Part 4: Making Room for Miracles
Sunday December 20, 2015
A Walk to Remember Matthew 14:22-33
Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone, and the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.
Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.
But Jesus immediately said to them:
“Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”
“Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”
Bet Sefer (House of The Book)
For Jews living in Jesus’ day, there were three separate educational venues. The first was called Bet Sefer. At the age of 6, Jewish boys began their formal education. The textbook was the Torah, the first 5 books of the Bible, and the goal was not just to read but to memorize the sacred text.
Bet Midrash (House of Study)
For the best of the best, the next educational opportunity was called Bet Midrash. Boys – from age 13 to 15 – who were deemed worthy to continue their educational pursuits went on to study and memorize the entire Tanach (Old Testament). Very few were selected for this pursuit.
Bet Talmud (House of Learning)
Of those who finished Bet Midrash, again only the best of the best were able to pursue the final educational leg, which was called Bet Talmud. This was the longest in duration; it went from the age of 15 to 30. To participate, he must be invited by a Rabbi and, if selected, he would begin a process of grooming to do and become just like the Rabbi in all aspects of life.
Answering The Call
As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen.
“Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out
to fish for people.” At once they left their nets and followed him.
Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them, and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him. Matthew 4:18-22
Back to Peter…
“Come,” he said.
Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out,
“Lord, save me!”
Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”
And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”
Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing,
-Jesus, from John 14:12
and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.
-Jesus, from John 14:12
God Believes In You…Get Your Feet Wet!
Part 3: Making Room for Miracles
Sunday December 13, 2015
Miracle Meal John 6:1-13
Some time after this, Jesus crossed to the far shore of the Sea of Galilee (that is, the Sea of Tiberias), and a great crowd of people followed him because they saw the signs he had performed by healing the sick. Then Jesus went up on a mountainside and sat down with his disciples. The Jewish Passover Festival was near.
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?” He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do.
Philip answered him, “It would take more than half a year’s wages to buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!”
Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up, “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?”
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). 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.
When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, “Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.” So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten.
So why pick on Philip?
Then he took them with him and they withdrew by themselves to a town called Bethsaida, but the crowds learned about it and followed him…Luke 9:10
They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, with a request. “Sir,” they said, “we would like to see Jesus.” John 12:21
Where are you most…
Where you are the most competent, confident, comfortable…
May be where you’re most likely to miss a miracle!
“My strength is made perfect in weakness.”
-Jesus, from 2 Corinthians 12:9
“For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
-Paul from 2 Corinthians 12:10
Part 2: Feast Your Eyes On This
Sunday December 6, 2015
More Than Meets the Eye – 2 Kings 6:8-23
Now the king of Aram was at war with Israel. After conferring with his officers, he said,
“I will set up my camp in such and such a place.”
The man of God sent word to the king of Israel: “Beware of passing that place, because the Arameans are going down there.” So the king of Israel checked on the place indicated by the man of God. Time and again Elisha warned the king, so that he was on his guard in such places.
This enraged the king of Aram. He summoned his officers and demanded of them, “Tell me! Which of us is on the side of the king of Israel?”
None of us, my lord the king,” said one of his officers, “but Elisha, the prophet who is in Israel, tells the king of Israel the very words you speak in your bedroom.”
“Go, find out where he is,” the king ordered, “so I can send men and capture him.” The report came back: “He is in Dothan.” Then he sent horses and chariots and a strong force there. They went by night and surrounded the city.
When the servant of the man of God got up and went out early the next morning, an army with horses and chariots had surrounded the city. “Oh no, my lord! What shall we do?” the servant asked.
“Don’t be afraid,” the prophet answered. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.”
And Elisha prayed, “Open his eyes, Lord, so that he may see.”
Then the Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses
and chariots of fire all around Elisha.
As the enemy came down toward him, Elisha prayed to the Lord, “Strike this army with blindness.” So he struck them with blindness, as Elisha had asked.
Elisha told them, “This is not the road and this is not the city. Follow me, and I will lead you to the man you are looking for.” And he led them to Samaria.
After they entered the city, Elisha said, “Lord, open the eyes of these men so they can see.” Then the Lord opened their eyes and they looked, and there they were, inside Samaria.
When the king of Israel saw them, he asked Elisha,
“Shall I kill them, my father? Shall I kill them?”
“Do not kill them,” he answered. “Would you kill those you have captured with your own sword or bow? Set food and water before them so that they may eat and drink and then go back to their master.” So he prepared a great feast for them, and after they had finished eating and drinking, he sent them away, and they returned to their master. So the bands from Aram stopped raiding Israel’s territory.
A surprising and welcome event that is not explicable by natural or scientific laws and is therefore considered to be the work of a divine agency.
Your Life: Upon Further Review
Job – Spouse – Health – Finances – Safety
“Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side.
Stop doubting and believe.”
– Jesus to Thomas, from John 20:27
Part 1: Do You Believe?
Sunday November 29, 2015
“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”
― Albert Einstein
“Miracles are a retelling in small letters of the very same story which is written across the whole world in letters too large for some of us to see.”
― C.S. Lewis
“A miracle is when the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. A miracle is when one plus one equals a thousand.”
― Frederick Buechner, The Alphabet of Grace
“Miracles are like pimples, because once you start looking for them you find more than you ever dreamed you’d see.”
― Lemony Snicket, The Lump of Coal
Daring to Doubt – Luke 1:5-25, 57-66
In the time of Herod king of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah; his wife Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron. Both of them were righteous in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commands and decrees blamelessly. But they were childless because Elizabeth was not able to conceive, and they were both very old.
Once when Zechariah’s division was on duty and he was serving as priest before God, he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to go into the temple of the Lord and burn incense. And when the time for the burning of incense came, all the assembled worshipers were praying outside.
Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear.
But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John. He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born. He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”
Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.”
The angel said to him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news. And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their appointed time.”
Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah and wondering why he stayed so long in the temple. When he came out, he could not speak to them. They realized he had seen a vision in the temple, for he kept making signs to them but remained unable to speak.
When his time of service was completed, he returned home. After this his wife Elizabeth became pregnant and for five months remained in seclusion. “The Lord has done this for me,” she said. “In these days he has shown his favor and taken away my disgrace among the people.”
When it was time for Elizabeth to have her baby, she gave birth to a son. Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown her great mercy, and they shared her joy.
On the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to name him after his father Zechariah, but his mother spoke up and said, “No! He is to be called John.” They said to her,
“There is no one among your relatives who has that name.”
Then they made signs to his father, to find out what he would like to name the child. He asked for a writing tablet, and to everyone’s astonishment he wrote, “His name is John.” Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue set free, and he began to speak, praising God. All the neighbors were filled with awe, and throughout the hill country of Judea people were talking about all these things. Everyone who heard this wondered about it, asking, “What then is this child going to be?”
For the Lord’s hand was with him.
What makes it so difficult to believe in miracles?
A recent survey revealed that 79% of Americans say they believe in miracles. Even among those who seldom or never attend church, 70% believe miracles occur. Nearly everyone has a personal story which he or she considers to be miraculous, but our scientific worldview makes it difficult to tell our stories to each other.
What would help to believe in miracles?
“Don’t be afraid, just believe.”
– Jesus to Jairus, from Mark 5:36
You’re invited to share your miracle story.