Sunday, 17 April 2016

'Jesus the Transformer' - transcript of sermon 'Healing Service' St Michael and All Angels Penkridge 10/04/2016

St Michael and All Angels Penkridge Healing Service 10th April 2016

Acts 9.1-20

Perhaps it is because I have been in Anglican ministry for 30 years that when I was asked about a Bible reading for tonight I first went and checked out the ‘set’ readings for today.

I was delighted to find one of the key passages for today was this account of Saul’s Conversion – Acts 9.1-20.

This account highlights at least two very important healings, both in their original setting and in today’s context.

The major healing is of course Saul being healed of his blindness – not just his physical blindness, but also his spiritual blindness.

We know Saul to be zealous after the ways of God and as a well-educated man. 

Philippians 3.5

…circumcised the eighth day, of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the Law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to the righteousness which is in the Law, found blameless.

From Acts 22.3

"I am a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city. I studied under Gamaliel and was thoroughly trained in the law of our ancestors. I was just as zealous for God as any of you are today.

Also Acts 26.5

They have known me for a long time and can testify, if they are willing, that I conformed to the strictest sect of our religion, living as a Pharisee.

We also know that Saul was witness to the death of the first Christian martyr Stephen.
Acts 7.58

When they had driven him (Stephen) out of the city, they began stoning him; and the witnesses laid aside their robes at the feet of a young man named Saul.

Through the ministrations of Ananias, Saul was healed of the physical blindness that had come upon him following his encounter with the risen Jesus and also his spiritual blindness

However, that was not until Jesus had knocked him of his high horse.

Are there those today that we know who are zealous for the way things are done, fervent about the right order for worship and conduct becoming a Christian? Perhaps all tied down and neatly ordered and boxed.  Woe betides anyone who even dares to suggest something new and innovative.

Perhaps we could pray that they might be knocked off their high horse and learn humility. Learn that although God is the same yesterday, today and forever, He nonetheless invites His Gospel people to realize a contextualized Lord’s Prayer. 

However, however, however - a word of caution. Before we do this, let us check very carefully to make sure that we are not riding our own hobbyhorse.

This particular healing, this means of re-birth, this regeneration, is of course the supreme and most important healing of all.

For in Christ alone is there the promise of healing and new life and a resurrected body of which Jesus is the first fruits.

1 Corinthians 15.22-24

For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, after that those who are Christ's at His coming, then comes the end, when He hands over the kingdom to the God and Father, when He has abolished all rule and all authority and power.…

Let me ask you if you know that kind of healing?

If you do not or if you have allowed your sight to grow dim then please seek out prayer before you leave here tonight.

The second kind of healing I would like to draw our attention to is that of Ananias’ meeting with Saul.

Ananias is understandably perturbed by the Lord’s call to go and encounter Saul whose reputation has gone before him. Yet in faith, he goes and searches out Saul. 

Notice how Ananias greets Saul – Brother Saul.

Reconciliation is truly a most wonderful healing.

We have witnessed that many times in our recent history.

Think of Desmond Tutu and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission as the scourge of apartheid was being dismantled in South Africa.

Consider the various individuals we know or have heard about who have been able to forgive and be reconciled with those who have done them great harm and evil.

Jesus said, "Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and present your offering.”

This is what lies behind the Sharing of the Peace.

Making peace, seeking reconciliation is the first thing we do BEFORE we come to worship of Almighty God.

Bill Hybells in an excellent book ‘Simplify’ refers to his wife as someone who ministers in the area of conflict resolution and reconciliation.

He talks about people being bomb throwers of bridge builders.

Now before we run off with a head of steam and think of people like I.S. and Paris and Brussels, important as they are (and worth noting Saul was on his way to Damascus) let us bring this right home and right here and right now.

Let us pause just for a moment and consider any relationships that we have that are in need of healing and some bridge repair work.

You may well feel a bit like Ananias; but Lord they will only throw it back in my face, it will only make things worse, I simply cannot do this.

So perhaps you may need to move forward with caution and not go rushing off immediately and give someone a huge bear hug and seek reconciliation.  

(Although I would not rule that out altogether in some cases)

Maybe it is a text message, an email, a letter, or a card, perhaps a bunch of flowers.

You could do that later, after the Service and in the spirit of prayer and maybe ask someone to pray with you before you send the text or email.

I have not touched on physical healing, although that is here in Saul recovery from blindness.

Physical healing remains a profound mystery to me. I have seen healing of all sorts, legs lengthening, backs straightening, cancers cured.

Yet I struggle to understand why it would seem that physical healing comes to some and not to others.

Recently we have had two Church Army Officers who were both were diagnosed with cancer. One died as a young man, leaving a wife and teenage children. The other has made a remarkable recovery and has resumed ministry.

In the Acts of the Apostles, we read of James being put to the sword, but Peter and others miraculously freed from prison.

So, we ask for healing, physical healing, in faith, hope and trust. We know that it is not a matter of saying the right kind of words – that is magic, not Christian healing.

We come humbly before our loving heavenly Father and ask in as straightforward a manner as we can to bring his healing touch into a life or into a situation.

Saul received his sight and went on to become a beacon of light and a champion of the risen Jesus.

However, this healing, both of his physical blindness and his spiritual blindness did not mean he was immune from trials and tribulations…

Later on, he writes to the Corinthian Church…

Five times, I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep. I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren;…

 Then writing to the Church in Philippi…

…Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.…

Can I invite you take that final verse into your week ahead…

I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. 
Philippians 4.13

Carry it with you; write it down if that helps.

Then if you need to challenge someone who is on their high horse, or if you need to climb down of your own hobbyhorse, you know where to turn to for the strength and the encouragement.

If seeking to be bridge builder rather than a bomb thrower appears difficult, lean into this Scripture and let it nourish your soul. Remember the words of Jesus, beaten, bloodied and tortured, ‘Father forgive them for they know what they do.’

Let us say it together a few times, let it minister, and go deep into our souls…

I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.

Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.

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