CHRIST THE WORKER OF MIRACLES.

A 'Miracle’ may be defined as: ‘an event that is unexplainable by natural laws, and, therefore, is held to be supernatural in origin, or 'an act of God’.
 
Many people: reasonably certain about their Christian faith, are very uncertain about miracles.
 
Not to believe in miracles: is to overlook the fact that the faith that we profess is, itself, rooted and grounded in miracles. Without the Resurrection, faith has no meaning. Without the ongoing ministries of the Ascended Christ, faith has no power. Despite this, many Christians who claim to believe in miracles do not fully do so.
 
Giving themselves the freedom to select what to believe: they accept what is essential to their faith – the birth of Christ, his death, Resurrection, Ascension, and ongoing ministries; yet disregard; dispute, or simply do not believe in, most other aspects of the miraculous.
 
To believe on the one hand, and to disbelieve on the other: creates tensions that work against spiritual development, within individual Christian lives; and prevents their churches from growing in assurance, power and effectiveness.
 
Within most churches, there is little or no expectation of the miraculous. Belief cannot meaningfully exist, without a context in which to flourish - the most effective one being expectancy. Christians who say that they believe in miracles: are likely to answer: ‘No’, if asked: ‘Do you expect them to happen, today?’
 
With the historical Resurrection, and Ascension safely in the past: and with no further miracles being essential to their understanding of salvation faith and hopes of heaven; many Christians cannot see, or else refuse to see, any need for the miraculous, today.
 
They pick and choose: accepting those things that suit them; and feel quite justified, in disregarding all of the rest.
 
It is not unbelief that, eventually, causes a lack of expectation; but a lack of expectation that continually erodes belief.
 
Luke’s gospel record: tells of a paralysed man; who was lowered through a hole in the roof, by his friends; and healed by Christ’s miraculous power. (Luke 5: 17).
 
Those who witnessed the healing said: ‘We have never seen anything like this’. No wonder! Because, for almost 500 years: there had been no new teachings, and no miracles.
 
God may have been willing to act: but the people made little recourse to him, in matters of the Spirit. Their lack of expectation seems to have eroded the active power of belief, almost to the point of non-existence.
 
The Jewish nation had developed such a lack of expectancy, in relation to God working among them, and through them: that their one-time lively fellowship with the Living Lord; had almost faded away.
 
Those people, at that time, seemed to have lived on memories of a long-gone past; and on their hopes in a distant future: with little or no expectation of the observable activity of God, among them, in the present.
 
Many Christian churches are in much the same case, today.
 
Tradition is a poor diet for the soul to live on: and of little interest to those beyond the Church’s doors.  Largely, God's needy world, has 'voted with its feet', and gone elsewhere.
 
During their five centuries of spiritual dryness, the ancient Jews argued that: ‘Seeing is believing’. However: through lack of expectation, and through unbelief; they saw little or nothing; because they anticipated little or nothing.
 
When Christ began his earthly ministry, within the Jewish situation: he sought to encourage them away from ‘Seeing is believing’...to…‘Believing, is essential to the beginning of really seeing, and actually experiencing’.
 
Those who did believe: took up expectant attitudes, and began to see the sick healed; the distressed given peace; and the unacceptable, made acceptable. The more they experienced, the greater their faith, and hope, in Christ.
 
The doctrine of: 'The Priesthood of all Believers' states that each active member: has some responsibility, in helping to determine the Church’s nature, power and effectiveness.
 
If today’s Christians want to experience the presence of God more fully; develop deeper faith, and become more effective; both personally, and through the Church; then their greatest need is to make continual recourse to the Lord, especially in matters of the Spirit.
 
It is one thing to say that we want the Lord to work among us; just like in Bible-times: but it is quite another matter, to have the unswerving desire and faith, to help make it so.
 
A good example of things faced up to, and undertaken: is the Centurion who wanted Jesus to heal his servant. (Matthew 8:5-13).
 
He was part of the authoritarian structure of Roman rule, over a conquered people. He was said to love the Jews far more than was usual: and to go out of his way to help them.
 
That was risky. He took an even greater risk: when he called one of the despised Jews 'Lord', and asked a favour of him.
 
If that was noted; higher up the military scale: the Centurion could have found himself in real trouble; flogged, and reduced to the ranks, as a common soldier once more.
 
But he took the risk. He turned to Jesus, and to the power of what was, to the Romans, a foreign, Hebrew God.
 
In response, Jesus did three things. He marvelled at the man’s faith; he said: ‘Go; it will be done, just as you have believed’; and he healed the servant.
 
Would the Lord Jesus marvel at our faith and expectancy?
 
To ignore miracles may seem to be safer than denying them, but the effect is just the same.
 
To do so: means that we cut ourselves off from full obedience to God, and from all that would, otherwise, follow, to our benefit, and to the benefit of others.
 
Without the miraculous power of God at its heart; the Church is little more than a social-agency: inadequately competing with far better equipped, and better run, secular social agencies.
 
But, when the power of God works within it, and through it; the Church becomes attractive: and its effectiveness out-strips most other forms of agency that touch peoples’ lives.
 
Jesus told his followers: ‘Truly, truly, I say to you: he who believes in me, will also do the works that I do: and greater works than these will he do, because I go to the Father.
 
Whatever you ask in my name, I will do it; that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything in my name, I will do it’ (John 14: 12-14).
 
Do we believe this?  Do we believe in miracles?
 
The writer of Psalm 30 recognized God for who he was: and turned to him, for various reasons.
 
At Mark 5, the child’s father, and the sick woman, recognized Jesus, for who he was – and turned to him for specific reasons.
 
One approached Jesus directly; and the other, crept up behind him: but both received exactly what they had hoped for. One spoke out his faith: and the other acted out her faith.
 
Jairus could not save his daughter. In asking Jesus to do so: he exercised great faith – which was rewarded.
 
The woman had suffered for 12 years. When Christ drew near: she did not ask him for anything.
Believing that what was needed; was already close to hand: she reached out, touched, and her faith was rewarded.
 
We must take care not to read into a text, more than it actually contains: but also; take care not to read into it, less than it contains. Our gospel text, tells us a lot: and conveys lasting impressions.
 
There is no holy-sounding language in it: no great build-up; leading towards an event: but a simple getting on with things, through opportunities being taken up, as they arose.
 
With constant haemorrhaging: the woman would had been declared unclean; and made something of a social outcast. In calling her: ‘Daughter’ (a shortened form of ‘Daughter of Israel’) Jesus made it clear that, through her healing, she had not only been made ‘clean’, but also restored to full social life, within her home community.
 
The miraculous is essential to the life, power and effective witness of any church that seeks to do the Lord's will.
 
Without the miraculous power of God at its heart; and shown forth to the world; through what it says and does: a church cannot possibly function as the Lord Jesus Christ intended.
 
But, with a recaptured sense of expectancy; and a developing belief that goes with it; churches can regain lost ground, and move on; and fulfil their ministries.
 
God has not stopped believing in the world that he loves; and in the people that he holds so dear. He has never 'given up' on us, and we should never 'give up' on him.
 
The Lord touched and blessed his first disciples: and gave them such a new and effective way of life; that they came to expect his love and power to flow though them – which it did.
 
In turn, the Early Church came to the same expectation.
 
That expectation enabled Christ to reach out: to them, and through them, and to touch and bless great numbers of people. He worked in, and through, ordinary church members who; out of their own experience, and ongoing faith; became channels of the Lord’s mercy, love, grace and power.
 
Christ’s followers, then: helped him to fulfil his good intentions.
 
What of us? We have been touched and blessed in many ways. Is our previous experience: and present faith, enabling us to become, and remain, open channels, through which the Lord may choose to work?
 
God does not need us: but, through grace in Christ, he chooses to accept us, and to build us into what he is doing.
 
Are we prepared to put to one side; whatever doubts we may have, about ourselves; and to say: ‘Yes!’ to God; thus allowing him to make the decisions, as to when and how we might be counted in; and given a share in what he is doing?        
                                                                                          Amen.