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Sermon for 28 June 2015

First Reading                      Lamentations 3:22–33

22 The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; 23 they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.  24 “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.”  25 The LORD is good to those who wait for him, to the soul that seeks him.  26 It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD.  27 It is good for one to bear the yoke in youth, 28 to sit alone in silence when the LORD has imposed it, 29 to put one’s mouth to the dust (there may yet be hope), 30 to give one’s cheek to the smiter, and be filled with insults.  31 For the LORD will not reject forever.  32 Although he causes grief, he will have compassion according to the abundance of his steadfast love; 33 for he does not willingly afflict or grieve anyone.


Psalm                                                         Psalm 30

1 I will exalt you, O LORD, because you have lifted me up and have not let my enemies triumph over me.  2 O LORD my God, I cried out to you, and you restored me to health.  3 You brought me up, O LORD, from the dead; you restored my life as I was going down to the grave.  4 Sing praise to the LORD, all you faithful; give thanks in holy remembrance.  5 God’s wrath is short; God’s favor lasts a lifetime.  Weeping spends the night, but joy comes in the morning.  6 While I felt secure, I said, “I shall never be disturbed.  7 You, LORD, with your favor, made me as strong as the mountains.”  Then you hid your face, and I was filled with fear.  8 I cried to you, O LORD; I pleaded with my Lord, saying, 9 “What profit is there in my blood, if I go down to the pit?  Will the dust praise you or declare your faithfulness?  10 Hear, O LORD, and have mercy upon me; O LORD, be my helper.”  11 You have turned my wailing into dancing; you have put off my sackcloth and clothed me with joy.  12 Therefore my heart sings to you without ceasing; O LORD my God, I will give you thanks forever.


Second Reading               2 Corinthians 8:1–9, 13–15

1 We want you to know, brothers and sisters, about the grace of God that has been granted to the churches of Macedonia; 2 for during a severe ordeal of affliction, their abundant joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part.  3 For, as I can testify, they voluntarily gave according to their means, and even beyond their means, 4 begging us earnestly for the privilege of sharing in this ministry to the saints — 5 and this, not merely as we expected; they gave themselves first to the Lord and, by the will of God, to us, 6 so that we might urge Titus that, as he had already made a beginning, so he should also complete this generous undertaking among you.  7 Now as you excel in everything — in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in utmost eagerness, and in our love for you — so we want you to excel also in this generous undertaking.  8 I do not say this as a command, but I am testing the genuineness of your love against the earnestness of others.  9 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.  13 I do not mean that there should be relief for others and pressure on you, but it is a question of a fair balance between 14 your present abundance and their need, so that their abundance may be for your need, in order that there may be a fair balance.  15 As it is written,

“The one who had much did not have too much, and the one who had little did not have too little.”


Gospel                                                Mark 5:21–43

21 When Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a great crowd gathered around him; and he was by the sea.  22 Then one of the leaders of the synagogue named Jairus came and, when he saw him, fell at his feet 23 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.”  24 So he went with him.  And a large crowd followed him and pressed in on him.  25  Now there was a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years.  26 She had endured much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had; and she was no better, but rather grew worse.  27 She had heard about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, 28 for she said, “If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well.”  29 Immediately her hemorrhage stopped; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease.  30 Immediately aware that power had gone forth from him, Jesus turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my clothes?”  31 And his disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing in on you; how can you say, ‘Who touched me?'”  32 He looked all around to see who had done it.  33 But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling, fell down before him, and told him the whole truth.  34 He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”  35 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?”  36 But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the leader of the synagogue, “Do not fear, only believe.”  37 He allowed no one to follow him except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James.  38 When they came to the house of the leader of the synagogue, he saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly.  39 When he had entered, he said to them, “Why do you make a commotion and weep? The child is not dead but sleeping.”  40 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.  41 He took her by the hand and said to her, “Talitha cum,” which means, “Little girl, get up!”  42 And immediately the girl got up and began to walk about (she was twelve years of age). At this they were overcome with amazement.  43 He strictly ordered them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat.



You may have heard this story before, but it’s a story that makes a point.  It seems that there was an honest man who was being tailgated by a stressed out woman out here on the Dallas-Cherryville highway.  He’d been doing the speed limit and as he entered Dallas, the stoplight, there at the World gas station, turned yellow just in front of him.  He did the right thing, stopping at the line, even though he could have beaten the red light by accelerating through the intersection.  The tailgating woman behind him, like many folks on the road today, was in a hurry, she hit the roof, and the horn, screaming in frustration as she missed her chance to get through the intersection.  As she was still in mid-rant, she heard a tap on her window and looked up into the face of a very serious Gaston County police officer.

The officer ordered her to exit her car with her hands up.  He took her to the police station where she was searched, finger-printed, and photographed, and then placed in a holding cell.  After a couple of hours, a policeman approached the cell and opened the door.  She was escorted back to the booking desk where the arresting officer was waiting with her personal effects.

As she was gathering her things the officer explained:  “I’m very sorry for this mistake.  You see, I pulled up behind your car while you were blowing your horn, flipping off the guy in front of you, and cussing a blue streak at him.  I noticed the ‘What Would Jesus Do?’ bumper sticker, the ‘Follow Me to Sunday School’ bumper sticker, and the chrome-plated Christian fish emblem on the trunk, so naturally, I assumed you had stolen the car!”  Isn’t it amazing how a situation can change a person?  How a person would react under one set of circumstances can be the exact opposite under other conditions.  It’s a situation we can infer from our gospel reading for this morning.

Mark makes it clear that Jairus was no ordinary individual.  Indeed, he was considered a very important person.  He was one of the rulers of a local synagogue, probably Capernaum.  He was charged with the correct administration and the due conduct of worship.  Because of his position, his decision to go to Jesus couldn’t have been an easy one.  The scene Mark records for us was early in Jesus’ ministry, but already opposition from the religious leaders was beginning to crystallize against the Holy Man of Nazarene.

Jairus therefore, as a pillar of the community and a prominent religious leader in the area, had many reasons not to go to Jesus.  However, logic and pride was set aside because of one overriding reason–his daughter.  Mark doesn’t tell us exactly what was wrong with her, only that she was ill to the point of death.  It would also appear that the crowd gather at the house that day was just as dumbfounded.  What was evident, from the father’s request, is that her condition was deteriorating rapidly.  Interestingly, the one detail we are told, is that the girl was twelve years old.  It’s information I feel is important to the story.

Perhaps the reason for mentioning the daughter’s age is that at about age twelve, a Palestinian girl could be expected to take a husband in marriage.  What Mark is trying to tell us is, that Jairus’ daughter was just about to embark upon the threshold of her life; she was about to become an adult.  She was seen as having everything in front of her.  Now she lay sick to the point of death and her parents are concerned.

So with everything to lose and yet everything to gain, Jairus seeks out this itinerant miracle worker whom everyone has been talking about.  He goes in desperation and at the same time he goes in faith.  As he comes near Jesus, he falls down at Jesus’ feet and implores Him to come to his house and to heal his daughter.  So moved is Jesus, that He changes His direction and goes with Jairus to his house.  I guess the question we need to first ask ourselves is, do we believe that prayer can change the direction of God?  Or do we believe that the stars have fated all of the events of life?

As I thought about this passage this week, three verses stood out to me as striking.  The first verse is:  Seeing Jesus, Jairus fell down at His feet and he pleaded earnestly with Him.  In a certain church, there was a family that had two children.  Both of the children were healthy and there was no history of health problems.  One day the boy, about seven, contracted meningitis.  Meningitis is an inflammation of the lining of the brain and spinal cord.  It’s very serious and possibly life-threatening and has the potential to kill an otherwise healthy young person within 1 day after the first symptoms appear.  Naturally, he was rushed to the children’s hospital where his condition quickly deteriorated.  The Father, who under any other circumstance was a pillar of strength, became completely unraveled as he saw his boy burning up with fever.

In the hospital hallway, the parents both had tears in their eyes as they were obviously overwhelmed with anxiousness.  They talked and had decided that they were prepared to spend any amount of money that they had, go anywhere that they needed to go, in their efforts to get their child well.  The story, fortunately, had a happy ending, but their situation underscores the extreme emotions that parents go through for their children.  Their story also causes us to ask ourselves, if this were us, how far would we be willing to go to help our children?

Would we be willing to empty our bank accounts?  Cash in our 401Ks?  Liquidate our possessions, sell the house?  Would we be willing to get a second job if need be?  I think we can all agree, love is one of the greatest motivator in the world.  Of course not all decisions are made in stressful times.  There are many times in life that we get to set our goals and priorities under much calmer circumstances.

According to a 1968 poll of college students, 83% listed as their number one priority:  developing a meaningful life philosophy.  Sounds like a response you’d expect from college students in the 60’s.  However, a much more recent poll of college students determined that 75% of all students, listed making money as their number one goal.  If that is indeed the case, then I can tell you that there are going to be a lot of students graduating who are headed for a midlife crisis.  I say this because they either aren’t going to make the money that they thought that they should, and then see themselves as a failure, or, they’re going to make the money that they thought they would and are going to discover that it’s given them neither spiritual security nor happiness.  The reality is that there are some things in life that are not so cut and dry.  Take for example Jairus.

Jairus was wealthy, he had power, prestige, he was a leader in the community.  He was seen by most as having it all.  Yet, he was willing to give it all up for his baby.  Nothing will jerk us back into a proper perspective faster than a family crisis.  All of those problems that we thought that we had, can quickly pale in significance.  Think you don’t have enough money?  Let one of your children’s lives be threatened by some illness and you’ll quickly forget your financial portfolio.  Think that your marriage doesn’t have the pizzazz it once did?  Let a spouse have a medical scare and you’ve never loved someone more.  When it comes to our kids, our priorities and our entire outlook for that matter, on what’s important, can change.  Again look at Jairus.

I’m absolutely convinced, that if Jairus himself had been ill, he never would have gone to Jesus.  His pride would have kept him away.  He would rather die than go hat in hand to Jesus.  But this wasn’t about him:  this was about his daughter.  Luke adds another bit of information for us:  it was his only daughter.  And the men in the congregation this morning, who have daughters, will confirm what I am about to say and it in no way diminishes the importance of sons, but daughters are special.  No matter how hard we try to be equal and fair, daughters are treated differently.

I think the story of Jairus and his daughter teaches us a great lesson.  We all, from the CEO to the PTA member, we all need one another.  You can be the tallest man in your community but one day you will need help.  Many of you have seen the Sequoia trees of California, known as the Giant Redwoods; those who have, will agree they’re spectacular.  Many tower as much as 300 feet above the ground.  Strangely, however, these gigantic trees have an unusually shallow root systems that spider out just under the surface of the ground to catch as much of the surface moisture they can.  And this is their vulnerability.

Storms with heavy winds would almost always bring these giants crashing to the ground, but this rarely happens, because they grow in clusters and their intertwining roots provide support for one another against the storms.  When we’re together, either as a family or a church, we provide this same support.  Pain and suffering come to all of us.  But, just like those giant Sequoia trees, we can be supported, in those difficult times, by the touch of one another’s lives.  The knowledge that we have someone; that we aren’t alone; that there is someone who is willing to help us, comfort and support us, keeps us from being destroyed.  Jairus, in his despair, fell at the feet of Jesus.

He is begging, he’s absolutely desperate.  So what if everybody sees him and he becomes the butt of jokes in every wayside tavern.  So what if he is socially ostracized.  He loves and needs help for his daughter.  Love is one of the greatest motivator in the world.  The second salient verse in the story, it seems to me, is the verse that reads:  The child is not dead but asleep.  Tragedy of tragedies.

By the time Jesus arrives at the house He hears the sounds of weeping and the shrill tones of the flutes–signs that He has arrived too late.  Friends of Jairus come to him and advise:  “Why bother the teacher further?”  Jesus, however, counsels the crowd:  “The child is not dead but only sleeps.”  Now, there are two ways that we can interpret this.  First, that this is a medical diagnosis.  He’s saying that the child is in a coma.  The other interpretation is that Jesus is making a theological statement about death.

Several years ago a continuing education event was held at Martin College in Pulaski, Tennessee for Methodist ministers.  They have one of the oldest cemeteries in the state in Pulaski, dating to the early 1800’s.  They’ve made it a park and placed all the tombstones where they can be easily read.  It’s heart wrenching to see that one out of every three graves are those of children, a stark reminder of the incredible infant mortality rate in those rugged days.  But there’s something very interesting.  If you take the time to notice, on almost every tombstone of a child, there is chiseled on the bottom of the stone Jesus’ words:  “The child is not dead but asleep.”  It helps you to realize how many tens of thousands of parents throughout the last 2,000 plus years have taken so much comfort from these words.  These are words of hope.

But Jesus’ words weren’t seen as hope on the occasion in question.  Indeed, Mark tells us that the crowd scoffed.  Mark says simply:  “They laughed at him.”  And there are those who still scoff today.  They see religion as pie in the sky, starry eyed lies.  But Jesus looks at Jairus and says:  Do not fear, only believe.  Jesus is the only one who dares to look death straight in the face and say:  Do not fear, only believe.  Perhaps it was these words that proved the inspiration of Civillia Martin when she wrote her immortal hymn:  “Be not dismayed what ere befall, God will take care of you.”

It makes an incalculable difference to hold onto faith, however rudimentary our faith may be, to place our trust in God’s strange love for us.  What we have isn’t merely wishful dreams but daring prophecies.  We believe that one day we will be transformed into Christ’s divine likeness, who is the resurrection and the life.  This brings us to the third salient verse in the story.  The words of Jesus:  Little girl, I say to you, get up!

We’re told that the child got up and immediately started to walk around.  I can’t help but smile at this part of the story, because any of our children would have responded in the same way.  Most children would be bored stiff with what was going on in the house and would rather be doing something else.  Most kids at this age would quickly leave the adults and run out to talk with their friends.  As for the crowd, however, Mark tells us simply:  “And they were filled with amazement.”  It’s an amazing story that fills us with hope, that even death has no power in the presence of Jesus.  But let me apply this story in a different way.  I think we can apply this story to the church as well.

I would submit to you that the words of Jesus to that child are the same words Jesus would speak to the church today.  “I say to you, get up!”  All of you who have been saved from the death of sin, so I say to you arise.  After our 11:00 service this morning, our Evangelism and Fellowship committee will meet to talk about events for this fall.  This is important because we’re going to be talking about how we as a congregation reach out to our community.  But I think this story is important, not only as individual members of this congregation, but for the committee as well.

The question each of us needs to ask is why are we looking to start a new program or activity?  Is it to simply offer yet another program, or is it because we have been resurrected by Christ.  Why would we work so diligently to develop yet another opportunity for others?  Hopefully, we say it’s because Christ has resurrected us.  Why is it that we’re pushing for another gathering?  We do this because we’ve been resurrected by Christ.  The one who commands us out of our lethargy and indifference says to us:  I say to you, get up!  Stop acting as though you’re still dead.  I say to you arise.

There’s a hymn I grew up with that I think says it all; Rise up on men of God.  It’s a call to get off the couch, to stop making excuses for why we can’t do what we’ve been called to do and it’s a call to forward the work of the kingdom.  It’s a reminder that we serve a living God because we too have been resurrected in Christ.  The first verse of the hymn reminds us why; Give heart and mind and soul and strength to serve the King of kings.  The third verse reminds us that the church for us does wait.  Her strength unequal to the task; rise up and make her great.  And the final verse reminds us of our calling; Lift high the cross of Christ!   Tread where His feet have trod.  As siblings of the Son of Man, rise up, O men of God!


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