Sermon June 27th, 2021 “Just Ask”

Gospel Reading:

            Mark 5: 21-43        

21 When Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a great crowd gathered around him; and he was by the sea. 22 Then one of the leaders of the synagogue named Jairus came and, when he saw him, fell at his feet 23 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.” 24 So he went with him.

                                                      

And a large crowd followed him and pressed in on him. 25 Now there was a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years. 26 She had endured much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had; and she was no better, but rather grew worse. 27 She had heard about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, 28 for she said, “If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well.” 29 Immediately her hemorrhage stopped; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. 30 Immediately aware that power had gone forth from him, Jesus turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my clothes?” 31 And his disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing in on you; how can you say, ‘Who touched me?’” 32 He looked all around to see who had done it. 33 But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling, fell down before him, and told him the whole truth. 34 He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”

                                   

35 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?” 36 But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the leader of the synagogue, “Do not fear, only believe.” 37 He allowed no one to follow him except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James. 38 When they came to the house of the leader of the synagogue, he saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. 39 When he had entered, he said to them, “Why do you make a commotion and weep? The child is not dead but sleeping.” 40 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. 41 He took her by the hand and said to her, “Talitha cum,” which means, “Little girl, get up!” 42 And immediately the girl got up and began to walk about (she was twelve years of age). At this they were overcome with amazement. 43 He strictly ordered them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat.

This is the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Praise to you Lord Christ.

Sermon “Just Ask”

            It’s really hard to ask for help. There’s something within us that keeps us from asking for help. We hear instead, “I can do it myself.” In fact, that’s something my wife and I are hearing more and more. Our five-year-old, Zeke, is at that age that he can do things by himself and he lets us know that. “Dad,” he’ll tell me. “I can do it on my own.” It’s really hard not to step in when I can see he’ll need help. Eventually he’ll realize he needs someone to give him a little assistance and then will ask, after every possible solution rolls around in his brain. Even our almost two-year-old, Luke, tells us the same. Even though he doesn’t talk a lot right now, he’ll slap our hands with a determined look on his face like he’s trying to communicate to us, “I’m two, I can do it by myself.” While that’s not a bad trait to have, there are moments in life where we need to learn how to ask for help, healing, and hope.

            In our appointed Gospel reading from Mark this morning, we heard a story of a healing, actually, there were two healings sandwiched together; a healing of a hemorrhaging woman who had not been well for a long time, twelve years, and twelve-year-old girl who died and was raised to life again. Here’s a little Bible trivia for you to impress your friends at dinner sometime. What is it called when two stories are combined by splitting one a part and inserting another in the middle? It’s is called intercalation and it’s really a literary term, but there are several found in the gospels, especially in Mark. Pastor Emily and I actually broke up the Gospel reading in this way this morning.

            They are both powerful stories of Jesus healing. Now I recognize that it might be really difficult for us this morning to connect with these healing stories. If that’s you, I get it. We pray almost every Sunday for specific people in need of healing. I have stood at the bedside of sick people who will regain their health and walk out the hospital and others who won’t. It might leave us feeling skeptical toward healing and asking for it. That’s on top of the cultural, individualist challenge of even asking for help let alone healing. Is it possible? Can I ask?

            It seems like the bleeding woman would have asked immediately for healing when she saw Jesus among the crowd that day. That was her need. She had spent all her money on health care. She had the care of many doctors, but was only getting worse. So when she saw Jesus, she snuck up behind him to touch his clothes. Maybe she really wanted to ask Jesus for what she needed, but maybe she just couldn’t. Did she think my faith isn’t strong enough? Did she doubt Jesus’ ability or her own to speak to the famed teacher? Could she hear Jairus, the synagogue ruler who had some authority among those in the crowd and think that she’s not good enough, powerful enough, wealthy enough to ask for what she needed? Or maybe she thought that her need was not as great as the little girl, the twelve-year-old who was sick. Either way, she never asked Jesus for help or healing or wholeness.

            For whatever reason, we tend to do the same exact thing, don’t we? I have heard it from so many different people during my time as a pastor. I will visit someone in the hospital and I’ll hear, “It’s very nice of you to come pastor, but there’s someone else who is probably doing far worse than I am. Don’t worry about me.” I have heard, “Pastor, I don’t need to be on the prayer list, there’s probably others who need your prayers and those of the church far more than me.” It’s like we think that prayers or grace or healing are limited and there’s always someone else in greater need.

            In fact, when I have been a spiritual director for others, I have often heard that sentiment. “How can I ask God for anything for myself when there are so many others in greater need?” If we always compare needs, then we’ll likely never make it to a place where we ask for help or healing of God and probably not others either.

            Yet Scripture teaches us to ask. In fact, what did we hear in Psalm 130 this morning? The psalms are full of human emotion of lament and praises and of God’s people crying out to God for help and mercy. “With God there is forgiveness,” we read in the Psalm. “Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord; Lord, hear my voice!” I wonder how often in twelve years the woman in Mark prayed like this. “I trust in the Lord. My soul waits for the Lord. For with the Lord is kindness and plenteous redemption.” I might add plenteous in grace and steadfast love, which we read throughout the psalms and we even heard in Lamentations. Our God’s “mercies are new every morning.” God is always willing to listen and to provide. God always has enough; enough mercy, enough love, enough healing, enough time to listen and to walk with us in our moments of need.

            In the other healing story that wraps around the healing of the hemorrhaging woman, we find Jairus, a synagogue ruler, who likely has authority and wealth, coming to Jesus and pleading with him for help. Even from his position of power, Jairus fell to his feet, begging, pleading, asking Jesus, to heal his daughter. In a humble place of desperation, Jairus asks for what he desires, for what he needed most.

            There’s another lesson here for us. When we ask for help or healing, it’s humbling. It humbles us. That’s not a bad thing, in fact it opens us to not only the compassion and love and mercy of others, but of God. I’m sure that Jairus felt humbled in that moment of desperation. Even with his authority and wealth, he had no other option. He turned to Jesus, feel to his feet, and asked. Jesus responded and went with him toward Jairus’ home.

            When they finally arrived, the scene is one of death. Mark tells us that the people were “weeping and wailing.” They experienced the fullness of grief, even if it was for a few moments. When Jesus attempts to point to the reality of what God can do, “The child is not dead but sleeping,” the people in their grief and sadness laugh at him and I would probably would have too. All it took was Jesus’ touch, Jesus’ words, and Jesus’ presence and death was no more. Life came back to that girl and her family. Healing came in Jesus. Healing and help comes in asking.

            I also recognize that healing comes in different ways and different forms. A part of our challenge is to ask, yes, but it’s to also let go of the results or expectations we have. We pray every single Sunday together, “Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” Ultimately it’s about God’s will and really, honestly, healing is a mystery of faith. I don’t know why or how it comes, but it’s good to ask. It’s good to reach out like the woman. It’s good to ask and plead like the synagogue ruler.

You don’t have to hide those places of pain in your life. It’s not only ok and even good to ask for prayers and help, but it’s holy to do so. You can tell God in prayer what’s going on with you and you can reach out to others too. And guess what, you can always talk to your pastor too. I’m always here for you, as a listening ear, as a support, as a prayer partner in this journey.

I have a clergy friend who bought a new tee shirt recently. It says on the front, “I have Jesus and a therapist.” It’s a way for this clergy person to share with their congregation that it’s good to ask for help. To pray and connect with Jesus and to be have faith and to have a therapist. It’s true in my life too. I have sought the counsel of professionals. I have had a spiritual director for many years now. I see a doctor when I need to and actually for occasional checkups too. I have often said that God has given gifts to doctors, counselors, spiritual directors, therapists, and others so that we might know the joy of abundant life and find healing and wholeness and hope.

To get that point though, we just ask. Just ask like Jairus did to Jesus. Just reach out like the woman did and know that God will provide. There’s always enough grace, mercy, hope, and healing for all of us. Just ask.

Amen.

I would like to move us into a brand new prayer practice this morning. We’re going to be introduced to the “Sign of the Cross.”

I know for us Protestants and Methodists, we probably haven’t practiced the sign of the cross, but probably have witnessed Catholics and Orthodox doing this. Even though most Sundays, Pastor Emily and I offer a blessing in the sign of the cross. Making the sign of the cross is really a Trinitarian prayer made over your body. It actually goes back to Tertullian in the 3rd Century. He wrote, “We Christians wear out our foreheads with the sign of the cross.” In this prayer and act we share the common belief in the Holy Trinity as well.

This prayer practice and mediation is adapted from Jesuit Fr. Michael Sparough, SJ.

As we begin our prayer practice and meditation, I invite you to place your feet flat on the ground, sit up straight with nothing in our hands, and begin breathing deeply.

Breathing deeply. Breathe in God’s love and light and strength. As you exhale, let go of your anxiety, pain, and burdens.

On the night of his resurrection, Jesus breathed on the disciples his Holy Spirit. Imagine Jesus breathing on us. Breath in that breathe of life.

God’s desire is to recreate us again and again and again more fully into God’s image and likeness.

Let your prayer be as simple as your breathing.

Breath in deeply. Exhale your negativity and hardships.

Take the right hand and place it in the center of your forehead.

We pray that all the functions of our minds and all that swirls around in our brains may be dedicated to our God. We pray for the healing and wholeness of our minds.

Breath deeply. Exhale all that is not of God.

Take your right hand and place it at the center of your chest as we pray in the name of the Son. In the name of the holy and sacred heart of Jesus. That we might be Christians not just in our minds, but in our hearts and deep in our spirits. We pray for the healing and wholeness of our hearts.

Breathe in that blessing. Exhale all that is not of God.

Take your heart hand and place it on your left shoulder. In the name of the Holy. We name that the Holy is always with us even in the midst of our challenges, shortcomings and sins. God is making all of us holy, just as God is. What are you afraid of, ashamed of, give it to God.

Breathe in the blessing. Exhale our surrender to God.

Take your right hand to your right shoulder confident that God goes with us. No matter what we face God’s Spirit will guide us. We face our future unafraid. We pray in the name of the Spirit.

Breath in the blessing. Exhale the fear.

Place your hands together in a traditional way of prayer.

We remain open to the God who created us, loves us and is with us right now.

We pray in the name of the Father who loves us, the Son who saves us, the Holy Spirit who dwells within each of us.

Amen.

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