Sermon for June 27, 2021
I have been thinking this week about heroes and heroines. A heroine is someone we admire or idealize for courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities. It seems to me that we have put aside many of the people we thought were heroes as we learned more about them. Where might we find a hero these days? I don’t think we would turn to politics as that is such a divisive place. Perhaps we could turn to sports. The Phoenix basketball team has given the people of this area something to root about and maybe we would find a hero there. As we look across other areas of interest such as religion or literature or art or music, perhaps you have some favorites, but I just find it difficult to name someone that everyone would say is a hero.
Instead, I find our heroes in the common folk, people whose names we may not even know. I think about the medical people who worked so hard when the pandemic was at full strength and hospitals were overcrowded. I think about teachers who found ways to help their students in spite of the challenges of remote learning. I think of the unnamed scientists who helped develop the vaccine. And I think of people, especially at food pantries, who helped provide food when the need was overwhelming.
Today in the gospel we learn about two people who made important choices. They are models to us, examples of how we might express our faith. They remind us to trust in God. They are important because their actions help us to learn about Jesus and his compassion, his love and his powerful healing presence. They may not be heroes in the traditional sense, but I think we should be thankful for their witness and the message that they have left for us.
We actually know the names of one of these characters. His name was Jairus, the leader of the synagogue. Other church leaders in Jesus’ time were opposed to his work and his teachings. Some thought he came from the devil. Jairus knew all of this but chose to express his faith in Jesus anyway. He came to Jesus while Jesus was in the midst of a crowd and asked for healing for his daughter. Jesus dropped whatever he was planning to do, took pity on Jairus.
It was a day for Jesus to be interrupted for just as he started to go see Jairus’ daughter, something happened. A woman, whose name we don’t know, touched his cloak and she was healed. The woman’s actions took great faith and courage. She was required by her faith tradition to stay away from other people. She was considered unclean. She was strictly forbidden from touching anyone. She tried to follow the rules but those rules had not helped her find a solution. No doctors could solve her problem. Was it her desperation, her willingness to try anything to find a cure for her problem? Or was it a faith in God and a faith in Jesus that caused her to turn to Jesus for healing?
Jesus knew that he had been touched and that some power went out from him. And when the woman confessed to what she had done, Jesus confirmed that it was her faith that allowed the healing to occur. Jesus then returned to the task of healing the leader’s daughter. People told him it was too late, but Jesus went anyway and he revived the girl.
We learn from these two miracles that the power of Jesus to heal had no boundaries. His healing was given to another person even though he did not make it happen consciously. His desire to heal did not require any specific action on his part. And we also learn in this passage that Jesus was able to heal someone whom everyone thought was dead.
Do these two stories help you to see more clearly the power of Jesus and the incredible faith of two people? We probably wouldn’t have chosen these two people out of a crowd to teach us about faith. And yet here they are giving us a chance to learn more about how Jesus expects us to use our faith and more about how faith can make a difference in our lives. Both were certainly willing to ask Jesus for help.
I also feel that we learn about Jesus’ willingness to help. He could have turned down Jairus because of his estranged relationship with Jewish leaders. Jesus could have said I have other things to do. But neither answer was ever the way that Jesus chose. He always wanted to help people. He always wanted people to feel God’s love and one of the most powerful ways for that to happen is through healing.
The reading from Lamentations reminds us of these characteristics of God.
“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases,
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning.
Jesus lived that words of Lamentations always.
How might we respond to this lesson in Mark? The first thing we learn is to ask God for what we want. Each of the people in today’s passage chose to put their faith in God. In so doing they had to reject some accepted practices and teachings of their time. Neither was certain that Jesus was going to help them. But they asked anyway. And that is what we should do also. Ask God for help and do it over and over again. It may be for healing for ourselves and it may be healing for someone else. We could ask God for forgiveness or we could ask for reconciliation with another. As I said, we don’t know whether the exact request we make will be answered in the way we wish. But we can be certain that God hears our prayer. And we can trust in God to love us.
C. S. Lewis suggested that we consider the characteristics of God when we think about miracles, “Miracles are a retelling in small letters of the very same story which is written across the whole world in letters too large for some of us to see.” Miracles occur because of who God is.
We know that God answers many prayers. It may be something simple like finding a parking place in a crowded lot. Or it could be a healing miracle. Many of us know people who have been healed when the human prognosis was glum. Even those can be miracles. But sometimes, healing defies our best explanation. I have a friend who has been dealing with pancreatic cancer for four and a half years. While we know he won’t live forever, we sure can say he has beaten the odds. Jan and I have a niece whose daughter survived a brain tumor even though the doctors thought she wouldn’t make it. I am sure that some of the people who survived the building collapse in Miami feel as if it was a miracle that they came out alive. Many of you have shared miracles that happened in your life. I believe that miracles do occur and I believe that God is a part of the miracle. I also know of situations where we have asked God for help and it doesn’t seem to happen. I don’t know how to explain the difference. It may seem arbitrary how God chooses one and doesn’t help another. I am only left with trusting what God decides. It is as the reading from Lamentations said today,
“Although he causes grief, he will have compassion
according to the abundance of his steadfast love;
for he does not willingly afflict or grieve anyone.”
Even the reading from 2nd Corinthians expresses the love of God. It was written this way, “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 always reached out with love and compassion.
There was a 20th century English writer named G. K. Chesterton who said this about miracles, “The believers in miracles accept them (rightly or wrongly) because they have evidence for them.” Saint Augustine also wrote about miracles, “Miracles are not in contradiction to nature. They are only in contradiction with what we know of nature.” Perhaps someday we will understand the natural event that created any given miracle.
Wise and well-known people have expressed their belief in miracles. People have shared examples of miracles in books and movies. Normal people have told stories of miracles. All kinds of people ask God for help every day. I say that God listens to every prayer. Let us have total faith, trust and belief in God. Each one of us should feel comfortable praying in whatever way works for us and believing that God answers our prayers. We should seek solutions to our issues using our own logic and skilled professionals. But we can also turn to God in faith and trust asking God to help us discern the best actions we can take and asking God to heal us in every way. Amen.
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