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Lord, I believe. Help Thou Mine Unbelief.

St. Mark 9.14-29


Pentecost 16, Proper 19, series B
Lutheran Senior Services at Meramec Bluffs  
Ballwin, Missouri

Sun, Sep 16, 2012 

Soli Deo Gloria. Amen.

Invocation In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

1 St. Mark tells us that Jesus began his public ministry by proclaiming the arrival of the Kingdom of God.

[St. Mark 1.15]

The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel.

2 Today, through the gospel we see the Kingdom of God revealed right before our very eyes.  Jesus looks at the possessed by who lies wallowing on the ground and foaming at the mouth.  And he says:

[St. Mark 9.25-27]

Thou dumb and deaf spirit, I charge thee, come out of him, and enter no more into him.

And the spirit cried, and rent him sore, and came out of him: and he was as one dead; insomuch that many said, He is dead.  But Jesus took him by the hand, and lifted him up, and he arose.

3 That, brothers and sisters, is what the Kingdom of God is like.  In the Kingdom of God, Jesus rules over the demons by the sound of his voice.  As he speaks, the devils flee, and no more do they torment the children of God.  In the Kingdom of God, Jesus takes us by the hand and raises us up when the tribulation of this world beat us down.  In the Kingdom of God, Jesus answers the prayers of his faithful followers and says:

[St. Mark 9.23]

. . . all things are possible to him that believeth.

4 But believing is a struggle, isn't it?  And it's no surprise.  The boy's father in the gospel struggled to believe.  He struggled because he saw each and every day how hard, and how dangerous, and how painful life was for his son.  He saw, day in and day out, how much his son suffered at the hand of the devil who possessed him.  He saw, that in this life, every day would be a struggle, so he struggled to believe that even Jesus could help him.

[St. Mark 9.22]

. . . if thou canst do any thing, have compassion on us, and help us

he pleads.

"If thou canst do anything."  there's no great certainty in his voice.  There's no confidence that Jesus will be able to help anymore than his disciples could.  there's no hope in this man's heart.  Only a prayer on his lips and desperation in his soul. 

5 Here at the Bluffs, we can relate to prayers and desperation like that.  Each and every day we wake up once again to the hard, dangerous, sometimes painful lives that are our own.  We may not be possessed, but day in and day out we suffer illness, injury, and the effects of getting older.  Day after day, the demons seek to do us harm.  We see, first-hand, that in this life, every day is a struggle.  And because of it all, we struggle to believe.  We struggle to believe that things will get better.  We struggle to believe that we will ever get better.  We struggle to believe that God I sin our midst and that he's willing to have compassion on us.  We even struggle to believe that Jesus can help.  And the prayer of desperation rises from our lips that first rose from that poor father's heart:

[St. Mark 9.22]

. . .if thou canst do any thing, have compassion on us, and help us.

6 In the midst of our struggles—in the midst of our desperation—today, Jesus tells us just what he told the father of that boy:

[St. Mark 9.23]

. . . If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.

In this word of Christ, the Spirit is at work among us.  By this word of our Lord, the Holy Spirit moves us beyond making the father's prayer our own to making his confession our own as well.  By the Spirit, we say:

[St. Mark 9.24]

. . . Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.

By such a confession we admit our struggle to believe.  By such confession we lay all our struggles before the Lord.  By such confession we acknowledge that we cannot believe on our own, and we must put our faith, our bodies, and our souls in the hand of God and trust in him to help.  To help us feel better.  To help us ward off the assaults of the devil and his demons.  To help us in our time of need.  And to help us believe.

7 And help is exactly what Jesus does.  Jesus helps us by revealing his power to heal.  NO, he doesn't always offer us miraculous healing from our physical ailments, but he does drive away the demons.  He does protect us from the devil.  He does hold us in his loving arms and keep us there until we shall be freed from every danger to body and sou.  He does grant us the faith we so desperately need.  Each and every moment, Jesus with us, facing down the demons and driving them from our presence.  Each and every moment, Jesus is present with his gracious compassion and power to heal.  Each and every moment Jesus is praying and fasting for us before God the Father in heaven, to free us from our suffering, to grant us faith, and to save us from all the makes our life a struggle.  In Hebrews we read that:

[Hebrews 7.25]

. . . he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.

By such prayer Christ works belief in our hearts.  By such fasting Christ sustains us in the midst of our struggles.  By such faithfulness of his own, Christ saves us, redeems us, and brings us into the Kingdom of God where

[Revelation 21.4]

. . . God shall wipe away all tears from (our) eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, either shall there be any more pain.

And our struggles will be no more.

8 While he drives away all that torments us through his prayer and fasting before the Father, today in the Gospel, Jesus is revealing that in the Kingdom of God there is indeed full relief from all our suffering.  There is full release from every struggle.  His exorcism of that boy gives us a glimpse of the Kingdom of God.  And when Christ returns, he will bring the fullness of the Kingdom with him.  On the last day, Christ will take us by the hand, even though we be dead, and he will raise us up to life that is free from demons, free from disease, free from suffering, and free from all struggle.

9 Until that day, Christ reveals his Kingdom to us through his blessed Word and holy Sacraments.  As we hear his word and meditate on it, Christ brings the Kingdom of God into our midst.  As we receive his forgiveness in the absolution, Christ makes present the Kingdom of God among us.  As we eat his body and drink his blood in the Sacrament of the Altar, Christ brings the Kingdom of God to each of us personally and fully, that we might know his heavenly reign of holy compassion, divine mercy, and the never-failing help of Almighty God.

10 So while we struggle through this life, we, like the father of the possessed boy, come to Jesus and hear him say that all things are possible to those who believe.  So we turn our eyes to heaven and we hold fast to that promise of our Lord.  And we claim for ourselves his promised compassion, help and salvation by praying every day: Lord, I believe.  Help Thou mine unbelief.  Amen.

Invocation In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

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