Thomas Edward Lawrence was born on August 16, 1888 in Wales. Popularly known as Lawrence of Arabia, Lawrence became famous for his exploits as a British Military liaison to the Arab Revolt during the First World War.
The desert raids of British officer Lawrence and his Arab rebels tied down many Turkish troops who could have been fighting the main British armies in the Middle East. Lawrence of Arabia’s struggle against the Turks during World War I was classic guerrilla warfare, and his personal account has become a classic of world literature. And, of course, many of you have seen the movie about the life of Lawrence of Arabia.
Lawrence wrote about his Arabian adventures in The Seven Pillars of Wisdom. During the war, Lawrence formed close friendships with many of the Sheiks of Arabia. After the war, he brought some of these Sheiks back to England to show his appreciation for their support against the Turkish domination.
They had a wonderful visit, appeared before the Joint House of Commons and Parliament and had an audience with the Queen. On the last night of their visit, Lawrence offered them just about anything they wanted to take back with them to their desert homes. They led him up to the hotel room, into the bathroom, and pointed to the faucets in the bathtub and said that they wanted to take faucets with them so that they would magically provide them with running water in the deserts.
They didn’t realize that the faucets were superficial. Behind them was plumbing, a hot water heater, an energy source that heated the water, a city main that supplied the water, and from the city main went a line to an outside source of water!
The magic was not in the faucet! It was what was behind the faucet that gave the water!
No, the magic is not in the faucet, the power comes from what is behind the faucet! So it is with so many other things which are visible to the human eye, they are there but without the power behind them, they are useless! If the pump, or the plumbing, or the reservoir are ever out of service, the faucet becomes useless! Having said that we must also realize that the faucet is necessary to get the water to where it needs to be. We cannot minimize the importance of a vessel and in the metaphor of life – God needs faucets!
God has always worked through human vessels. In fact, most of the time, God works through the most unlikely vessels! For instance:
David’s armor didn’t fit and he went out to battle in his street clothes.
Jacob was a liar.
Abraham was too old.
Naomi was a penniless widow.
Paul was a murderer.
Miriam was a gossip.
Gideon and Thomas were both doubters.
Martha was a worry-wart.
Samson was a long haired hippy.
And the list goes on – because God doesn’t require a job interview. He doesn’t hire and fire like most bosses, because He’s more like our Dad than our Boss, He doesn’t care about financial gain or loss and He’s not prejudiced, partial, judging or grudging. Nor is He blind to our needs.
A Christian minister once said, “I was never of any use until I found out that God did not intend me to be a great man.”
We are reminded in John 7:38 that whoever believes in Jesus: “Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” God has all the plumbing in place. He has the pump hooked up, ready to pour out blessings on His people but He needs us to be vessels! He needs a faucet! Often the only thing that stops God is the lack of a vessel. Other times, however, the problem is that the vessel has never been connected to the true source of power – the magic, if you will.
Is this the situation we are faced with in today’s Gospel lesson? According to the cycle of readings this should be Transfiguration Sunday and our Gospel lesson should have been about the miraculous mountain scene experienced by Jesus’ inner circle. Instead I decided to bring us off the mountain to the scene down below where the rest of Jesus’ disciples are struggling a bit. They tried to heal someone and it didn’t work. So, in private they ask Jesus why? And Jesus’ answer is one that none of us ever want to hear: “Because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.”
We can all imagine the shock Jesus’ disciples must have felt. They have been at his side for a couple of years now and experienced some pretty fantastic events:
They had most likely watched Him cast out devils many times before.
They had heard Him teach about going into the strongman’s house and taking his armor.
They had watched as he sent the legion of devils into a herd of swine.
So, now as Jesus was up on the mountain they come across a situation that they feel very confident that they can handle!
They had observed His hand motions, listened to what He said, and how he said it!
They had the words, actions, motions, and everything else down pat, but still they were unable to do it!
There was no power! There was no magic in the faucet, and they failed.
I don’t know about any of you but I do have a question about this whole scene. Did the disciples, who tried to heal this person, really have a total lack of faith or was it that their faith was misplaced? Let’s face it, we all have faith, don’t we? I, for instance, had a certain amount of faith that I would get up this morning. I had faith that I would get to church on time. I even had faith that the clubhouse would be here when I arrived. So, what is it that Jesus is referring to when he said, ye of little faith?
I think, and I hope you agree with me, that he was saying there was no magic in the faucet! I’m thinking the the disciples were so confident in being Jesus’ pals that they thought if they just went through the motions they could do it too. You see, they were not up on the mountain with Peter, James, and John and consequently did not understand where the power to heal was coming from. The disciples hadn’t turned to prayer and fasting first and consequently there was no power!
This is not to say that the vessel is unimportant. Turning to 2 Kings 4:6, when Elisha was performing the miracle for the prophet’s widow, and the oil was flowing freely, we learn: “When the vessels were full, she said to her son, “Bring me another vessel.” And he said to her, “There is not another.” Then the oil stopped flowing.” The only thing that stopped the flow of oil was the lack of a vessel! It might make us wonder why God would use imperfect vessels to accomplish His work but scripture bears it out that God is always seeking men and women to accomplish His ends!
And if it isn’t clear yet – we are those vessels, we are the faucets in this story and we are important to fulfilling God’s Word.
That leaves us with another question, doesn’t it? What is the question? Come on, you all know it – what’s coming out of the faucet? If one is on a well they might test the water coming from the faucet every year or so to make sure they are drinking nothing but water. If we are getting our water from a municipality we might be a little more trusting. The point is, however, that anything can come out of the faucet. There is no magic in the faucet and what really matters is what’s feeding the faucet!
Turning to Romans 7:18 Paul reminds us: “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out.” If nothing good dwells in us then we must turn to something that is good so that it will flow through us. And this is the point that the disciples at the foot of the mountain were not getting. They thought the power was in the motions and in the incantations but the power had gone up the mountain and they were not calling on Him. And He – Jesus – God – is the source of power.
Again in his letter to the Romans Paul says: “For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.” Humankind are the most awesome creatures on the face of the earth and as individuals we can do some pretty magnificent things but we must never forget that no matter how great we are – God is greater. In fact, if it were not for God we would be nothing but a rusty useless piece of metal incapable of doing anything – let alone acting like a faucet in the first place. We are faucets with a power supply behind us – yet if that is ever cut off we are useless!
We can say all the right words – do all the right hand motions – use the right tone of voice – but if we have not begun in prayer and fasting then there will be nothing flowing through us! We must never reach the point where we think we can do what only God can do!
In the year 1847, a doctor from Edinburgh, Sir James Simpson, discovered that chloroform could be used as an anesthetic to render people insensible to the pain of surgery. From his early experiments, Dr. Simpson made it possible for people to go through the most dangerous operations without fear of pain and suffering. Some people even claim that his was one of the most significant discoveries of modern medicine.
Some years later, while lecturing at the University of Edinburgh, Dr. Simpson was asked by one of his students, “What do you consider to be the most valuable discovery of your lifetime?” To the surprise of his students, who had expected him to refer to chloroform, Dr. Simpson replied, “My most valuable discovery was when I discovered myself a sinner and that Jesus Christ was my Savior.”
So, it is with all of us here today.
If we want to experience real power,
If we want to make positive changes in the world around us,
If we want to amaze and awe,
We will turn to prayer and fasting – trusting that our Lord and Savior knows what he is doing and we are merely His vessels.
There is no magic in the faucet – WE NEED JESUS!