Sunday, June 28, 2009

Fourth Sunday After Pentecost - Franklin Kline

Preached by Franklin Kline at Christ Church Cathedral on Sunday, June 28, 2009 (10 am service).

In the Old Testament Lesson, “The Wisdom of Solomon” tells us of God, “For he created all things so that they might exist … and made us in the image of his own eternity”. Today’s Gospel Lesson illustrates how God brings this about in and through Jesus Christ.

The two miracle stories in the 5th Chapter of Mark’s Gospel, one within the other, at a basic level illustrate the Lord’s authority over disease and death.

The woman:
She was desperate. She had suffered for 12 years. She had spent all she had on doctors, but had not been cured; she was destitute. Her sickness made her ritually unclean, and would make unclean anyone who came in contact with her. In addition to suffering from her illness, she had been an outcast for 12 years. News of his healing power had preceded him. He was a proven healer, perhaps a prophet. She was convinced that just being in his presence, just touching his garment would cure her. Because she was ashamed she hoped nobody would notice; perhaps not even Jesus himself, and she did not wish to bother the teacher. She approached Jesus from behind, in the midst of the crowd. She would just slip up to him un-noticed … She touched his cloak, and Mark tells us, “Immediately her hemorrhage stopped; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease.”

Jesus asks, “Who touched me?” The disciples respond, “Are you kidding, you’re working a crowd!!” Jesus knows that there is a world of difference between thronging Him, and touching Him in personal faith, faith out of a deep sense of need and a conviction of his saving power. Jesus says to the woman, "Daughter, your faith has made you well; Shalom, go in peace, and be healed of your disease."

What an agonizing wait for Jairus, who had turned to Jesus hoping he would heal his ill little girl and save her from imminent death. What a contrast between the ways he and the woman approached Jesus. Jairus was a leader of the Synagogue, a devout Jew. He was an important man in the community. Here he was publicly falling on his knees and begging for help from this controversial teacher, whom some recognized as a prophet or more, and other’s suspected’ of being possessed by the devil. And, while the episode with the women goes on, messengers arrive from his home saying, “It’s too late, don’t bother the teacher to come, your daughter is already dead”. What devastating news. Now because of the delay his little girl lay dead.

Jesus ignores the messengers, and the message. He encourages the distraught father to have faith in him. Taking only Peter and the brothers James and John Ben Zebadee with him, he goes to Jairus’s house. The household was by now in mourning. They had even already called in the professional mourners. Jesus says to them, "Why do you make a commotion and weep? The child is not dead but sleeping." And Mark tells us they laughed at him”; The King James version says “they laughed him to scorn” -- they knew what it meant to be dead! He took the child’s parents and the three disciples and entered the room where the little girl was laid out. He took her by the hand and said, “Little girl, get up”. She immediately got up and began walking, and matter-of-factly he told them to get her something to eat.

There is something reminiscent here of the episode in John’s Gospel relating the raising of Lazarus. You will recall that after being called to Lazarus’s sickbed by the sisters Mary and Martha, Jesus delays, in this case two days. When they question his delay, Jesus tells the disciples that the delay until after Lazarus’s death is “so that you may believe”. At the tomb, Jesus tells Martha, “Did I not tell you that if you believe you will see the glory of God”. To the woman with the issue of Blood Jesus says, “Your faith has made you well”. Hear again what Jairus asks of Jesus, “Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well, and live." To Jairus he says, "Do not fear, only believe." . Indeed God’s time is not in the same dimension as our time. God’s delay is God’s teaching point – a lesson in faith. How often do we like Jairus, like Martha and Mary and the disciples become impatience with God’s time

The miracles of Jesus always demonstrate a deeper meaning beyond the physical act. Jesus not only heals the physical ailment of the Woman with and Issue of Blood, but also restores her from exile. The prophet Jeremiah cites Israel for being spiritually deaf and blind. Jesus’ healing of the blind and the deaf are signs that he also heals those who have eyes but do not see, who have ears but do not hear. To be deaf and blind to the presence of God which surrounds us, is this not spiritual death? The raising of the dead is a sign of the power of Jesus to overcome not only physical death, but the sleep, the blindness, the deafness of spiritual death. Do we not all need to be awakened from the sleep of spiritual death, to have our eyes and ears opened, and to be made alive by Jesus. Indeed, it is through faith and belief in him that we are made well and truly alive .

It is through faith that the outward signs of Baptism and the Eucharist bestow their inward grace. In the water of Baptism we are baptized into the death and resurrection of Christ, turned from our old lives, and reborn to new life in him. We are incorporated into his living body, the church. We pledge to, “continue in the apostle’s teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in the prayers.” Jesus tells us, “When two or there are gathered in my name, I am in the midst of them.“ As we gather around the Lord’s Table at Eucharist we join the community of faith throughout the ages “with angels and archangels and with all the company of heaven” .

There are wonderful ways in which we maintain this life of the community of faith by incorporating those who are unable to be physically present due to illness or infirmity, by intercessory prayer and by including them at the communion table through the ministry of Eucharistic Visitors. A highlight of my month is taking communion to one of the remarkable Centenarian members of our Cathedral parish. She is in a nursing home, but she is very much full of life and spirit. Every time I visit her she is working on a new jig-saw puzzle; the tough kind. You know, several hundred pieces, a red barn against red autumn maple leaves at sunset --you can’t fit the pieces together by the picture, you just have to figure out where each one fits together with each of others. She says it keeps her brain in gear – -that’s when she is not reading the daily Post Dispatch to keep up with what’s going on in the world.

And, whenever I visit her she always has across her lap, the prayer quilt we presented to her earlier this year, full of the prayers of those members of the Team who sewed it, and the prayers prayed into the knots tied by the hands of those of us who blessed it. And so in accordance with the Eucharistic Visitor’s commission, we share with our community of faith in the communion of Christ’s body and blood, enfolded by their prayers, with Christ present in the sacrament and in the assembly, “For we who are many are one body, because we all share one bread, one cup.”

It is here, in this community of faith, that we are made alive; and here we encounter God in Jesus. It is here that we are healed, enlivened, renewed, formed, nurtured, and sent out to be the Kingdom of God in the World.

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