Changing The Tide
CHANGING THE TIDE
Most of you probably know about Batman the caped crusader of comic book fame. But did you know about the real batman? His name is Daniel Kish. And as the radio show This American Life describes, he defies many expectations. Daniel is not only blind, he has no eyes. They had to be removed when he was a child because of cancer. Daniel is a grown man now. He goes hiking in the wilderness by himself. He has a cane or a walking stick but mostly he navigates by making clicking sounds. Much like a bat uses echolocation to navigate at night, Daniel has from an early age used clicking noises to sense objects in front of him. He has become so good at it that he can even ride a bike. That’s right a man with no eyeballs can ride a bike. You can go on youtube and look it up if you don’t believe me. Just search for Batman ridding a bike.
Daniel lost his second eye back in 1967 when he was only 13 months old. And at that time his mother had a choice. Adapt the expectations of the world for blind people, that being that they cannot navigate the world on their own, or allow her son to take risks, to climb things, to go places without supervision. She chose the second option. And slowly Daniel started developing a way of seeing through producing clicking noises. Neuroscientists have even studied Daniel and people like him and have found that clicking like this activates the visual part of Daniel’s brain. In a very real sense Daniel is seeing. Just not the way we see things. Daniel has started a non-profit to teach blind people how to echolocate. He has changed the tide of expectations for many in the blind community. He did so because he was able to see differently.
Many of us in our lives feel like we are blind when it comes to following God and knowing God’s Will. Many of us feel like we are blind in making crucial decisions in our lives. We feel stuck and we don’t know where to go. We cry out to heaven but there seems to be only silence. We need a little help. We want to know God can help us through difficult situations. We need someone to help us change the tide of our lives. God parted the seas for the Israelites to escape Egypt. And some of us wonder why he never seems to do that for us.
In our text today from the book of Acts the early church is at a turning point. The church is growing past its Jewish roots. And people are getting upset with all the new non Jewish people coming into the fold. A sect of the church, made up of Pharisees, wanted every believer to become circumcised and to obey all of the Mosaic Law. God had called the Hebrew people to himself, and called them to be set apart, he called them to be Holy among the nations. If certain non jewish people wanted to join in they would have to give up all their tradition and become fully Jewish. For men, that meant circumcision, which I think would have dissuaded many men at the time.
But in the birth of the church God revealed he was doing something new. That he was purifying hearts through faith, in fact that is what He had always done, circumcision was just one sign of that faith. But as new people came in, those who had worked hard, those who had worshiped God all their lives, were worried that the Word of God was being thrown aside. The text tells us that there was much debate about the matter. Luke is intentionally understating the conflict. Lines had been drawn in the sand. People were yelling at each other. No solution seemed apparent. The way was not clear. There seemed to be no precedent for what God was doing among the Gentiles. We all want God to do miracles we just want those miracles to fit our expectations. We always want more people to come to our churches we just want those people to be different from us. Again and again our expectations limit the world we see. The Pharisees were concerned that God’s Word would be honored. They expected that had God required circumcision before so that would always be the case. Paul and Barnabbas were excited about what God was doing among the Gentiles. They expected that everyone else would be just as excited and the entire church would go along with it. The church was faced with a road block. An intractable argument where no solution could be seen.
In the middle of this Peter stands up and gives his testimony. Peter had been there since the beginning. And he had traveled down a long road. He had been one of Jesus’ closets friends. But then he denied Jesus. He ran away during his friend’s greatest hour of need and wept bitterly for it. And when Jesus rose from the grave he met Peter on a beach. Over a breakfast of fish he restored Peter. He taught Him to love His sheep. He restored Peter through Divine Love. And he sent Peter to places he would never expect.
In the Book of Acts God had spoken to a Roman Centurion named Cornelius and told him to send his servants to go get a man named Peter. A man Cornelius had never met. Thing is Peter was a Jew and had been taught he could not eat in a Gentile home. He could not eat unclean food. But the Lord gave him a vision where he showed him a sheet with a bunch of unclean animals on it. He told Peter to eat for the Lord had made the food clean. When the servants came to get Peter he was able to dine with Cornelius and because of that Cornelius came to the Lord. Peter was sincere. He thought he was following God with a full heart. But the Lord changed his mind and caused him to see with different eyes. The Lord changed his expectations. So Peter stood up and told the assembly his testimony. He told the people what God was doing in his life. And since all the assembly knew Peter and respected him they fell silent. People knew Peter. They knew his walk. And his testimony changed the atmosphere in the room. Peter’s testimony changed the tide, the direction that meeting was heading in.
Some of you who worship here regularly know that I invite people up here at Calvin to give their testimonies. I do so in hopes of reminding us what God has done in the past so we might expect God to do greater things in the future. I think it started with Mary Haase. I was preaching on how God adopts us as his children. And I knew that Mary had lost a child and also adopted a child. So I asked her to give her testimony about that. After that I asked Norma Popps and Shirley Bueche to give their testimonies about what God has taught them over their lives about worship. We learned from them about the joy of worship and the reverence of worship. After that I asked Suzi Williams to give her testimony about the power of prayer. When I came to this church I heard about the miraculous things God used Suzi to do. I heard about how the Holy Spirit led her to be at the bedsides of members who were about to die, so she could comfort the families. We heard about how God had warned her to save the lives of those she cared about who were in danger. We learned that we are the clay and God is the potter. If we are willing to be changed he is willing to use us to change things. After that I asked Nancy Smith to give her testimony about how God answered her prayers and miraculously healed her of cancer. She also told us of how her husband died of cancer. We learned about the power and mystery of prayer. We learned how God worked those things for good for Nancy is now involved in a ministry with widows. Then I asked David Ornt to testify on Father’s day about how he loved being a Dad to his girls and how being a Dad has taught him about knowing God as His Father. He spoke with such love that there wasn’t a dry eye left in the house. We saw in David’s heart God’s heart for us as His children.
Maybe some of you knew these stories. Maybe some of you did not. What it shows to me is a church with a heart for prayer. It shows to me a church with a heart for the broken. It shows to me a church with a heart to welcome children and not to hinder them from coming to Jesus. I was just at Presbytery, the regional gathering of our church, and I talked with a Presbytery official who knew someone personally who came to Calvin during her hour of need.
Finally, after Peter, Paul, and Barnabbas, have spoken James, the leader of the church at Jerusalem, and the wider church at the time, relates it back to the scriptures. He quotes the book of Amos Chapter 9 to remind the church that God had promised to rebuild the house of David and that he would use non Jewish people to do it. We must always check ourselves with the scriptures to see if we are thinking right, to see if we are hearing God right. For me, it isn’t completely about memorizing the Bible, though certainly that could help. But it is about knowing the stories of the Bible and seeing the world through the lens of the scriptures. I think when we make it I discipline to study and reflect on the scripture we begin to think more like Jesus and we begin to have a sense of what Jesus might do in the complicated situations we may find ourselves in.
A scripture that the Lord has put on my heart of late is Jeremiah chapter 31. There is says, “ Thus says the LORD: The people who survived the sword found grace in the wilderness when Israel sought for rest, the LORD appeared to him from far away. I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you. Again I will build you, and you shall be built, O virgin Israel!” When the Lord spoke to me this verse I didn’t know where it was. I had to look it up. And I was surprised to find it in the book of Jeremiah. I used to think of Jeremiah as one of the more depressing books of the Bible. But here I found a beautiful scripture that spoke of celebration and renewal during a time of captivity and wandering in the wilderness. God spoke of celebration during a time when His people thought he was far off. They looked to the old days when he had delivered them from the hand of Pharaoh through signs and wonders, but they did not expect the LORD to do even greater things through ways they did not like.
We are all born into this life without spiritual eyes. But we walk by faith and not by sight. As Daniel the Batman learned to see with his ears, we can learn to see with our hearts. But we must expect that God can change the tide of our lives. That he can turn our mourning into celebration. That he can make us captive to His joy. If you want to know how that happens. Come back next week.
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.