Sunday, June 27, 2021

Welcome and Announcements

We give God thanks for keeping us safe and providing sufficiently for all our needs during the pandemic. As we begin thinking about reopening next Sunday for in-person worship, we pray that God will continue to keep everyone safe.

Next Sunday, July 4th, we will begin our in-person worship either in our church yard on the cemetery side or in the church hall at 10 am. Please note the time. We wait to see all those who are planning to come with great anticipation. It appears that we will be in phase 2 of Opening Ontario. We will be following all the restrictions laid out for phase 2.

Our Saturday lunch takeouts is continuing. We thank you for having been so generous. This mission work will continue.

John and David have been busy trying to fix the ramp in front of our education building. Please be careful. Also please note that the ramp will not be usable for a while.

Today, let us begin by reading today’s Scripture passage first.

Mark 5:21-43

When Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a great crowd gathered round him; and he was by the lake. 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 haemorrhages 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 haemorrhage 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 round 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.

It is fun to come across this passage as part of our Lectionary for Sunday, June 27. I preached on this passage from the viewpoints of Jesus, of the woman with the disease, of Jarius, the father of a dying daughter, and of the disciples many times before. Each one brings out the uniqueness of God’s grace in a way that leaves our small minded understanding of God’s grace in the dust. We can certainly focus on these again and they would benefit us greatly. However, today, we will focus on what Jesus said to Jairus, “Do not fear, only believe.” We are continuing the life in Christ in relation to fear.

Last week, we heard Jesus asking the disciples, “Why are you afraid?” We discussed how this fear was showing the lack of faith in his disciples and why it is important for us to understand that running to Jesus in fear is not the way Jesus wants us to believe. After all, fearing death as the disciples only makes death as powerful as God or equal to God. In faith, we come to understand that as the body of Christ in this world today, we embody the very nearness of God’s reign bursting into this world. How would the world come to see, experience, and know what God’s kingdom may be like? We say that our witnessing will help others see, experience and come to know. We witness by living the life of loving God and neighbours. In this life of love, all fears are cast out by God’s love. Every Christian’s life can become a glimpse of what the life to come is like. How we live, what we do, in what way we carry out daily tasks are the ways we witness and point to God’s kingdom that is coming. Others will see, experience and come to know what life will be in God’s kingdom. This is to say that we live life without fear of death. Indeed, by the way we live we demonstrate what life in God is like.

It is very discouraging and disappointing to see Christians misbehaving and living life full of self-righteousness and judgements in the name of loving God and neighbours. These Christian behaviours are full of anger, condemnations, punishments, and antagonistic judgments. They are without any shreds of love, even though they are couched in love or “tough love” language. These behaviours often lead to harms done against innocent people as well as anyone who are seen as sinners. In this, fear of death is put in the hearts of God’s people and fear of death is used as a weapon to drive people to God. In this way, without realizing these people make death almost as powerful in life as God--just slightly less powerful than God. Threatening people with eternal damnation in death to save them might appear effective, but elevating the power of death to this degree is to make death into an idol, a god whose power threatens all human beings. Today, we will explore why Jesus says, “Do not fear, only believe.”

God is a stronghold for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble. Those who know God put their trust in God. With the love through the Son God casts out all our fears. Let us worship God.

Holy, Holy, Holy (Santo, santo, santo)

Here in today’s passage we come across Jesus talking about something similar, yet more nuanced and easier for us to know.

Jesus is on the road. A man comes. Everyone knows he is from a local synagogue. He is one of the leaders there. As he comes before Jesus, instead of taking an equal position, he falls on the ground. This is already strange. First of all in Jewish teaching no one bows to another in complete submission like this. You do it to God alone. Jews were notorious in refusing to bow down to other gods and foreign powers. If they were bowing, they were doing so under duress. To see Jairus fall down before Jesus and completely submit himself to Jesus this way is to put in context how Jairus views Jesus as he approached. After all, he heard about Jesus and he was more than well versed in how he is to treat another Jew as a Jew.

We see Jairus’ distress because he continuously begged Jesus to heal his daughter. It is fascinating that the word used is “begged” or “pleaded.” The word chosen here shows how helplessly dependent Jairus is on Jesus. He knows that there is no one who can cure his daughter other than Jesus at this very moment. If there is anyone else, Jairus would have gone to that person. He comes to Jesus and totally puts himself at Jesus’ mercy. He is determined to take Jesus with him. This is why the word “repeatedly” follows “begged.” He is not simply going to take Jesus’ word for her daughter. He is not going to give up if Jesus refuses to go with him. He is there in total concentration to take Jesus with him. That, in a way, might be why he stopped Jesus by falling before him. As Jairus stays at Jesus’ feet, Jesus cannot move forward. If he wants to go, he has to step aside this man who is blocking him. Jairus is blocking Jesus altogether. Jairus is determined. He loves his daughter. He does not want to lose her to death. He fears that he might lose her to death without Jesus.

On their way to Jairus’ house, a woman who suffered for 12 years stops Jesus. Jesus stops because he sensed that some of his power escaped. Whereas Jairus stopped him cold, the woman is totally invisible. No one sees her until she is forced to come forward. Jesus sensed his power seeping out of him. He doesn’t even know who touched him. This is so interesting. However, today, we will not look at the importance of this interaction of Jesus and a woman with a blood disease. Suffice to say that this event delays Jesus. You can feel Jairus’ worry going up. Every minute counts, but Jesus seems to be in no hurry. Soon, Jairus receives the worst news. His worst fear is realized as the people from his house come to tell him that the daughter is now dead. It is too late now. The way these people from his house speak to him shows how respected Jesus is in Jairus’ house. They say to him not to trouble the teacher, Jesus. Instead of getting angry at Jesus’ delay, they accept his delay in stride. Their message is that since the daughter is dead there is no need for Jesus to come. This conclusion brings out something that is totally unexpected from Jesus. No, Jesus is not angry for being dismissed as not being able to do anything. No, Jesus is not angry over their ignorance of who he is.

Jesus turns to Jairus and tells him not to fear. What is there to fear? She is dead already. There is nothing anyone can do. So why is Jesus saying that Jairus should not fear? What is Jairus fearful of or fearful for? To our modern minds, this is a very difficult thing to figure out. Yet, in Jesus’ time, people’s understanding was that death would have power over those who die. Hades was real for many. The underworld in which people suffered was mentioned even by Jesus in Luke’s Gospel when Jesus was telling a story of a rich man who neglected to share with Lazarus the poor who died a homeless death without help from his rich neighbour. Like our hell, the underworld was a scary place. Now with death, his daughter is under the power of death. That is what Jairus is worried about. He can no longer protect her. His love cannot reach her. At 12 she died. Only if the woman who suffered 12 years did not hinder Jesus’ progress… We will leave the discussion on the coinciding number 12 for later. What is important is that Jesus tells Jairus not to fear, but to believe.

In moments like these

Death is real. It is something Jairus knows all too well. That is why he came to get Jesus in the first place. Now his daughter is dead, Jesus tells him not to fear, but to believe. Believe in what? He already believes in God of Israel who brought the twelve tribes out of Egypt from slavery. He continues to worship God who gives life to all Israelites and in time takes life from mortals. In order for him to come to Jesus asking Jesus to save his daughter, he believed that Jesus had power to save his daughter from death. He also believes that with or without Jesus prolonging his daughter’s life, she has one life on earth. But now, she is dead. That one life has come to an end too soon. Imagine the grief that takes him over, how all the energy in him drains away at this news. So what is he to believe? What are we to think when Jesus tells Jairus to believe instead of fearing?

From the very beginning of the Gospel Mark until the very end, the message to its readers is direct: (here is the first line) the beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the son of God. The very first thing Jesus preaches is “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom is near…” In Jesus Christ we come to the fullness of time and we come to the beginning of the new creation. Even with this clear message, at the end of the Gospel Mark we see the disciples scattering in fear. They could not deal with the death of Jesus. Those who were putting Jesus on the cross put fear of death on all of the disciples. The disciples ran and hid themselves. They were nowhere near Jesus when he was hung on the cross in Gospel Mark. Peter, James, John and all the disciples could not see beyond this death on the cross. Instead, the power of death cowered all the disciples. They did not believe that God’s kingdom was continuing in Christ, dead or alive.

Surely the resurrection is the sign of victory to celebrate. But, the disciples saw everything the wrong way. Instead seeing Jesus choosing to submit himself to die and witnessing his resurrection as a sign of the powerlessness of death, the disciples were stuck at his death and interpreted Jesus’ death as death having power over Jesus. They saw death taking life away from Jesus. In Jesus’ death, they could neither see nor experience God’s power over death. They saw it the opposite way and concluded that death had power over Jesus and the kingdom Jesus proclaimed. Instead of believing in the nearness of God’s kingdom because the time was fulfilled in Christ, they feared death and were unable to see the new life in Christ for each and every one of them. The message of Gospel Mark, however, in demonstrating disciples’ fear, is to emphasize how wrong they were. Through his ministry, death and resurrection, the good news of Christ began. It did not end as the disciples were fearing. The new life in Christ begins for all who follow Christ because Jesus through his death and resurrection demonstrates the powerlessness of death once and for all.

Jairus has already given a glimpse of this new life of God’s kingdom. It is no coincidence that the woman who suffered for 12 years signifying the long suffering and having been severed from others (those who were bleeding or sick were not allowed to mix with the healthy), the exact age of his daughter, is the one who stopped Jesus, delaying a possibility for the healing of his own daughter. 12 years, here, seems to signify the fullness of time. This woman came to Jesus having spent all she had in order to find healing. She went to all physicians only to find herself uncured while getting worse. She was healed when she touched Jesus’ cloak. Jesus confirmed that her faith was the cause of the healing as much. Jairus has already witnessed the fullness of time, the nearness of God’s kingdom. Being given this insight--a woman with faith being healed, he is not to fear. Yet, because he is no different than anyone else, the news of his daughter’s death would bring him fear. His love for her daughter failed, he would fear death like all others. That is, the power for life would be accorded to death rather than to God. Death is the all powerful force in the universe if unchecked. Jesus checks this false view of people by reminding Jairus that death is not to be given such omnipotent power. Death comes at God’s beckoning. Death alone does not have power to give or take life apart from God. Yet, the world fears death instead of fearing God. We know in faith that fearing God is the beginning of wisdom: fearing death is a fool's errand or idol worship. In spite of death, life in Jesus enjoys victory over death or the reality of the resurrection life is given to all who are in Christ. That is what this woman of 12 years of suffering experiences here in her healing. This reality of healing is what Jesus is pointing to for Jairus.

Those who weep and wail in sorrow and grief are fearing death instead of fearing God. To be filled with sorrow and grief at the news of his daughter’s death is to fear death rather than fearing God. So Jesus reminds Jairus his duty to fear God, not fear death. He told Jairus, “Do not fear, only believe.” Yes, do not let death win over you, Jairus. Focus only on believing that Jesus is the one who ushers in this new creation, new reality of life, the kingdom of God. In Jesus, all times are fulfilled. There is no more time to wait. God’s kingdom is at hand. Death has no power. Believe that with Jesus, who is the Son of God, life is not only possible, but is the reality to be enjoyed. Believe that the Son of God is here. Believe that fear of death has no place in this new reality. Do not be filled with grief. It is time to enjoy life in God. Does Jairus hear this good news? Does Jairus understand that to him the kingdom of God is near? Does Jairus know what it means to be like that woman who suffered for 12 years, the same length of time his daughter lived to give him joy of life and receive his love in that life? Does Jairus have faith or fear in God to know that this Jesus is more than just a teacher capable of healing diseases, bringing God’s heaven to earth? His own daughter at 12 years of age is about to complete one life and begin a new one. She is dying to one so that she may be raised in the new life by Jesus. It is no coincidence that on the way to give new life to a dead child, the woman who suffered 12 years--the woman who was slowly dying for twelve years--was given new life because of her faith.

Jesus is all the world to me

Do not fear, only believe! With these words, Jesus continues on to Jairus’ house. Once at the house, he meets those who are wailing and weeping. They laugh at him when Jesus tells them that the child is sleeping and that she is not dead. Here the two realities are contrasted. Those who accord power to death laugh at him. They know the reality of death. Death is the indisputable power that is stronger than life. They saw this power when this child died. They do not care for Jesus saying she is only sleeping and is not dead. They know their reality and are not about to give up what they know. Instead, they mock Jesus. Jesus, on the other hand, knows the reality that is in God. Life is what God creates and gives. So he reminds them in spite of their reality. In the very reality of life which Jesus brings, the child is merely sleeping. The father’s faith is proven to be true as the daughter is raised from sleep. As Jesus awakens the child, everyone is amazed. Yet, no one seems to know that Jesus, once again, has made it all too clear why they should not fear death, run from death, and give power to death. Death is only as powerful as it is made out to be. It, after all, is an idol that is worshipped by this world.

I remember seeing an elder at a hospital just before being taken in to have a heart surgery. Usually he was upbeat, strong, caring, and loving. Waiting for a nurse just outside of the operating room on a gurney, he was full of fear that he may never come out alive. He held my hand tight as I prayed for him and the surgical team. He wanted to be assured over and over that all things would turn out okay. This is one way death is feared by us.

In another case I was talking with the family and patient just before a nurse would come and take her for a life and death surgery. She was told that she only had about a 20% chance of surviving. In this godly woman’s case, her fear of death was shown more through a gentle resignation. She told me over and over as if to convince herself that there was nothing she could do and that she had to leave everything on the surgeon's hand (though quickly she would correct herself and say, “God’s hand.”). She knew she was sure to die because her illness was incurable anyway. She saw no point in fighting this illness anymore. She told me that she was more than ready to die. Death was going to come and get her sooner or later. This is another way death is feared by us as we wonder about how sad our loved ones will be and how much everyone will miss the dying and vice versa. Death is too powerful and inevitable to fight or stop.

Of course, there are many more ways people fear death. Because each of us fear death in different ways, we do not hear what Jesus says to Jairus, “Do not fear, only believe.” We want to be left alone or be clutching someone when our loved one dies. We grieve in our own way. Yet, as we discussed earlier, to let death become that important to our emotional, spiritual, and physical lives is to give death the power of life it does not have. Jesus does not want us to fall into this trap of making death what it is not by according the power over life. Death comes and goes, but God is both the Lord of life and death. Neither life nor death ought to be made into goals unto themselves and celebrated or worshipped as the ultimate power. Both life and death are to be under God’s rule.

It is hard to see death as something under God’s reign and part of God’s creation. As those who seek life, we see death as the final enemy. Paul goes in length to discuss death. Yet, it is important for Christians to realize that Jesus continually exposes death as a powerless idol. This is why Jesus describes the child as sleeping rather than dead. Because God has power over both life and death, Jesus, the Son of God, is able to clearly show to the world that those who belong to God are to think of death in a new way as Jesus teaches through his death and resurrection. Our fear of God (as I have mentioned last week) makes us glorify and enjoy God and see death as what it is without fear.

Jairus’ and his wife’s joy at the awakening of their daughter from sleep, death, is the reality of God’s kingdom. “Do not fear, only believe,” says Jesus. The new life in Jesus begins for this young child whose life in this world came to a completion at 12 years of age. In all life and death situations in our lives, Jesus beckons us not to fear, only to believe in God who is the creator, the redeemer, and the sustainer of this world. Death is but a sleep from which those who belong to Christ will be awakened to be with God forever in the new reality of heaven and earth being made one as Jesus returns. As Christians, we often have to remind ourselves over and over that we are not to fear, but believe in all situations especially when we face death. We believe that the life we are given is fully in God’s hand before, during and after death. Death has no power and is not to be made an idol, a god of this world to whom people accord power. When Jesus told us to deny ourselves, it is a call from Jesus to die to this life we have been living in and follow him as the new people in Christ.


O dear Lord,
You are the giver of life. You give and take life. Yet, in and through your Son our Lord, you return the lives you took so that all those who are called in your Son may enjoy eternal life, the life without fear of death. We thank you for calling us into this life through forgiveness and reconciliation you instituted through your Son’s death and resurrection.

To those who are weak, you become their strength. To those who grieve you bring comfort. To those who are alone and lonely you walk with them as a friend. To those who are in despair you give hope. To those who are burdened in sin you tend to them with forgiveness. In confidence, we entrust to you all who suffer, grieve, feel alone, in despair and are burdened.

We lift up those among us who are sick. As COVID pandemic begins to subside in Canada and elsewhere, we have much to thank for. Yet, we know that the rest of the world is still living in fear as the reality of COVID infections bring endless deaths and misery. Be with all those who are suffering this dreadful disease. We also lift up those who bear other illnesses. There are so many whose treatments have been put on hold in order to give time for doctors and nurses to deal with COVID 19. All those people, who were and are fearful of delayed treatments for cancers and incurable diseases, require hope and courage. Be with them.

We continue to pray and lift up those who are on the front lines. Doctors, nurses, truck drivers, supermarket workers and many others who toil away in order for the rest of us to live a life of safety. Be with them all as they do their best in serving others.

We pray for all those who have lost so much because of the lockdowns. Big and small business people, workers, and support workers are suffering immensely. Many are crying out in desperation. Hear their cries. Know their worries and fears. Tend to them with your presence in ways that they may not lose their hope.

We pray for those who are part of Drummond Hill. As they struggle to make sense of this world, as they try to cope with ever changing circumstances, be with each of them. Guard and protect them. Whether they are in long term care homes, away travelling or at home, whether they are ill or healthy, whether they are strong or weak, and whether they are fearful or believing, be with each and every one of them. Keep them safe until we are able to be together to worship you in your house.

All these and more we pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Offering (A New Commandment)

Offering Prayer
Compassionate God, we offer you our gifts with grateful hearts, glad to know you keep reaching out to us and the world you love. Bless what we bring to you, and use us and our gifts to touch the world with your healing grace through Christ, our Saviour and friend. We pray in your Son’s name. Amen. (Prayer of dedication from The PCC for June 27)
Hymn: Come Christians Join to Sing