In May 2019, Lusmarina Campos Garcia (yes, in Brazil the names just roll off the tongue!) our Pastor from 2003 to 2012, came back to Geneva on a project and of course came back to “her” church for Sunday worship. As part of her well-remembered trademark, she sang for us the Irish Blessing. We met with Lusmarina at Terry’s place for dinner, and also at the Spaghetti Factory after worship, and said another re-goodbye at the airport (the first goodbye’s to her and husband Fico are all on video in our media archive for the year 2012).
Most of Lusmarina’s sermons from her years as Pastor here are available on our website archive (media) either in video or PDF format. However, some of them are in text format and not yet converted and uploaded – here is one of them from March 2008 with a special story incorporated about our dear Kiki Lawal (who is now in New York for one year).
March 2, 2008
The Fourth Sunday of Lent
Sermon by The Rev. Lusmarina Campos Garcia
Based on John 9:1-41 and I Samuel 16:1-13
David was beautiful. I think Fico was a little jealous. But there he was before us, all 4.34 meters (14 feet) of him. Two weeks ago Fico and I went to Rome and Florence for a week. We walked a lot and visited many cathedrals and museums and saw at least a couple of thousands of pieces of art. But the most impressive piece for me was David, Michelangelo’s marble statue portraying David naked, at the moment that he decides to do battle with Goliath. Michelangelo displays the tension of the moment in the taut face, the concentrated gaze, and the muscles ready to spring into action. There is such precision of detail in that statue that even his veins can be seen. Michelangelo took three years to complete the work, 1501-1504. Michelangelo’s David is handsome, just as the Bible says. I couldn’t see his heart though. And here resides a fundamental difference between God and humans. We look on the outward appearance, but God looks on the heart. This is what the text of the Old Testament is telling us this morning: “For the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”
God sees us inside out. God saw David’s heart as well as the heart of the man born blind. He sees your heart as well as mine. Nothing can be hidden. Nothing will be exposed. The eyes of the One who sees further and deeper are compassionate. The fact that God can see the good and the evil within us doesn’t mean that God will punish us. When I was a child I learned a song that said: “Oh be careful little be careful little eyes what you see; Oh be careful little be careful little eyes what you see for the father up above is looking down in love so be careful little eyes what you see!” Remember that song? “Cuidado maozinha com o que pegas, cuidado maozinha com o que pegas! Pois o papai do ceu esta olhando pra voce, cuidado maozinha com o que pegas!” The teaching behind was, “be good because if you do evil you will be punished.” The fact that God can see the good and the evil within us doesn’t mean that God will punish us, but it means that God will love us even more, because in God’s reality and strategy, only love can change us at our deepest. And only compassionate eyes can see that deep.
The understanding in Old Israel was that a person with a physical disability was being punished for a sin she or her parents had committed. Whoever did not have a body corresponding to the notion of “what is normal or natural or in order” was considered a sinner. Jesus denies the connection between sin and suffering. He does it here as well as in the Gospel of Luke 13,1-5. People don’t suffer because they are sinners, they suffer because suffering is part of life. People are healed not because they are better or more loved by God then others. They are healed so that “God’s works can be revealed in them,” to use Jesus’ words.
This morning we are going to hear the story of Kiki Lawal. How God changed her life, the life of her mother, family and in which way “God’s works were revealed in her”.
I can’t believe it was only two weeks ago that I was in Lagos eating my mother’s cooking. Having finished the meal my mother started telling the history of my childhood. Although I have heard the story of my healing before which was told by another member of the family, it is the first time that my mother was able to say exactly what had happened.
A couple of years into her marriage she lost her first child who was only a year and a half old. Her sadness was short lived however when she gave birth to me. There was a big ceremony in the street of Abidjan as my father killed his fattest cows to celebrate my coming into the world. At age two I became rather sick and was unable to walk. My mother was going completely frantic as she was married into a Polygamous family and having lost her first child and now the second was unable to walk kept her rather anxious. She became a regular visitor of the hospital during the day and in the evenings the mosque was her prayer house.
This went on for nearly a year until a friend of our family mentioned in passing that in the vicinity town there was a talk of some sort of miracles happening and sick people were being healed. My mum was so desperate that she set up instantly despite being a strong Muslim and going to
church was definitely out of the question.
As people went forward to receive their miracles Mum finally decided to come forward too. The priest asked her what would she give in return to God if I was able to walk, she said she would change her religion and start following Christ. Well, I am standing here in front of you today because she did receive her miracle and has never turned back from serving Christ since.
Reflecting on this story last week it dawned on me that three years ago I ran my first marathon in Geneva and for any sort of yearly activities involving running (the escalade and half marathon) I am always happy to take part.
I would like to Thank God for changing my destiny by not only giving me healing but also bringing Christ into me and my family’s life.
(Kiki ends here)
We are also thankful to God because Kiki was healed and through her healing, her family gained a new sight.
There are many people who don’t receive such a miracle. They remain sick. Does that mean that the “works of God” are not revealed in them? No. The “works of God” are probably even more deeply revealed in those whose suffering remains. To suffer for a long period, perhaps for a whole life long without giving up, requires having access to a large reservoir of strength, patience, endurance and faith. And we are also thankful for those who can resist, those in whom “the works of God” are revealed in a different way.
The blind man received his sight, Kiki’s mother also, Kiki was healed and can run marathons today.
And you? Have you been healed? Do you need a healing? Ask God for it. (Pause) Have you received a new sight? Do you need a new light? Ask God for it.
The story of the man born blind reminds us that Jesus is the light of the world, and that our destiny is determined by the love of God who sent him to us. While there is nothing we can do to merit God’s love and mercy, we can reject it, by refusing to receive Jesus in faith. We are to live as children of the light, seeking what is good and right and true. We are not to rely on those who claim to have authority in matters of faith, but whose vision contradicts that of Jesus. We are to rely exclusively on the trust that God’s love takes us throughout life either by bringing us healing or sustaining us in our sufferings and pain.
And God, who sees in the depths of our hearts, will continue giving us new opportunities to get new sight and new insights, small or big ones, now and forever.