When Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a great crowd gathered around him; and he was by the sea. Then one of the leaders of the synagogue named Jairus came and, when he saw him, fell at his feet and begged him repeatedly, “My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well, and live.”
So he went with him. And a large crowd followed him and pressed in on him. Now there was a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years. She had endured much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had; and she was no better, but rather grew worse. She had heard about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, for she said, “If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well.” 29Immediately her hemorrhage stopped; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. Immediately aware that power had gone forth from him, Jesus turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my clothes?” 31And his disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing in on you; how can you say, ‘Who touched me?’” 32He looked all around to see who had done it. But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling, fell down before him, and told him the whole truth. He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”
While he was still speaking, some people came from the leader’s house to say, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the teacher any further?” 36But overhearing (ignoring) what they said, Jesus said to the leader of the synagogue, “Do not fear, only believe.” 37He allowed no one to follow him except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James. When they came to the house of the leader of the synagogue, he saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. When he had entered, he said to them, “Why do you make a commotion and weep? The child is not dead but sleeping.” And they laughed at him. Then he put them all outside, and took the child’s father and mother and those who were with him, and went in where the child was. He took her by the hand and said to her, “Talitha cum,” which means, “Little girl, get up!” And immediately the girl got up and began to walk about (she was twelve years of age). At this they were overcome with amazement. He strictly ordered them that no one should know this and told them to give her something to eat.
There Is Hope
This is a significant moment for many reasons. We are just a few days away from the celebration of our nation’s Independence; the 4th of July. We are in the midst of the 220th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church USA, and we are in a presidential election year (as if anyone needed reminding) in the context of the greatest economic crisis since the Great Depression.
Since we are on the subject of time, I wonder how this time is significant for you? Most of us here today are retired. In these times we often look back over our lives. We evaluate what our lives have meant and wonder about how much more we will have.
Calls to hopelessness
In these days, for so many reasons, we hear people telling us that this is a time of hopelessness. The nation is still in an economic crisis – along with Europe. The church is in numerical decline. And we all have our personal reasons to struggle with hope.
Hopelessness is all about death. It is a truism that as long as there is life, there is hope, but death is the great dead-end to hope.
Unless it’s not. Unless death does not have the last word.
The Gospel and Hope
I believe that the text we just read from Mark’s gospel give us reason to have hope. And by “hope” I do not mean the feeling of optimism that “everything will be alright.”
Hope is not the feeling of optimism – if it were, it would certainly be an illusion. We know that we all will die. We know that there are no guarantees for our church or our nation’s success. Hope is not just optimism.
Hope is confidence that we are in God’s hands, and that God’s will for us is good. His will is for our “shalom” our wholeness, our flourishing, our well-being. And not only ours alone, God’s will is for the world’s shalom; God’s purpose is for the restoration of our world – of the earth itself, and of every man, woman, boy and girl , made in the image of God.
Seeing God in Jesus
How do we know this? We Christians believe that we see God most clearly, most fully revealed to us in Jesus. Seeing Jesus, we see God. Observing Jesus’ life, we see what is important to God. Watching Jesus in action, we see what God’s will is.
If anything is 100% clear from the gospels is that Jesus’ will was totally committed to restoring shalom to people. We saw it in the story we read today. Jesus is called by an anxious father to come and restore his sick daughter, and he goes, immediately.
Along the way he is contacted by a woman in desperate need, and he stops and meets her need; he restores her to “shalom” – to wholeness.
He continues on to the home of the sick girl, and ignoring the consensus conclusion that the situation is hopeless, undeterred by the great dead-end of death, he shows what God wills to do, and in fact, does – he restores life, wholeness, well-being, shalom.
Seeing Jesus, we see God’s will. God wills the restoration, the shalom, of all of us who have been damaged by life, by the destructive effects of evil, by our experiences, and by our own reactions to our experiences. This is the basis of our hope.
The central text here is what Jesus says in verse 36
“Do not fear, only believe.”
We could re-phrase his words this way: Do not give-in to hopelessness, rather, have confidence that God’s plan for your shalom is will be fulfilled.
Evidence for Hope
So is there any evidence that God is working to accomplish that shalom now, in these significant times? Yes, I believe there is.
Last week I attended a Christian Conference which takes its name from the Celtic symbol for the Holy Spirit, the Wild Goose. Jim Wallace, founder of Sojourners ministry was there. He said that he was amazed at how for the first time, he and the Focus on the Family people agree about a public policy issue: immigration. He said that both agree that laws which tear families apart are deeply misguided and must be changed. Both groups, Sojourners and the Focus on the Family share a vision of Shalom that they learned from Jesus, who ignored long-standing barriers to bring shalom to people in need.
Have you ever wondered why Mark told us the story of the lady who was hemorrhaging right in the middle of his story of Jesus going to heal the daughter of Jairus, the synagogue leader? Clearly that sick woman’s story is told to make it public knowledge that Jesus has just been touched by a person who is ceremonially unclean and is now therefore, himself, unclean.
Because Jesus publicly notices her touch, everybody in the crowd knows about it. Everybody can see that Jesus ignores the whole impurity issue. That former barrier is no longer relevant. Jesus shows us that God’s care for people and their healing, their shalom, will not be impeded by any social convention.
In the past, that woman was considered unfit to participate in the life of the community. She was excluded because of her condition. No more. Now there is hope for her. Now she is able to experience God’s shalom. Jesus does not reject her touch, as if it were impure. He affirms her and calls her a “daughter” – she is part of the family. We see God’s will for restoring shalom in operation in Jesus’ welcoming, healing acts.
Hope for the church?
Is there evidence of hope for the church? Right now we Presbyterians are having our General Assembly. Yes, it will be a time of debate. But one thing
is clear: our church is moving towards full inclusion of all people made in God’s image.
We were on the right track in the civil rights movement. We were on the right track in the women’s movement, and we are on the right track now in affirming that all people, gay or straight are equally loved by God and welcome in our community.
Again, at the Wild Goose festival, Frank Schaeffer, son of the late Francis Schaeffer, said that he is observing a growing movement all across the country. People of all ages, but especially young people are unwilling to allow old barriers to stand. Our Presbyterian Church is in a better position to reach out to a new generation than ever before.
Often the old expression is true: it is “darkest before the dawn.” Yes, we have been experiencing numerical decline, but a new day is just around the corner.
Hope for Our Country
Is there hope for our country? As we approach our nation’s 236th birthday, yes we have our problems, but look at what we have achieved. The promise of a land of liberty and freedom for all was not realized all at once. At our nation’s birth neither slaves nor women could vote. We have come a long ways from those days.
We are much better today at spreading the fruits of this nations prosperity to people in need, the sick, the disabled, the elderly, than ever before. Now more people have access to a decent education than ever before. We are living longer than ever before.
Yes, we have large problems to solve, as we always have had, but we are a nation of people who are free to gather together in prayer that the God of hope will guide us and help our country in the future as he has in the past.
Rejoice in Hope
This is not a time for despair and hopelessness. This is a time to embrace the Shalom that God is still producing in our lives, in our church, in our country, and in the world. This is a time to renew our focus on Jesus, learning from him the nature of God’s good will for his people.
As you see and hear the fireworks this Wednesday, let each explosion of color and sound call forth from each of us a prayer of thanksgiving to the God of hope who has allowed us to see this day come. He is the one we rely on. Let us be the hope-filled people who do as our Lord Jesus told us:
“Do not fear, only believe.”