Monday, July 2, 2018

Father Riley's sermon from July 1, 2018

6 PENTECOST, PROPER VIII - B - 18     MARK 5. 21-43

We think we know the limits of God, but do we?  We heard in last week’s gospel that Jesus and his disciples crossed over the Sea of Galilee to the East side to get away from the crowds and to have some quiet time together. On the way over, he demonstrated his power over nature by stilling the wind and the waves that caused fear to arise in the hearts of his disciples overriding what little faith they had.

In today’s passage, they have returned to Capernaum and to the crowds who were waiting for them. Out of the crowd steps one Jarius, a leader of the local synagogue that Jesus and his disciples surely attended. He falls at Jesus’ feet and begs him to come and heal his 12-year-old daughter who is near death.

The compassionate Jesus agrees to go with him. As they left together, the crowds followed pressing close to him. There was woman in the crowd who had a 12-year-old issue of blood the local physicians had been unable to heal. Her condition had deteriorated and she had become worse.

She undoubtedly has heard of Jesus’ ability to heal. She missed seeing him before he crossed over the sea but was determined not to miss him on his return. She waited in the crowd and when he came, she followed pressing closer and closer to him believing that if she could just touch the hem of his garment she would be healed. She did.

The instant she reached out and touched the fringe of his garment she felt herself healed of her infirmity. Jesus likewise felt the power had gone out of him. He knew he had been touched. He stops and turns to the crowd and asks, “Who touched me?” The disciples respond, “With this many people so close it is impossible to know.”

The woman, fearing what Jesus might say or do steps forward and admits that she is the one who had touched him. Instead of being admonished for her action, Jesus commends her for her faith and sends her away in peace.

However, the delay in Jesus’ mission to go with the ruler of the synagogue to heal his daughter results in a messenger arriving from Jairus’ house to inform him that his daughter has died. There is no further need to trouble Jesus. What Jairus must have been thinking?

If only Jesus had not hesitated, if only he had followed me post haste, my daughter might still be alive. Isn’t that what would go through your mind? Now that she was dead, there is no need of Jesus. There is nothing anyone can do. The world of Jesus thought it knew the limits of God. What they could expect and what they could not expect from God.

Jesus hears the message and turns to Jarius and says “do not fear, only believe.” Then Christ dismisses the crowds and allows only the inner circle, Peter, James and John along with the father to accompany him to where the young girl lies. On their arrival, they are greeted by a house full of mourners who are wailing and weeping expressing their grief in the loss of the child.

Jesus tires to calm them by telling them that she is not dead but only sleeping. They laugh. Like Jarius, they thought that they knew the limits of God. They knew what to expect and what not to expect from God. For their ridicule, and their disbelief, Jesus puts them out of the house.

With the parents and in the company of Peter, James, and John he enters the girl’s room and taking her by the hand he speaks to her “little girl it is time to get up.”  And immediately she got up and began to walk about to the amazement of those present. Was she dead? Was she only sleeping as he said?

In ancient time, death was often referred to as sleep. Jesus said she was sleeping. The messenger said she was dead. The mourners were not wailing over a sleeping child. Today’s gospel is yet another demonstration of the power of Christ. This time, he demonstrates his power over life and death.

What Jesus does in the house of Jarius is but a glimpse of the mystery of Jesus and of his mission, which began, according to Mark, in the synagogue at Capernaum and found its climax with the empty tomb. Today’s gospel story is also a demonstration of faith.

It is a demonstration of Jesus’ power to move one from fear to faith. He demonstrated that in last week’s gospel with his own disciples and again today when he turns to the father and says “do not fear, only believe.”

Wedged in between is the woman’s faith with the issue of blood who believed that all she had to do was to touch the fringe of Jesus’ garment and she would be made whole. It wasn’t her faith, however, that cured her, but the power of Christ to make whole. Her faith was the channel through which the power of Christ was able to work.

How strong is our faith in God? Strong enough to ask of God? Strong enough to patiently wait on God? Strong enough to believe that no matter how impossible the situation may appear our faith in God tells us that He can and will act? “Do not fear, only believe,” Jesus told Jarius in the face of death.

We think we know the limits of God, but in Christ, we discover there are no limits to what God can do. Today’s story tells us that with God we can imagine the unimaginable - even resurrection. Granted what characterizes much of our discipleship, as it did his own disciples, is a mixture of fear and faith, and yet it is faith that channels God’ saving action. Faith is the sign of the renewal of new life.

“Do not fear, only believe. “ What does all of this tell us about Jesus, about the mystery of Jesus? That he cared about people that he went out of his way to give help to those who asked for it. He touched. He lifted up. These miracle stories may cause problems in the scientific world; we may, in fact, interpret many of these cures as psychosomatic illnesses and cures.

No matter. What matters is the insight we gain into the mystery of Jesus and of his mission, and so into the reality of our lives as his followers. He was a healer, a giver of hope and new life.  He was open to the needs and pain of others and he cared about them, cared enough, to do something.

His caring was intended to open people’s eyes to the reality of God, to unheard of possibilities made possible by faith in Him as the Son of God who died and rose again that we might have life and have it more abundantly. AMEN+

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