30 Aug Fifth Sunday after Pentecost, June 27th, 2021
Holy Gospel: Mark 5:21-43
“Do not fear, only believe”
“Your faith has made you well. Go in peace and be healed.”
These words from Jesus in our Gospel reading today tell us that our faith in God is what will “heal” us, make us whole, make us well and that we have no need to fear. God’s promise to us, through his Son, is that God is with us through all of our lives.
What these words and our readings do NOT say is that, if we grieve or are afraid, we do not have faith, that if we grieve or fear, we are somehow faulty or found lacking.
In our OT Reading from 2nd Samuel, the author is describing the grief of a nation for their lost king and his son who were slain on the Battlefield with the Amalekites. Our Psalm begins with “Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord. Hear my voice! ” The Gospel tells us about the cries of the mourners wailing in grief over the death of the little girl.
In both of these readings and the Psalm, people are grieving. Does that mean that they have lost their faith? That they are doubters? That God has somehow abandon them or is punishing them?
Not in any way. Grief is a human emotion. Grief comes from loving in a world where everything eventually passes away. In the Beatitudes, Jesus says “Blessed are those that mourn.” Why? Because there is a place for holiness in our grief. God offers to enter into and walk with us through our grief, even in those moments of our most crushingly painful sorrow. All things in this physical world will eventually pass away but God is eternal. God is always present. God is always love.
“Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord. Lord, hear my voice!”
God HEARS our cries and walks with us through it. God, through Jesus,walked through betrayal, injustice, crucifixion, death, and resurrection, giving a new meaning to our experience of grief and sorrow. Grief and sorrow provide an important understanding of the place of HOPE in our day-to-day lives. What we profess to believe, what Christianity as whole proclaims is about a REAL God responding to REAL human life in REAL ways which only God can respond.
We cannot just “will” sorrow away; it is part of our lives, part of the human condition because when we love, we will grieve. When we love, our beloved is woven into the fabric of our lives and the loss of that beloved painfully tears that fabric. God promises though to vindicate our love, not by numbing us or anesthetising us like a dentist with a shot of novacaine but by bringing greater life from the depths of our sorrow.
We do NOT and CAN not simply “get over” the loss of a loved one as if it were just water under the bridge. Even if we anticipate a reunion with our beloved beyond death’s veil, we bear this sense of loss throughout our lives with an ever deeper sense of Christ’s life-giving love.
That sorrow, that mourning, that grief is not only found in the death of a loved one. Humans also associate feelings of grief with other kinds of loss: broken relationships, failing health, lost careers. With each of these losses, we mourn. We mourn a life that was, a life shared. Each of these experiences chews a ragged hole into our souls, some bigger than others because someone or something is gone, the fabric is torn. Loss comes in many forms and, whatever shape it takes, loss leaves grief or regret or remorse or shock or some mixture of these behind.
This is where God comes in. God’s handiwork in our lives can be compared to the ancient Japanese art of Kintsugi – The artist takes the broken pieces of a pottery vessel or plate and mends them with gold, embracing the flaws and the imperfections and turns what was broken into something even more beautiful and stronger. This does not mean that the vessel was never broken or did not suffer in that breaking and it doesn’t happen overnight.
This raises the question “How can our belief in a resurrected Christ offer a perspective that helps us make some sort of sense in the midst of ongoing sorrow?” We certainly cannot make another person’s sorrow or sense of loss vanish any more than the Kintsugi artist can make the cracks in broken pottery vanish but our faith, our love for one another, allows us to connect with compassion and walk with one another through that break, that loss. By truly being present, by recognizing the ache in another person, we can connect with them because we have been there in that place too. Just as God walks with us through our own depths, God also empowers us to walk with others and others to walk with us. In the past month, a friend of mine that I have known since high school lost both of her parents, 3 weeks apart. Two weeks ago, my beloved Ronja lost someone very dear to her and her kids and when she got the news, we broke off our “Sunday Afternoon Motorcycle Tour” to go and be present with Ly’s youngest daughter for a few hours.
We were there again for the funeral on Friday and, although I never had the privilege of meeting the lady, I came away knowing a lot about her and her life, being able to share the afternoon and evening with Ronja, Caja, four of Ly’s five daughters and their families. This is where the healing power of God comes in. It runs through us, whether we are the “healer” simply being present with those that are grieving or the one crying out from the depths “LORD, hear my voice!”… God working “Kintsugi” on others through us and on us through others…
The resurrection saturates even the most sorrowful moments of our lives with profound significance because, through the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, God has been through those moments too. God has experienced and DOES experience our sorrow, our pain. And God takes those moments and, with loving care, puts us back together, imperfections and all, with the gold that is God’s own, with love.
Following Christ is all about love. LIFE, as it turns out, is love. It is about learning to care with abandon the way that God cares for us. To love, even when that love is breaking our hearts, means something. That is where Holiness happens. We humans wonder what we are to do with our sorrow but Jesus teaches us something different. Jesus teaches us to expectantly wonder what GOD is going to do with our sorrow, wonder how God will repair the fabric of our lives with his love. Yes, the pattern will be different and there will be marks and scars and lines, certain colors and patterns will no longer be there but we will be stronger being infused by God’s love. And, being people of God, we can walk with others as God and others have walked with us. When we reach out to others in compassion we are not finding God… God is finding US… And the experience of being found by the Holy helps to also heal our own deepest sense of loss… eventually….
In other words, God responds to our suffering, JOINS us in our suffering, transforms our suffering, vindicates our suffering. In Jesus Christ, compassion’s heartbreak gives birth to an entirely new kind of life. A kind of life that passes THROUGH death and beyond the grave again. God longs for us to take up space in each other’s hearts. That is how God encounters us and we encounter God. In Jesus, we see that God wants nothing less than for us to be together. REALLY be together and, in being together with each other, supporting each other, walking with each other, we are together with our Maker.
That, my friends, is the very essence of eternal life: unguarded, relentless compassion and that kind of caring, that kind of love, will leave a mark like the Kintsugi artist marks the shattered vessel with gold, on each and every person that follows that path… A mark on our hands.. and feet… and sides. Just like Christ was marked.
“Do not fear, only believe”
“Your faith has made you well. Go in peace and be healed.”
Let us pray:
O Loving God, who is with us every step of our lives, who understands our sorrows, our fears, lead us in your ways to walk with others as you walk with us so that we may be found by you and be the workers of your wonders in the world. Let your grace, mercy, and compassion by the power of your Holy Spirit fill us, heal us, and shape us into a new vessel, marked and scarred, but stronger and more beautiful through your handiwork so that others may benefit from the same grace, the same mercy, the same compassion which you have shown us through your Son. May we, as your people, repaired and revived, be your hands in this world so that your peace and love are sent forth. All this we ask in the name of your Son, Our Saviour, Jesus Christ.
Holy Gospel: Mark 5:21-43
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.” Immediately 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?” And his disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing in on you; how can you say, ‘Who touched me?’” He 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?” But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the leader of the synagogue, “Do not fear, only believe.” He 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.