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6/28/2009 - The Rev. Caron A. Gwynn - The Fourth Sunday After Pentecost

posted May 21, 2010, 6:32 PM by Unknown user   [ updated May 21, 2010, 6:32 PM by Terry Brady ]
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. (Mark 5:35-37,NRSV)

This week our local news was filled with reports of suffering, fear, and tragedy. The tragic Metro subway accident that claimed nine lives and injured more than seventy others produced feelings of turmoil, loss, bewilderment, and shock. Yet, God’s presence was there in the midst of the horrific aftermath for those clinging to life and for those facing the end of life.

I imagine that the Metro driver, seeing the danger ahead of her, frantically pushed the mushroom button to apply the brakes as she braced herself for the collision. She was trying to protect her passengers as best she could. God’s presence was there with her. God’s presence was also there when the emergency crews swung into immediate action to rescue and provide medical services to the injured passengers. Medical professionals who were also passengers in the derailed train cars also assisted some of the injured. God’s presence was there.

This accident troubled me deeply as I thought about all of the times I rode the Metro trains without a single thought of concern for my safety. I had a narrow escape on the Metro subway during the 1982 snow blizzard in Washington, D.C. I rode the blue line two stops and then decided to get off for fear of being stuck underground. I jumped on the bus and rode home. While on the bus, a report came across the radio that a blue line train had jumped the track in the tunnel and many were injured.

I was very thankful that I had gotten off of that train but I later learned that one of my high school classmates had been on the train. She sustained severe back injuries that plagued her for years. She and her family successfully sued Metro and won a settlement for her medical fees. But, unfortunately, she never fully recovered from her injuries and subsequently passed away. My sister and I were saying the other day that in light of last week’s derailment, few will want to ride in the front or back cars of the train. Everyone will be jammed into the middle cars to feel safe.

Tragic accidents like this on the Metro produce feelings of fear and bewilderment. People wonder, ‘can we really trust in the public transportation system?’ However, we should realize that we do not ride the trains alone – God’s presence is with us. God is riding with us.

I recall a story of a young man riding in a car with his father. His father was going pretty fast and this was terribly frightening to the young man. He says, “Pop, Pop slow down!” His father says, “Don’t worry son, the Lord is with us.” The father’s drives on but goes even faster. The young man is getting really anxious and says, “Pop, Pop please slow down!” and the father once again says, “Don’t worry son, the Lord is with us.” By this time the car is going faster and faster,

The young man is frantic and practically screams to at his father, “Pop, Pop please, please slow down!!” and once again the father with full confidence and for the third time responds to his frightened son, “Don’t you worry son, the Lord is with us.” The young man looks out the window at the blur of scenery racing by and says to his father, “The Lord may be with you but me and Jesus are getting OUT!

Sometimes it is not so evident to us when God’s presence is among us - especially during a chronic illness, a natural disaster, the loss of a loved one, or through a trouble marriage. Think about a time in your life when you were desperate and there seemed to be no way out and you were at a loss as to what to do or where to go. You had exhausted all of your means and resources. We do not always have the fullness of faith and trust that enables us to recognize that Christ’s presence is just within our reach during these dark and difficult times.

The people mourning at Jairus’ home had no idea about the power of the man who entered the house with Jairus. They jeered and laughed at Jesus when he said, “the child is not dead but sleeping.” Rob Lowe, who appeared on the Emmy award winning television show, The West Wing, depicting the inner workings of the White House, shared this story about his son on a visit to the real White House.

Lowe recalled that during the momentous occasion of standing in the Oval Office introducing his son Matthew to the President, his son is only paying attention to one thing. Matthew is gleefully jumping up and down, shouting, and pointing, “Dad, Dad, squirrels!” Matthew did not fully grasp the magnitude of the moment. (“Pop Quiz with Rob Lowe” People Magazine, April 29, 2002).

However, in Mark’s gospel, Jairus did grasp the magnitude of the moment and sought Jesus out in desperation to save his twelve-year old daughter. Those of you who are parents can relate to the desperation of Jairus and the depth of his love for his daughter who was close to death. In fact, she was reported to have died before Jesus could get to the home. Jairus was a leader and member of the Council of Elders in a synagogue. He was a wealthy man of influence and stature in the community. Jairus’ first concern was to get the best help he knew for his daughter. This synagogue leader did not take the time to investigate Jesus’ background. He just knew that he needed the power of God that Jesus possessed to save his little girl.
Karl Barth once said that people come to church with one primary question: Is it true? – Is it true that Jesus is Lord over life and death? Is it true that Jesus never met a corpse he did not raise? Is it true that Jesus can bring “a new creation” out of the depths of death, darkness, and despair? Is it true? That is what Jairus wanted to know and he found out.

We can imagine the tremendous relief and joy Jairus felt – the tears streaming down his face as he fed his daughter after the ordeal was over. Jairus came to know the mystery of faith. He encountered the authority of the Abba-experience in Jesus Christ, which is what all of us deep inside seek to encounter. (copied and adapted, HKO, Synthesis, June 3, 2003)

Jesus would not let Jarius lose hope. And Jesus does not let us lose* hope in our own human conditions. Jesus said to the leader of the synagogue, "Do not fear, only believe.” After ordering the mourners gathered in the little girl’s room to leave, Jesus approaches her, takes her hand as says, “ Talitha cum” meaning “ Little girl get up!”. The child is immediately resuscitated, gets up, and begins to walk. The cloud of death is removed from the girl and Jairus’ despair is vanquished.

The story of this miracle connects us to our faith and hope. It is a story that reminds us that in our own brokenness and weakness, we are called to seek wholeness from the power of God. We are challenged to allow our faith to draws us closer to God in all of the challenging situations we encounter. I know that you have had your own personal situations where you have found this to be true.

The lesson today helps us to remember that God gives us the gift of faith. We are called to seek it out and initiate its action from within ourselves in order for the gift of faith to grow and become active in our lives. Faith cannot be comprehended by human reasoning or seen with human senses. It is a spiritual power that God gives us because we cannot obtain it by our own abilities. Jairus had a desire for faith. We are called to use our own will to initiate desire for faith.

We are called to seek faith by praying to God for this gift to unfold within us. Each time we participate in Holy Communion, we have the opportunity to receive the grace of God to build our faith. In essence, we are called to tap into the faith that is present and deep within us. We are called to tap into the very faith that has been with each of us from birth and we can activate this faith for our spiritual journey through life. (copied and adapted from Synthesis, June 28, 2009)

We are called to allow Jesus Christ to touch and raise us up with expectant hope and trust. The Good news for us today is that God, whether or not there is healing or a life resuscitated, God is present. God suffers and rejoices with us. We worship a living God in life and a God who has power over death for eternity. It IS true and a promise that God keeps and has for us. Amen