Los Alamos Church of Christ

Connections 2016

Designed to Connect

This morning I want to accomplish two things…

 I want to give you a sneak preview of next year’s coming attractions.  In 2017, my sermons are going in… The Gospel of Mark. The theme is “Who Do You Say I Am?”  I believe every few years we need to focus on Jesus.  Christians should focus on Christ. 

I have preached…

--Matthew… “Your Kingdom Come”…2012 & 2013

--Luke and Acts in 2007 & 2008 – “Lord, I want to See!” and “You Will Be My Witnesses”.

--I did the Gospel of John in 2001 & 2002 – “Jesus, From the Eye of the Eagle”. 

--So, about every 4 or 5 years we have studied a gospel. So, it is time for me to preach the Gospel of Mark… “Who Do You Say I am?” 

 
In preparation for this our Wednesday Night kid class has done a stained glass window of the stories of Mark.  Ask Heidi, Wendy or Brandon about each of the pictures…

 
So, this morning is a sneak preview of a sermon I will preach next year when we get to Mark 7.

 
The 2nd Thing I want to accomplish the morning has to do with this year’s theme… Connections.  This sermon has to do with connecting with other humans… the point is we are wired to connect!    

 

Listen to a story I have fictionalized from Mark 7:24-30.

 

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 Thoughts of her daughter drove the young woman through the streets desperately searching for help.  She almost started crying again, at the thought of what had happened to her precious baby girl.  When she was born everything had been perfect. She, like every parent before her and after, had counted her newborn’s ten little fingers and ten little toes and pronounced her perfect.  She remembered vividly hearing that first gasp for air.  She thought of that first little cry. She was perfect.  She recalled hearing her baby’s first words, “Ma, ma”.  She was perfect. 

 

Aroma from the fish market swirled all around the young mother.  She stepped up to a fisherman, who was spreading the morning catch out on a table, “Have you seen the man everyone is talking about?  The one they say can heal?”  “Sure,” the fisherman answered, “He stood right there in the marketplace and healed this blind guy, just yesterday. It was astonishing.  But, he left town late… yesterday, I think.  He headed on the road to Sidon.” 

 

She quickened her pace as she headed out of town after him.  Her thoughts once again rolled over her, for the umpteenth time, that terrible birthday.  It was her daughter’s sixth birthday. She was singing “Happy Birthday”. She was about to blow out the candles when she suddenly stopped.  Her eyes went blank as if her soul had somehow shut off.  It seemed who she was got shoved deep inside her.  The shaking began first in her hands, like she was some old woman with Parkinson’s.  Then, both arms began to do a crazy dance.  She fell to the floor.  Her entire body convulsed.   Not a single muscle was left out.  Clenching and unclenching like she might tear herself apart.  The memory of her 6 year-old’s fingernails attempting to claw out her own eyes would be forever etched in her mind.

 

It was a demon.  It had to be a demon.  Demons were everywhere.  One found her daughter. One possessed her daughter.  One controlled her daughter. 

 

The Canaanite woman reached the outskirts of Tyre as the road turned to run along beside the sea.  It was a gorgeous day.  The morning sun sparkled off the waves. The slight breeze brought ocean smells. It was one of those days that could have been a picture on some travel brochure. If the road had been built today, it would have had a sign that said, “Scenic Byway.”   But she noticed none of this.  All she saw was a clump of a dozen men sitting on the beach while another man, the man she wanted, sat on a log chatting with them.  Her hope filled her with energy as she sprinted towards Him.

 

It had been a dangerous decision.  She left her little girl alone. She could not bring her daughter to find Jesus. The attacks would come without warning, without pattern.  Her little girl might go for a several days without an episode.  Then, have six in one day.  Sometimes in the middle of the night it would come.  Anytime she left the house with the little girl; anytime they were in public; the demon would assault her.  It seemed the demon loved to rip her in public; the more public the better the humiliation. It had been a dangerous decision.  She had to leave her daughter to go find his Jew who could help. 

 

She had heard the healer from Galilee was in the area.  The exorcist was in town.  Soon everyone was talking about the man who could do miracles. 

--Did you know that cripple guy who sat at the temple? He couldn’t walk, but now he can? 

--Did you know that girl who had died?  She’s fine. 

--I also heard that guy who lived in the cemetery who had a demon. Bam it’s gone.  I heard it was spectacular.

The story of the demon had caught her attention.  Could he help me?  Could this exorcist help her daughter?  Would he help her daughter?  He had to help her daughter?

 

But, she couldn’t bring her daughter with her.  It was always so terrible.  She just couldn’t take her daughter out of the house.  The neighbors were good people.  They brought her food. They checked on her.  But none of them would stay with her girl.  No one would stay with a demon.  So, she had no choice.  She cut up an old robe to make straps.  She carefully tied each arm to the headboard of the bed.  She forcefully tied each ankle to the bedpost.  She tied another strap around the bed and across her little girl’s chest. The attacks were so violent. She was so strong when filled with the demon.  The bindings had to be tight.  They had to be strong.  There could be no slack. 

 

Her eyes closed again in pain as she remembered her daughter’s pleading, “Mommy, why are you tying me up?  What did I do wrong?  I’ll be good.  I won’t let the demon out again. I’ll be strong.  Don’t tie me up. That’s too tight, it hurts. Mommy, please don’t.”  And then when she had stepped to the door to leave her daughter’s voice had broken her heart.  “No, Mommy!  Don’t leave me.  Don’t leave me alone with the demon. Don’t go!’ Those were the words that propelled her toward the beach. Those were the words which took her to the man who had to help her.

 

The man she approached was named Jesus of Nazareth.  As she came closer it was obvious Jesus had finished his lesson, or whatever, and was preparing to leave.  Evidently, they had spent the night on the beach.  They were packing to go on their way.  The group of men hadn’t noticed her as she approached.  “Maybe,” she thought to herself, “this will be easier than I expected.  The Jews are always so arrogant. They look down their long noses at us as if we were unimportant.  They call us dogs; like we are not even worthy to be recognized as human. Maybe, I can get him to come to see my daughter without any trouble.”  But, one of the disciples saw her, “Hey, what are you doing? Go away.  The master is busy.  We have to get to Sidon today. Leave him alone.” 

 

"Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is suffering terribly from a demon."  She cried out even louder, "Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is… possessed!"  Jesus didn’t say a word.  He kept backing his bag.  "Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! It’s torturing her!  PLEASE!"  Finally, he answered, without looking up, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel."  She squirmed her way past his disciples. She fell to her knees beside Jesus, "Lord, help me!"

 

Jesus turned. They locked eyes.  This was unusual.  Most men, especially Jewish men, would never look directly at any woman, particularly a Canaanite woman. They would look at other parts of her body, but never her eyes. 

--His eyes said, “It’s alright.” 

--His eyes said, “How can I help?” 

--His amazingly warm eyes said, “You are important.” 

But his mouth said, "It is not right to take the children's bread and toss it to their dogs." 

 

“Oh, no, there was that dog thing.”  But, something in his eyes gave her the courage to go on.  Desperation forced her to think fast, "Yes, Lord," she said, "but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters' table."

 

There was a moment of silence.  She held her breath.  The disciples stopped packing.  Everyone turned to listen to what Jesus was going to say.  She couldn’t tell what was going on in Jesus’ head. The fate of her daughter hung in that moment. 

 

Then Jesus began to laugh.

--It was not a malicious laugh.  It was the kind of laugh a father has when his child says something clever.

--It was not a sarcastic laugh. It was the kind of laugh when a teacher gets the right answer from a promising student. 

--It was not a condescending laugh.  It was the kind of laugh that gave hope. It was the kind of laugh that was contagious. It was the kind of laugh that warmed all who heard it.

 

Soon everyone was laughing.  Everyone, except the young woman, she still held her breath.  Then Jesus answered, "For this statement you may go your way; the demon has left your daughter."

--What?  “The demon has left your daughter?"

--What?  “The demon has left your daughter."

--Was it true?  No hocus, pocus?  No props? No audience?  No promises from her to be good?  No payment for his services?  No sacrifices to the gods? He didn’t have to even see her.  He didn’t have to touch her.  He didn’t have to perform some mystical ceremony? 

--That was it.  “The demon has left your daughter.”  This was too good to be true.

 

No more words were exchanged between them.  The hopeful young woman had only one thought on her mind; she had to get home. She had to get back to her daughter. 

 

Then the Gospel of Mark simply adds, “And her daughter was healed from that very hour… and she went home and found the child lying in bed and the demon gone.”

 

Wow… I am excited to study the Gospel of Mark.  It is going to be great!  “Who do you say I am?”  Jesus is the one who connects to a desperate woman.

 

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I want to bring the point of this story a little closer to home…

 

Listen to a paragraph from a book called “Blink” by Malcolm Gladwell.  The book discusses the power of our subconscious to connect.

 

Robert T. Schultz, of Yale University, once did an experiment with a machine called a FMRI (functional magnetic resonance imagery), a highly sophisticated brain scanner that shows where the blood is flowing in the brain at any given time — and hence, which part of the brain is in use. Schultz put people in the FMRI machine and had them perform a very simple task in which they were given either pairs of faces or pairs of objects (such as chairs or hammers) and they had to press a button indicating whether the pairs were the same or different. Normal people, when they were looking at the faces, used a part of their brain called the fusiform gyrus, which is an incredibly sophisticated piece of brain software that allows us to distinguish among the literally thousands of faces that we know. Picture in your mind the face of Marilyn Monroe. Ready? You just used your fusiform gyrus. When the normal participants looked at the chair, however, they used a completely different and less powerful part of the brain — the inferior temporal gyrus — which is normally reserved for objects. The difference in the sophistication of those two regions explains why you can recognize Sally, from the eighth grade, forty years later, but have trouble picking out your bag on the airport luggage carousel.

 

Isn’t that amazing?  Here is the point of this sermon.  We are created by God to connect to people.  We are wired to emotionally be connected.  God has designed you to invest in others. 

 

For example our Mark 7 story…

What about the Canaanite woman?  How many of us are single women?  How many of us are pagans?  How many of us are from Tyre? How many of us have a demon possessed kid?  Yet, as different as we are, we feel with her. We connect to her desperation!  We experience her suffering.  We identify with her joy! We share in her daughter’s healing.

 

We must not allow this part of us… this connection part of us… this God designed-sympathizing part of us… to ever shut down.    

--Regardless, of what is going on in the world…

--Regardless of our fears…

--Regardless of our anger…

--Regardless of what Facebook might advocate…

We must not allow our connection to the oppressed to be shut down.

 

We have been designed by God to connect.  Our brains recognize.  Our hearts connect.  We are capable of placing ourselves into the hearts of others. We are designed to feel with others. This morning I want you to realize how you are made.  But I want more than that.  I want you to know that God expects you to use your fusiform gyrus; use your heart.  God expects you to connect to the people he places in your life!

 

Just like Jesus.  His mission was to go to the cross to save all of humanity.  But, God placed this Canaanite woman in his path to show that the dogs under the table were becoming children.  The cross ended viewing anyone as a dog.  The cross made all who are created in the image of God worthy of our connection. 

 

Here is a challenge… Use your fusiform gyrus to picture one person God has placed in your path… who needs your connection. I want you to take a moment to pray God will give you an opportunity to connect… and the courage to make a connection.  Ready?  While you use your fusiform gyrus listen to this verse of scripture. 

 

NLT Ephesians 5:2 Live a life filled with love for others, following the example of Christ, who loved you and gave himself as a sacrifice to take away your sins. And God was pleased, because that sacrifice was like sweet perfume to him.

 

 

Tim Stidham

December 4, 2016

Los Alamos Church of Christ