Hemorrhaging Trust

    Jun 28, 2015

    Passage: Mark 5:21-43

    Preacher: William (Tex) Culton

    Detail:

    A good friend of mine, a UCC minister from North Hampton, PA told me that another of his sister churches was closing its doors. In the last 20 years it has bleed members to the point that it can no longer keep its doors open, and it had over 1200 active members! Today is their last worship service. In a city that has reinvented itself, Allentown, PA, after the collapse of the steel industry, a church dies?  

    Here’s my point: This church has been bleeding members and spirit for well over a dozen years. You have tried all sorts of cures and nothing has stopped the flow of life. Some would say, as they did of Jairus’ daughter that we are already dead and to continue to try to revive us is laughable, impossible.

    (Mike Romano quoted a phrase used by the Seabees in WWII. “The difficult we do immediately, the impossible takes a little longer”)

    I believe that your faith and trust in Jesus to stem the flow and raise you up will result in a community filled with new life and vitality.

    We encounter Jesus’ attitude toward two women who had been written off. Not that they were unloved or had no advocates, but knowing what we do of their culture, they were not as highly regarded as women are today. The first had been bleeding for 12 years. 12! The number of the tribes of Israel. She represents the entire nation. “She had endured much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had; and she was no better, but rather grew worse.”

    No judgment is made on the physicians – they were probably good men trying what they knew, but couldn’t find a cure. She used up all her money! She was desperate and close to hopeless, but she had something that kept her seeking a cure and not giving up hope. She had faith!

    “If I but touch his clothes (Jesus), I will be made well.”

    This lady had moxy! She was ritually unclean and anyone who came in contact with her would be made unclean and unable to worship for a week! For her to go out in a crowd where she would be brushing up against countless others was courageous, but could be seen as irresponsible. It was outside of proper religious behavior. She didn’t know when to give up! Anyone who goes for not only a second opinion, but a third and fourth and on and on, doesn’t know when to accept that she’s going to die childless and alone.

    (Can you make any comparisons of this woman’s determination and your experience through these last 12 years?)

    This was the situation in Israel after years of occupation and religious leadership that had become more and more law centered and devoid of grace and healing. The faith of the nation was bleeding its life and there was seemingly no cure. Enter Jesus the healer.

    I don’t know what this church has done in the past to stem the flow, but I believe, knowing you all as I do, that you did everything you could and for the right reasons. If nothing has really worked, you have refused to sit back and say that there’s nothing left to do.

    “She heard about Jesus!”

    “If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well.”

    There’s something healing in touch. Jairus begged for Jesus to touch his daughter. Jesus’ touched many people and the result was healing; from the blind to the leper. When we touch during the passing of the peace, the touch is more powerful than the words, and when we hold hands for the benediction, the touch is more meaningful than the words. It is being vulnerable and affirming. It is God touching us through one another.

    So she came up behind Jesus and touched his cloak and immediately she was healed of her disease and the hemorrhage stopped.

    What seems obvious to me, may not be obvious to everyone. Our faith in Jesus the healer, the Son of God and Savior can restore us to health. It is our faith and our initiative and our reaching out to “touch his cloak,” to dare to believe that Jesus has the answers to our bleeding, when everything we tried in good faith didn’t work!

    Power had gone from Jesus and he asked who had touched him. Considering the crowds, it seemed to be a stupid question. “Who touched me?” he said to the crowd.

    Confession time: The woman came forward and told Jesus the whole truth. “I wasn’t supposed to be near anyone, especially a rabbi and yet I touched you even though I was unclean. You were my last hope!” Jesus’ response was revolutionary. He called her “Daughter,” and she was instantly adopted by God, affirmed in her faith and given Christ’s peace and her healing was not some hysterical reaction to touching a famous person, but would be lasting. Grace was hers forever and she was readmitted to the community of faith (your faith has made you well)

    No matter what we try, to stem the flow and grow; the only thing we can hope for, is to come faithfully to worship, and unafraid of what the sacrifice of giving up time and conflicting opportunities will entail, we need to touch the cloak of Jesus!

    What does this mean, to touch the hem of Jesus’ garment? (As much as you have done these things unto the least of these my brothers and sisters, you’ve done it unto me. Feeding the hungry? Welcoming the stranger? Visiting the imprisoned by age, health, economics, depression or another illness? )

    Whatever else we do, we need to believe that Jesus is the one who will restore us to health and adopt us again as daughters and sons of God. Your attitude till now tells me you believe that and are willing to go against the grain to achieve the healing you all seek for your church.

    There’s another problem that is being addressed even as we are experiencing the miraculous healing from Jesus.

    People come and tell Jairus that his daughter is dead and not to bother the teacher any further.

    The word may be out that another Presbyterian Church has died. It may be the opinion of some that there is no life left in us and so we shouldn’t even bother reaching for the hem of Christ’s cloak. That’s pretty scary, going against popular opinion. If there is any reason for people to stop attending worship, it’s the rumor that we’re dead. We are a beautiful building more like a mausoleum than a church.  What does this community think is happening here? Does it think we’re dying? Does it see our worship as mourning or rejoicing? Who wants to go to a mausoleum?

    But Jesus turned to Jairus and said, “Do not fear, only believe.”

    Death to Jesus is not the end… it is sleep. Jesus went to the home with his three closest companions, Peter, James and John and addressed the weeping crowd. “Why are you weeping? The child is not dead, but sleeping.” Sounds a lot like what he said to Mary Magdalene in the garden after his resurrection. (Is Jesus addressing those who secretly weep and are in mourning for a church that is asleep, but that they consider dead?)

    They laughed at him!

    Can we withstand the ridicule of others when we refuse to give up on the life of this church and deny that it is over for us?

    Jesus put the doubters outside and took with him those who loved the girl; (remember the leader of the synagogue threw himself at Jesus’ feet and begged for his daughter’s life) her mother and father.
    [This is the first time her mother is mentioned, but these accounts are recorded to prove the importance of women to God and that they should be accorded all the opportunities that are available to men.]

    Jesus took her by the hand and said to her “Talitha cum.” Which means, “Little girl, get up.”

    She got up and began to walk around because she was 12 years old. Everyone was amazed.

    To everyone else, she was dead, and to Jesus she was asleep. Tell me how to develop that kind of vision. Tell me how I/we can deny the signs of death and let Jesus take us by the hand and raise us up?

    [Unless you can answer me, you and all of us will remain ‘asleep” until we’re buried. And the shame of that will be that we are not dead, but will be buried alive unable to communicate that we are not dead yet!]

    The vision of Christ is available to anyone who is willing to give themselves completely to God. It is for people who pray and worship and study God’s word and live it out in all their relationships and are willing to work out their salvation through the body of Christ.

    How many churches must be buried alive because grace is ignored and the law is strictly followed? Before the weeping stops over those who have left and the sleeping church lets itself hear Christ’s call to GET UP!....and walk and be fed (the body and blood of the one whom death cannot hold) and go out from here into the community to share the ONE unique quality of Christianity that no other religion or philosophy has, GRACE!

    We’ve got to go out there, bleeding or awakened. We’ve got to have a faith stronger than our fear of what we think the community will reject. And if we don’t know what to do, we’ve got to beg Jesus to touch us. Maybe these stories were tied together to assure us that we can both reach and beg and that both of them are signs of faith that will heal and stem the flow and raise us up. Both promise more than just a longer life. Both promise new life through us. Both women could now bear children!