Under our skin

Belief in Jesus comes from a personal encounter where the accumulated evidence of his power will convince us that he is the true, holy one. Even this conviction, however, is not faith. Belief precedes our introduction. Greetings precede our friendship. Our friendship is sealed by our agreement to be a beloved.

Miracles are more like marketing to God's beloved. We are not yet his prize. Jesus wants to get under our skin.

Why these miracles?

GN 8:6-13, 20-22
PS 116:12-13, 14-15, 18-19
MK 8:22-26

Getting our eyes opened to faith doesn’t mean that belief comes through our eyes. We have five primary senses where we can be reached by God but none of the senses are God’s destination. 

Religious things that we see, smell, touch, taste, and hear are not where faith belongs. Totems, incense, icons, altars and worship centers reflect the home of faith. Even when we touch these things, faith remains outside of our reach. While they properly, and sometimes majestically, express the confidence and transcendence of an inspired, faith-filled people they do not house faith. They are only consequences, markers, and maps. The true center of faith resides somewhere else. 

The location of faith sits where the living God desires, where Jesus Christ said than an incandescent faith wanted to go in the form of his Holy Spirit. 

Jesus’ miracles at repairing our bodies are not the faith experience that fulfills the conversion of a people, either. They are certainly extremely important restorations of the eventual locations of the Holy Spirit. The final restoration of our bodies, however, will be much more complete and more permanent after we leave this body behind. Any cured ailment, sight returned, and backs repaired are just clarifications of our travel to the ultimate home of faith, and an eternal resurrection.

We hear all the time that God lives in our heart. If we let him. From the heart, blood flows through every vein that feeds and nourishes our bodies. Because of this fact, we are taught at a very young age not to let bacteria get into our blood stream. So many places in our bodies are portals for infection. 

We shouldn’t eat food dropped on the ground. When someone sneezes, we turn away. Further examples of infection’s clever access to us fill medical books with disgusting, seemingly never-ending pictures. Enough said about that.

In two miracles from Mark’s gospel, though, Jesus crosses the line, invading the space of people’s bodies. Today in Mark 8:22, he puts his spittle on a man’s eyes. In chapter 7, verse 33 of Mark, Jesus puts his finger into a man’s ear, then spits into his mouth. For a third example, in John, 9:6-7, Jesus goes all laboratory on his subject. He spits into the ground, then takes the moistened dirt and rubs it into a man’s eyes. These verses, taken just on their own, are more startling than convincing.

Not all of Jesus’ miracles are so odd. Put together, though, all miracles tell us the same thing. Unlike the insights and clarity that come from our own conclusions, the assured belief in Jesus Christ must come from more than just attending a service and bowing our heads, or taking a class and signing a sheet of paper. An evidentiary event, or summation of a lifetime of events, will lead us to be open to faith. Noah’s Ark, the Red Sea, and even Jesus’ life events are not the faith that Jesus wants from us.

Belief in Jesus comes from a personal encounter where the accumulated evidence of his power will convince us that he is the true, holy one. Even this conviction, however, is not faith. Belief precedes our introduction. Greetings precede our friendship. Our friendship is sealed by our agreement to be a beloved.

Miracles are more like marketing to God's beloved. We are not yet his prize. Jesus wants to get under our skin. We have to acquiesce, submit to his actual entry into our being. He’ll use every portal of our bodies to get into our hearts. Whatever will work, he will try it. First to awaken our senses to his presence, and then to be willing to absorb him into us. He wants us to consume him. Allowing him to live in us is the proper description of our Christian faith. 

Paul spoke often of his conversion as uniquely invasive. Without it, though, he would not have understood the full nature of who Jesus was. The point of conversion isn’t just to see, but to become fully absorbed into Jesus with and by a community of others who know the same things. Hearts must be encouraged.

“My goal (Paul preached about the Colossians) is that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”

     Colossians 2:2 

Faith that resides in the heart does not always come from the holy and divine source of the eternal God. Any faith that is not the hosting of the person of God pales in comparison to “God in us.” Most often, a faith that leads us comes from our own conclusions, our own construction. The true faith is not a prescribed theology and philosophy which finishes when we have learned by study or exploration. It is also not a calculated discovery which we hunt down, and then cook and eat, planting it into ourselves, celebrating after an arduous capture. It’s not our effort that grabs God. It’s the other way around.

In fact, while a divinely gifted faith can be formed in us by others, it is not yet ours, even if we grasp hold of it and establish it as our Magna Carta. Faith is more than just the foundation of a building, but the foundation is critical. Formation can provide all kinds of structures in our hearts, like a welcome cabin, or even a stunning palace. These are places where faith can thrive, but the inhabitant of faith comes of his own accord and only when we allow his entry.  

Self-constructed Faith is easily compromised. An oddly placed question here or there from someone smarter than us and our doubt antennae quiver with fear. Do we really know what we’re talking about? Does our premise for belief, our formation of faith have any real substance? Is there even a cornerstone, or is our faith composed mostly of mortar? Is there any stone center to our faith? Does everything we believe consist of just plaster and glue and dried cement?

How about our childhood faith? Isn’t that enough to lead us to God? Actually, it might be too much.

Formed faith from our parents resides in us like luggage. We have to open it up to remember and access what we were given. We can put on that faith, but it’s just a covering. God comes to us through our heart. Once in our heart, the covering makes perfect sense. The temples, icons, gatherings, and rituals explode with meaning.

Excessive or overbearing formation moves from one piece of luggage into a trailer full of baggage. It’s very difficult to find crucial things like underwear and toothbrushes in a 7-piece set of Samsonite. We’re never sure of which essentials to carry in our handbag or backpack until we need it. And then, without an inner heart-based faith, the essentials provide just temporary relief.

Faith isn’t luggage or its contents, no matter how glorious they are to look at or read. 

Faith placed within us by the hand of God, however, ignites the heart. It is full. Faith has the properties of Osmium, the most dense material found on Earth. When inhabited by God himself, all truth, all knowledge, and the insight to access it resides within our hearts.

The iconic and worship center world inspires us to seek each other out, and ultimately gathers us together. Faith-filled people find eternal relationships where the Holy Spirit knits us together.

The healing miracles of Jesus, and in our every day experiences today, add depth to the reflections of temples and totems. They remind us to walk with Jesus, and to fall into each other’s arms.

Miraculous healing reached its apex at Jesus’ miraculous and upcoming complete restoration of all humanity and earth itself when he finished with his own resurrection. He showed himself off to hosts of people, explaining that this awaited everyone. Regardless of any frailties, deformities, short life spans, and catastrophes Jesus stood as the final evidence of his intentions. Be with me, he implored us and live. He calls out to our senses with the same message today. 

He is saying to look what he can do if we would only allow him. If we cling to him, he will change our hearts, and he will knit us back together, with him. 

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