We have never seen anything like this. – Mark 2:12

   When was the last time we were awed by something we saw or heard? I suspect that modern technology & having so much information at our fingertips has tended to jade us. Having the creator of the universe here on our altar so He can give Himself to us is something we too often take for granted.

   But if our encounter with God is honest & authentic, it will make a difference in the way we live & the kind of people we are. We cannot genuinely encounter God’s grace & still go on in the same self-centered, insensitive, dishonest, & unloving way. If there is no change the religious experience itself is violated & contradicted. In other words, it is “phony.” By our Lord’s standards our faith is not genuine unless it shows in the life we live.

   A journalist, through no fault of his own, lost two fine jobs within a single year. He was managing editor of a magazine that failed because of declining advertising revenue. Then he joined the staff of a major newspaper but within months it was sold to an opposition syndicate & he became part of the employee casualty list. When he came home to his wife & three small sons, he told them sadly, “I’m out of a job again.” His wife comforted him as best she could. The three boys stared at him round eyed. The next morning after his sons had left for school, he went into his study. There, in the waste basket, he discovered the remains of three china “piggy banks.” On his desk was a pile of pennies, nickels & dimes & a few quarters. Next to the coins was a crudely lettered note which read, “We believe in you Pop.” They believed in their dad & they showed it. It is that simple, child-like faith that comes through to us in today’s Gospel story.

   The four litter-bearers were not to be deterred from getting to Jesus. They went to extraordinary lengths to get their friend before Him. When the encounter was over, the people present reacted by saying, “We have never seen anything like this.” However, words are not enough. Lofty words can be contradicted by lowly deeds. Genuine faith is expressed not only in what one says, but also in how one lives.

   How do the fruits of our lives stack up against the words of praise we spoke & sang last Christmas? The faith response to God is not a cheap, weak, sentimental or superficial kind of response. It is a response that is worked out in & through obedience. Many professed Christians ardently want the consolation of religion without being willing to pay the cost. They want the “cheap grace” that is the deadly enemy of the Church.

   Obedience is the way to the wholeness of life that God is offering to us. There is no other way. The life of moral integrity & honesty & purity of intention that our Lord describes in the Sermon of the Mount is not one of several options He has laid out for us to choose from. We Christians are commanded to enter into this life of costly grace. Only then will we be given the power to turn sickness into health, despair into hope, & violence into peace.

   If our encounter with God through Christ here at this altar is honest, genuine, & authentic, we will show it. Men & women of faith have been cutting holes in roofs & breaking “piggy banks” for a long time now. Our task is to make their experience our own so that we too can cause some wonderment in those around us.  AMEN!