The Other Miracle
A sermon by Dr. Jess Fletcher
First Baptist Church, Richmond, Virginia
Sunday, September 16, 2007
Dr. Jess Fletcher is past President (1977-1991) of Hardin-Simmons University
in Abilene, Texas. Author and Baptist minister, currently he flies from his home
in Abilene to Richmond, Virginia on weekends to preach at the First Baptist
Church there. Many thanks both to Dr. Fletcher and to the church for permission
to reprint this sermon. First Baptist Church, Richmond, VA
Liturgically these times of the year are called "Ordinary Time." You're familiar
with Lent and Pentecost and the Advent season and the celebrations that come
there. But the liturgical year goes 12 months and it's full of various saints' days
and feast days and other emphases. But generally speaking, the time between
Pentecost and Advent is called "Ordinary Time."
Have you ever thought how hard it is to come up with 'ordinary time?'
Something always extraordinary seems to happen in my life...Last week
we commemorated the sixth anniversary of 9/11. It's been hard to think of
the time since then as "Ordinary Time." Every time I fly through Dallas, I
see all over the terminal, desert fatigue uniforms, as I watch young men
and women going to and from the battle zone in the Middle East. For them,
it's not ordinary time.
And yet, ordinary time is where we try to live. Hopefully this day will have
some familiarity to yesterday, minus a few things we'd just as soon not
happen, and plus a few things we're hoping for. But in this passage, Luke,
the writer of Acts, is suggesting it was ordinary time.
They were going to the temple regularly, they were meeting together and
sharing their meals and sharing their excitement in Christ and sharing the
insights that the indwelling spirit was beginning to show them: "One day
at three o'clock in the afternoon, Peter and John were on their way into
the temple for prayer meeting. At the same time there was a man
crippled from birth being carried up."
(Luke 3: 1-2, The Message)
The same time they were heading for the temple this man and whoever was
carrying him, family or friends were heading also for the temple.
They converged at the gate, 'Beautiful.' "When he saw Peter and John
about to enter the temple, he asked for a handout," or 'alms,' as we have
heard it termed so many years.
"Peter, with John at his side, looked him straight in the eye and said, 'Look
here.' He looked up expecting to get something form them.
Peter said, 'I don't have a nickel to my name, but what I do have, I give you."
"In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk." He grabbed him by the right
hand and pulled him up. In an instant, his feet and ankles became firm. He
jumped to his feet and walked. The man went into the temple with them,
walking back and forth and praising God. Everyone there saw him walking around and praising God. They recognized him as the one who sat begging
at the temple's gate, Beautiful, and rubbed their eyes, scarcely believing
what they were seeing. All the people ran up to where they were
at Solomon Porch to see it for themselves..."
The Bible is full of miracles. The problem is we sometimes struggle with
how we want to define a miracle. Miracles are something we use in so
many different ways from the very light-hearted version to something that
is almost too holy to talk about. On the one scale, we use it a lot on the
golf course. When somebody hits a ball thin and it skips across the
water, the foursome says, "It's a miracle." Somebody else shanks on
into a tree, and it bounces back on the green, "It's a miracle." Well,
obviously, there are better, more accurate ways to use that term.
Folks, I believe in miracles. I believe things happen - that for whatever reason
you can give to explain it - as the work of God in our lives. And I don't believe
that it always needs to be something that is just so totally out of the blue there's
no other way to handle it. Let me give you an illustration.
My wife is a life-long diabetic. When we lived here in Richmond she had begun to
lose sight in her eyes. At that point in time, diabetic retinopathy, as they called it, was
the number one cause of blindness in the world. There was a doctor here named
DuPont Gerry, who began treating her problems with a laser. He'd go in and burn
the little blood vessels that would get traction on the retina and pull it loose. He began
treating it, but it got ahead of him and she lost the sight in one eye and the other one
was threatened. We know too many people who were already blind from the problem
not to feel devastated.One day at DuPont's office he said, "You know, my son is an
intern at the Bascom-Palmer Eye Clinic in Miami. They have a man down there
who's doing an experimental surgery on diabetic retinopathy."
We were soon down there. Dorothy's prayer had been that she would not only be
healed from the threat of blindness but that it would come in such a way as that it
would benefit everybody else in the community of people suffering like this. She
was one of the first 100 people in the world to have what was called a Vitrectomy
and her sight was saved. Later, after we had moved to Texas, she had to go back to
do the other eye. By the time, that surgery was done all over the world. She sees
clearly, she drives, she can read, she's a computer wiz and it was a miracle as far
as I'm concerned. That's a miracle you can explain; you can can explain it by a
man's efforts to pioneer ways to solve what before had been an intractable
problem. But, friend, that's the stuff of miracles.
Now that's not like the ultimate miracle of God raising Christ from the
dead. But I believe God did this one also.
I believe in miracles. Within the last ten years, I made another trip to a hospital in
Dallas. Dorothy had been told that she had ovarian cancer and it had metastasized.
The numbers were pretty severe, suggesting widely metastasized. She went through
surgery, what they called 'stage surgery. ' It was supposed to make sure they could
get it all and when it was all over the doctor came back, looked at me, he said,
"I can't explain it, but we have no cancer. We couldn't find anything malignant."
I said, "What did those numbers mean?" He said, "I can't tell you, there was
just no malignancy." When she awoke and I told her, she said, simply,
"Thank you, Jesus." It was a miracle.
Sure, you can say it wasn't cancer. For me, it was a miracle! Folks, if you're not
open to miracles, you're not open to the fact that there is a God who is over, under
and in everything that we believe and that our faith starts with an ultimate miracle.
Now, having said all that, I’ve used up most of my time and that's not what I came
to talk about. I want to talk about the other miracle. You say, "Well, what
miracle?" I'm talking about the miracle that happened when Peter reached down and
lifted the man up. You see, that didn't happen. And I've watched enough of these
street scenes in enough parts of the world to know it doesn't happen. People will do
one of two things - they'll drop something in the man's little receptacle or the
woman's little receptacle or often (unfortunately) the child's little cup and move on,
thinking that they've taken care of their faith needs for the day. Or, more often, they
will look the other way, become involved in a conversation and just pass by.
When somebody stops and speaks, it already had this man's attention, that was
different. Something different was taking place. Now when he said, "You're healed,
rise up and walk," or "In the name of Jesus, rise up and walk," I wonder if the
man thought Peter was crazy, 'jerking his chain,' as the kids say. Sure, up like
a bunny, right? But at the same time Peter reached down, reached his strong
right fisherman's hand down and whether a reflex action, or what, the man
took it and then the miracle happened - according to the scripture. Then he felt
the strength, then he felt the ability to walk. The other miracle was Peter’s
reaching out. This is a miracle that any one of us can be a
Your morning worship response had you say, "Come, O Lord, and work a
miracle in me." What I'm asking you to do is say, "Come, O Lord, work a
miracle through me." You're not the miracle worker, but you work for one.
There is One who can work a miracle, but He may be waiting on your hand,
your voice, your word, your presence, your awareness. When you become a part
of what God's about, the miracle working of what faith can do and mean in this
world, you become those hands. And you can be a part of that. That's the
miracle I'm interested in. Do you realize that Jesus did all kinds of miracles, but he
didn't talk about any? What he did talk about, in ways that we're still galvanized
by it, is the man who didn't pass by on the other side, who stopped and went to
the man who had been robbed and severely hurt and thrown on the side of the
road and helped him. We call him the Good Samaritan.
You remember that man?
He reached out and did something about it. We all get this opportunity everyday,
if we have the eyes to see. Maybe we're not reaching down to someone whose ankles
and feet don't work. Maybe we are reaching out to somebody whose heart's broken.
We may be reaching out to somebody for whom life is just so flat they can't get
themselves up to do anything and you're giving them that word of encouragement -
that word of recognition. Maybe it's a child to whom no one is paying attention and
you stop and give that child recognition and encouragement.
In Abilene, there's a man named James Parker, who grew up poor as dirt in a
town called Sweetwater. There was a grocer there who hired him to be a sacker.
That man began to treat James like a father. Later he brought James into the busi-
ness and still later he sold the business to James and still later James took that
business, by then multiplied all over that area, and sold it for millions of dollars
and became one of the area's top philanthropists. I didn't know that original
grocer, but he worked a miracle in James. There's all kinds of miracles that can
be worked this way in the spirit of the great Samaritan. This is the other miracle.
There was an interesting little story on the internet of an African American woman
who was stranded on a California freeway one night during a rain storm. Her car
had broken down, she was well-dressed, she got out, soon she was soaked trying
to wave somebody down because she was in a terrible hurry to get somewhere
But people just kept whizzing on by. Finally, a young white man pulled over
and asked if he could help her. He took her somewhere where she could be dry
and called a cab and he arranged for her car to be taken care of. She said,
"Give me your name and address." He said, "No, you don't need to do that,
this is just something I could do." She said, "Please!" And he did.
And a few days later a beautiful color television set was delivered to his
house and a note which said, "Thank you so much for stopping during my
terrible need. I was on the way to the hospital to see my husband who was
dying. Had you not stopped, had you not helped me, I would never have
made it and I would not have had those last few moments with him.
Thank you again. Mrs. Nat King Cole."
I have a friend of mine who's just come through a very difficult illness and I asked
him how he felt about it and he said, "Well, I've made two resolves. One is, I'm
going to play golf every chance I get." I said, "What's the second one?" I really
expected something profound, and it was. He said, "And I'm going to eat dessert
everyday." Let me tell you about dessert. It won't do nearly as much for you as
reaching out and lifting somebody up. We're talking about doing yourself
a favor. We're talking about finding out who you really were meant to be.
We're talking about having the eyes to see people all around you in terms of the
way your Lord and Savior sees them and then reaching out however you can,
to let him make whatever miracle needs to be made in that situation. This is
something we call all do. We can become ‘the other miracle’ workers. You
remember that movie they made so many years ago about Anne Sullivan,
who helped Helen Keller get in touch with the world.
They called her the Miracle Worker.
Any time we help somebody find their way, it can seem small to us but to them
it can be a real miracle. The other kind of miracle may be the one we see the most
of and it may be the one we need the most.
- Jess Fletcher
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