Church Pic 2
  • Standing in Line – 2015/06/28

    Psalm 130
    2 Samuel 1:17-27
    Mark 5:21-43

    Sermon:

    (Sorry, but the video doesn’t appear to be uploading. I’ll try again later; for now, just enjoy the transcript!)

    I’ve never been to Disney World. Maybe you have. If so, good for you. But the thing I’ve always heard about it is that the lines are just terrible. So Disney, realizing a few years ago that they could make some money off of that problem, started a new program. For an extra fee, you can basically pay for a “fast lane” pass that lets you skip the regular line and avoid waiting so long. Apparently, everyone who does it is really glad they did so, because who likes waiting?

    We’re not a patient culture, so any chance to skip a line is always appreciated. We love instant gratification. It spills over into how a lot of things run these days. The whole idea of online shopping, for example, is all about how you don’t even have to leave the house to get what you want. And now, some cities in the US offer same-day delivery, so you don’t even have to wait to get what you just bought from the comfort of your own home!

    To boot, we live in a culture where, generally, if you have enough money, you can throw that at any problem and get it solved. Disney, wisely understanding this, took advantage. It’s very in keeping with the ethos around American culture – where there’s a buck to be made, someone will be smart enough to make that buck.

    But while no one likes waiting in lines, we have to do it sometimes. But these themes of waiting in line, waiting our turn, etc., are also explored in today’s passage from Mark. In fact, this passage may in some ways speak better to our culture today than it did in its own time!

    But while our passage features these ideas – waiting in line for your turn, wanting something and being able to pay for it, and aspiring to a better life – there’s a big difference in what Mark gives us today, and a line at Disney World. And that’s because Jesus is there for everyone, not just those in the fast lane.

    So let’s start with the story from Mark. Throughout the book of Mark, framing stories are used, so that there’s a story inside of another story. We see an example of that here – the story of the hemorrhaging woman’s story is located in the middle of the dying girl’s story. But unlike sometimes when Mark does this, it’s not just to illuminate something about one of the stories – this time is about seeing each story in the light of the other. It’s not really two stories – it’s one.

    And this one story is about two people. One of them is still just a girl, and she has everything earthly – she is young, she has power (her father, Jairus, is a powerful man who works in the Temple), she has money from her father’s salary, she has servants) as we see in the second part of the story), she has an advocate and friend in her father. As we’ll see, she is surrounded by people, even in her illness, who are all there to love her and look out for her.

    The girl’s opposite number is the hemorrhaging woman. This woman has been bleeding for twelve years. That means, according to the purity laws found in the book of Leviticus, that she’s not allowed to touch another human being; no hugs, no handshakes. Anyone she does touch becomes unclean, as well, and can’t enter the Temple – the very Temple that employ’s Jairus, the girl’s father. This hemorrhaging woman is old (or at least an adult), contrasted with the youth of Jairus’ daughter. She is poor, as the text has taught us that she spent every cent she had on treating her illness. Finally, this hemorrhaging woman is totally alone; whereas the young girl has a father as an advocate, this woman has no one who will speak up for her.

    And then we get to the most divergent part of their stories: how they ask for healing. Of course Jairus, the girl’s father, goes and asks “the right way.” He approaches Jesus, one man to another man, publically and politely. This is the way things were done “properly.”

    The hemorrhaging woman, though – what does she do? She walks through the crowd and she sneaks a grab at Jesus’ cloak as he’s going to help someone else. She doesn’t ask – she takes without permission. That is, in fact, stealing. One person I heard this week said that it was a little like Jesus was pickpocketed – he felt someone rub against him in a crowd, and suddenly his wallet was gone. Only, instead of a wallet, what was stolen was some of Jesus miraculous power.

    And while we have seen these sharp differences, there are also striking similarities between the two characters in this story. First, they are both female – that one’s easy. They’re also both sick – yet another easy one. But beyond that, there is one more big similarity: they both put their faith and trust in Jesus.

    Now, whenever this story gets preached, there’s a big elephant in the room. Jesus does heal both the young girl and the hemorrhaging woman. Following the healings, he tells them that their faith has healed them. You can probably guess what the problem with this is – namely, that faith doesn’t always make us better. We know that God is powerful, but we also know that sometimes we pray for something and it doesn’t come to pass.

    I would love to have an answer for why it does or doesn’t. I don’t think it’s as simple as some people praying right and others praying wrong, or that it’s as simple as some people having more faith than others. I think there are probably many reasons why we don’t always get the answer we want, and they’ll likely always be a mystery.

    Perhaps it’s because healing doesn’t always take place in the same way; I know, for example, that one of my first weeks here, I preached a story about a woman who was prayed over by her congregation after a difficult diagnosis. They prayed and prayed for her at a special service, and she got up and declared, “I am healed!”

    The congregation rejoiced; yet, following her next doctor’s appointment, her disease was worse than ever, and she was going to die. People were confused and questioned where God could be; they wondered why God would allow her to feel healed if she, in fact, was not. She laughed at them and told them, “But I was healed. I used to be so afraid; now I am not. I was healed.”

    So perhaps the kind of healing that we get is not always the kind we’re expecting. Either way, I can speak to the fact that today’s story teaches us something powerful and meaningful about how we do become healed.

    But in all of this talk of faith and healing, one of the most striking things about this passage is who gets healed first. You’ll notice that Jesus doesn’t show preference for the first person who comes asking for healing. He doesn’t show preference to the man, to the rich, to the powerful. In fact, he doesn’t show preference at all. Jesus equally heals everyone. The girl who is not able to come herself is transformed by Jesus’ presence just as much as the woman who approaches Jesus and, by touching him, makes him unclean. Being wealthy and respectable and doing things “the right way” didn’t earn Jairus and his daughter one single thing with Jesus.

    As I’ve talked about many, many times (and will many, many more) we don’t earn Jesus’ love – we have it. We’re not good enough to earn it on our own. But he gives it to us freely.

    In addition to Jesus’ free gift of love (and, in this case, healing), there’s a powerful lesson in these stories, I think – particularly in the story of the hemorrhaging woman – and that is a lesson about how Jesus leads us to confronting the truth about ourselves.

    You see, when we are transformed through our relationship with Jesus, it’s not just about all the bad things going away and everything being sunshine and rainbows – it means acknowledging the difficulties of life. When Jesus feels the power go out of him, he confronts the crowd to ask who touched him. When he does so, the hemorrhaging woman comes forward. Compelled by his presence, she explains everything – the “whole truth.” To truly have a relationship with Jesus, we have to be willing to be as vulnerable as that woman. It means being willing to confess sins and brokenness, to acknowledge our weakness, and to be able to ask for help.

    Every week, we come to church and admit that we are not perfect. Sure, outside these walls, you may feel a need to “keep up with the Joneses” and have a “stiff upper lip.” But in here, we pray a prayer of confession, in which we admit that we sin. And following the sermon each week, I pray a pastoral prayer on all our behalf, in which I ask God to heal the places in our lives where we have pain. In this building, we admit that we are not enough – we admit that we need God.

    When we’re able to fully make this admission, we come to the truth that we need transformation, and that when we have that transformation, our need to “earn” our way into Jesus’ heart and grace evaporates. In this story, Jesus is about so much more than just healing individuals. Yes, he does that. But he also shows how he works – transforming entire communities of people, with no preference for who they are, or how they come to him. Jesus is available to everyone, and no one needs to “earn” special status in his eyes.

    Do you know the book The Prince and the Pauper? It’s an 1881 book by Mark Twain that takes place in 1540s England. The future king of England runs into a peasant boy who looks exactly like him. They switch places, and each learns a little bit of empathy for the other. In the story we read from Mark today, we see something similar, but completely different. It’s not about human beings learning to understand one another – it’s about seeing how God understands us. We are all beloved children – after all, Jesus calls even the older woman “Daughter” – and all get the love and care of Christ, whether or not we deserve it.

    So I don’t know what to tell you about how or why or when God answers prayers – I truly don’t. I know that sometimes they’re answered just as we would hope, sometimes that they’re answered in an unexpected way, and sometimes the answer is “no.” I know that, but I don’t know why.

    But the thing I do know for certain, and the thing I have no trouble sharing, is that God doesn’t play favorites. Instead, God expects us to actively engage – to show the faith these people have by actually living out our convictions in our lives. We should be willing to break down before Jesus and tell the whole truth. In doing that, we will be transformed; we will be healed – perhaps in the most unexpected of ways. Amen.

  • Standing in Line – 2015/06/28

    Psalm 130
    2 Samuel 1:17-27
    Mark 5:21-43

    Sermon:

    (Sorry, but the video doesn’t appear to be uploading. I’ll try again later; for now, just enjoy the transcript!)

    I’ve never been to Disney World. Maybe you have. If so, good for you. But the thing I’ve always heard about it is that the lines are just terrible. So Disney, realizing a few years ago that they could make some money off of that problem, started a new program. For an extra fee, you can basically pay for a “fast lane” pass that lets you skip the regular line and avoid waiting so long. Apparently, everyone who does it is really glad they did so, because who likes waiting?

    We’re not a patient culture, so any chance to skip a line is always appreciated. We love instant gratification. It spills over into how a lot of things run these days. The whole idea of online shopping, for example, is all about how you don’t even have to leave the house to get what you want. And now, some cities in the US offer same-day delivery, so you don’t even have to wait to get what you just bought from the comfort of your own home!

    To boot, we live in a culture where, generally, if you have enough money, you can throw that at any problem and get it solved. Disney, wisely understanding this, took advantage. It’s very in keeping with the ethos around American culture – where there’s a buck to be made, someone will be smart enough to make that buck.

    But while no one likes waiting in lines, we have to do it sometimes. But these themes of waiting in line, waiting our turn, etc., are also explored in today’s passage from Mark. In fact, this passage may in some ways speak better to our culture today than it did in its own time!

    But while our passage features these ideas – waiting in line for your turn, wanting something and being able to pay for it, and aspiring to a better life – there’s a big difference in what Mark gives us today, and a line at Disney World. And that’s because Jesus is there for everyone, not just those in the fast lane.

    So let’s start with the story from Mark. Throughout the book of Mark, framing stories are used, so that there’s a story inside of another story. We see an example of that here – the story of the hemorrhaging woman’s story is located in the middle of the dying girl’s story. But unlike sometimes when Mark does this, it’s not just to illuminate something about one of the stories – this time is about seeing each story in the light of the other. It’s not really two stories – it’s one.

    And this one story is about two people. One of them is still just a girl, and she has everything earthly – she is young, she has power (her father, Jairus, is a powerful man who works in the Temple), she has money from her father’s salary, she has servants) as we see in the second part of the story), she has an advocate and friend in her father. As we’ll see, she is surrounded by people, even in her illness, who are all there to love her and look out for her.

    The girl’s opposite number is the hemorrhaging woman. This woman has been bleeding for twelve years. That means, according to the purity laws found in the book of Leviticus, that she’s not allowed to touch another human being; no hugs, no handshakes. Anyone she does touch becomes unclean, as well, and can’t enter the Temple – the very Temple that employ’s Jairus, the girl’s father. This hemorrhaging woman is old (or at least an adult), contrasted with the youth of Jairus’ daughter. She is poor, as the text has taught us that she spent every cent she had on treating her illness. Finally, this hemorrhaging woman is totally alone; whereas the young girl has a father as an advocate, this woman has no one who will speak up for her.

    And then we get to the most divergent part of their stories: how they ask for healing. Of course Jairus, the girl’s father, goes and asks “the right way.” He approaches Jesus, one man to another man, publically and politely. This is the way things were done “properly.”

    The hemorrhaging woman, though – what does she do? She walks through the crowd and she sneaks a grab at Jesus’ cloak as he’s going to help someone else. She doesn’t ask – she takes without permission. That is, in fact, stealing. One person I heard this week said that it was a little like Jesus was pickpocketed – he felt someone rub against him in a crowd, and suddenly his wallet was gone. Only, instead of a wallet, what was stolen was some of Jesus miraculous power.

    And while we have seen these sharp differences, there are also striking similarities between the two characters in this story. First, they are both female – that one’s easy. They’re also both sick – yet another easy one. But beyond that, there is one more big similarity: they both put their faith and trust in Jesus.

    Now, whenever this story gets preached, there’s a big elephant in the room. Jesus does heal both the young girl and the hemorrhaging woman. Following the healings, he tells them that their faith has healed them. You can probably guess what the problem with this is – namely, that faith doesn’t always make us better. We know that God is powerful, but we also know that sometimes we pray for something and it doesn’t come to pass.

    I would love to have an answer for why it does or doesn’t. I don’t think it’s as simple as some people praying right and others praying wrong, or that it’s as simple as some people having more faith than others. I think there are probably many reasons why we don’t always get the answer we want, and they’ll likely always be a mystery.

    Perhaps it’s because healing doesn’t always take place in the same way; I know, for example, that one of my first weeks here, I preached a story about a woman who was prayed over by her congregation after a difficult diagnosis. They prayed and prayed for her at a special service, and she got up and declared, “I am healed!”

    The congregation rejoiced; yet, following her next doctor’s appointment, her disease was worse than ever, and she was going to die. People were confused and questioned where God could be; they wondered why God would allow her to feel healed if she, in fact, was not. She laughed at them and told them, “But I was healed. I used to be so afraid; now I am not. I was healed.”

    So perhaps the kind of healing that we get is not always the kind we’re expecting. Either way, I can speak to the fact that today’s story teaches us something powerful and meaningful about how we do become healed.

    But in all of this talk of faith and healing, one of the most striking things about this passage is who gets healed first. You’ll notice that Jesus doesn’t show preference for the first person who comes asking for healing. He doesn’t show preference to the man, to the rich, to the powerful. In fact, he doesn’t show preference at all. Jesus equally heals everyone. The girl who is not able to come herself is transformed by Jesus’ presence just as much as the woman who approaches Jesus and, by touching him, makes him unclean. Being wealthy and respectable and doing things “the right way” didn’t earn Jairus and his daughter one single thing with Jesus.

    As I’ve talked about many, many times (and will many, many more) we don’t earn Jesus’ love – we have it. We’re not good enough to earn it on our own. But he gives it to us freely.

    In addition to Jesus’ free gift of love (and, in this case, healing), there’s a powerful lesson in these stories, I think – particularly in the story of the hemorrhaging woman – and that is a lesson about how Jesus leads us to confronting the truth about ourselves.

    You see, when we are transformed through our relationship with Jesus, it’s not just about all the bad things going away and everything being sunshine and rainbows – it means acknowledging the difficulties of life. When Jesus feels the power go out of him, he confronts the crowd to ask who touched him. When he does so, the hemorrhaging woman comes forward. Compelled by his presence, she explains everything – the “whole truth.” To truly have a relationship with Jesus, we have to be willing to be as vulnerable as that woman. It means being willing to confess sins and brokenness, to acknowledge our weakness, and to be able to ask for help.

    Every week, we come to church and admit that we are not perfect. Sure, outside these walls, you may feel a need to “keep up with the Joneses” and have a “stiff upper lip.” But in here, we pray a prayer of confession, in which we admit that we sin. And following the sermon each week, I pray a pastoral prayer on all our behalf, in which I ask God to heal the places in our lives where we have pain. In this building, we admit that we are not enough – we admit that we need God.

    When we’re able to fully make this admission, we come to the truth that we need transformation, and that when we have that transformation, our need to “earn” our way into Jesus’ heart and grace evaporates. In this story, Jesus is about so much more than just healing individuals. Yes, he does that. But he also shows how he works – transforming entire communities of people, with no preference for who they are, or how they come to him. Jesus is available to everyone, and no one needs to “earn” special status in his eyes.

    Do you know the book The Prince and the Pauper? It’s an 1881 book by Mark Twain that takes place in 1540s England. The future king of England runs into a peasant boy who looks exactly like him. They switch places, and each learns a little bit of empathy for the other. In the story we read from Mark today, we see something similar, but completely different. It’s not about human beings learning to understand one another – it’s about seeing how God understands us. We are all beloved children – after all, Jesus calls even the older woman “Daughter” – and all get the love and care of Christ, whether or not we deserve it.

    So I don’t know what to tell you about how or why or when God answers prayers – I truly don’t. I know that sometimes they’re answered just as we would hope, sometimes that they’re answered in an unexpected way, and sometimes the answer is “no.” I know that, but I don’t know why.

    But the thing I do know for certain, and the thing I have no trouble sharing, is that God doesn’t play favorites. Instead, God expects us to actively engage – to show the faith these people have by actually living out our convictions in our lives. We should be willing to break down before Jesus and tell the whole truth. In doing that, we will be transformed; we will be healed – perhaps in the most unexpected of ways. Amen.

  • Come Join Us!

    Sunday Church Service: 9:30 am
    Adult Sunday School: 10:30am
    Wednesday Youth Service: 6:30 pm

    102 East 1st Street
    Marion, SD 57043
    Phone: (605) 648-3876
    Email: emmanuelpc@goldenwest.net
    close window