In our Gospel lesson today, are two more
illustrations of the power of the Word to bring abundance of life where no life
seemed possible: the healing of a continually bleeding woman (and as such she
is unclean to be in community) and the raising of the daughter of Jairus who
had apparently died. In our lessons I am struck most by the words fear
and faith. After the woman with the flow of blood touched Jesus
and he asked who touched him, it says she "came in fear and
trembling, fell down before him and told him the whole truth. Jesus said to
her, "Daughter, your faith has made you well."
In the wrap-around story of Jairus'
daughter, the text says, "some people came from the leader's house to say,
"Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the teacher any further?" But
Jesus says to Jairus, "Do not fear, only believe (or have faith)."
When I was a child I had a lot of faith; but
I also had a lot of fear. My faith was in the reality of God, not any sort of
trust in the goodness or compassion of God. And my fear was in the power of that
real but vengeful God I imagined from Sunday School, the fire & brimstone
preaching, even comic books, horror movies and God only knows what else.
As I grow older, faith and fear remain in
dynamic tension all my life. Just as my faith has matured and is hopefully more
sophisticated; my fears have grown less generalized and more specific. But
fears are still there as they are for all of us. We all fear things: terrorism,
cancer, economic collapse, tragedy to oneself—family or friends, automobile
accidents, hurricanes, tornados and wild fires—just to name a few. And
the last few years have shown us that our fears are realistic and founded in
reality, not conjuring. And the question is, as we face these realistic fears,
where do we place our faith, our hope for the future? In money and stuff and
clout? Or in armies and governments and secret deals? Where do we put our
hope and in whom? We trust in God, but we live in a broken, sinful world. Our
hope and our faith are quite often larger than the real world around us.
Every week people come to our church looking
for some kind of hope. Often, they are reasonable requests for assistance that
we can accommodate. The usual hope is that we may provide for them some of
life’s essentials: food, clothing, or shelter. Make no mistake, we have a few
‘frequent flyers’ as I call them--more interested in ‘using’ our generosity
than benefiting from it. But we are good stewards of your gifts, and we know
how to assess genuine needs, from excessive wants. Still, God’s grace is much
The scriptures call us to trust in God, a
thing sometimes much easier said than done. Lamentations reminds us "that
the steadfast love of the LORD never ceases, (God's) mercies never come to an
end." and then goes on to talk about those times when one feels abandoned
by God. This is a realistic look at faith in the face of fear.
Psalm repeats this theme, as in "then you hid your face, and I was filled
with fear" but also cries out, "O Lord, My God, I will give you
thanks forever." And our lesson from 2 Corinthians reminds us not to hoard
our money in time of other's need, but to share our resources with the needy,
trusting in God to provide for us in our time of need. Generosity is a work of grace and that
is a work of the Holy Spirit. Generosity is shown to be an act of faith
overcoming fear. This is a
look into one of the core competencies of Christian discipleship. We give in response
to the joy given to us by the forgiveness of Christ Jesus and as part of the
community of Christ in which we gather. In this way we may all give even beyond
our means-it is a grace, a working of the Holy Spirit. We give because Christ gave; we
share out of what we have, not out of what we don't have.
In God's miraculous plan of
economy, nobody has too much and nobody has too little. Our God is a God of
Abundance; it is we who create scarcity. The theologian David Anders puts it
this way, “People want to be consumers of faith, but they don’t want to pay the
price of relationship.” Columnist Chuck Colson further explains, “Christians
today are too much like consumers. It’s
what some have called the ‘McChurch’ mentality.
Today it might be McDonald’s for a Big Mac; tomorrow it is Wendy’s for
“my way”; or perhaps the renowned chicken sandwiches at Chick-Fil-A. Thus, the
church becomes just another retail outlet, faith just another commodity.”
Another writer notes, “Today, it seems everybody listens to the radio station
WII-FM—which are the call letters for ‘What’s In It For Me?”
In the last several years the Christian
church has been in very uncertain times. Church growth specialist Bill
Easum predicts based on empirical data, that 75% of today’s churches will not
be in existence in the year 2025. Yet T.S. Elliot explains: “There is no life
except in community and no community except lived in praise to God.” The
question is: are we as a worshipping community going to face our future with fear
Are we going to reach out to one another as the
woman in the story reached out to Jesus for comfort and healing? Because as
sincere as her desire for anonymity was, her idea was wrong. There is no such
thing as coming privately into the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God is of
right relationships, and we learn those relationships in this workshop we call
the church. Jesus knew that healing was
only part of what she needed.
The root of the word healing in the Greek is
“zozo”—which is also the root for the words “salvation” and “wholeness” Health
is much more than the absence of illness—it is the fullness of life. The woman
also needed a relationship with God and a relationship with the community of
faith. Jesus would not let her walk away
with only part of the gospel.
Neither should we. We are, the body of Christ, and we have God's
spirit and healing power flowing through us. The question becomes “Are we
facing the future with fear or faith—which the Lutheran
interpretation of is “Christ’s faith given to us?” We too need to reach
out to our church, each other, and to the community—to just touch Jesus’ cloak,
and then know our faith has made us well! Thanks be to God! AMEN!