Thursday, June 24, 2021

Sunday's sermon

JUNE 27, 2021 _”Talitha, cum…”


       Desperate times, I’ve heard it said, call for desperate measures. When nothing else has worked and all seems hopeless, people are pushed to the last resort and to wishing for miracles.

          And nothing is more “desperate” than a terminally ill child. Nothing else calls for such desperate measures.


          First of all, we meet Jairus.

          Jairus is not one of the typical folks who followed Jesus. He is, Mark tells us, “a leader of the synagogue”. Jairus is so troubled and upset that he throws himself on his knees at Jesus’ feet and begs him for help. It is the action of a desperate man—and especially desperate for a man like Jairus.

          Remember, Jairus is a leader of the synagogue—a proud, respected member of the Jewish leadership. He is an educated, orthodox man. And Jesus is an itinerate teacher just over the edge of respectability—viewed with suspicion, if not outright distain by the Jewish authorities. Jairus risks everything—his position, his influence, his respect in the community—to throw himself at the feet a rabble rouser, a man with no credentials who associates with sinners and outcasts.

          It’s not hard to understand what would drive Jairus to such desperate behavior—his “little daughter is at the point of death.”

          For Jairus, everything else has ceased to matter. Only his child is important—nothing else. He implores Jesus to help him…he begs for his child’s life. Nothing else is important.

          So Jesus sets off with him—pressed upon and jostled by the crowds that follow him every where.  Jairus is a desperate man—he is pushing through the crowds, clearing a path for Jesus. Jairus has hope again. The strange, powerful, unorthodox ‘rabbi’ has agreed to help him.

          (But the woman with hemorrhages touches Jesus as he walks through the crowds and is healed. Jesus felt the power go out of him, but when he hears her story he tells her to ‘go in peace, and be healed of your disease. Another case of desperate times calling for desperate measures!)

          But Jesus is apparently off on a fool’s errand—the cause is hopeless, already the little girl has died…and the messengers meet them on the road.

          “Do not trouble the teacher further,” the people from Jarius’ home tell him, “your daughter has died.”

          Desperation is replaced by despair. Hope dies. Jarius is crushed, defeated ultimately.

          But above the wail of mourning beginning in Jarius’ soul, Jesus whispers to him: “Do not fear, only believe.”

          (BELIEF isn’t intellectual—in the head. It is more akin to TRUST and TRUST comes from the heart.)

          But Jesus may be asking too much. How can Jesus expect Jarius to put away his fear and pain and suffering and loss? How can Jesus expect a parent who has just gotten word that his child is dead to maintain hope, to have faith, to trust? And yet, somehow, Jarius keeps walking. His heart is surely breaking within him, but he puts one foot in front of the other and goes on, leading Jesus through the crowd, directing Jesus to the bedside of his dead daughter….


          This is what St. Paul wrote to the Christians in Corinth: We want you to know, brothers and sisters, about the grace of God that has been granted to the churches of Macedonia; for during a severe ordeal of affliction, their abundant joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part.

          Did we hear that correctly? “During a severe ordeal of affliction, their abundant joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part….”

       AFFLICTION and JOY are not terms we associate with each other. POVERTY and GENEROSITY don’t go together in our thoughts. Paul must be confused and mistaken in saying the Macedonian churches found “joy” in their “affliction” and “generosity” out of their poverty.

          Yet we know it was true. Paul had been asking the churches that he had founded to take up a collection—to raise money—to support the poor Christians of Jerusalem who were suffering from a famine and recession. The churches of Macedonia were, if anything, worse off than the church in Jerusalem and Paul had exempted them from making a contribution. Yet, they insisted and their contributions were the largest of any!

          The Macedonians “did not fear, but believed.” They gave to the church in Jerusalem, not out of their circumstances but out of their trust in God.

          GIVING brings joy out of affliction. Giving brings generosity from poverty. Trust conquers all fear.



          Jarius was broken-hearted and hopeless. But he put one foot in front of the other and took Jesus home to see his dead daughter. Somehow, in all his pain, Jarius “trusted” the strange, somewhat dangerous Teacher.

          When they arrived, the household was full of tears and wailing and Jesus said to them—“Why do you make a commotion and weep? The child is not dead but sleeping.”        

          The people were stunned by how heartless and cold that was. To make fun of Jarius’ grief. They laughed in scorn at Jesus. And somehow Jarius still trusted this man and led him to his daughter’s death bed.

          Then he simply handed the little girl back to her parents…Talitha cum—“little girl get up”, he said. And she did.

          Never was such joy born of affliction. (generosity of poverty).





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some ponderings by an aging white man who is an Episcopal priest in Connecticut. Now retired but still working and still wondering what it all means...all of it.