Miracles in the Bones
 Blessing Objects, and Especially Ministry Tapes & CDs

 

 

PREVIEW Surprised by the Power of the Spirit, Softcover  Jack Deere
PREVIEW The City of God Augustine  PREVIEW Confessions of St Augustine

 

John 9:1-7; Acts 19:11-17, 2 Kings 13:20-21 (quoted herein) 


   Here’s your quiz: which city is purported to be the second oldest in the state of Florida?  (Pensacola)  Now which city is the oldest?  (St. Augustine)  Now for the hardest question of all: St. Augustine, Florida, is named for what person?  Think!  That’s right!  Since he’s a saint, we should learn a little about him. (St. Augustine, that is.) 

 

Aurelius Augustinus

  Saint Augustine (Aurelius Augustinus) became the Bishop of Hippo in North Africa in the year of our Lord 396.  Augustine had a Christian mother but, when he went to study in Carthage, he turned to paganism (Man·i·chae·an·ism) in his quest to find the solution to evil.  You see, he was quite devilish himself.  But despite his ways and in spite of his false gods, Augustine’s heart longed for the holy tabernacle of Jesus in which his mother had raised him.  One day in his apartment, he was so convicted that he began to weep and wail over his sins, for they were great.  In the course of this demonstration, he caught the sound of a child singing next door, “Lift it; read it!  Lift it; read it!” The child sang the song over and over again.  Augustine understood this little song to be a divine command: that he should pick up the Bible and read whatever verses his eyes fell upon.  This he did, and the passage he found was

Romans 13:13: “Not in reveling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarreling and jealousy.  But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.” 

This incident led to Augustine’s immediate, miraculous conversion (for he had been guilty of all these sins).  He writes,

“Instantly, as the sentence ended, there was infused in my heart something like the light of full certainty and all the gloom of doubt vanished away” (Confessions 8:12:29).  (It reminds us of Wesley’s Aldersgate confession.)

Eventually, Augustine was consecrated a bishop and after his death, a saint.  He’s now considered one of the “Fathers of the Church” (so called) – and possibly the most influential of them all.  Christian doctrine for centuries would look to his writings, his Confessions and his City of God.

      His conversion: http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/aug-conv.html      The City of God:  http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/1201.htm

   But despite his miraculous conversion, Augustine taught that miraculous events had passed away with the apostles.  How could he believe such a thing?  Because he hadn’t seen any miracles.  So since he hadn’t any experience in the miraculous, he chose to teach from his experience (or lack thereof) rather than from the plain truth of Scripture.

   Such is the case for many today who have a problem with the supernatural ministry of the Holy Spirit.  Because they haven’t seen anything miraculous, what they haven’t seen simply can’t be so.  And what they believe isn’t so, isn’t worth investigating, either.  Yet miracles are reported all over the world every single day by reputable witnesses, and Yahweh is using very creative surprises to bring signs and wonders to the people he’s in the process of saving.  Augustine was no exception.  Something would soon happen to open his mind to supernatural possibilities.

 

Bones of Stephen

   In the year of our Lord 415, after Augustine had been bishop for 25 years, the bones of the martyr Stephen were discovered.  We remember Stephen from Acts 6, which relates, “Stephen, full of grace and power, did great wonders and signs among the people” (vs. 8).  The religious leaders didn’t believe in that kind of thing, so

Acts 7:58,59: “they cast him out of the city and stoned him; and the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. But as they were stoning Stephen, he prayed, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit’.” 

 Stephen’s bones were taken on a tour to Africa, where Augustine had his bishopric.  A throng of people met the ship with the bones aboard.  Augustine writes that a blind woman begged to be taken immediately to the bones, and she was.  But the man in charge gave her only the flowers that were on the bones.  She put the flowers in her eyes and her blindness was instantly healed.  These flowers were put under the pillow of a notorious heathen.  The next day, he discovered he’d been converted in his sleep, and awoke full of love, speaking the words, “Christ, receive my spirit.”  Those were Stephen’s last words, too.  Even the flowers that were near the bones were endued with the martyr’s holy power.

   Another man was instantly healed of a cancerous lesion when he carried a bone.  A priest, dead and being bound up for burial, was brought back to life when his friend applied a bone.  Augustine personally witnessed other healings and conversions that took place through these bones – he reports healings from gout, pain, crushing – and several resurrections – and many, many more miracles.  In fact, St. Augustine wrote, “Were I  ... to record the miracles of healing which were wrought in the district by means of the most glorious Stephen, they would fill many volumes.” 

   It’s a miracle in itself that one so auspicious and influential as Augustine might be converted to a supernatural faith through finally experiencing extraordinary events; he saw so many that though he tried, he hadn’t time to record them all (City, 22:8).

 

Bones Have Power?

   OK.  I suppose you may be wondering if such things as blessed bones can really have any power.  Isn’t this Catholic superstitious nonsense?  Many have dismissed Augustine’s testimonies of miracles because, they say, he was old and had become religiously sentimental.  They’d rather read that he didn’t believe, as in his early life, than that he did, as in his later life.  Those skeptical of the power of the Risen Jesus are so because they’re not gathering around where he’s working.

   So what about Stephen?  In his case, the Scripture attests that he was full of grace and power.  I would suspect that this power could extend to his very bones, wouldn’t you?  But even after he was dead, would his bones retain the spirit of holiness that would turn folk’s faith godward enough to heal and raise the dead?  Are holy bones scriptural? 

   There is indeed a Bible story that gives us a theological basis for blessed bones.  Consider the bones of Elisha, the great prophet of Yahweh.

2 Kings 13:20-21 20.  Elisha died and they buried him.  Now bands of Moabites used to invade the land in the spring of the year.  As a dead man was being buried, a marauding band was seen and this man was thrown into Elisha’s grave.  As soon as the dead man touched the bones of Elisha, he came back to life and stood up. 

   You might remember that Elisha had “a double-portion anointing as he flowed.”  The prophetic mantle of Elijah evidently didn’t just hang from his shoulders, but it saturated right into his bones by way of the righteousness of his flesh!  Even after he died, his flesh eaten away, his brain evaporated, those bones retained enough of Yahweh’s double-portion anointing to bring a dead man back.  We can’t explain the mystery behind it, but we do believe that Yahweh is sovereign and he can do as he will any way he pleases.  Maybe this story is recorded just so we won’t forget that fact.

 

Examples of Anointing Objects and People

   Actually, miracles wrought by blessed objects are common in the Scripture.  Let me give you several quick examples from the New Testament.  Jesus made clay from dirt and spit, conveyed power to that concoction, stuffed it in a blind man’s eyes, then told him to wash it off in a pool.  The man did so and came back seeing.  Power was conveyed to the clay to heal, but only through the faith and obedience of the formerly blind man.  Do you believe this account?

   A sickly woman only touched Jesus’ tunic and received her healing – and he felt power going out of him even though only his clothing was contacted.  This is because Jesus’ clothing was anointed by his righteousness, and the woman was healed by her faith in Jesus’ second-hand touch.  Do you have faith?

   Jesus also conveyed his authority to people – his disciples in particular.   He laid his hands on them, ordained them and sent them out to do the same works he’d accomplished, and even greater works.  Those he send, in turn, laid their hands on other disciples and thus passed on his same holy anointing.  This process has continued on ever since that time, and we still use the laying on of hands now to convey the anointing of Jesus.  We do this from the most emotional and disorderly country churches right on up to the great, staid ordination services at Annual Conference.  The anointing once bestowed by Jesus upon a chosen few two thousand years ago has been conveyed person-by-person, hand-by-hand, touch-by-touch, down the centuries in uncountable numbers of places.  That anointing and its power are still felt strongly in our day.  And, if you have faith in Jesus, even when I lay my hands upon you, that very same anointing is conveyed you-ward to some extent.

   James, Jesus brother, calls for the sick folks to come forward in the assembly to be anointed with oil, with prayers.  The oil anointing is not just a ritual, nor does the oil have that much healing power in itself, though it has some.  The oil is a physical representation of the sacred name Yahweh, and it acquires the power of Jesus’ robe or Elisha’s bones when it’s blessed by one of Yahweh’s children.  And, if there is faith in Jesus present, blessed oil (or any other blessed object) may convey a miracle from the storehouses of Yahweh’s goodness.

  Consider also the case of the apostle Paul in Acts 19:11,12 – he was so anointed with his mission of signs and wonders to the Greeks that they took his hankies to their homebound; and they recovered.  Even more remarkable, Acts 5:15 implies that people on stretchers were healed just by the shadow of Peter falling upon them.  Do you have faith in Jesus to believe that?

  Now think of the loaves that Jesus broke, blessing his Father, blessing the bread, then watching them feed over nine thousand people – and this conveyance of power and abundance happening not once, but twice.  This “bread anointing” was extended to that famous Passover meal, when Jesus blessed it, blessed Yahweh and pronounced it to be his body for all generations.  And Jesus was revealed to his Emmaus disciples through the breaking of blessed bread, don’t forget.  This blessing and breaking of bread was practiced throughout the apostolic years and written up by Paul as being able to prevent death (1 Corinthians 11:30).  Down through post-biblical times, when medical care was either non-existent or what we might consider butchery, this consecrated “bread become body” was hidden away at the Communion rail by poor people, who used it as medicine for their homebound sick. 

   Still today, frequently, we bless the bread and wine, bidding Jesus to make it be for us his very body and blood (howbeit in a spiritual sense).  Communion is much more than a ritual; when the elements are blessed and this little altar rail is approached in faith, Jesus himself is again present to make the wounded whole and raise the dead.  We also still anoint and bless hankies and take them to the sick so that they may have the benefit of our previous blessing, anointing and touching.  When such articles like the blessed Communion wafer and the blessed prayer cloth and the blessed unleavened wafer are received with faith in Jesus, tremendous spiritual power may be conveyed.  Something inside may be addressed.  Again, it’s a matter of faith.

 

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Risking My Reputation

   Wednesday night several of us were in church at the Ebenezer Assembly of God, way out in the country (7/9/03).  At the beginning of the service, a blind man stood up and shouted as loud as he could, “I’ve got a word for this Methodist preacher in here --  ‘Woe to you, when all men speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets.’”  He didn’t know I was sitting right behind him.  Friends, I’d take the chance of judgment if only everyone would speak well of me.  But at the risk of fulfilling this fellow’s prophecy and tarnishing my reputation, I’m going to share a little Communion miracle I experienced and encourage you to tell anyone you want about it. 

   I have a high view of Communion.  When properly blessed, approached and consumed in faith, I believe that the bread and wine may actually become the real body and blood of our Savior (in a spiritual sense, per The Book of Discipline (1980) pp. 64,65).  During a hard time in my life, we were attending St. Stephen’s Anglican Church, living from Sunday to Sunday, Communion to Communion.  I gained a great deal of strength from receiving Communion, and I always approached the altar in the faith of repentance.  Something very mysterious began to happen.  One Sunday, I wasn’t able to chew the blessed Communion wafer – it had become like a piece of skin in my mouth.  It was impervious to my teeth.  But the experience wasn’t unpleasant, only puzzling. 

   At the next Communion, the same thing happened.  I realized that Jesus was giving me a supernatural sign of his presence, confirming my faith and turning my mind him-ward.  I was getting blessed and healed.  This miracle of the Body of Jesus continued for at least four weeks before the wafer seemed to become just a wafer again.  This is my little miracle.  But the greater miracle is that I can tell you this and you believe me.  You do believe me, don’t you?

   The Anglican Church believes that the real Jesus is present in the properly blessed elements of the Communion; so did John Wesley; and so do I.  (But in the low church, we’ve discarded this blessing as superstitious.)  I thought surely everyone in that Anglican church would believe my testimony of the “wafer becoming flesh” because the minister taught this view every single Sunday.  So I confided in the head deacon -- that after the minister blessed the wafer and when he placed it on my tongue, it seemed to become flesh.  This happened for several weeks.  I couldn’t chew it, but had to swallow it whole.  This man of the cloth looked at me strangely for a while and said, “Hmm.  Stale wafer, huh?”  “Stale four weeks in a row?” I replied.  He didn’t believe because it was outside his own experience: if it hadn’t happened to him, then it simply hadn’t happened.  A stale wafer was a more plausible explanation than the statements of faith he confessed every Sunday.

   When Jesus returns, will he find any real faith on earth, I wonder?

 

With Your Permission

   But we don’t want to be this close-minded.  We want to affirm that the Father and Son may have our permission to do all manner of miracles and supernatural works without having to tell us individually about each one.  We affirm that we believe that all things, with Yahweh, are possible, and that the fervent prayer of the righteous avails greatly, and that the anointing of that prayer may be conveyed through an object like a wafer, a prayer cloth, a bone or even a cassette tape.

   Let me finish this message with the words of St. Augustine, who went from a skeptic to a believer in the miracles of Yahweh through seeking them out.  He said,

“Let us therefore believe those who both speak the truth and work wonders. For by speaking the truth they suffered, and so won the power of working wonders. And the leading truth they professed is that Messiah rose from the dead, and first showed in His own flesh the immortality of the resurrection which He promised should be ours, either in the beginning of the world to come, or in the end of this world” (City 22:10).

   Today, we are bound to call down a blessing on these tapes (or whatever) so that they might be endued with the same gift that wrought miracles at the touch of Elisha’s bones, Jesus’ robe, Peter’s shadow or Paul’s apron, and for the same reasoning that Augustine explained – that sinners might be converted and the name of our Savior glorified.  So much that, with our prayer, and through the laying on of hands, that whatever sinner’s hands these tapes (or whatever) eventually find, might be convicted, through the resurrection power of Jesus of Nazareth, to use those hands and the hearts that supply those hands and the brain that instructs those hands, to glorify and serve him.  (The actual sounds that will be heard from these tapes will be of small significance.  The great significance will be in the power they convey through touch.)

   Now, with your permission, I want to assemble the men and women of faith who will come to lay their hands upon these tapes (or whatever) and pronounce a supernatural blessing upon them, that each tape (or whatever) will find the hands it’s meant for and bring forth the blessing and conviction for which it was created.  {Bring the prayer warriors forward for this.  Here is a prototypical prayer:}

 

Hear our prayer, O Yahweh our Elohim: your Son once laid his hand heavily upon us.  Now we too lay hands on these your creations of {water, oil, tapes, whatever}.  We bless and sanctify these objects to your use and service.  Allow none of these objects to fall on the trash heap, but place them into the hands of hundreds of people.  May all who receive them utilize them for your glory, whether they know it or not.  May they hear your word, feel your divine protection and experience your unlimited grace.  Now may the blessing of Yahweh Almighty, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, rest upon these objects and reside within them for the mission and ministry of Jesus of Nazareth, our Savior and Master.  Amen.

 

 July 12, 2003