July 1, 2018

Coming Full Circle – July 1, 2018

Passage: Mark 5:21-43

So, the woman who's hemorrhaging for 12 years, right in the midst of the story, right in the midst of this story about Jairus, just kind of inserted in there. Every now and then you get these kind of odd pieces that just kind of are the insert. It starts off and we're thinking we're hearing about Jairus. Then, there's this woman. Then, on any occasion we could pray, pay attention and teach about either one of these stories but they're right here together. So, it makes me wonder if they're together, maybe there's something we need to be talking about and thinking about in combination.

What do these two stories teach us together because if we were just to look at the Jairus story, then we could talk about parents' love or if we talk about the woman who's hemorrhaging, we can talk about the power of touch. This is bigger than that because they're together. So, I think that the common thread for us is about wholeness, about bringing us back into a wholeness and what that looks like for you and me. What does that look like for you and me? Anthony Higgs has a quote and he says, "When greed replaces God then we shall know that man has come full circle, back to where his origins in life have stemmed from. When greed replaces God." See, the whole of the story of scripture is about God trying to be in relationship with us and us, we the people of humanity, we're the greedy ones.

We're the ones who are constantly breaking that relationship. God's reaching out, we're tucking away. What do I mean by that? Think about the creation story. At the beginning of creation, the first five days, God's creating and creating and creating, he's separating the skies from the earth, he's separating the water from the land. He's making birds and animals and trees and flowers and after every day of creation, for the first five days, he says what upon reflection? This is good. Then, after the sixth day, he makes humanity and he says this is very good. So, that's pretty cool.

Think about that, there are some great things that have been created over time, God could have stopped with an elephant or a zebra or a magnolia tree or a tea olive tree, my favorite of all trees and smells. We used to have a tea olive that sat right outside of the cathedral in Charleston and this time of year I would always snip off a piece of it and I would keep it in the car because it has this great smell and I would put it in the car and I would drive home and then when I got into the car the next morning, my car smelled like tea olive, it was the best. It was one of those great creation moments. God could have stopped there and it would have been perfectly fine but no, God kept going.

God created a dog, created the manatee but we know the rest of the story. We don't even need Paul Harvey. The rest of the story is we messed up, Adam and Eve messed up. Their sons messed up, their siblings fight and messed up. Noah why? Because people mess up. God even got to the point in Genesis 9 and 10 to go, "You know what? We need to make a difference here. I need to help them know that I'm trying to be in relationship." So, God puts this bow in the sky so that we can know that God is in relationship. Nowadays, we look at a bow in the sky, we take an Instagram of it, we think, "Oh, how pretty."

We forgot the relationship of what it means, that God is seeking us out to be in union, to be in wholeness with us and we can keep going. What happened with Abraham and Izaak and Jacob? Oh Jacob? Jacob's been messing up big time. He stole his brother's birthright. He stole his brother's wife, had to run away so that his wife didn't get killed. Went to sleep on a rock and was selfish enough to say, "If God will bring me back to this space, then you'll be my God." That's pretty selfish, pretty abusive of power. There's a college chaplain I had in the final days to help the youth kind of take away nice sentences. Sometimes I would resort to my days when I was a youth counselor or otherwise but it was the one that kind of struck me was the word sin, S-I-N. The middle of that word has this profound letter, I.

Great thing about it is if you take I out of the middle you get nothing, literally, just like sn. You take I out of the middle of sin you have nothing. When we are no longer focusing on ourselves, when we don't put ourselves in the middle. When we are not greedy, when we do not try to be like God i.e. what we saw with Adam and Eve, when we don't try to be like God, we have the potential of being in a relationship with God but when we think that we are better than God, when we are selfish enough to put ourselves in the center, we break covenant.

Think about your personal relationships with your spouse, with your child, with your best friend, the times that you have the most difficulty, the time I have the most difficulty is when I think I'm right, right? If I think I am right I don't give myself the ability to listen to the other. When I don't listen to the other I break relationship. I break covenant. In our prayers, are we listening to God or are we talking at God? Do we spend all of our time telling God what we want? Are we spending our time during that wonderful 30 days before Christmas, pulling into a parking lot and saying, "god, please get me a parking space?" Or during the summer months, "Oh God, if I could just make this put."

Then, when I make the put, do I remember to thank God for it?  No, we tend to put yourselves in a position of control. We want to be in control. Then we come back to today's stories, the story of Jairus and the story of this woman that hemorrhaged for 12 years. Let's spend a moment with her for a second. Think about it, she's been hemorrhaging for 12 years. The story tells us that she was so out of wit on this, that she had been to see every doctor possible. She was outside of her body. She had nothing left. By this point she had been to her specialist, she had gone through everybody that the HMO could have given her. She's also gone and talked to acupuncture people. She's tried the right vitamins. She's tried everything she can possibly try.

She's even gone organic and yet she can't get fixed. That's not the worst of it all. In her community, because she's hemorrhaging, it means that she's no longer a part of her community. Because she is hemorrhaging, she is not allowed to have a relationship with her husband. She is not allowed to touch her children. She is not allowed to go into the synagogue. She is not allowed to be a part of anything that she thinks is whole. She wants to be whole again. It's not just about making her hemorrhage stop. That's a side note here. The big piece is that she wants to be whole again.

Then, there's Jairus. Jairus is the leader of the synagogue. Let's really pay attention for a moment, [inaudible 00:17:58] synagogue and our relationship to Jesus? First of all, there's this one guy in John Chapter Three, Nicodemus who has to come and see Jesus at night because he doesn't want people to know that he's talking to him. He's a member of the same community. He goes to Jesus at night so that nobody will know but here's Jairus, the leader of the synagogue whose daughter is dying. There is no other recourse for him. He's going to do everything in his power to fix this. I'm a parent. I know that if my child is at a point of death, I'm going to do everything that I can, everything, even if it means, like Jairus, putting myself outside of relationship with the community in which I exist.

Because for Jairus to go to see Jesus, the person who they are persecuting, the person who they are challenging, this upstart young man, is putting himself at odds with everything that he believes and everybody that he hangs out with. That's how much he cared about trying to save his daughter. So, now we've set the stage. They want wholeness. He wants to be whole. He needs his daughter to be well. This man who, if he went to go see Jesus, knew that he would be giving up everything and our story says that he stood in front of Jesus face to face. The woman, the hemorrhaging woman, what does she do? She crawls in from the back. She comes in, she can't even be seen. She doesn't even want Jesus to know it happened but she believes enough that if she just touches the hem of his coat that she will be made whole.

The moment she touches his hem, she feels the power, Jesus feels the power. She scoots away. Jesus says, "Who done it? Who did it? Who is it?" As a sideswipe, "You've got to be kidding me? All of these people around and you're worried about somebody touching you? There's people bumping into you all over the place." That's not what we're talking about. He's talking about somebody who had taken power. The only way that that power would have happened is through faith and belief because you know why? Because he didn't ask her about reciting a creed. He didn't put her through the Commission on Ministry trials and tribulations, hoops and ... No, he knew that she felt what she needed to feel.

He sent her on in peace and wholeness. Jairus was walking and people were laughing at him. People were laughing and scolding Jairus saying, "You don't need to bother him." Then, when he gets to the home, people were laughing at Jesus and kicks him out of the house. So, it's the father, the mother, Peter, James and John. They're the ones who let in with this 12 year old, takes her by the hand, she gets up and she walks. Great stories but what does that have to do with you and me? I think it has to do a lot with you and me. Saint Augustine says, "Pray as though everything depended on God. Work as though everything depended on you." We are the Jairus'. We are the women.

We are the ones who need God in our lives. We are the ones who are returning back to God for wholeness, for strength and for clarity but the good thing is, is that we have the examples of people who were so far removed from being accessible to Jesus, people who didn't think they were worthy to come before Jesus. One came up face to face but one had to tuck in from behind. It doesn't matter how you come to God. That's what the story is reminding us of. It doesn't matter how you come to God, on your knees or face to face, angry, upset or crying and tearful. God is there waiting to hear from you.

Remember the bow in the sky? That's a reminder that God is waiting for you, not God is seeking us out. God is there. What we have to do is to work if we know we want to be in relationship with God. Here's a final point, quick [inaudible 00:23:33]. When we are in relationship with each other, what do we do? When we know that we love one another, what's the first thing that we do? When we can recognize love from one another we listen for somebody else's pain, we listen to their stories, we want to know everything about them. That's when we make a shift, when you want to know everything about the person who's sitting across from you.

Why is that any different than our relationship with God? Why aren't we listening to God? What do we do? We give off a litany of things that we expect God to do for us i.e. the parking lot, putting for golf. Sometimes we just need to be willing to listen, hear what God has to say and after listening, we discern what God was calling us to do because if we only try to fix our problems, we're going to be like the woman 12 years down the road, still not much going on but if we're listening and paying attention and discerning what God is calling us into, it might make the difference.

Once we've discerned it, we try it on. We try on what God is asking us to do. We reflect on its abilities. We reflect on what has happened and if it doesn't work, we start all over again and we try and we listen a little bit more. It's not a hard formula. It's the same formula we do with the people that we love, the people we care for. God loves us and cares for us and he's asked us to be in a relationship. So, might we try and listen to God just a little bit more? Sometimes that might mean instead of going through our litany of prayers, it might mean just being still and being quiet, as my wife would say just shutting up.

I want to leave you with this, grace is something you can never get, nor earn, nor conjure. It can only be given. A good sleep is grace, I'm sure a good dream is. The smell of rain is grace, the grace of God means something right here is your life. You might never have been but you are because the party wouldn't have been complete without you. Here is the world, beautiful and terrible things will happen but don't be afraid for God is with you. Nothing can separate us from the love of God. God says to you and me, "I love you." There's only one catch, I think that concludes, like any other gift, the gift of grace can be yours only if you reach out and take it. Amen. 

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