Live Without Fear: Proper 8

Live Without Fear: Proper 8

Proper 8: June 27, 2021
The Fifth Sunday After Pentecost

Year B: 2 Samuel 1:1, 17-27; Psalm 130; 2 Corinthians 8:7-15; Mark 5:21-43

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Living without fear and suffering. Is that possible in the world as we know it? Wars, hunger, violence, economic disasters abound and bring us to despair; personal illness, pain, and loss in our families cause us to lose hope. Sometimes we feel as if we are alone in our pain; we ask, why me? Today’s reading reinforces for us the undeniable reality that suffering is not unique to us or to our times.

We hear of David’s immense sorrow at the death of his friend, Jonathan; at first glance we may not realize that Paul is issuing an urgent plea for those who are starving in Jerusalem, “it is a question of fair balance between your present abundance and their need”[1]. In this morning’s Gospel, Mark starts one story, and then before he finishes that story, he starts another story. We hear Jairus’ cry to Jesus about his daughter, “Come and lay your hands on her so that she may be made well and live.”[2] Then, before we find out what happens with her, Mark starts another story about healing a woman who had been ill for twelve years.

Part of the thread that we see through all these scripture readings is that we are reminded that we live in a world that has always contained profound tragedy. We are also reminded that despite much suffering and destruction, plagues, and starvation, we continue to survive and adapt.

They are also stories of hope – a bold, persistent, expectant hope and a hope that comes from faith.

Listen to the words of the psalmist:

“I wait for the Lord; my soul waits for him; in his word is my hope.”[3]

“With him there is plenteous redemption…”[4]

We hear those words of hope. We hear those words of hope even when we live in a world that contains profound tragedy. These words from today’s psalm provide us a balanced perspective and focus for us: wait on the Lord.

Hope and faith both require patience – wait on the Lord. Saint Paul adds another dimension to this waiting – act in faith. In his great effort to feed the starving in Jerusalem, Paul does not hesitate to ask for help from all these he had brought to Christ. Paul knows that that life is a gift of God, and that it is good, and that all must be fed. He knows what matters because he compares everything to the ultimate gift given by Jesus: “for you know the generous act of our Lord Jesus Chris, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich.”[5]

And then we have the two stories of healing in Mark’s gospel. His two encounters in today’s story, one with a dying girl, the other with a sick woman, came at a time when Jesus was at his most popular. Hundreds of people followed him wherever he went.

He had just arrived by boat after that great windstorm and is immediately surrounded by people in need of hearing words of hope, by those who are sick and need to be healed, and by the curious.

Jairus, a man of great importance in his city and synagogue, runs to Jesus, falls on his knees, and begs for the life of his child. Jesus does not hesitate. He leaves the crowds to go with this father in need. But as they walk quickly together through the crowd, a stooped woman approaches and touches his cloak. She assumes that he is surrounded by so many people that he will not notice; she is convinced that by just touching his cloak she will be healed.[6]

“Who touched my clothes”. I, like the disciples, would have been bemused by Jesus’ reaction. In that crowd it would have been almost impossible to know. The woman risked the wrath of Jesus, the religious leaders and the rest of the crowd because she would have been considered ritually unclean.

In what I describe as an act of bravery, she came forward, “in fear and trembling” Mark tells us. This was a potentially very hostile situation. But there was something in the woman’s immense faith, a total conviction that after years of suffering, she found hope in the person of Jesus Christ, and the energy of that faith was more powerful than all the shoving and pulling of the crowd. One touch of utter faith called forth the power of Jesus and healing occurred.

I can only imagine that Jairus is very agitated by now. Even this briefest of interruptions has led us to a point where people come from Jairus’ house to essentially tell him to stop bothering Jesus. Death has already arrived. Why is Jairus still bringing Jesus to the house when he has been informed that his daughter is dead? What good can Jesus do now? But Jesus tells Jairus: “do not fear, only believe.”

Nothing else matters and nothing else interferes with Jesus’ purpose. Even when those with him laugh at him when he states that Jairus’ daughter is not dead only sleeping, Jesus is not deterred.

Jesus set both the woman and the child free; indeed Jesus set Jairus free that day, just as Jesus sets us free. Jesus gave the world hope when he didn’t choose between one healing or another. He chose both. He gave hope to both a long-suffering woman and a family in great pain.

On the one hand, there was his compassion for Jairus’ family and his daughter – respectable leaders of the community. On the other hand, there was his compassion for the woman who was likely considered an oucast. All at the same time. He did not listen to those who told him “don’t bother, go away.” Jesus wouldn’t listen to hopelessness, rather he has compassion for those who are hurt, who are confused, who are fearful.

Jesus as always knows what to do. There were two healings on that day. Most people would have advised Jesus to choose, to choose the more worthy or the one with the greatest need or the one that agreed with him. Jesus would not do that. Jesus is making a clear statement that all are beloved children of God.

So often, beloved children of God are judged by society and found wanting. Jairus was judged by his fellow synagogue goers and the disciples. The woman would have been considered an outcast, yet Jesus calls her “daughter”.

In this country and in the world today we fear “the other”; we fear failure; we fear technology; we fear not being able to pay a mortgage or losing a job; we fear what tomorrow brings. Do we judge ourselves or others as unworthy or lacking?

Until all of God’s children, the whole human family, are welcome at the table, we will short of the kingdom of God. We must pray for grace to see the world as God sees it and the courage to act.

When we do that we will be in deeper relationship with God. And when the world seems to be falling apart and breaking away – remember that Christ binds us together with hope, love, healing and understanding.

We don’t even have to touch the hem of the garment. We only have to reach out with our heart in prayer and offer God our pain and suffering. God can and will take our hurt and give us healing and wholeness in relationship to God.

After a year of pandemic, heated political divides, isolation and unrest, we are hungry for healing within our bodies, our tired souls, and our communities. To follow Christ is to know and to be encouraged that God desires this hope and healing. God desires fullness of peace, life, and wholeness.

So, how do we ask for it? What stories do we need to tell? Do we need to ask for help, for rest, for prayers? For what and where do you desire hope and healing, and how might you seek it?

Be on the lookout for opportunities for hope and healing in your life. Amen.

[1] 2 Corinthians 8:13-14, New Revised Standard Version (“NRSV”)

[2] Mark 5:23, NRSV

[3] Psalm 130:4, NRSV

[4] Psalm 130:4a, NRSV

[5] 2 Corinthians 8:9, NRSV

[6] Cf. Mark 5:28-29, NRSV

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