September 5, 2015

We All Need To Have Our Eyes and Ears Opened (Proper 23)

The Readings for today focus on the difficulty of coming to faith in Jesus as the miracle worker of the
Bible. Jesus opened the eyes of people who were physically blind and the ears of people who were
physically deaf. These miraculous healings demonstrated His spiritual authority and authenticity as a
teacher, spiritual healer and exorcist. People in our time tend to dismiss these signs and wonders as
superstitions. The truth is that they are essential evidence to opening the eyes and ears of our faith. If we can not believe in the miraculous; then we have a faith that is weak and incomplete. We need to have our spiritual eyes and ears opened as the final step in our conversion to serious Christianity.

1. We have been blinded by our faith in Science as the way to discern truth
Since the Bible was written there has been an explosion of human knowledge about the physical world. This knowledge has been developed by the processes of experimentation and reasoning. The definition of truth has become something that we can prove through experimentation, measurement and reason. It is very tempting to start believing human wisdom can know all things. For example we now know from medical science that people in a coma can appear dead for days and then get well. On the surface this can be stretched to explain all of the miracles of people apparently rising from the dead. This is what the Church of Christian Science would teach. Liberal clergy in other churches also give this kind of explanation for the healing miracles of Jesus. This kind of thinking may explain why the healing ministry is central and present in some churches, but not in others. In fact science does not exclude the possibility of miracles. There is no reason why in some cases Jesus was healing people through natural means and in other cases He was healing them through supernatural means. The one does not necessarily exclude the other. There is a considerable body of scientific evidence that healing miracles do take place in our own time. I have personally seen a person cured of migraine headaches through prayer. In fact it was the evidence of the supernatural that opened my eyes to the truth that the healing miracles of Jesus were authentic and not exadurated.

2. We have been blinded by our own human desires
We all like to have our own way. We do not like to have someone else tell us what to do. We call this
desire to having our own way our ‘ego’. This is what tends to make us self-centered as opposed to being God-centered. We do not like to face our own limitations. We do not like to admit being dependent on someone else or God. It is against our nature to admit we are wrong or have done something that requires an apology and forgiveness. These natural human feelings can prevent us from seeing or believing in the spiritual truths that we read about in the Bible. They are often “inconvenient truths” that we work hard at not seeing. This explains why it is so hard to convert or change people who are going through life in their own little bubble, into serious Christians. Many people only begin to take their faith seriously when there is a major disaster in their lives such as a job loss, serious illness or a death in their family. It is only when something goes terribly wrong in their lives that they begin to look outside their little bubble and ask questions about God and the meaning of life.

3. My eyes and ears were opened through experiences of the supernatural
I have already shared how when I was going through a divorce I began to read the Bible and became
interested in spiritual life. Most of the serious spiritual people I have met have read the whole Bible and developed a daily discipline of Bible reading and prayer. For me the next step was to experience the power of healing prayer. This is what opened my eyes and ears to the truth of the healing miracles in the Bible. This is what made me realize that the healing miracles were not superstitious legends, but actual scientific accounts of what Jesus did. The next step for me was the discovery of spiritual forces of evil. The healing ministry leads right into the ministry of exorcism. Evil spirits are sometimes but not always behind sickness. This is what terrifies many clergy, myself included; but what has to be faced if we are going to have our eyes and ears opened to what Jesus was doing in His ministry. The great tragedy is that most clergy back off here. They go the other way into a psychology based ministry of pastoral care and counseling. Their eyes never do get opened.

The readings challenge us to be open to experiences of the supernatural
We are still in the long season of Pentecost. This is the time in the church  year when we are learning how to live a spiritual life under the direction of the Holy Spirit. The good news is that the Holy Spirit will open our spiritual eyes and ears. The problem is we have to ask and be open to believing in experiences of the supernatural that may frighten us.

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