Miracles?

Luke 7:1-17

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We all have bodies in common. We’ve been given these bodies that will, eventually, some day, stop working. We will die. We all have this in common. And in some part of our life, we’ve experienced what it means to see a body get sick and die; see a person get sick and live. We’ve all battled colds and flus that are all part of having a body.

Yet, sometimes we disassociate our bodies with the stories in scripture. We think that something so weird or awesome or boring or unbelievable couldn’t happen now, to us. Sometimes, the very stories meant to connect us to our bodies, to our lives, and to God have the opposite effect.

So at confirmation on Wednesday, we read these 2 healing stories from Luke. And then I asked Sara Pollmann and Jami Beffert to connect them to bodies and lives, to their stories.

They connected the dots for us. Jami told us her story of going into cardiac arrest, dying for a few minutes, and being brought back to life in the emergency room here at Hutch health. She talked about what it felt like for her to die and now what it feels like for her to live. She thought maybe she’d be a better person somehow, but largely, she finds that she is much the same person. Still messing up. Still having to ask for forgiveness. Changed from the experience, sure. But she’s still Jami.

Sara shared the deaths of her best friend and sister-in-law, Barb; along with the suffering and deaths of her mother-in-law and father-in-law, Brian’s parents. And, standing starkly next to that list is a woman, Sara herself, who is a breast cancer survivor. At one point, Sara apologized to our group saying something like, “Unfortunately, I’m not the one to tell you I believe these stories. I’m not the one to make you feel good about these stories. I don’t like these stories. They make me mad.”

Well, let’s talk about those stories. See if we can get them to matter to our bodies, to our lives. We have an outsider, the Roman centurion, asking for help and receiving it.

We have a widow, an outsider, weeping at the death of her only son.

The Roman Centurion is an outsider because he is the occupying force in Capernaum; he is the military law holding the people against their will. So, he should have been the people’s enemy.

The widow is an outsider because she now has no men in her life to support her. Her son’s death is a death sentence for her.

And yet, in both stories, healing happens. In both stories, miracles happen.

In the first, Jesus never even lays a finger on the sick servant and the servant is healed.

In the second story, Jesus runs into the funeral procession and touches the son saying, “Young man, I tell you, rise.” Get up. The funeral procession now becomes a celebration of life. It’s a miracle.

But let’s talk about miracles for a minute. We tend to say miracle with quotations around it, don’t we. Jesus and his kooky “miracles.” Without hard fact, without rational thought, it’s just, I dunno, a “miracle?”

One of the questions asked on Wednesday was, “does a miracle go beyond healing the sick and raising the dead? Doesn’t it also include the healing of our hearts after death and bringing new life?”  I think this question is poking at those quotation marks around miracle. Don’t miracles happen even now?

Yes. Both Sara and Jami are, quite frankly, miracles. Miracles with no quotation marks. Both are still alive when they could have easily, statistically, been dead. Yet both Sara and Jami would hesitate to use this language. Sara even said it made her mad.

But I can’t dismiss it so quickly. Because I see so many miracles in the stories they shared.

The miracles of medical science and trained and skilled professionals who work hard to gain skills and knowledge and who also possess a knack, a calling into that line of work. For doctors and scientists in labs working crazy hours to study the effects of cancer and heart disease and to test data so as to isolate a cause and to point toward treatments and even cure. For pilots who know how to fly helicopters and medical staff who also know how to give reassuring smiles, hand squeezes, and to communicate love in their eyes. The miracle of electricity flowing through paddles through a body to shock that heart back to life. The terrible miracle of chemotherapy and radiation, poison that’s more poisonous than cancer.

Not to mention the miracle of Jami asking God to tell her if she should worry about what she was feeling that day, that she felt it in her gut, which was her first sign. Knowing something in your gut is powerful knowledge. And then she looked at her phone, punched in her symptoms and, thank you Jesus, up popped an article that said, “Most women, upon experiencing these symptoms, take an aspirin, lay down and die.” And that was the sign that got her to the hospital, the perfect place to go into cardiac arrest.

Maybe these stories from Luke are hard for you to hear, like they are for Sara. Maybe your husband or wife has died despite your desperate prayers. Maybe your mom or dad has died despite putting your best faith forward. These stories seem to validate the belief that if your faith isn’t as strong as the Roman Centurion’s than the person you love won’t be healed. And while I think Jesus marveled at the man’s faith, the way he served the people with respect and dignity, the trust he demonstrated, I don’t think it served as a screening process to be healed.

Here is where the rubber meets the road for the Christian faith. God sent Jesus not as Superman with one weakness. God sent Jesus into human skin just like ours. And his human heart and human body suffered as ours do here and now. And that’s the deal with the cross – Jesus didn’t claim power and authority to get out of going to the cross. Instead Jesus goes to the cross as the way to gain authority in our lives and to meet us in the awful times of our lives. Jesus suffers because we suffer. Jesus dies to that we can live. Some will die now and others will die later. The centurion’s servant will eventually die and so will the widow’s only son. So will Sara and so will Jami. So will you and I.

Death doesn’t play fair, does it? But I know Jesus is with you in the miracle that is your life and in your bitter disappointment, in the lack of the miracle that leaves you questioning your faith, your God. But I do know, whether or not you’ve experienced a miracle or would even call it that or not, Jesus encounters you every day and calls you into new life, “Get up” he says to each of us. And while you may feel the same and look the same, you never are the same when Jesus gets involved. It’s a miracle.

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