Input sound file: audio 09 30 2018.mp3
once upon a time– that means the preacher made this story up. Once upon a time, there was a little girl who loved the birds. She loved the birds so much – the birds in the forest – she saw them as her friends. And one day she was very upset to discover that her big brother, the big brother she didn’t get along with very well, had built a trap in the woods for the birds. She was very upset. You know how upset she was? She was this upset [laughter]. She was not just upset, she was angry. She said, “Mama, what are we going to do about this big brother?” Mama said, “Honey, ’bout the only thing you can really do is to pray.” And the little girl says, “Well, then I’m going to pray. Lord, smite him.” And Mama said, “Well, now honey, we can pray a little bit better of a prayer than that. What do you think we could pray for?” The little girl says, “Well, I know. I will pray that God saves the birds. That my brother’s trap won’t work.” And she just was as clear and strong-willed as she could be. She was going to pray and Mama began to worry just a little bit. What if her daughter prays and there’s no answer? What if her daughter prays and the answer is not what she wanted? She says, “Honey, there’s some things that are important when you pray if you want God to answer prayer. If you want to release the power of God to work. And one of the most important things,” Mama said, “is that you need to pray with clean hands. You need to ask for your sins to be forgiven, and you need to forgive people who sin and trespass against you. This causes your hands to be clean because there is a scripture that says, ‘If you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Heavenly Father forgive your trespasses.’ So it’s important to pray and ask for forgiveness for your sins and to forgive other people. That’s important.” So Mama and the little girl prayed that God would forgive her big brother for being so awful. And that God would forgive her too. And then Mama said, “There’s one other thing too. You need to realize that we are down here and can’t see everything clearly. But Jesus can look down on us, and he understands us. He was on the cross and he looked down on all the people there who had put him there to suffer and die. And he said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.'” And the Mama said to the little girl, “There’s so many things that people do, they don’t know what they’re doing. But they need forgiveness. Sometimes,” she said to her daughter, “you and I don’t know what we’re doing. And we need forgiveness.” So the little girl prayed for understanding so that she could see things the way that Jesus understood them and finally, the mama said this, “When you pray, you need to believe and hope whatever you ask for in prayer, Jesus wants you to believe that you’ve received it. You’re waiting for it to happen. You need to believe. Never give up hope. And that was the mama’s Sunday school lesson to her daughter. The little girl said, “Well, Mom, I’m going to have to think about this.” And she went outside. She came back two hours later and she said, “Mama, mama, it works. I feel so happy. I know that Jesus is going to answer my prayers. I know that that trap is not going to hurt any birds. I know that my prayer will be answered.” And the mama thought, “Oh no. What if it doesn’t turn out the way she hopes.” But that whole day long, that little girl never let go of hope. She was just so full of happiness, and she would smile at her mom, and she would wake. And the mama would know. She was saying, “The Lord’s going to answer my prayer.” And that night, as it came time for bed, the mama came into the little girl, and they knelt beside the bed. And the mama said, “Now, honey, I need you to understand something. God doesn’t always answer our prayers the way we think he will.” The little girl said, “Well, mama, I know he’s going to answer this prayer.” “Well, no, honey, we don’t always know.” “No, mama. I know. I absolutely know for true that God is going to answer my prayer exactly the way I prayed it.” The mama said, “Honey, how can you be so sure?” And the little girl said two things. The first one is, “Mama, I have faith. I have faith.” But the second thing is, “I listened to Jesus and I went out in the woods to pray, and I kicked that trap to pieces.” Sometimes prayers require a few good kicks because sometimes – and you can see this in the miracles of Jesus – sometimes Jesus asks people to do something. It’s not just a matter of what we say, or what we think, or what we believe. Sometimes Jesus asks us to do something. And as you know, we’re working our way through the commands of Jesus and Matthew. We’re now into Matthew chapter nine and we’re at this scripture: Matthew 9:1. “And getting into a boat, he crossed over and came to his own city. And behold, they brought to him a paralytic, a paralyzed man, lying on his bed. And when Jesus saw their faith– .” Because, you see, it’s faith that releases the power of God. Jesus said over and over and over again, “Your faith has made you well.” Over and over again. But seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralyzed man, “Take heart.” That, by the way, is a command. That’s why it’s in red. “Take heart, my son. Your sins are forgiven.” When Jesus saw their faith, he said, “Take heart.” What is this command in Greek? It’s the Greek word tharseo. A verb. It means to have confidence. Take courage. Be unafraid. Be encouraged. Be of good cheer. Be warmed in your heart. You could say never give up. Not only that, Jesus sees, from his high perspective, what’s really needed here. Here’s a paralyzed man. But for some reason, Jesus understands that what this man really needs is to feel forgiven for his sins. I’m not at all saying that sin causes illness. I’m not at all saying that sin causes people to be punished. I’m saying that Jesus can see clearly what you and I can’t see. And Jesus said that what this man needed most was to feel forgiven. Maybe there wasn’t much forgiveness in his life.
Next verse. And behold, some of the scribes, some of the experts, all of the people in the crowd, the scribes said to themselves, “This man is blaspheming.” There are several versions of this scripture. Sometimes they shout it at him. But in this case, Jesus, knowing their thoughts, understanding the expression on their faces, said, “Why do you think evil in your heart? I think what this man needs is to feel forgiven. You think something different. Why? I’m from above. You’re from below. I can see what you can’t see.” Or he goes on to say, verse five, “Which is easier to say? Your sins are forgiven or to say what you think I’m supposed to say. What you think I need to say. Rise and walk.” But that you may know that the son of man, referring to Jesus not us, the son of man has authority on earth to forgive sins. He then said to the paralyzed man, again, “Rise. Take up your bed and go home.”
Now here’s the thing. He rose. He took up his bedding and he went home. There are many places in the scripture. It’s unclear whether it’s exactly that way from this one. As Jesus took the hand of the person and pulled them up, as they tried to stand, they realized that they could. In one case, Jesus rubbed mud on a blind man’s eye and said, “Go to this particular pool, the pool of Siloam, and wash that mud off.” And it says that while he was on the way, while he did what Jesus told him to do, his faith was strong enough to release the power of God. And he was made whole. Sometimes there’s something we have to do. Now the interesting thing about that Greek word, it means wake up. Rise up. Get up. Come to your senses. Be alert. It means all kinds of things. And sometimes Jesus needs us to wake up and pay attention, and get up and do what he asks us to do. And that shows that we really believe and that faith in us helps to release the power of God. When the crowd saw it, they were afraid, and they glorified God who had given such authority to men– such authority to Jesus. They were amazed. God was doing something in their midst. May God do things also in our midst today. And it seems to me, as I think about the scripture for today and I look back on Matthew 8 and the last five weeks of sermons, it’s almost as if Jesus is having a class in what we need in order to have the faith for prayer to be answered. Way back in the beginning of Matthew 8:1, the leper comes to Jesus and says, “If you will, if you want to, if you choose to, you can make me clean.” Faith says Jesus can. Even when no one else can help, Jesus can. Right after that the centurion comes up and basically explains his understanding of Jesus being Lord, “If I give an order, it’s done. Lord Jesus, if you give an order, it settles it. It’s done.” Faith says Jesus is Lord. Jesus is Lord over my problem. Jesus is Lord over my search for a new job. Jesus is Lord over the broken relationship with my son. Jesus is Lord over any problem that I might have, small or great. Jesus is Lord. Faith says Jesus is Lord. Jesus is Lord over any storm that comes upon you. Over anything that you fear, Jesus is Lord. A storm blows up, there are fishermen on the sea of Galilee, they’re not afraid of storms. They’ve been there before. Jesus is asleep in the back of the boat and guess what, they don’t wake him up until they’re scared to death. Why do we wait until we’re scared to death to pray? We want to wake Jesus up long before we get to that point and say, “Lord, let’s do this together.” Jesus looks right at them and says, “Why are you so afraid?” Then he just looks out at the storm. We don’t know the exact words necessarily, but it’s probably something like, “You sit down and be still.” He talks with the storm like it’s a disobedient child. It’s still. Sometimes he stills the storm all around us, sometimes he stills the storm in our hearts. But faith says Jesus is Lord over your storm. But now we come to here. Faith says that Jesus understands what the real need is. Friends, we misunderstand, but you can trust that Jesus sees to the heart of the matter– not just what we can’t see but what we are avoiding and don’t want to see. Faith says let Jesus name the problem. Let Jesus diagnose what’s wrong. Listen to him. Finally, faith says listen to Jesus rather than the crowd because the crowd is always wrong. Anytime somebody says to you nine out of people believes this, guess what, they’re wrong. Because the crowd is always wrong. Because they run on ahead, they get angry, they get upset, they don’t listen to the still, small voice of Jesus. You need to listen to the still, small voice of the spirit in your heart. Faith says listen to Jesus rather than the crowd. Finally, faith says sometimes you have to do something to release the power of God. Well, pray over it and then do it. Now obviously, if the thing you think you’re supposed to do is to take your gun and kill a whole bunch of people, it’s probably not Jesus you’re listening to. It’s probably another voice you’re hearing. Some people do hear voices that tell them to do harmful things. Don’t listen to those voices. But sometimes, Jesus will tell us to do something, and faith says do what Jesus said to do. And that releases our faith and the power of God can act. So when you pray, believe that God is answering your prayer. Sometimes the answer is not what you would wish. But you can trust that it is the best answer. And never lose hope. Because hope lifts us up above the worst storms in our life. Let’s pray. Lord Jesus, when the ship is sinking, we pray that you will lift us up. When things are difficult, but in our mind we make them worse through our anxiety and our worry and our fear. Because our attention is focused on the worst that could happen. Help us, Lord, to shift our attention to you and pray for the best that could happen. Help us, Lord, to be ready to do our part so that our prayers might come true. And we ask this in Jesus’s name. Amen. Let’s sing
The photo …
This post is based on the sermon “___” from the sermon series “___”
*date*, at Kinmundy United Methodist Church.
Slides and audio for this message can be downloaded from http://www.disciplewalk.com/K_Sermons_June_2018.html
All Scripture quotations are from the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright © 1946, 1952, and 1971 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.