Sunday, 12 May 2019

Do you believe in miracles?

As you all know Luke wrote two books - the Gospel of Luke which takes the message of jesus from Nazareth to Jerusalem and the book of Acts which take it from Jerusalem to Rome and indeed all the known world. The first half of the second book follows the very early church from the moments after the Ascension and interweaves the missions of both Paul and Peter. To adequately speak about this morning;s reading I need to go back a little to verse 32:

“Now as Peter went here and there among all the believers he came down also to the saints living in Lydda. There he found a man named Aneas who had been bedridden for eight years for he was paralyzed. Peter said to him; ‘Aneas, Jesus Christ heals you; get up and make your bed’ and he immediately got up. And all of the residents of Lydda and Sharon saw him and believed in the Lord.”

Now, Joppa was not far, about ten miles away, note by the way that Tabitha is called a disciple, so when she fell in they sent for Peter. They must have known the story of Jesus raising Jarius’ daughter and they would have heard that Peter had healed Aneas so this would have been a natural thing for them to od. We hear that Tabitha was particularly loved. Peter arrives and replicates almost exactly what Jesus did: he puts the mourners outside and then prays. In both cases the healing is not done in Peter;s name but in the power of calling on Jesus Christ, aloud in the first case and in prayer in the second.

Now the book of Acts of course is what it says on the tin. Accounts of how Jesus acted powerfully through his witnesses, the apostles, so the acts of the apostles to ensure growth of the church. The word growth or the idea of growth occurs throughout this book. “All the residents of Lydda and Sharon saw him and turned to the Lord” and “This became known throughout Joppa and many believed in the Lord” are but the two examples we have heard this morning. Jesus had risen to the Father and sent his Holy Spirit to the upper room to alight on the Apostles - the event we will celebrate at Pentecost in a few weeks time. His leaving was not the end but the  beginning at at that time the people of Palestine, Judea and farther afield  believed in Jesus because they SAW miracles.

I think it is the film “The full Monty” that has the hit song “I believe in miracles” in it and in the two stories that we have heard we are confronted with the question “Do you believe in miracles?”
And I mean real miracles - it happened that this week I was called on to review the newspapers - and I was much attracted by a headline in one of them : “Miracle at Anfield.” but it seemed it was not the story I was looking for! Over the years I have met many who tell me they do not believe in miracle and who reasonably look for rational explanations. Equally I have met others who fervently do. For example I knew a hospital chaplain who working day by day among the realities of disease, sickness and the range of happy and tragic outcomes would still encourage and take some patients to healing services and who had accounts of unexpected, surprising recoveries.

There is then a spectrum of opinion among my friends and acquaintances and I wonder does it matter? If you are inclined to analyze the accounts of witnesses, including the biblical ones, you may of course be left with doubts about specific instances. If you are lucky enough to meet someone who has experience of Christ working powerfully in their lives you will invariably be caught up in their certainties but for the most part of course we do not KNOW in the way that the apostles had seen and experienced. So what I think is important is not “Was Tabitha raised from the dead?” or “was the lady’s cancer cured by her visit to the Watford church?” for we can prove or disprove neither, but to decide whether the God you believe in and I believe in is CAPABLE of working miracles - I certainly believe that God can and does miraculous things every day -

The point is that the people of Joppa believed in Jesus because they saw miracles

I believe in miracles because I believe in the Lord.


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