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"The Cry of the Faithful"

Mark 9:14-27

Rev. Alan Taylor

Pentecost 16, Proper 19, series B
St. John Lutheran Church  
Galveston, Texas

Sun, Sep 16, 2012 

+ In Nomine Jesu +

"They brought the boy to Jesus. When the spirit saw Him, immediately it threw him into a convulsion, and falling to the ground, he began rolling around and foaming at the mouth. And Jesus asked his father, 'how long has this been happening to him?' And he said, "From childhood.

'It has often thrown him both into the fire and into the water to destroy him. But if You can do anything, take pity on us and help us!' And Jesus said to him, " 'If You can?' All things are possible to him who believes."  Immediately the boy's father cried out and said, "I do believe; help my unbelief."

In the name of Jesus.  Amen.

What do you suppose it would be like to have to witness your child suffer from demon possession?  The thought itself is chilling, isnt it?  The demon periodically throws your child into the fire trying to burn him to death.  It throws him into the water trying to drown him.  Destruction, death, of course, is the goal! 

Your son or daughter rolls around on the ground and foams at the mouth.  The demon has taken away his ability to hear and to speak.  You awaken each day wondering what the day will be like.  Despite all of your previous disappointments, your hope remains because you are a child of God by grace. Not only are you His by grace, your child is His too by grace too. Though God seems to have forgotten His child, your child, you continue to believe that He has loved him unto death, even death on the cross. 

That is, after-all, what the Gospel is all about!  God, in Christ, takes on our suffering and death that we might have life in His name.  "No greater love has any man than this...that He lay down His life for His friends."  You continue to believe that He loves you and your child and, as the psalmist says, "that you will yet see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living."

There are those other days though, those days when you wonder if you can go on, when you wonder if God is punishing you or if He is punishing your child for something one of you did or didn't do, or, if he has turned His back on you altogether.  On those days, from the very depths of your soul, you cry out once again with the psalmist.  "How long, O Lord?  Will you forget me forever?  How long will you hide Your face from me?  How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day?  How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?"

No doubt the man in this morning's Gospel reading vacilated between confidence and joy in God's grace and mercy, on the one hand, and moments of fear and near depair, on the other.  When he had the opportunity he cried out to Jesus, "If you can do anything, take pity on us and help us."  Jesus, as always, heard the cry of His child and said, "All things are possible to him who believes."

"All things are possible to him who believes."  Heaven forbid that God's grace should depend on us.  It would seem though that is exactly what Jesus was saying to this distraught father. The man asked for Jesus' help and Jesus said, "believe!"

Who though believes so fully in God's goodness that he can effect miracles, even the casting out of demons?  After-all, the disciples couldn't cast this demon out.  Remember, elsewhere Jesus said, "if you have faith as a mustard seed you can say to a mountain 'fall into the sea' and it will do it'" Yet, neither Paul, nor Peter, nor Augustine, nor Luther, nor any other person that we would consider a paragon of faith ever caused a mountain to fall into the heart of the sea.  And none of us have ever effected such a miracle either!

The man answered Jesus, "I do believe; but help my unbelief."  That, my friends, is the confession and plea of a repentant child of God who struggles with the inconsistencies of faith and unbelief.  It is the confession and plea of the baptized who rejoice in the gifts God gives, who face life rooted and grounded in the Word and promises of God. It is the confession and plea of the one who bears events and suffers realities in life that defy everything he believes. 

And yet, even when the world is quiet, when life is good, when things are as they should be, that is, when life is fair, just and right, it is also the confession and plea of the child of God who is torn by his old nature, that part of him that doesn't want to believe God, that doesn't have the power to trust God and that does'nt want what God gives.  "I do believe (the man said); help my unbelief."

I trust you have cried out to God in the same way a time or two.  I know I have.  As frustrating as it may be, the fact is none of us ever does anything perfectly.  We don't repent and confess our sins perfectly.  We don't sing God's praise perfectly.  And we certainly don't believe perfectly.  For that reason we are thankful that we can confess with a grieving father "I do believe; help my unbelief," knowing that God is good and that He will continually bear with us when we wrestle to put away our unbelief.

Someone once said, "the depths of our misery can never fall below the depths of God's mercy."  Scripture says the same thing but in different words.  "No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man.  God is faithful, He will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation He will also provide the way of escape." 

"I believe; help my unbelief."  Such is the cry of the righteous.  And God's response is always the same.  Rest in My blood bought gift of forgiveness!  "I have loved you unto death, even death on a cross."  In the name of Jesus.  Amen.

The peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus unto life everlasting.  Amen.

+ Soli Deo Gloria +

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