Sermon “Miracles Everywhere: Believing”

On the 22nd Sunday after Pentecost, October 21, 2018, Pastor Jenny Smith Walz preached from the sermon series ‘Miracles Everywhere’ on the topic “Believing”. Her text is from John 9:1-12 (Healing the Man Born Blind – He Has to Go and Wash) and  Mark 2:1-12 (Friends Carry Paralyzed Man to Jesus).

To hear the sermon live, go to the Princeton United Methodist Church Facebook page

Also the sermon will be podcast soon on this webpage under the category “worship”.

According to Batterson

Jewish rabbis distinguished between a good eye and a bad eye.

A bad eye turned a blind eye toward the poor.

A good eye referred to a person’s ability to see and seize every opportunity to be a blessing toward others.

Greg Stielstra story from PyroMarketing

In a study involving a group of Americans who haven’t been to Mexico and a group of Mexicans who haven’t been to America, researchers used a binocular-like device with an image of baseball in one eye and an image of bullfighting in the other. When asked what they had seen, Mexicans typically saw bullfighting, and Americans saw baseball. We often see what we know, what we’ve experienced, what we expect.

Seeing is a miracle in and of itself.

Even the simplest process in the eye is enormously complex.  The retina conducts close to 10 billion calculations every second, before an image even travels through the optic nerve to the visual cortex.

Day 42 after conception – the first neuron is formed in a baby’s brain. By birth a baby will have an estimated 86 billion brain cells. Brain begins to form neuronal connections called synapses. By six months old, each brain cell has about 18 thousand connections.

Millions of neurons are firing across billions of neuropathways every second of every day.

Babies at birth – vision is no better than 20/200. Can’t focus on anything farther than 12″ away. 8 months – babies can see almost as well as we can. During that process – windows of opportunity open and close. Vision is wired between birth and 18 months. Synaptogenesis in visual cortex peaks at 2 months.

If patch is placed over eye of a newborn and left there during first few years of life, baby would be blind for rest of life in that eye, even if that eye was perfectly normal. No synapses would be formed between the visual cortex and optical nerve. Irreversible.

Not only is this the process for physically seeing, but also being able to create images in our mind’s eye based on our experiences and memory. Mountain. House. Family. School. These words bring up images in our minds that aren’t generic, but are actual images / impressions of places we’ve experienced that have meaning for us. This man born blind didn’t have these images or even ones of mom or dad.

For the Man born blind the whole chapter is a saga, fiasco, a big deal.

Disciples – who sinned?

Neighbors – is this the same man?

Pharisees – Jesus must be the sinner here

Parents – brought in and questioned

Man – questioned more

Jesus and the Man – who’s really blind…

The Blind Man received a set of instructions: Go to the pool of Siloam and wash. We don’t know exactly how far he had to go, but  it seems he would have descended hundreds of steps, and this miracle happened during the Feast of Tabernacles, so he would have bumped into thousands of pilgrims. Why? Why not just heal him on the spot? Seems unnecessary!!

Pool of Siloam










There is this Story by Bishop William Frey. He volunteered to tutor a student who was blind since age thirteen, as a result of a chemical explosion. The student felt like life was over and was feeling sorry for himself. One day his dad said – “John, winter’s coming and the storm windows need to be up – that’s your job. I want those hung by the time I get back this evening.” He pretended to walk out of the room. John got angry – he was so angry he decided to do it – “when I fall they’ll have a blind and paralyzed son!”  He didn’t fall! He discovered he was capable of doing far more than he realized, even with blind eyes.  In reality, dad was never more than 5 feet away. He made sure John was safe, but knew that helplessness was a far worse curse than blindness.                                                                                                                        

Jesus didn’t just heal his blind eyes. He restored his dignity by not leaving him helpless. Most miracles require an act of obedience. Somehow, God keeps calling us, inviting us to be miracle workers with God.

Last week we were invited us to put on God-Vision Goggles in order to see what God is up to. This week, not only our GHE and our GSS, but also to become partners with God in making happen Miracles Everywhere.

I’ve been talking about miracles as experiences of God’s love, power, presence, and purpose, inviting us to open our eyes to a whole huge wide world or miracles.

Even though miracles are all about God – they are experiences of God, they are signposts to God. And while they always affect and change the people they happen to, they are even more about God and about the trust fostered in God as the miracle happens.  

When we think about miracles, we tend to think about God being the doer. And that is true of course. But it’s not the whole story. Think about the miracles that we read about in scripture…… Let’s name some…..and the way humans were part of it.

  • Mark’s paralyzed man – friends carried
  • water into wine – stewards, Mary
  • walking on water – xxx
  • healing paralytic – friends carried on a mat
  • feeding 5000 – boy with fish and bread, disciples
  • raising Lazarus – unwrapping by disciples
  • Moses – parting water
  • healing – faith has made you well
  • resurrection – xxx
  • burning bush – Moses to see it
  • Elijah and widow of Zarephath – flour didn’t run out, then healed son – Elijah
  • walls of Jericho – Joshua and crew
  • creation – xxx

In New Jersey after Hurricane Sandy

  • Nearly 12K volunteers rebuilt over 250 houses
  • immediately after people provided over 50K meals
  • gave 5000 people shelter
  • Mucked out 2000 homes
  • provided 11K flood buckets
  • 3000 Health kits
  • provided tons of clothing, blankets, heaters, etc.

In Africa – Imagine No Malaria

  • cut mortality rate by 60%
  • 4 million nets provided
  • 61 health facilities renovated
  • 2.7 million people treated, averting 6.8 million deaths
  • 175 structures treated
  • 1000 community health workers trained

See you are no less spectacular than any of these other helpers. God works every day with people. God has given you time, talent, treasure, gifts, passions, and a GOOD EYE. Take a moment – what are you seeing with your GVG? hearing with your GHE? With your Good Eye? See and seize every opportunity to bless others, to be a miracles worker! To be a partner of God!


Sermon “Miracles Everywhere: Seeing”

On October 14, 2018, Pastor Jenny Smith Walz preached from the sermon series ‘Miracles Everywhere’ on the topic “Seeing”. Her text is from Mark 10:46-52 (Blind Bartimaeus – “Rabbi, I want to see”) and 1 Kings 19:11-13 (Elijah – God passes by in the gentle whisper).

How have you experienced God lately?

We are looking for miracles this month.

Mircales Everywhere

For some this is easy and natural. For many of us this is quite foreign. God is everywhere, but not obvious. Seeing takes practice. Speaking about what we have seen also takes practice. That’s why we need our God-Vision-Goggles.

Miracles are those events that bring people from darkness into light. They turn our attention to what really matters in life and in death. Miracles point beyond the one before us to the One who made us for love’s sake. Miracle means the activity of God. (R Bultmann)
Miracles are our experiences of God’s love, power, presence, and purpose.

What’s the miracle here? – of course Bartimaeus’ sight is restored. But there’s more than meets the eye:
Nearing the end of Mark – last healing miracle in the gospel, next to last miracle.
End of a whole section where sight is the issue. Christ confronts Bartimaeus’ physical blindness, but he’s also working on the spiritual blindness of his disciples.
You notice they are trying to keep Bartimaeus from Christ. They are trying to protect Jesus, but haven’t fully figured out that he doesn’t need this kind of protection. This kind of protection goes against the very kind of Messiah he is. He is about healing, unity, reconciliation, love for all people, not just a few chosen ones.

The spiritual blindness of his closest followers who have failed to fully grasp the upside-down kingdom that Christ has brought near.
Earlier in this chapter – James and John ask Jesus to grant them a favor. Jesus asks “What do you want me to do for you?” The very same question he asks Bartimaeus when he cries out for Jesus and finally gets direct access to him. “What do you want me to do for you?”

Disciples: one sit at left hand, one at right in your glory. Bartimaeus: let me see again.
Disciples: sidestep suffering. Bartimaeus: born out of loss, exclusion, helplessness.
The disciples are blind to the reality that in Christ the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, all discover their freedom. Blind to the reality that Christ is the kind of messiah who goes to the poor, the dirty, the obnoxious, the most desperate, most broken, most troubled, most defeated, most rejected ones.
Somehow Bartimaeus sees that Christ is the Messiah. But he too sees only in part.
He’s regained his physical sight at the word of Jesus, and can now do nothing else but follow him! He has experienced God’s power, presence, love, and purpose right in this miraculous moment, and so he goes, follows this one who have him his freedom.
The very next chapter is the Triumphal Entry – they are about to walk into Jerusalem in a grand processional, and every one of those Jesus supporters that day expected a Messianic revolt to commence under the generalship of Jesus of Nazareth.

Instead they will see him suffer, be rejected, die. Their world will be turned upside-down and inside-out. In witnessing all of this, and ultimately the resurrection of Christ, their blindness will be healed. They will be able to see who the God revealed in Jesus actually is. In his resurrection Christ gives his followers eyes to see the good news of God’s ongoing reign.
The work of Christ is seeking to cure the spiritual blindness of his disciples.
Not even the blindness of his closest followers can impede the work of Christ in the world

Eddie in Puerto Rico
I saw a miracle in him, and he told me about miracles he’s experienced.
Going to church. He went because he was invited. He’s a skateboarder, and spends his time on the streets, in skate parks. One day a friend of his asked him to go to church. eventually he went – for a while. Then he faded away again.
He heard God say to him – you need to go back to church. And so he did.
I asked him what was different about his life after being part of a faith community. Everything. How he thinks, how he feels, his relationships, his friends, his family, how he spends his time and money. He feels a call to ministry- possibly to be a missionary. For now he’s working with ReHace. He’s experiencing relief as he manages his Type 1 Diabetes – diagn in Jan. He’s inviting his friends from the skatepark, off the street to come to church, to meet Jesus, to see something he’s been able to see only for a short time himself. But enough time that he’s experienced his own eyes able to see in ways they never have before.
He’s catching flack from his church members about hanging out with the skater kids. But to me it sounds as if he sees something those church insiders don’t, much like the disciples. He’s been given sight and freedom, and now he must follow. He talks to his friends about Jesus, about the miracles he’s experiencing. He invites them to church. Sometimes they come and sometimes they don’t. That doesn’t stop him from talking about the miracles he’s experienced.

Let’s look for Miracles Everywhere:
Prayer – My teacher, Jesus, Let me see again.
Small – ordinary – your breath, the people, another day, glimpses of a bird or a butterfly or a squirrel – ordinary things, yet you notice something more – recognize that life is of God, beauty is a gift from God, a reminder, an assurance, some hope, some comfort. God does not reveal himself in the wind, the fire, the earthquake with Elijah – it’s the sound of sheer silence. The opposite of what we might assume.

Relationships – Pay attention to service, acts of mercy, small sacrifices, what we do for love
Brokenness – Pay attention not just to success, but to failure. Pay attention to what is broken. Pay attention to the broken pieces, the shards, the tears, and to joy. Pay attention to what, and who, needs healing. Pay attention to what is bent over. Miriam – learned music from a woman who could no longer talk, much less sing.

Put on your God-Vision-Goggles. What miracles have you seen?

Bartimaeus couldn’t help but follow this one who had given him sight
When we are able to see Miracles Everywhere, we realize all is gift, and we too can do nothing but follow this one who pours out gifts upon us
Our response is to follow to give.