Input sound file: Audio 09 02 2018.mp3
I know the print’s kind of fine. It’s hard to read, but a research report came out today from The Pew Foundation indicating the religiousness of the American people. And apparently, 42% of American people believe that there is spiritual power, that there is something like magic in created things. And in looking for an example for this, I found this beautiful ad for crystals.
I would like you to know these crystals are not free. But you can buy them, and supposedly, they will help you with your anxiety. You pick the one you need, whether it’s for fear or anxiety or negativity. You pick the one you need, whether it’s for inner-calm and relaxation and soothing. And you put them on your head or you put them on your heart, and you lay there, and it’s supposed to make you feel better.
Well, somebody might ask me, “Pastor Dave, what’s the difference between that and a prayer blanket?” And the answer is that the magic isn’t in the blanket. The spiritual power is in our heart and in what we believe and what we hope, and then it reminds us of the prayers of other people. But nonetheless, this is something that is growing stronger in our society. Now, it’s not new. It’s one of the most ancient of beliefs, that this map and this tree have some sort of spiritual power. And if I pray to the tree or pray to the mountain, the mountain can help me. It’s a very human thing. Very human thing.
Let me change the subject for just a second and ask you this question. What does this mean? Years ago, I would ask this question of confirmation kids. Young people who had been in the church were in junior high, eighth grade, ninth grade. “What does it mean for Jesus to be Lord?” And they would look at me because it was obvious they did not understand. They would look at me, and they would say, “Well, it means He’s our savior,” and I would say, “No.” They would say, “It means He forgives our sins,” and I would say, “No.” “It means that He answers our prayers,” and I would say, “No,” because every answer they came up with was about what Jesus did for us.
You could tell the relationship was one to where we ask, and He provides. And I said to them, “What Jesus is Lord means is that Jesus is the boss.” But in the United States, as you know, we have not had a king, we have not had a dictator, and most of us – unless you’re stopped for speeding – aren’t really in a position to where you have to do exactly what someone tells you to do. Although, there are a few people who have had a relationship that is not this similar to that of Jesus is Lord, and that’s this one.
You remember the line in Forrest Gump to where Forrest Gump is asked, “Gump, what do you think I want you to do or what you should do?” And Gump says, “Anything you say, sergeant.” That’s the right answer. Unless you’ve been in the military, it’s unlikely you have ever been in a situation to where when someone gave you an order the right thing to do was to carry it out. I am so thankful that Jesus is much kinder than any drill instructor that any of you might have experienced. But nonetheless, the right answer when Jesus as Lord asks us to do something is, “Sir, yes, Sir.” What it means for Jesus as Lord is to do what He says. Now, back to the crystals, back to the medicine. We talked about this. In science, it’s called the placebo effect. And there’s three factors that are involved in the placebo effect. This is a matter of science. It is something that is in how we are created. God put it there when He made the world. If you believe that the medicine will work, the medicine gains power to work. If your doctor, the authority expert, believes that the medicine will work, it is more likely that the medicine will work. If you have a relationship with your doctor that is one where you really appreciate and respect and believe in his or her expertise, it increases the power of the medicine to work beyond the mere chemical reality of what it can do for you.
In other words, when you add faith to the medicine, you give it greater power to work. A placebo is where the faith is one that is positive. Nocebo is where the faith is negative. If you believe that eating chocolate will cause your hair to fall out, it’s more likely to have just exactly that effect. If a doctor you respect says, “Yes. Eating chocolate will make your hair fall out,” it gives it more of a likelihood. And the more you love that doctor the more it’s likely that their prediction of a negative result will come true. And that’s one reason why we have to be careful about warnings that come to us about, “Don’t eat this. Don’t drink that.” Because sometimes when you believe those, it increases their power to happen rather than decrease. The placebo effect, something that God created.
It comes from this book. Anybody wants to look at it, I will have it up here after church. But it’s something that I’ve come to believe can be of great help to us. Because part of what makes miracles real is because this way of healing is put into our human DNA. Because if I believe and pray that the medicine will work, and I have a relationship with an authority, an expert person– and this is Dr. Herbert Benson, Harvard cardiologist. If I believe in this man, and if I have a caring relationship with this man – by the end of the book, I like him quite a bit – it’s going to increase the ability of whatever medicine I take to work. So think about that for just a minute. If you believe that God will answer your prayers, and if you get to know Jesus Christ through this book and your experience of Jesus Christ tells you that he loves you and deserves your love in return. It will greatly improve the power of your prayers to add faith to that. Why not add faith to your prayers? Why not add faith and prayer to your medicines, whatever they might be? Believe and I believe you will be [healthy?].
Matthew 8:5, this chapter of the Gospel of Matthew there’s– it’s interesting. There’s two threads that run through it. The first one is in each one of the stories that happened, they are all about who Jesus is. But, in addition to that, the thread in each one of them has to do with going, going somewhere. Jesus is going into the town of Capernaum and a centurion comes forward to him, beseeching him, and saying, “Lord, my servant–” the assumption is a Jewish person. “My servant is lying paralyzed at home and in terrible distress.” And Jesus said to him, “I will come and heal him.” A little bit about centurions. You would think a centurion would, like century, command 100 people. They actually didn’t. They commanded 8 squads of 10, 80 people. There was a Master Sergeant who would come along behind, but the centurion would fight from the front of the unit. And one of the reasons they wore this headdress with the fringe going this way – although some people say it was just for ceremonial garb – is so that anywhere in the battle you could see where your leader was and fight for him because he would be in the front of the battle. These are very brave men.
This very brave man, this commander, comes and asks Jesus to help his servant. In Verse 7, Jesus says, “I will come and heal him.” Do you know why Jesus said that? Because people believed that Jesus had to go over there. Jesus had to be there. Jesus had to touch the person. That’s what they believed. And it’s their belief that released the power of God. So Jesus is assuming that that’s what he’s asking. But here’s what this commander of men has to say. Verse 8, the centurion answered him, “Lord, I am not worthy to come for you to come under my roof.” And here’s the key point. “But only say the word and my servant will be healed.” There’s your drill instructor. “For I am a man under authority,” the centurion says. “People give me orders and I carry them out. With soldiers under me, I give them orders and they carry them out. And I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes. And to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes. And to my slave, ‘Do this,’ and he does it. Jesus, I understand that you have the same authority I do. You don’t have to come. You don’t have to jump through hoops. You don’t have to follow some sort of fancy procedure. If you say it, if you give the order, it will be done because Jesus is Lord.
When Jesus heard of the marvels and said to those who followed him, “Truly I say to you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.” If you think about what that means, what Jesus is saying is he has never encountered a person with as much faith in him as this gentile, non-believing, non-Jewish, Roman soldier because what the soldier understands is that when the Lord says, “Jump,” everybody jumps. Verse 11. “I tell you,” Jesus says, “many will come from the east and west and sit at the table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the Kingdom of Heaven.” People like this Roman centurion. “While the sons of the Kingdom,” the people who were Jewish and rejected him, “will be thrown into the outer darkness. And there, men will weep and gnash their teeth.” And to the centurion, Jesus said, “Go.” There it is again. Go. “Go, be it done for you as you have believed.” And when they got back, they found out from that exact time of day, the sermon– or the servant had been healed. And I think that so often, Jesus says, “Go,” and while they’re going, the answer to the prayer actually comes. I think it’s something about believing that it’s now safe to return to your life because your prayer is now in the hands of God [and answered?]. Lord, if you say it, it’ll be done. It’s safe for me to go.
So who is Jesus? The centurion knew, even if Junior [inaudible] didn’t. What does it mean for Jesus to be Lord? Because that’s who Jesus is. And in Luke 6:46, Jesus said, “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,” and not do what I tell you?” That’s what Lord, Lord means. Jesus is Lord. In the very first scripture– we talked about this last Sunday. “If you will,” the leper says. If you choose to, if you want to, if you decide to, if you will, you can make me clean. That’s a position of faith. And Jesus says, “I want to. Be clean.” And as he’s going, the healing happens. Here’s what faith adds. Whatever it is that you’re facing, whatever it is that you struggle with, whether it’s a small thing, although it may not be small to you, whether it’s a great and large and scary thing, Jesus is Lord over that. There was a horrifyingly difficult part of my life that I went through for a full year. I would wake up in the morning with panic attacks. And I kept saying to myself, over and over again, “Jesus is Lord over my blank,” because I don’t need to tell you what it was. But that helped me to survive that time. To know that Jesus was Lord over what was causing me pain. That’s one way to add faith to your prayers.
So there’s all the stones. And I wonder if you might consider this. Instead of citrine, maybe you might believe that Jesus promotes cheerfulness and strengthens belief. Instead of blue lace agate, you might choose to believe that Jesus restores inner calm and relaxation and soothes the mind. Instead of turning to a rock, you might turn to the Lord, and believe that he can provide you with all these things. You can choose Jesus for your cure. And what happens when you do that? You activate the placebo power, whatever that might be, to work and strengthen your prayer because you believed in what you are asking for. You believe. Not only that, you believe that Jesus has authority. He is an expert. And not only that. The relationship you have with him gives power to your prayers.
Take the tests. Go, take those tests. If they want you to take more tests, take more tests. Do what they ask you to do. Believe that it will help, but in addition to that, believe in our Lord Jesus Christ, and that he is Lord over whatever your situation might be. Choose Jesus. Choose faith in Jesus, and I pray that in your heart you might hear these words as you pray. Go. Be it done for you as you have believed. It is safe to return to your home. Let’s pray.
Lord Jesus, every now and then, we break a nail. We have a twinge in that need that bothers us. But every now and then, Lord, something terrible happens that shakes us to the very core. In all things, large and small, I ask, Lord, that you would help us to have faith in you. To have faith that in the time of difficulty, you will help and provide for your people. And so, Lord, help us to add faith to our prayers so that prayers might come to pass because we have faith because you answer prayer and because our relationship encourages us to believe in you. Lord, may it be done to us, according to how we [inaudible].
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.