Life Changing Power

Sunday, June 28, 2015
Christ Lutheran Church – Manchester, PA
Mark 5:21-43

Have you ever been struck by lightning? If you did, you’d certainly know it. Lightning is a powerful force. Perhaps one of the most powerful on earth. It may be beautiful to look at, but if you aren’t careful it can kill you. That’s why the invention of the lightening rod by Benjamin Franklin – from right here in Pennsylvania – and later perfected by Nikola Tesla (who also invented the first plasma ball that I demonstrated in the children’s message this morning) is so important. Without lightning rods or protectors the raw power of the energy from lightening could destroy a structure or even a person. A touch from that kind of power is life changing! And so throughout the centuries people have been inventing new ways to try and avoid getting in direct contact with that kind of raw power. You don’t want to mess with something that powerful.

That’s not the case with three people that we heard about in our gospel text today. Jairus – a powerful and well-respected leader in the ancient synagogue – wielded a lot of power. He had the authority to make important decisions and people went to him when they needed something. Yet when Jairus’ daughter was sick and dying he knew there was nothing he could do to save her. He was totally helpless in that situation. He didn’t have the power to change the situation, but Jairus witnessed the power that Jesus had and he believed Jesus could heal his daughter. What a sight it must have been to see this important leader in the synagogue get down on his knees and beg Jesus for help. Jairus knew that Jesus had more power than he or anyone else had. He didn’t avoid Jesus, but when straight to the source for help.

Yet something stopped Jesus while he was on the way to help Jairus’ daughter. Something that made Jesus stop dead in his tracks. Power. Jesus felt an incredible amount of power go out of his body. It was as though Jesus contained the power of a thousand bolts of electricity and some kind of lightening rod pulled it away from him and into something else. It was faith. Faith reached out and was the conductor that the woman who had been suffering for 12 years possessed. Faith was able to tap into the power of God that emanated through Jesus and carried it into the woman and healed her. And Jesus felt that power shift! Because faith – like a conductor – puts us into direct contact with God’s power and a touch from that kind of power is life changing!

It certainly was for that woman and just as it was for Jairus’ daughter. For after she died, a touch from Jesus’ hand changed her life as well. It brought her back from death to life. Direct contact with Jesus always means a change from death to life. For the same power of God that raised Jesus from the dead, flows through the person of Jesus, the Christ, and is transmitted by the power of the Holy Spirit. And for all Christians who have been baptized in Christ Jesus, have been baptized into not only his death, but his resurrection. For anyone who has experienced the death of a child or another person whom they have loved be assured that the power of the Triune God has transported them from death to life eternal. That is the good news we hear today.

And there is more Good News, for those who have been baptized in Christ Jesus also share in this transformative and life changing power. Yet, be aware, it is a power that comes with great responsibility.

Today, Dylan Apple will be confirmed. Though baptized as an infant, today he will re-affirm the promises made by his parents. Dylan chose Philippians 4:13 as his Scripture text – “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” That verse is a promise of the power of God. It is a promise and an assurance that God’s power is always available to Dylan and to all who reach out in faith. Through his baptism and the anointing of the Holy Spirit, the power Christ flows through Dylan as well. And he and all Christians are charged to use that power to give glory to God. We as followers of Christ are to use our faith – given to us by the Holy Spirit – to tap into the power of God and direct that power to change lives. God wants to work miracles through us and our faith is a conductor to God’s power. God wants to heal people through us.

There’s a lot that needs to be healed. Creation needs to be healed. Our planet needs to be healed of the environmental damage that is being done to it. It is God’s planet and we are entrusted to heal it. And relationships need to be healed. We cannot continue to hate people based on the color of their skin, their gender, or any other kind of prejudice. We are all God’s creations – God’s children – and while human beings can touch each other and inflict pain, God’s touch of love can heal. God’s power can bring about lasting peace, but we need to unleash that power and not keep it only for a select few. Jesus lived a life demanding justice for the poor, the oppressed, and all people, even the ones that society said were no good. And as followers of Jesus we must to the same. People are still waiting to be healed today and we are the conductors through which God’s power can work. We have to ask the Holy Spirit to open our hearts and allow the power of God to flow freely.

As the waters of baptism flowed to connect us to the living God, the power of the living God is ready to flow through us into a world that desperately needs to be healed. We don’t have the power to change lives, but the power of God that lives within us does. As Dylan is confirmed today and re-affirms his baptism – re-affirms the power and responsibility given to him – we need to re-affirm our baptism as well. ,We have all been touched by the resurrection power of the living God and God wants to use us to transmit that power – that power of love – to everyone we come in contact with. A touch from that kind of power is life changing! It’s time to unleash God’s power! Amen!

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God’s Circle of Love

Yesterday on my day off of from work I traveled  to visit my daughter and son-in-law. The weather was beautiful and we spent the day in DC walking, eating out, and visiting the National Museum of the American Indian. I always find it difficult to read about the atrocities that White Europeans inflicted on the American Indian and in fact, these atrocities have not ended. Treaties are still being broken and countless of American Indians on reservations are forced to live in hopelessness. It breaks my heart and it breaks God’s heart.

And the cruelty and brutality toward other races and people continues throughout our country and our world. The brutal shootings in Charleston, SC have captured everyone’s attention, but this violence has been going on for centuries, only now it is getting media attention. One would think that we as a nation have come far in eliminating racism and prejudice, but sadly we have not. How do we stop this? Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

Last night, we ended our evening by attending Jazz in the Garden – the weekly summer Friday night gathering of jazz in the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Gardens. People from all races, genders, ages, and religions sat close together in the grass, at tables, or around the immense circular fountain pond (The fountain was not turned on.). We sat there surrounding the water, listening to music, our feet in the water – hundreds maybe thousands of feet of all different colors, shapes, and sizes – and we enjoyed a couple of hours of harmony and peace. Music has a way of uniting people. I looked around and saw people of all kinds surrounded by a circle of love and peace. How I hope and pray that one day that peace will last for more than a few hours. Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with each one of us.

God’s Mighty Power

Sunday, June 21, 2015
Christ Lutheran Church – Manchester, PA
Mark 4:35-41

Our Scripture texts today all have one theme in common. They all speak about God’s mighty power – a power stronger than any power on earth, even death. For a few minutes I’d like you to put yourselves in the characters in each of these sacred texts.

In our first reading from Job, we like Job at times question God and wonder why there is so much suffering. And we hear God’s answer to Job and our questions – God was here before the world began and our small minds cannot understand the vastness of God’s power. God has promised to be with us always and we must believe this promise and believe in God’s power to overcome evil. And God will use us to help accomplish this goal.

We like the disciples on the boat with Jesus are afraid when we find ourselves in the middle of various kinds of storms.
Yet Jesus has the power – the power to still the chaos. Jesus is with us in the storm. We need not be afraid.

And St. Paul in 2 Corinthians is speaking not just to the ancient church of Corinth but to us the church today. We are servants of God, servants of Christ, and as such we commend ourselves to God’s work in every way. St. Paul urges us to open wide our hearts and this week I saw hearts opened during VBS.

I witnessed teachers and volunteers opening their hearts to the children in our congregation and in the community. And I witnessed the Holy Spirit opening all our hearts as we traveled to Everest in our theme of learning how to “conquer challenges with God’s mighty power.” So sit back and watch a recap of the ministry that happened here this week as we watch the Gospel in action.