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“Twice Touched” Second Sunday in Lent, March 8, 2009 at Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Oakland, California

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Second Sunday in Lent, March 8, 2009

Genesis 17: 1-7, 15-16 Psalm 22: 23-31 Romans 4:13-25 Mark 8: 31-38

Twice Touched

“May your hearts live forever!” that is a shout of joy in Psalm 22, which begins with, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” But God heard the cry of the afflicted, even in the most intense suffering, and delivered them out of their distress. When the prayer of the Psalmist is heard, the Psalm shifts from lamentation to praise. Feeling heard he lifts his voice and starts praising God! Generations yet unborn, he says, will hear the promise that God will deliver us and we will sing God’s praises, because of the deeds that God has done!

“May your hearts live forever!” That really jumped out at me when reading our lessons. What a beautiful greeting and salutation! Another word also stood out: “In the presence of God, whom Abraham believed, the God who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist.”

God gave life to the dead in the blessed resurrection of Jesus Christ our Lord and demonstrated his powers of creation once again when Abraham and Sarah received their promised Son when he was 100 and she was 90 years old and was barren as well. Abraham had already had Ishmael with Hagar and said to the Lord, “Surely you mean Ishmael!”

God said, “No you and Sarah will have a son.”

And Abraham laughed because there was such a gap between reality and God’s promise. It would take a champion of faith, one who tried to believe six impossible things before every breakfast. But Abraham was equal to the breakfast of champions, because he believed God and God did not count the cost of Abraham and Sarah’s sin, but made them righteous and gave them Isaac, whose name means “laughter,” the son of promise, even in their old age when Abraham was as good as dead.

The word “believe” here means both to believe and to trust. Believing six impossible things before breakfast, the way the queen does in Through the Looking Glass , the sequel of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland,[1] is only believing that statements are true. Believing God really means trusting God. Luther says that whatever your heart clings to and trusts in is really your God. So you can do easy lip talk about Christ, but your heart may really cling to and trust in something else. It is usually money or power or possessions. Do you really trust God to raise you from the dead, the way God raised Jesus Christ? If I believe that, then I ask myself, why do I fret about getting older? Don’t we believe that God will be there when we die and lead us through death into life? Ah, we have to trust God for that one.

Sarah and Abraham had Isaac, and perhaps because of their old age, he might have been slightly slow. The real Son of Promise was not Isaac, however, but Jesus Christ. God’s people had to wait another 1450 years for Jesus to be born. But since that time, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam look to Abraham as the one who started their faith.

Judaism is a religion that sees the law as a way of salvation and Moslems look to their Holy Book, the Qur’an, but for us Christians Jesus is the way of salvation. We are not a religion of the law and all its commands, but of the Gospel and all its promises. We do not trust in the law to save us, but in Jesus Christ. We believe that he will touch us and awaken us from the dead. Trusting him is the way we are raised from the dead and recreated out of nothing. If we belong to Jesus Christ and if we trust God through him, we might be nobodies, but God will make somebody out of us.

Abraham had to wait another 25 years before Isaac was born to Sarah. Just imagine how dead and empty God’s promise to them must have felt! We know how their story ends. Poor Abraham and Sarah did not. God renames Abraham. “Abram” meant “the divine name be held high” and “Abraham” means a “father of a multitude” or “father of many nations.”

“Sarah” means princess in Hebrew. But imagine being called a father of a multitude and not being able to have a child? What a misnomer, Sarah was his half-sister and they had the promise to be the mother and father of multitudes, but they were an infertile couple. God shows Abraham the starry heavens: See their great number? Your descendants will be just as countless. And Abraham has to wait and wait.

Believe, believe, believe: that means trust God with all your heart, cling to the promises of God, hang your heart on the words of God. God will keep his word, but we often have to wait through the time when God’s promises seem very dead and empty. Abraham had to be 100 years old and Sarah had to be 90 when the promise was finally fulfilled.

The promises of the Gospel are that God will raise the dead to life and call into existence the things that do not exist. Ah, believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and the resurrection and your hearts will live forever.

The chapters of Mark, surrounding our gospel lesson, start with Jesus healing a blind man and end with him healing another one, the blind Bartimaeus. A commentator noted that Jesus had to touch the first blind person twice to bring clear sight.[2] Only a partial understanding results from being touched but once. It is as if the healing miracle did not provide complete understanding. The other part was suffering and dying and having the faith to see the rainbow of the resurrection through the sorry rain.

Jesus could go with confidence to the cross for us, because he believed and trusted God to raise him from the dead, to call him into existence after he had died and no longer existed. For most of us that is so hard to believe that we hang onto our lives and everything we have for dear life.

Jesus trusts God completely and believes that his heart will live forever. So he tells the disciples that he will have to suffer much and be put to death, but then that he would rise up from the dead in three days. “Three days” is a Hebrew expression meaning a short while.

Peter is still partly blind. He has not yet been twice touched, because he does not yet see the part about our witness by our suffering and dying. He thinks that Jesus’ Kingdom is only of this world and he did not really count on the one in heaven. So he rebukes Jesus. “Never shall this happen to you!” and we remember that when Jesus was arrested Peter still tries to protect Jesus with his sword. He cut off that poor fellow’s ear, but let me tell you, that was not what he was aiming at.

Now just a few verses before, Peter confessed that Jesus was the Messiah, Son of the living God. Jesus responds by naming him Peter, the rock. “Blessed are you Peter. Flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven and you are Peter and upon this rock I will build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16: 17-18).

A few steps later, Peter tries to prevent the passion and crucifixion of Jesus. It is a very human thing to do, a very natural reaction. But Jesus has one foot in heaven and the other on earth. But just like all of us, he only could trust God about his foot in heaven.

Jesus now rebukes Peter; that means he sternly orders him: “Get behind me Satan because you are caught up in human things and you do not trust God, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist so that our hearts live forever. “May your hearts live forever!” Response: “We believe; help our unbelief!”

All of us want to be touched and healed of our blindness, receive the miracle of life here. But we need to be touched again, to see the kingdom of heaven clearly, to deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow him. Jesus tells us that those who want to save their lives will lose them and those who lose their lives for his sake and for the sake of the Gospel, will save them.

Why should we be so sad that we are getting older? That means we are closer to heaven’s door. Like Bob Dylan sings, “We’re knock, knock, knocking on heaven’s door!” And because we trust in God and believe God’s promises, it sets our hearts rejoicing. When Christ touches us a second time our faith, our trust in the promises of God makes us be able to go through the valley of suffering and the shadow of death, seeing the rainbow of the resurrection through all the tearful rain. We can look at our cross and see God’s heaven behind it. See the rainbow of the resurrection through the torrents of rain.

The promises of God are that he will give life to our dead bodies and call us into existence from nothing so that our hearts will live forever!

“May your hearts live forever!”

Response: “We believe; help our unbelief!”

When we get touched a second time, we trust God through it all and we lift up God’s name and witness through our suffering and dying that the loving God has accepted us and will make our hearts live forever!

Ah, I myself have been touched once. I suffered from a speech defect, a lisp that made all my S’s come out of the side of my mouth. I also walked hunched over, which really distressed my father. God healed my speech defect and made me walk uprightly. But I know that this physical healing was not half as hard for God as straightening me out as a person. And I’m sure that you can also witness to being touched by God and with me you can also confess that God is not finished with you yet. And then God will touch us a second time and you and I will deny ourselves. The word is stronger than that: we will disown ourselves, so that we belong completely to God. That way we will witness to God through suffering the cross for the sake of Christ and for the sake of the Gospel so that we will finally see the kingdom of heaven, the beloved community clearly, where God straightens us all out. Even if God’s promises still seem dead and empty, keep counting on God’s grace and all along the way, even in our sinfulness, “God can write straight even on crooked lines,” as the saying goes.

Our witness to Jesus through the miracle of denying ourselves and suffering the cross will be stronger than the miracle of physical healing. Just look at Martin Luther King, Jr.! he witnessed by suffering and dying for the sake of the promises that had to be kept for Americans of African Descent. He said,

Well, I don’t know what will happen to me now. We’ve

got some difficult days ahead. But it really does not matter with me now, because I’ve been to the mountaintop.

And I don’t mind.

Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that right now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not be able to get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land.[3]

So let’s be twice touched and clearly see the rainbow of the resurrection through all the teardrops of the rain, trusting in the presence of the one in whom Jesus believed, the God who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist so that we too can shout: “may our hearts live forever!”

“May your hearts live forever!”

Response: “We believe; help our unbelief!” Amen.


[1] Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, (Old Saybrook, CT: Konecky & Konecky, undated), page 130.

[2] Brian P. Stoffregen, CrossMarks: Christian Resources, http://www.crossmarks.com/brian/mark8x31.htm.

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Written by peterkrey

March 9, 2009 at 9:51 pm

Posted in Selected Sermons

One Response

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  1. […] « The Painted Prayerbook First Things » Blog Archive » Selling Stem Cells “Twice Touched” Second Sunday in Lent, March 8, 2009 at Bethleh.. Solid science or attack on innocent life? » GetReligion Behaviour: It is what confuses me. […]

    Things | Things

    March 10, 2009 at 2:08 am


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