Sunday, November 18, 2012

Sermon at Grace Church Healing Service November 18, 2012

By Hawley Todd, TSSF


Hebrews 10:11-14 (15-18) 19-25

Every priest stands day after day at his service, offering again and again the same sacrifices that can never take away sins. But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, "he sat down at the right hand of God," and since then has been waiting "until his enemies would be made a footstool for his feet." For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are sanctified. And the Holy Spirit also testifies to us, for after saying,

"This is the covenant that I will make with them
after those days, says the Lord:
I will put my laws in their hearts,
and I will write them on their minds,"

he also adds,

"I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more."

Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin.

Therefore, my friends, since we have confidence to enter the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain (that is, through his flesh), and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us approach with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who has promised is faithful. And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

Mark 13:1-8

As Jesus came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, "Look, Teacher, what large stones and what large buildings!" Then Jesus asked him, "Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down."

When he was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John, and Andrew asked him privately, "Tell us, when will this be, and what will be the sign that all these things are about to be accomplished?" Then Jesus began to say to them, "Beware that no one leads you astray. Many will come in my name and say, `I am he!’ and they will lead many astray. When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed; this must take place, but the end is still to come. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. This is but the beginning of the birth pangs."

Sermon: Great Expectations: Faith

Welcome again to Grace Church for our Celebration of Wholeness and Healing.

Who is Jesus? More specifically, who is your Jesus? And more importantly what do you expect of Him? As followers of Jesus, we are in some kind of a relationship with Him, so what do you expect? What do you anticipate He will do? Will He participate in your life in any way here on earth? Do you have any expectations for the life to come? Is your Jesus real? Does He exist still today? Or was He simply a great moral teacher who lived 2000 years ago and was a good example of what it means to be a human?

Who is Jesus? Your answers really do matter. They are of ultimate significance.

Our reading from Hebrews tells us something about who Jesus is. He is seated at the right hand of God. He is our Great High Priest and he has offered a sacrifice once and for all to wash us clean of our sins.

And in Mark Jesus warns us saying that many will come in His name saying that they are He and that we need to be careful not to be led astray.

Scripture and Tradition tell us many other things about who Jesus is and what we might be able to expect of him. Yet in your beliefs and in your experience, who is your Jesus? And while we're at it, Who is God? Who is the Holy Spirit?

Maybe here is a simpler question: What is Faith? After all, faith is an important topic for Christians and followers of Jesus. Jesus often says to a healed person – “your faith has made you well.”

So what is faith? The word faith has been used in many ways. There is faith which refers to the teaching of our traditions. But the faith that Jesus is referring to is an inner disposition of our hearts and minds. It is a stance we take in relationship to God. At its core faith is what the word Trust means in the common language of our day.

Years ago one of my teachers explained to me that to have faith is to open one’s heart and mind to whatever one has faith in. I like that explanation of faith. To have faith in Jesus is to be open to and trusting in Jesus.

So if we are open and trusting in Jesus, what are our expectations of Him? I expect him to show up. I expect Him to heal, touch, and bless each one of us. Both my reading of the tradition and my life experiences lead me to those expectations.

On Wednesday night, we looked at a very difficult scripture which is found in all three synoptic Gospels.

The key point was in Matt 13:58 where it says of Jesus in his hometown “And He did not do many deeds there, because of their unbelief.”

My sermon last Wednesday evening focused on what Science calls the “Nocebo Effect.” 

The nocebo effect is more or less the opposite of the placebo effect..

The placebo effect says that our expectations that good things will come from inert substances like a sugar pill often bring positive benefits to a patient. 

Medical researchers studying the Nocebo effect have shown that our negative expectations of a treatment program can influence the outcome in non-beneficial ways. Let me give you two quick examples.

In one test, researchers told a group that they were testing the effects of a drug to see if it had any analgesic effects at all or whether it was just totally ineffective. In reality, it was a proven pain killer. Yet many of the patients reported it has not effect at all.

In another test conducted in Italy, two groups of test patients were recruited for a lactose intolerance test. One group was lactose intolerant and the other group was not. They were told that they would be given a lactose pill to see its effects on the gastro-intestinal system. In reality they were given glucose which has no impact at all on the digestive system. Yet 44% of the lactose group and 26% of the non-lactose intolerant group reported digestive problems as a result of the pill.

Our expectations can be very powerful. In the first example, lack of belief got in the way of a powerful pain killer doing its job. In the second example, an expectation that problems might occur helped to bring those issues about in patients’ lives.

So what is our faith, our trust in Jesus, our openness to receiving the Grace and gifts He has for us today? When you come to receive healing prayer today, come with an open heart expecting the fullness of all good things God has in His heart for you.

I would like to close with a prayer that Paul prayed for the community in Ephesus

…I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name. I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, for ever and ever. Amen.

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