Sermon for June 27, 2021 from Pastor John

Sermon for June 27, 2021

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     As you listened to the Gospel reading today, I am certain you could identify and understand what the characters experienced. What happened to them may not have happened in your lives, but you probably know of people who have experienced such tragedies. You probably know or heard of people who were bankrupted by medical bills. And we all know parents who have lived through their worst nightmare, the death of a child.

We read of Jesus in this portion of the Gospel of Mark doing a lot of boat travel, back-and-forth on the Sea of Galilee. Where ever he goes he encounters terrible human suffering. Just before today’s gospel Jesus encountered a man possessed by unclean spirits. This man had been living in a tomb, symbolic of his condition, living among the dead because no one wanted to be near him because of his violent, frightening actions. He traipsed around at night howling and injuring himself with sharp rocks. No one wanted to be near him indeed. But Jesus came near him. The evil spirits knew this man who came out of the boat and figured their doom. Jesus commanded the tormenting spirits to leave the man. Reports of Jesus presence caused people to come and check things out and to their astonishment, they saw the former violent and self-destructive wreck of a man clothed and in his right mind. The power of Jesus’ love and the intervention of his grace truly bought peace that surpassed all human understanding. Jesus left, but not without telling the man, “Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you and what mercy he has shown you.

The human suffering continued as Jesus arrived back to his own home territory and the crowds were waiting. In the crowd was a religious leader, one of the men in charge of the synagogue, headed straight for Jesus. I imagine him to be influential in the community and the crowd made a pathway for him, a pathway to Jesus. He came to Jesus not to invite to tea and discuss the upcoming readings for the Sabbath worship. He fell at Jesus’ feet and continually implored Jesus with the desperate plea, “My daughter is at the point of death, come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well and live.” This was a true emergency and the hope was if Jesus could reach the man’s daughter in time.

But a crowd was impeding any hurry. In the crowd was a woman and we were not told her name. You almost get the feeling this reflected her status, just another face in the crowd. But although we do not know her name, we get quite a bit of her medical history. She had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years. Twelve years she had been going to doctors and the text said “endured much under many physicians.” We can get a picture of multiple appointments, poking and prodding and prescriptions. In spite of 12 years of this her condition only grew worse, and her money was gone due to medical bills.

Now she had heard about Jesus and his power to heal. She saw Jesus but had to intention of approaching him. She saw how determined Jesus was to get to the home of Jairus. But she hoped if she would just touch Jesus’ garment she would be healed. She showed faith in what Jesus could do and also her desperation. Her chronic health condition diminished her worth, for so many people would identify her in terms of her sickness. Lacking not only money but self-worth she feared face to face contact with Jesus. But her faith led her to edge closer through the crowd to touch Jesus cloak. Immediately she knew in her body she was healed of her disease.

Jesus also sensed something in his body, that power had gone forth from him. So Jesus asked a question the disciples thought absurd in a surging crowd: “Who touched my clothes”. Jesus wanted to know the truth and the woman needed to know the truth. Jesus carefully surveyed the crowd all around him. The woman came to Jesus in fear and trembling and told the whole truth. She told Jesus everything, what life had been like for her that past twelve years. Now one would think Jesus should get going because the girl he was headed to heal was near death. But so many people in her life had no time for her and Jesus was not going to be one of them. Jesus would listen to her true story, but she was going to hear truth from Jesus. Jesus was going to give her a name: “Daughter”. In spite of what others may have said about her, and what she may have thought about herself, Jesus made it clear that being name a daughter of God, a child of God, was healing. Jesus also gave her a lifelong prescription: “Your faith has made you well, go in peace, and be healed of your disease. The word translated “made well” can also mean salvation: ‘your faith has saved you, go in peace. Her faith would lead her to be touched by Jesus’ truth every day. Like the reading from Lamentations this morning, she would know “the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end: they are new every morning, great is your faithfulness.” As a named daughter of God she could claim “The Lord is my portion, therefore I will hope in him.”

While Jesus was still speaking to the woman, the daughter of God, a delegation came from Jairus’ house with bad news: “Your daughter is dead. Why bother the teacher any further.” I am sure the messengers whispered the sad news to Jairus and not shout it. But the text said Jesus overheard what they said. There is something about that statement I find comforting. Jesus has big ears. When we are anxious and afraid Jesus overhears our thoughts and knows our deep-down fears. Jesus said to Jairus, the influential leader of the synagogue, “Do not fear, only believe.” I like the paraphrase found in the New Testament translation by Eugene Peterson, “Don’t listen to them. Trust me.” Isn’t that the truth. We listen to voices, from within ourselves, from acquaintances, from the fads of culture that undermine trust in God. Jairus was advised ‘don’t bother Jesus, for nothing can help your daughter now’. We can hear people say to us, ‘why do you bother with Jesus. What good can Jesus do in the face of problems and troubles, you just have to make the best of it relying on yourself, with hopefully the support of others. But Jesus ever says, “Trust me”.

Jesus wanted to be bothered so he came to Jairus’ home and found the mourning in progress. There was loud wailing and crying. The text described it as a commotion. Jesus responded, “Why this commotion, the child is not dead, but sleeping.” The mourners could not believe what Jesus said, and they actually laughed in terms of ridiculing him. Jesus put them all outside, a polite way of saying Jesus kicked them out. Jesus took charge and went into the girl’s room. He gently took the girl’s hand and said “Little girl, Get up!” Not only did she rise, but began to walk around the house. The people were astonished beyond normal astonishment. Jesus gave what the girl’s father had originally asked, that she not only be made well, but also lives. Jesus was very practical ordering dinner: “Give her something to eat.” Jesus strictly and sternly ordered the witnesses of this healing to keep quiet about it, do not say a word, as if that would happen. This event indeed revealed Jesus’ power over death but ironically Jesus’ greatest deed of grace was coming, his own death on the cross for our salvation. I think of the words of the apostle Paul today, “For you know the generous act of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich.” Jesus could have made a great deal of money from his healing powers. But recall the words “Made well” also means “saved”. To be saved from our deepest illness, the power of sin or alienation from God, our deepest fear, death, Jesus would remain poor. Jesus did not send Jairus a bill, but a permanent blessing, “Trust me”. Jesus would remain poor and give up all, his life, on the cross to save us, so we live well confident of forgiveness of sins and peace with God. Through his resurrection from the dead we are made well no longer ruled by fear, but now the will and rule of God, that even though we die, yet shall we live. After all claim the name given in Baptism, son or daughter of God so live well in hope, for nothing, not even death, can cancel or deny his steadfast love and faithfulness.

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