in her heart.

17 They brought the ark of the LORD and set it in its place inside the tent that David had pitched for it, and David sacrificed burnt offerings and fellowship offerings before the LORD. 18 After he had finished sacrificing the burnt offerings and fellowship offerings, he blessed the people in the name of the LORD Almighty. 19 Then he gave a loaf of bread, a cake of dates and a cake of raisins to each person in the whole crowd of Israelites, both men and women. And all the people went to their homes.

God had given the Ark of the Covenant to the people of Israel but it had been lost for many years to the Philistines. No matter where it had been kept in the Philistine nation it caused problems, sickness and death and so they eventually allowed it to return to Israel’s control. Even then, it had been kept in the home of an ordinary Israelite because Saul had little interest in it. But David was different. As David began to make Jerusalem into his capitol city, he wanted to bring honor to God and to Israel, by bringing the ark home. Instead of ignoring the ark, David held it in high honor and brought the ark back with fanfare, praise, joy, dancing and celebration. Michal, David’s wife and also the daughter of Saul, despised David and although scripture doesn’t tell us why, perhaps it is because David’s dancing and celebrating didn’t look proper for a king, or perhaps it was because God was keeping his promises through David instead of through her father Saul.

In Mark 6:14-29, King Herod makes a promise that he would like to get out of, but, because he made the promise in public, he honors his promise in the most gruesome way.

14 King Herod heard about this, for Jesus’ name had become well known. Some were saying] “John the Baptist has been raised from the dead, and that is why miraculous powers are at work in him.”

15 Others said, “He is Elijah.”

And still others claimed, “He is a prophet, like one of the prophets of long ago.”

16 But when Herod heard this, he said, “John, whom I beheaded, has been raised from the dead!”

17 For Herod himself had given orders to have John arrested, and he had him bound and put in prison. He did this because of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, whom he had married. 18 For John had been saying to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” 19 So Herodias nursed a grudge against John and wanted to kill him. But she was not able to, 20 because Herod feared John and protected him, knowing him to be a righteous and holy man. When Herod heard John, he was greatly puzzled; yet he liked to listen to him.

21 Finally the opportune time came. On his birthday Herod gave a banquet for his high officials and military commanders and the leading men of Galilee. 22 When the daughter of Herodias came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his dinner guests.

The king said to the girl, “Ask me for anything you want, and I’ll give it to you.” 23 And he promised her with an oath, “Whatever you ask I will give you, up to half my kingdom.”

24 She went out and said to her mother, “What shall I ask for?”

“The head of John the Baptist,” she answered.

25 At once the girl hurried in to the king with the request: “I want you to give me right now the head of John the Baptist on a platter.”

26 The king was greatly distressed, but because of his oaths and his dinner guests, he did not want to refuse her. 27 So he immediately sent an executioner with orders to bring John’s head. The man went, beheaded John in the prison, 28 and brought back his head on a platter. He presented it to the girl, and she gave it to her mother. 29 On hearing of this, John’s disciples came and took his body and laid it in a tomb.

Herod was known to be an unpleasant, unpredictable, and outright dangerous man, but he had both the power and the willingness to keep his promise and he did.

In Ephesians 1:3-14, the Apostle Paul describes for us one of the most important and most powerful promises in all of scripture.

3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. 4 For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace 8 that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, 9 he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, 10 to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.

11 In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, 12 in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. 13 And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.

Paul explains that the followers of Jesus Christ were known by God before the creation of the world. We are redeemed by Jesus Christ, rescued from the destruction at the end of the world, and rescued from sin and death because of the grace and mercy of God. When we put our faith in Jesus Christ we trust that he is both willing and able to do what he has said that he will do.

We trust that God will keep his promises.

But in Paul’s description he makes two incredibly important points. First, he says that God has “adopted us to sonship,” which sounds nice, but is an even bigger deal than it appears. The Greek word that we translate as “adoption to sonship” is a Greek legal term with a specific meaning. In Roman culture, it refers to the full legal standing of an adopted male heir. That means that God’s invitation to us, and acceptance of us, is not just an invitation to be his servants, nor is it just to stay at his house, nor is it to be honored guests. It is nothing less than to become, legally, sons and daughters of the King of the Universe, the creator of everything, and legally equivalent to Jesus Christ himself.

That, my friends, is a really big deal.

The second important point is that when you believed, that very moment when you put your trust and faith in Jesus Christ, God marked you with a seal, a deposit, that marks you as his, and guarantees your inheritance until the time comes for your full redemption. At the moment that we put our faith in Jesus Christ, God sends the Holy Spirit to take up residence in us so that he can use his power to work on us and through us, but also as a deposit that symbolizes the promise of our ultimate redemption.

For those of you old enough to remember, soft drinks used to come in glass bottles that legally, belonged to Coca-Cola or Pepsi, or whoever had originally manufactured them. On each bottle was a guarantee that if you returned them to the store, the owner would redeem them, he would pay you for them and retake possession of them. Likewise, for many years, our American currency was backed by gold and silver and each bill of paper currency had a seal on it which said, “This certifies that there have been deposited in the treasury of the United States, five silver dollars, payable to the bearer on demand.” If you had a five dollar silver certificate, you could, at any time, take it to the bank and redeem it for real actual silver. Likewise, gold certificates could be redeemed for gold. The seal on the bill was a symbol of the bill’s true value.

And that is Paul’s message. We were sentenced to death but the penalty has already been paid. We had a price on our heads, but that price has been paid in the blood of Jesus Christ. We belong to him and we have been marked with a seal that indicates that we belong to God’s family. We carry with us, every day, God’s mark upon our lives, that we belong to him and that, when the time comes, we will be redeemed and returned to him.

That too, is a really big deal.

A promise is only as good as the integrity of the one who makes the promise.

A promise only has value if the one who promises is willing and able to keep it.

General MacArthur kept his promise.

The Terminator and King Herod kept their promises.

“An ounce of performance is worth pounds of promises.” – Mae West

Our message today reminds us that God is able.

God always keeps his promises. Our future is guaranteed because we have put our trust in Jesus Christ.

Our challenge is to be not only the kind of people who trust God, but the kind of people who keep their promises to God, the kind of people who keep their promises to one another, and the kind of people who keep their promises to others.

Our challenge…

…is to be the kind of people who are worthy of trust.

They weren’t Superman, but they did the impossible because…

“With God’s Help”
July 05, 2015
By John Partridge

Scripture:

2 Samuel 5:1-5, 9-10

2 Corinthians 12:2-10

Mark 6:1-13

What would you do if you could do anything in the world?

That is one of the questions that I have heard as career counselors and advisers try to help young people to discover their passion and choose a college major or to find a career.

If you had ten million dollars and didn’t have to worry about making a living, what would you do everyday?

If you could do anything in the world, and you knew that you couldn’t fail, what would you do?

These are the kind of questions that spur our imagination and invite us to dream, but they can also lead us, as followers of Jesus Christ, to attempt great things for God. If our church could do anything, what would we do? Of course there are always practical and physical limits in the real world. The technology of the twenty first century in which we live will not allow us to build floating cities in the sky, terraform Mars, or colonize other planets and at least for the time being, humans cannot fly, grow gills, and live underwater.

Our world has limits…

…but more often than not, the limits that we put on ourselves are far greater than the real limits of our world. We imagine limits that do not exist and more than that, scripture tells us that we can surpass and exceed many of our imagined limits when we are doing the things that God has called us to do. Remember that David, the youngest and smallest in his family was selected to be Israel’s next king? Remember that he defeated Goliath, with God’s help? Remember that even though Saul and the entire army of Israel were hunting for him, David and his small band of friends were able to stay one step ahead for years at a time and even given the opportunity to kill king Saul (but didn’t) on several occasions? Remember the miracles that Jesus performed… with God’s help? Or the miracles that Samuel, Moses, Elijah, Elisha, and many other prophets of God performed… with God’s help? Or the multitudes of other ordinary men and women in scripture who did great things, things beyond what others thought possible, and sometimes even beyond what science thinks is physically possible? They did these things, not because they were born on the planet Krypton and were Superman, but because they did them (say it with me)… with God’s help.

In 2 Samuel 5:1-5, 9-10, we hear this story as David, who is already the king of Judah, also now becomes the king of Israel, and by doing so unites all 12 tribes of Abraham into one nation…

5:1 All the tribes of Israel came to David at Hebron and said, “We are your own flesh and blood. 2 In the past, while Saul was king over us, you were the one who led Israel on their military campaigns. And the LORD said to you, ‘You will shepherd my people Israel, and you will become their ruler.’”

3 When all the elders of Israel had come to King David at Hebron, the king made a covenant with them at Hebron before the LORD, and they anointed David king over Israel.

4 David was thirty years old when he became king, and he reigned forty years. 5 In Hebron he reigned over Judah seven years and six months, and in Jerusalem he reigned over all Israel and Judah thirty-three years.

9 David then took up residence in the fortress and called it the City of David. He built up the area around it, from the terraces inward. 10 And he became more and more powerful, because the LORD God Almighty was with him.

Remember that David was anointed as king by the prophet Samuel years before, but it took a long time to actually become king. For seven and a half years he had been king of the southern tribes of Judah and now, finally, he is anointed yet again and become the king of a united nation. As king, David continues to build the nation of Israel into an international power both militarily and economically. And our scripture tells us that “he became more and more powerful, because the LORD God Almighty was with him.” David, for all his good looks and fighting skill, became increasingly powerful and transformed his nation… with God’s help.

In 2 Corinthians 12:2-10, Paul tells a story about himself. He tells the church how he had been given a vision by God but also some kind of disability that plagued his entire life.

2 I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know—God knows. 3 And I know that this man—whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows— 4 was caught up to paradise and heard inexpressible things, things that no one is permitted to tell. 5 I will boast about a man like that, but I will not boast about myself, except about my weaknesses. 6 Even if I should choose to boast, I would not be a fool, because I would be speaking the truth. But I refrain, so no one will think more of me than is warranted by what I do or say, 7 or because of these surpassingly great revelations. Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Paul was given great gifts by God. He had been given a marvelous vision of heaven and had met Jesus on the Damascus road, but at the same time he also received what he calls a thorn in his flesh. We don’t know what that was but it was something which caused him to pray for relief. Many people have speculated on what Paul’s thorn might have been. I have heard guesses that range from stuttering, to other speech impediments, epilepsy, lameness, some kind of facial ugliness, and we can guess any number of other things like an impacted wisdom tooth, but at the end of the day all we know is that it bothered him a lot, Paul prayed that God would take it away, and that God said “No.” But God’s refusal causes Paul to praise God and boast in God’s power even more.

Whatever it is, Paul regards his thorn in the flesh as some kind of weakness. Because of this weakness, whatever it was, Paul’s success in ministry and his endurance in the face of opposition, beatings, imprisonments, and other hardships is to be seen as even more amazing and miraculous. Paul wants us to know that when we are weak, when we have imperfections, problems, and “thorns in the flesh,” then it becomes even more obvious when God is working through us. Paul’s message is that even though we are weak, we are able to do great things…

…with God’s help.

And finally today we come back to Jesus, but in a way that makes even more certain that we know that the message applies to us. We spoke last week about how Jesus was 100 percent human and that God’s miracles were the power of God acting through him, but if you had any doubts at all, this week’s scripture should put that doubt to rest as well. In Mark 6:1-13, we see Jesus when he is powerless, and ordinary followers when they perform miracles.

6:1 Jesus left there and went to his hometown, accompanied by his disciples. 2 When the Sabbath came, he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were amazed.

“Where did this man get these things?” they asked. “What’s this wisdom that has been given him? What are these remarkable miracles he is performing? 3 Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him.

4 Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own town, among his relatives and in his own home.” 5 He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them. 6 He was amazed at their lack of faith.

Then Jesus went around teaching from village to village. 7 Calling the Twelve to him, he began to send them out two by two and gave them authority over impure spirits.

8 These were his instructions: “Take nothing for the journey except a staff—no bread, no bag, no money in your belts. 9 Wear sandals but not an extra shirt. 10 Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you leave that town. 11 And if any place will not welcome you or listen to you, leave that place and shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.”

12 They went out and preached that people should repent. 13 They drove out many demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them.

When Jesus returns to his hometown, the people were amazed at his preaching, but not in the same way that people normally were. Here the people are amazed that Jesus says the things that he says, not because of the power and authority with which he says them, but because he is a hometown kid. The people cannot see Jesus as a savior, teacher, or prophet because all they can see is the son of a carpenter. Jesus cannot do the things that he normally does… because no one has faith.

But afterward, Jesus sends his disciples out, two by two, and gives them the authority to command impure spirits and to perform other miracles. And these ordinary men (and soon he will send out even more followers, both men and women) carrying nothing except a walking stick, go out, preach, drive out demons, anoint the sick, and heal many people. Jesus could not perform miracles because the people in his hometown had no faith, but the disciples went from town to town, drove out demons, and healed the sick. They demonstrated God’s power working through them because they had little or nothing of their own. Whatever they did, was done through faith…

…with God’s help.

If you could do anything in the world, and you knew that you couldn’t fail, what would you do?

If Trinity Church could do anything in the world, and we knew that we couldn’t fail, what would we do?

Let us imagine, dream, and pray together to hear what God might be calling us to do. Because we can do incredible, amazing, and even impossible things…

…with God’s help.

Faith and Power

Faith and Power

June 28, 2015

By John Partridge

Scripture: Mark 5:21-43

    Last week, we read the story about David and his battle with Goliath and we remembered that even though David was just a boy, and even though Goliath was twice his size, well armored, experienced, battle hardened, and incredibly strong, the battle itself was not about swords, armor and brute strength. David understood that and he wanted to be sure that everyone else did too. David knew that the real battle was not between Goliath’s strength and David’s inexperience, but between the physical strength of Goliath, backed up by the power of the armies of the Philistines, against the faith of David and the power and strength of his God, the creator of the universe and all that is.

It was never even close.

Because David understood, and because his faith allowed him to see what others could not, he had the courage to do what others, others who were older, stronger, and more experienced, were afraid to even try.

In Mark 5:21-43, we hear two stories that reveal the true strength of Jesus, but also the power that was revealed in the faith of others.

21 When Jesus had again crossed over by boat to the other side of the lake, a large crowd gathered around him while he was by the lake. 22 Then one of the synagogue leaders, named Jairus, came, and when he saw Jesus, he fell at his feet. 23 He pleaded earnestly with him, “My little daughter is dying. Please come and put your hands on her so that she will be healed and live.” 24 So Jesus went with him.

A large crowd followed and pressed around him. 25 And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. 26 She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse. 27 When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, 28 because she thought, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.” 29 Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering.

30 At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched my clothes?”

31“You see the people crowding against you,” his disciples answered, “and yet you can ask, ‘Who touched me?’”

32 But Jesus kept looking around to see who had done it. 33 Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet and, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth. 34 He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.”

35 While Jesus was still speaking, some people came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue leader. “Your daughter is dead,” they said. “Why bother the teacher anymore?”

36 Overhearing what they said, Jesus told him, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.”

37 He did not let anyone follow him except Peter, James and John the brother of James. 38 When they came to the home of the synagogue leader, Jesus saw a commotion, with people crying and wailing loudly. 39 He went in and said to them, “Why all this commotion and wailing? The child is not dead but asleep.” 40 But they laughed at him.

After he put them all out, he took the child’s father and mother and the disciples who were with him, and went in where the child was. 41 He took her by the hand and said to her, “Talitha koum!” (which means “Little girl, I say to you, get up!”). 42 Immediately the girl stood up and began to walk around (she was twelve years old). At this they were completely astonished. 43 He gave strict orders not to let anyone know about this, and told them to give her something to eat.

While Jesus was on earth, he was fully (100%) human but, at the same time, fully (100%) God in human flesh. We have trouble with that. In our world, that math doesn’t work. In the physical world that we inhabit, you can’t be 200 percent of anything but God is more than a physical thing. God is a spiritual being and so, in God’s math, Jesus could be, and was, 100% human in the physical world but also 100% divine in the spiritual world. We don’t really understand how that works, and we wrestle with it, but we know that it is true.

Jesus is on the way to see a sick little girl, when a woman who has suffered for years with a chronic illness, pushes through the crowd to see him. She can’t quite reach him but she believes that Jesus’ power is great enough that all she has to do is to touch his clothing. And so she reaches through the crowd, through a tangle of arms and legs and shoulders, and touches the edge of his jacket. Immediately, she is healed, and even before she realizes that she is better, Jesus knows that the power of God has flowed through him and into her. What Jesus doesn’t know, is who she is.

This is one of those puzzles where we struggle with Jesus’ divinity. How did Jesus know that she had been healed but not know who she was. We really don’t know. But Jesus was human. He knew, he felt, God’s power flow through him, but in the press of the crowd, he couldn’t tell who had been on the receiving end. Since the woman had reached through the crowd, she might have already been several rows back from where Jesus was. But she had been healed just the same. Jesus didn’t see her, or pray over her, or recite some religious incantation, God had done all the work, through Jesus, simply because of the strength of the faith of this courageous woman.

Later, in the home of the synagogue leader, Jesus tells Jairus to ignore the people who have given up. The entire household gave up because they know that the girl is dead and that a healer is of no use. But Jesus is no ordinary healer. Jesus tells Jairus not to be afraid, but only to believe. The girl is restored to life, not only because Jesus wielded great power (which he did), but because Jairus had faith.

When we remember that Jesus was fully human, we begin to see the real power in these stories. The power did not reside only in Jesus, but in the faith of those who were healed. Jesus raised Jairus’ daughter from the dead because of Jairus’ faith. Jesus didn’t even know that the sick woman was in need of healing but she was healed because of the power and strength of her faith. David was able to defeat Goliath because he was the only one who had the faith to trust that God was able.

More often than not, we do not witness the power of God because, like Saul and his army, we lack the faith to trust that God can do it.

Our regular and fervent prayer must be for God to grow our faith so that Jesus Christ can do his work through us.