The Power of Faith and The Promise of Miracles Fifth Week in the March to Jerusalem
Those of you who have made the commitment to walk spiritually with Jesus are nearing a critical moment – his arrival in Jerusalem. For many of us here, faced with the threat of deportation, it is a real life moment of your own destiny. It is our belief that walking with Jesus willprepare you spiritually – and in some cases will bring you through your own personal challenge. Certainly it will help you find the Kingdom of God which is revealed through communities ofcommon faith and common resistance. So I invite you to walk together with Jesus again this morning. Say “Amen” if you will walk with Jesus this morning?
After Jesus had collected the 12 disciples and showed them the power of the Kingdom through healing, driving out demons, preaching and gathering more and more people in Galilee, he prepared himself and set out for Jerusalem.
For Jesus, and for us who walk with him, it is a journey of confrontation and purification. He confronted those in power with their hypocrisy of status, of wealth, of false religion that conformed to unjust laws and which did not practice what it preached – but he also asked the disciples and the people to purify themselves of the same hypocrisies to regain their innocence.
Now, near the edge of Jerusalem, for the third time he predicts his death, crucifixion and resurrection. Moreover, he performs certain miracles that make him seem even more dangerous to the power structure and they begin to plot his death.
Today, we read how he raised Lazarus from the dead – and how he gave sight to blind Bartemaeus. These are powerful miracles yet there is a truth we must understand. He did not healevery blind person nor did he raise all from the dead. So what was the significance of these miracles? Why are they written about in the Gospels we are given? Why are some prayers answered and others not?
Both of these miracles rely on the faith of the people. He tells Bartemaeus that “By your faith you are healed!” We know this in our own experience, in our own struggle.
We have fought hard on every deportation case that has come to our church – and there are more each week. We used every provision we could find in the law. We took these cases to the public in testimony, in marches, in protests. We called on elected officials to exercise their influence – and we prayed. We prayed and we continued to pray.
In some of these cases we won victories. In others, we were able to delay the deportations for many years. Mothers and fathers were able to raise their children. The testimony of those fighting deportation and separation from their family gave rise to a national movement – and this movement brought relief for millions during the Obama administration. As we took our testimonies around the nation, we collected committed disciples and we gathered thousands and then millions to our cause. From our demand for executive action we won DACA – and we won prosecutorial discretion.
These things were done on faith – for we had little else. The disciples were tireless and overcame their own doubts. Those most affected showed great faith based in the love of their families. Were our victories miracles? Sometimes we achieved a decision just because certain events, certain people, certain meetings came about through what only can be called providence.
How were we given attorneys who gave their all to a people who had no money? How were different elected officials brought to us, willing to stand up against even their own parties to help us – sometimes just when we needed them? The people that came together just at the right time at the border to be able to bring back a deported mother to her husband and daughter – these things happened because of the persistence that comes from faith but also because of the divine intervention that faith calls down from heaven!
Yes, we have prayed too for those who were sick and sometimes they became well – just as in the time of Jesus. And through prayer and faith the demons of self-hatred, self-destruction and addiction have sometimes been called out of some of our people– just as in the time of Jesus. Yet the miracles we received in the struggle against the unjust law also revealed to us the power of faith and the reality of divine intervention in just as powerful a way.
Still, as in the journey of Jesus to Jerusalem, making one blind person see did not make every blind person see – and stopping one deportation, reuniting one family, did not stop all the deportations or separations of families.
When Elvira was in sanctuary – safe from the most powerful government in the world for a whole year – it gave many people hope and gave strength to their faith. Some wanted her to stay in sanctuary and complained that leaving set back their hopes. When she was deported, some questioned their faith. Yet, when she took on the cause of the Central Americans in Mexico it opened many eyes to the realities they faced – and the destiny of planting a unified Latino people here from the south. And when by a miracle of circumstances Elvira was able to return to the United States with Saul, with her new baby and her Central American husband, a whole new wave of faith and solidarity spread in the hearts of the people.
The faith that has grown with our movement was not only in regard to deportations. As the testimony of those fighting to keep their families together reached more and more people, we found a renewal of those fighting to keep their families together in the face of the culture – in the face of selfishness and materialism and addictions and temptations. As the testimony of young people now eligible for DACA grew, there was a renewal of the spirit of these same young people fighting for all the families, fighting, for instance, the denial of health care to the undocumented, as well as the deportations and the criminalization of their generation by the police. And we saw a unity of the entire Latino community, with and without papers, established based on the demonstration of faith in the face of injustice!
Yet as all these manifestations of faith and revelations of divine intervention, deportations and separations of families continued – so did many of the problems that come from the selfishness of this culture between us. On the other hand, the miracles gave many strength to sacrifice for others – as Jesus sacrificed for us all – and this unselfish love drew together a new spirit in the people.
Still, there was deep disappointment when we came so close to security for millions but were denied it by a few thousand votes in the nation – and now we have Trump with his policies of mass deportation, racism and mass incarceration. Many of those whose deportations had been delayed, even for years, now face deportation again. So what do miracles do?
When Jesus was on the cross they taunted him – “If you are the Son of God then save yourself!” With all the power of the divine that Jesus had shown, with all the faith he had inspired among the people with his miracles, still he was humiliated and brutalized and crucified for all to see. He had gone into Jerusalem knowing the fate that awaited him and did not pray for a miracle to save himself as he had saved others.
Yet here we are with our community of faith two thousand years later! The journey we walk with Jesus to Jerusalem will not end in Jerusalem. It will be raised up in his resurrection and in the testimony of the disciples. It will be like a seed that once planted disappears into the corn that grows from it, a faith that sustained the people when they were dispersed to hostile lands in the empire, a faith that gives strength today to those forced from their homes in the south and dispersed into communities throughout a racist and often hostile north.
The miracles showed the people the power of faith and the existence of divine intervention. Those who were healed or saved from injustice were living testimony for all to see that alsoexposed the wickedness of those who would marginalize them and torture them. Through those miracles God proclaimed their innocence – but also showed them the road to innocence through confession and redemption!
The families that have persevered and stayed together in this church, Elvira’s return against all odds, the stream of young people getting their DACA deferments each week – taken all together make this a place of miracles from which a great faith is generated. As we confront the criminalization of our young people, the gang identification cards handed out that lead to deportation, we are building a resistance to Trump’s claim that he is keeping America safe by deporting criminals.
What I am saying is that Miracles are Faith Generators. Like a fountain in a small pool, the fountain takes up the water from the pool and then sprays it out, gloriously, on the land around the little pool. It waters the dry land, so that the seeds of faith will grow!
Resistance grows from faith and gives rise to more faith from which miracles come – and from miracles come more faith. From these things comes a revelation of the destiny of the people of the south to transform this nation – and from this revelation comes the exposing of the racism and the wickedness of those who would terrorize families and children to “Make AmericaWhite Again.”
When Lazarus was raised from the dead it sent alarm through the rulers and caused them to reveal themselves and their wickedness – their hypocrisy in taking an innocent life.
The miracles grown from faith that has families still together with us, that brought Elvira back across the border, that reunited families after deportation – these miracles too will cause those in power to expose themselves. If there was really any other reason but RACISM behind Trump’s policy how could they deport Miguel Perez who fought and put his life on the line to defend their nation?
The resistance grown from faith is “calling out the demon of racism” in this nation – and there it stands naked in the White House and the Congress for all to see. Once exposed it cannot stand against the winds of the Holy Spirit and the purpose of God’s creation!
God’s time is not our time and God’s ways are not our ways – but if God be with us, who can be against us! Pray for strength, let your faith be raised up by miracles but do not let your faith be destroyed by disappointment and wickedness. As miracles inspire faith so does perseverance in the face of difficulty make you stronger in your faith.
The Scripture asks us, “Since when were the arms of the Lord too short to deal with the wickedness of man?” For through all the twists and turns of the battle, the purpose of God is for you to be His people and for you to know his Kingdom in your midst. God’s purpose keeps shining through the darkness with which the wickedness of evil men would surround us. For God has planted you here to be like Oaks of Righteousness for the transformation of the whole continent of the Americas!
Just open your eyes and see the light, feel the light on your face, walk with angels in it, dance and sing songs in it, embrace each other in it, embrace each other in it - and rejoice in it – for it is the Lord’s and you are his people, and he will never leave you – he will never leave you, he will never leave you!
THE HOLY SCRIPTURES FOR THE FOURTH WEEK IN THE MARCH TO JERUSALEM
Mark 10: 32-34 Jesus Predicts His Death a Third Time
They were on their way up to Jerusalem, with Jesus leading the way, and the disciples were astonished, while those who followed were afraid. Again he took the Twelve aside and told them what was going to happen to him. “We are going up to Jerusalem,” he said, “and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles, who will mock him and spit on him, flog him and kill him. Three days later he will rise.”
John 11: 38-44 Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead
Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. “Take away the stone,” he said. “But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.” Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.” When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 44 The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face. Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.”
Mark 10: 46-52 Blind Bartimaeus Receives His Sight
Then they came to Jericho. As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus (which means “son of Timaeus”), was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” 49 Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.” So they called to the blind man, “Cheer up! On your feet! He’s calling you.” Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus. “What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him. The blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see.” “Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.