Saturday, October 27, 2018

Healing and the Call of Fools

Why do some faith healings I am called to participate in turn out as desired and some not? Is there a point to healing oil and laying on of hands? Frederick Buechner’s words struck a chord with me.  I pray they help someone struggling with the presence, or apparent lack thereof, of Jesus the Healer in their quest for peace. As we pursue healing in Jesus’ name, may we always be willing to be ‘fools’ for Jesus.
“…Nowadays,…(miraculous healing) has usually been associated with religious quackery or the lunatic fringe; but as the psychosomatic dimension of disease (is) taken more…seriously by medical science, it has regained some of its former respectability. How nice for God to have this support at last.
For those who prefer not to believe in (miracles), a number of approaches are possible, among them:
 -The idea of miracles is an offense both to our reason and to our dignity. Thus…miracles don't happen….; -If the medical authorities agree that a healing is inexplicable in terms of present scientific knowledge, you can simply ascribe this to the deficiencies of present scientific knowledge.; -If otherwise intelligent and honest human beings are convinced, despite all arguments to the contrary, that it is God who has healed them, you can assume that their sickness, like its cure, was purely psychological. Whatever that means….
…You can always give (healing) a try. Pray for it. If it's somebody else's healing you're praying for, you can try…laying your hands on her as Jesus sometimes did. If her sickness involves her body as well as her soul, then God may be able to use your inept hands as well as your inept faith to heal her.
If you feel like a fool as you are doing this, don't let it throw you. You are a fool, of course, only not a damned fool for a change.
…Don't try too hard to feel religious, to generate some healing power of your own. Think of yourself…as a…clogged-up pipe that a little of God's power may be able to filter through if you can just stay loose enough. Tell the one you're praying for to stay loose too.
If God doesn't seem to be giving you what you ask, maybe he's giving you something else.” (First published in Wishful Thinking and later in Beyond Words; Edited for length; italics are mine)

Friday, October 12, 2018

Faith, Baseball and the Pursuit of Perfection

I am writing this Friday night at 4:36 p.m.  Two hours from now, to the minute, the pitcher will stretch. He will then pray, “Lord, whatever happens, be with me.” And at 7:09 p.m. the madness will begin.  Another post-season championship series, last stop before the World Series.

Leading the way in Game 1 for Los Angeles Dodgers will be this pitching machine, this man of faith.  What this pitcher believes is that his performance tonight is not about pleasing his team owner or manager, not his teammates, not his fans. No, tonight, like every night, is about pleasing God, about not wasting the talent God gave him.

This pitcher is one of the greats in the current era of major league baseball.  He has won many awards and carries a lifetime set of statistics to back up his belief that God is behind the talent in his left arm. That’s why this pitcher carries in his mind his favorite verse: “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters…”(Colossians 3:23). For this pitcher the old pitcher’s excuse,  “I executed the pitch really well”, will never be applied to his performance. His goal is ‘outs’, not ‘hits’.

So, a little after 1 p.m. today, Clayton Kershaw entered Miller Park, home of the Milwaukee Brewers, on a mission to use that talent God has given him to give glory to God. He won’t be pointing towards heaven on a big strikeout; he will let his pitching do the work of pointing to God.

I am writing this post a couple hours before the game begins because I don’t know how charitable I can be towards him if Mr. Kershaw emerges victorious.  He won’t say that God is a Dodgers fan, but neither will I say God is a Brewers fan. But God probably loves us relishing a well-pitched championship game.

Win or lose, Mr. Kershaw knows one thing: as he walks to the mound tonight God is with him. “I know he’s already there.” I want Mr. Kershaw to know God is pleased with him. I know he wants to be perfect.  He probably won’t be. But, that doesn’t mean God left the mound.  Play ball!
(Source: The Control Pitcher, Stephanie Apstein, Sports Illustrated, May 7, 2018)

Saturday, October 6, 2018

A Cup of Water's Reward

“Truly I tell you, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to the Messiah will certainly not lose their reward.” Mark 9:41 (NIV)

One of the foundational minds of Christianity is an ancient writer by the name of Augustine.  Saint Augustine of Hippo taught in the Church following his conversion in 386 A.D. My discovery of his comment on these words of Jesus took my breath away. I came to a clearer understanding of the operation of God’s mercy and the expansiveness of grace found in Jesus.   What Augustine says, in essence, is that those who are not yet receiving sacraments in the church still, by their simple act of offering a cup of water to God’s children, give evidence that they are being so guided by God’s mercy that they may also come to receive the ‘loftier gifts’. 

Those who are not yet ‘in the church’ are not ‘lost causes.’ Rather, look at their lives. Do they so much as offer a cup of water? The word picture Jesus uses is representative of any act of kindness done in the name of Jesus for the sake of Jesus.  Kayla McClurg summarizes it like this: “Help your neighbor, listen to a child, notice the lost, rejoice and weep with your sisters and brothers. By such quotients as these will you be known for who you really are….”

I do not intend by this to diminish the importance of public profession of faith in Jesus Christ nor of participation in the formal administration of the sacraments.  But, sometimes people are ‘professing their faith’ in a very public way just by offering a cup of water to the children of God.

It is not that the act of offering a cup of water saves anyone. Rather, the act reveals their inner hearts: as they love the children of Jesus they show their love for Jesus.

If you have family members who do not partake in the formal worship life of the church, do not despair.  Look at the evidence in their actions which reveal their hearts. Believe that God is at work spreading mercy and grace over them in such a way that they will certainly not lose their reward of life with God.

Dedicated to the memory of my Mother, Janet, who taught her family to love Jesus, and who ‘prayed hard’ for evidence that everyone she met loved Jesus too. She has her reward.