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The Rector’s sermon for August 20, 2017    


                                                                                                                                        

THE GIFTS OF THE HOLY SPIRIT

Week 11 of 16 –Knowledge, Intercessor, Healing,  – including slides #71—77

        

 

Isaiah 56:1, 6-8; Psalm 67; Romans 11:1-2a, 29-32; Matthew 15:10-28


 

(SLIDE #71)  We’re coming down the homestretch of our series on the Gifts of the Holy Spirit.  After today, there will be only four left of the thirty-one gifts we began with, and I hope you’re finding more and more ways the Spirit is trying to connect with you in your daily lives.    As always, if you’ve missed any Sunday, there are sermon copies in the Narthex and the ushers will gladly help you find the week you missed.

 

Today we going to look at Intercessor, Knowledge, and Healing, all of which can be seen in today’s Gospel passage.

 

We begin with the gift of being an Intercessor.  (SLIDE #72) 

 

INTERESSOR

 

The special ability that God gives to certain members

to pray for extended periods of time on a regular basis

and see frequent and specific answers to their prayers

 

Simply put, an intercessor is one who prays for another.  One who has the gift of intercession feels a special tug to pray for others.  Intercessors feel the need to pray for extended periods of time on a regular basis and they often experience the answers to those prayers.  The Canaanite woman in today’s Gospel is an intercessor for her daughter.  She comes to Jesus and says:  “Lord, have mercy on me; my daughter is being tormented by a demon.”  And apparently the woman is very disruptive.  Notice she doesn’t actually ask Jesus for healing.  She simply knows that all she needs to do is present her problem…and Jesus will do the rest.  But the disciples aren’t on the same page.  They want to get rid of her and they tell Jesus to send her away because she’s annoying.  The woman will not be dismissed.  She is an advocate, an intercessor for her daughter.

 

Here at St. Francis we have a special group of people who are intercessors.  Two of those people are in the chapel during communion every Sunday and their purpose is to pray for your requests and to pray for you personally.  There is a basket at the entrance to the Nave that has blue prayer cards in it that contain your requests.  Those two intercessors pray for those requests, and you may also go into the chapel after you’ve received communion and they will pray for you and your intentions personally.  Those individuals exercise the ministry of intercessory prayer, and if you are so moved to become one of those persons who prays in the chapel on Sunday morning, please let me know. 

 

Now intercessory prayer isn’t specifically labeled as a spiritual gift, but Scripture is filled with examples of intercessory prayer.  For example, in the books of Exodus and Deuteronomy, there is a significant amount of intercessory prayer going on between Moses and God.  Moses is on the mountain with God for forty days and forty nights praying for the Israelites.  God gives Moses the Ten Commandments on two stone tablets and he tells Moses that the people have grown restless, that they have melted gold into a calf and they have begun to bow down before it.  And God tells Moses that he is going to destroy this people.  Moses intercedes for the people and prays that God will change his mind.  And he does, but he tells Moses that he’d better go down to the people and straighten them out!   So Moses does.  He returns to the camp and discovers exactly what God had told him was going on.  And when Moses sees what the people have done, he becomes angry, and he throws down the tablets of stone, breaking them in pieces.  He takes the golden calf and throws it into the fire.  He tells them that God knew what they were doing and that He was ready to destroy them, but that Moses interceded with God on their behalf, and God changed His mind.  Then Moses returns to the mountaintop to intercede again for the people, to pray that God would not forget what he had originally promised:  that this people would enter the Promised Land.  Such is intercessory prayer.

 

Now, how do you know if you have the gift of Intercessor?  (SLIDE #73) 

 

 

TRAITS OF AN INTERCESSOR

 

An intercessor has a burden to pray.

An intercessor won’t quit until God removes the burden.

An intercessor hears clearly from the Lord

what he or she should pray for.

 

Well, like Moses, one with the gift of Intercessory Prayer has a burden to pray.  A burden to pray.  That’s an odd word to use, isn’t it?   When I think of a burden, I think of something that is heavy to carry, something uncomfortable, something I can do without.   Nevertheless, that’s the word the reference material uses.  Perhaps it’s to show the gravity of the gift, that one who has this gift finds it something that cannot be ignored.  Moses had a burden to pray for his people for forty days and forty nights.  He had to.

 

Next, an intercessor won’t quit until God removes the burden.   Moses didn’t leave the mountaintop until God told him he needed to get back to the people because they had strayed.  And finally, an intercessor hears clearly what he or she should pray for.   God told Moses that he needed to pray for the people to be faithful.  There are times when the person has asked for a particular prayer and the one who is praying adds something, and often that “something” turns out to be the real need.  That is the gift of Intercessory Prayer.

 

Now, getting back to the Gospel passage and the Canaanite woman, she comes to Jesus and simply states what is on her heart.  But Scripture says at first Jesus doesn’t answer her.  And after the disciples want to get rid of her, she asks for Jesus’ help again, and he responds in a very strange way.  He tells her that he didn’t come to help the likes of her, that his purpose was to come to the children of Israel.  This is especially harsh for Jesus, and I can only assume that his response was necessary in order to elicit her powerful statement.  She says that even the dogs eat what the chosen ones drop from their table!  One might very well see her statement as one of deep knowledge.  (SLIDE #74).  That’s the next gift we’re going to look at.

 

KNOWLEDGE

A God-given ability to discover and clarify God’s truths

and share them with the people of God for the purpose of

building up the Body of Christ.

More importantly it’s about taking others by the hand

to meet Jesus personally.

 

Knowledge is that gift that God gives certain people to clarify God’s truths and to share them with others for no other reason than to build up the Body of Christ.  This woman knew without a shadow of a doubt that although Jesus’ words were harsh, there was truth in them as well as an overflow of God’s love for even the least of his children.  God gave that woman knowledge to know that while she wasn’t one of the chosen people to whom Jesus was sent, he still would never turn her or anyone away who would come to him in faith!   And her response surely strengthened the faith of the disciples and anyone else who heard the discourse between her and Jesus.

 

Now, about this gift… you might hear someone say “I have a word of knowledge” or “I have word.”  However it is expressed, it’s a spiritual gift from God.  Now knowledge may appear to be the same as prophecy, but there is a difference.  

One with the gift of knowledge is a believer, while a person with the gift of prophecy isn’t always a believer.  I’ll give you an example.  If you remember the story of King Cyrus of Persia, who released the Israelites from slavery and allowed them to return to their homeland…he was a pagan!   But God chose Cyrus to not only fulfill a prophecy that had been spoken fifty years earlier, but Scripture says in 2 Chronicles, beginning with vs. 22: “[the Lord] stirred the heart of Cyrus to put this proclamation in writing and to send it throughout his kingdom.  This was the prophecy:  The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth.  He has appointed me to build him a Temple at Jerusalem, which is in Judah.  Any of you who are the Lord’s people may go there for this task.  And may the Lord your God be with you.  King Cyrus—a pagan—was moved by God to release the Israelites from exile and allow them to return to their homeland.  Now you could call what Cyrus said a “word of knowledge,” but it really wasn’t.  While God can use a non-believer to deliver a prophecy, one with the gift of knowledge knows the Lord in a most intimate way. That’s the difference between prophecy and knowledge.   It’s not about head-knowledge; it’s about heart-knowledge.  One can know Scripture backwards and forwards and still not have an intimate relationship with Jesus.   Paul said, “I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.”   Paul is saying that nothing matters more than knowing Jesus, and when you know him, you will take others by the hand to know him, too.

 

Now, back to our Gospel story.  After the woman says even the dogs eat up what falls from the master’s table, Jesus commends her faith, and he says “Let it be done as you wish.”  And her wish was that her daughter would be healed.  And that’s our third gift for today:  the gift of healing (SLIDE #75).  

 

HEALING

The special ability that God gives to certain members of the Body of Christ

to serve as vessels through whom it pleases God

to restore health and wholeness

apart from the use of natural means

 

After Jesus heard the knowledge of the woman and saw her faith, he said, “Let it be done as you wish.”  And the daughter was healed.  Healing is that ability that God gives to certain members of the Body of Christ to serve as vessels through whom it pleases God to restore health and wholeness apart from the use of natural means, like medicine and physicians.   That is the best and most complete definition of the gift of healing that I’ve ever heard.   It has three important components:  The person with the gift of healing is, first a vessel, a conduit—the person doesn’t perform the healing—the person is simply allowed to be the vessel through whom God works.  That’s the second part.  And the third part the healing takes place apart from the normal scheme of things. 

 

Now when we talk about healing, I often hear the question:  Why does God heal some people and not others?  This is what I believe to be true:  God always answers prayers for healing, but He answers those prayers in the way that will be best for us, and God answers those prayers in five different ways:  (SLIDE #76)

 

Why does God heal today?

 

           Compassion                          (Matt. 14:13-14)

            In response to faith              (Matt. 15:28)

            For forgiveness of sin                      (James 5:14-15)

            As a catalyst for evangelism (Acts 3:2—4:4)

            For His glory                                   (John 9:1-3)

 

Our God is a God of compassion.  Matthew tells us that Jesus looked at the people and he had “compassion on them and healed their sick.”  (Matt.14:13-14)   And then there were times when Jesus healed in response to someone’s faith.  We heard that this morning in the Gospel.  After Jesus says, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel,” the woman says, “That’s true, Lord, but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from the master’s table.”   And Jesus says, “Your faith has healed your daughter.”  (Matt. 15:28)   Another obvious reason for healing today is the forgiveness of sin.  The apostle James writes about the power of prayer can heal not only the body but also the soul.  (James 5:14-15).  Sometimes when we pray for a person for healing we anoint them with holy oil which is a symbol of healing from ancient times, a representative of Christ the King in our midst.   It also makes perfect sense that the gift of healing can bring a non-believer to Christ.  In the Book of Acts, God heals a crippled beggar through Peter and John and the non-believers who witness this healing begin praising God and over 5,000 come to Christ that day. (Acts 3:2—4:4)   And finally, healing happens for the glory of God.   Remember the time a blind man was brought to Jesus and Jesus was asked why the man was born that way, and before he restored his sight, Jesus said,  “This man was born blind so you could see the power of God and give him glory.” (John 9:1-3).  

 

This past Wednesday afternoon I was sitting at Al Pelski’s bedside.  He had had a particularly bad night.  The Hospice nurse was sorting out his meds getting him ready to be transported to the Hospice unit at Highlands Regional Hospital.  When I pray for someone who is not going to be healed in this life, I always take the time to say, “Healing always happens, but not perhaps the way we might want because God knows what is best for us.”  And then we talked about that beautiful place that awaits him, where he would be able to sing the praises of God day and night, with no pain, in perfect peace.  How could that not be called “healing?”  (SLIDE #77)

 

Intercessor?    Knowledge?

Healing?

Lord, what do you have for me?

Where can you use me?

And how can I better serve you?

 

Intercessor…Knowledge…Healing…three more gifts of the Spirit to add to our list.  God has gifts for you.  He knows which gifts will fit your personality and help you grow in His Love.  Continue to pray for guidance as you search your heart in answer to the prayer:  Lord, how can I best serve you?


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