Sunday, June 9, 2013

"What if we expected Jesus to show up and do something extraordinary?" - A sermon for the Third Sunday After Pentecost

A sermon preached by the Very Rev. Mike Kinman at Christ Church Cathedral on Sunday, June 9, 2013

What if we expected Jesus to show up and do something extraordinary?

My friend Michael is way healthier than I am. I’m convinced that some of that comes from living in Alaska. When you live in Alaska, you do lots of hiking and camping and fishing, and Michael and his family do those things. And so Michael always has this healthy glow about him. And it’s ironic, because Michael has been closer to death than anyone I know.

A few years ago, Michael started having some strange symptoms one night and his wife took him to the emergency room. The doctors made a diagnosis and gave him a shot of something that was supposed to clear it up … only they gave him the wrong shot and horrible things began to happen.

Very rapidly, the systems of Michael’s body began to shut down. The doctors scrambled to try to reverse it and couldn’t. They tried everything they knew. But Michael slipped into a coma, and they had to hook him up to machines to keep him alive.

Michael wasn’t even 40 years old. He was married with two schoolage kids. Just days before, you would have said he was one of the healthiest people you knew. And now the doctors were telling his wife, Nancy, there was nothing they could do. They were telling Nancy that she needed to prepare herself and her children for the fact that her husband, her kids’ father, that Michael was going to die.

Just days before, she was looking forward to raising children and growing old with the man she loved. And now she was facing life as a widow and her children were facing life without a father. Just days before they had been playing and laughing together. And now it was up to her to decide whether to take him off the machines and let him die.

One morning while Michael was in the hospital, his Bible study group came in to see him and pray for him. They stood around his bed as he lay there in a coma and they began to pray. And one of them started off the way we pray so many times – God we lift Michael to you and if it is your will we ask that you heal him. … and then he stopped … and he said:


No. That’s not good enough.

Jesus we know you can heal him. We need Michael. His family needs him. His church needs him. So you just need to do it. You just need to heal him right now because this is wrong. And you know it’s wrong. And you can do something about it. So you need to just do it. You need to just heal him right now.

Within a few hours, Michael started to emerge from the coma. The doctors have no idea how or why. But Michael does. He says he doesn’t remember much from being in that coma, but he remembers that Bible study group being in that room. And he remembers them praying.

What if we expected Jesus to show up and do something extraordinary?

We come together each week and we hear stories like this morning’s Gospel story. A story of Jesus doing something extraordinary. And this story is one of the most incredible of all.
It’s a story of deep tragedy. It’s a funeral procession … which can be tragic enough … but the story tells us that this is a widow’s only son. So the mother is now not only in deep grief she is destitute. She has literally no one who will care for her. The die has not only been cast for her son being carried to his grave but for her as well.

And then along comes Jesus. And something extraordinary happens. He walks up to the widow and speaks to her, he touches the litter the pallbearers are carrying and then he speaks to the dead body … and the man sits up, alive.

Extraordinary. Absolutely extraordinary. Dead is dead. And here is this dead man, sitting up, talking, alive.

But something else extraordinary is happening in that scene.

The people make room for Jesus.

Think of the funerals that you have been to. What would happen if a strange person all of a sudden came up and accosted the grieving wife or mother and then walked up and grabbed on to the casket and started talking to the body.

I don’t know any funeral I’ve been to where that person wouldn’t have been intercepted and hustled away as quickly as possible. There’s a couple I’ve been to where I know a couple of big guys would have had him down like a calf at a rodeo.

But that’s not what happened. Jesus showed up and instead of walking more quickly or hustling him away or even body-checking him into the next province the people stopped. They made room for Jesus. They let him do what he needed to do.

And something extraordinary happened.

That’s what happened in that hospital room in Anchorage. The doctors were saying that Michael was going to die. It was inevitable. It was irreversible. They had done their best and that was all that was to be done. But that group of faithful people knew that they needed to just make some room for something else. They needed to make room for Jesus to enter in.

They needed to expect Jesus to show up and do something extraordinary.

And they did.

And he did.

What if we expect Jesus to show up and do something extraordinary?

Now I’ll be the first to say I don’t know how this works. I know that I have made room for Jesus before and I couldn’t tell you anything that happened. I have stood at the casket of a 21 year old girl and pleaded with Jesus to do for her what he did for that man in this morning’s Gospel story and even though I knew Jesus was there, she did not come back to life. And I also know that Jesus was there in that hospital room in Anchorage, and I know that my friend Michael is alive and that Jesus is why.

I don’t know how this works.

But I also don’t think it’s up to us to know how it works. It’s up to us to do what the people did in that funeral procession, to do what Michael’s Bible study group did in that hospital room and to do what I did standing at a funeral home in front of that young woman’s casket. It’s up to us to make room for Jesus. To not assume that what we can see and measure and predict is all there is. To know that there is a power greater than any other in the universe -- a power that can turn all our wisdom into foolishness and all our best laid plans to dust.

It is up to us to expect Jesus to show up and do something extraordinary. And when he does to not be surprised but certainly to be awed.

It is up to us not just in the great moments of crisis in our lives but in every moment of our lives to make room for Jesus. In every moment to look for his presence and to bid his presence. To know that we are not bound by the limits of our own wisdom and ingenuity. To know that life can come from death and even that which seems most lost can be saved. To know that Jesus can enter in and stop us and touch us, and wipe our tears and bring life from death.

To know that Jesus can show up and amazing things can happen – if we make room for him.

What if we expect Jesus to show up and do something extraordinary?


  1. I am indebted to Michael Burke for sharing his and Nancy's amazing story with me ... and to Craig Loya for challenging me to "expect Jesus to show up and do something extraordinary."

  2. Wish I'd preached this sermon, Mike! Outstanding!