St. John's Episcopal Church

Sermon for July 1, 2018

The Sixth Sunday after Pentecost

The Rev. Carol Hancock


St. John's, Centreville
July 1, 2018
Mark 5:21-43
Proper 8 B
     God of new beginnings, meet us where we are on our journey, imperfect as we are, and use us in ways we cannot imagine to make a difference in the world for you; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
     In the many preaching classes I have taken over the years, the instructors say, "Preach what is on your heart. If it speaks to you, it will speak to others." So that is what I am doing this morning - preaching what is on my heart.
     These past few weeks have been rather unsettling for me, and perhaps for you as well. I have felt overwhelmed and helpless by what has been going on in our world and, more especially, in our country. I have been very upset at seeing children separated from their parents at the Mexican border.  I have been outraged when hearing public officials say that immigrants are "infesting" our country with criminals and drug smugglers, implying that all immigrants from Mexico are less than human.
      I know the issue of immigration is a very complicated one and there are no easy answers. I certainly don't have the answer. And I am sure there are as many opinions as to how to handle immigration as there are people in this church. And that's okay. But it's not just the immigration issue that bothers me. It's how we seem to have lost respect for each other and that if someone thinks differently than we do, we attack them personally, or we use guns to settle our problems, as we saw in Annapolis this week.
     What has happened to our compassion? What has happened to our moral values and the way we treat each other? What has happened to our civility? What has happened to our baptismal covenant when it calls us to respect the dignity of every human being? It seems day after day, we are bombarded with name calling of those who disagree with us, like the school yard bully. We now seem to have more shootings and mass killings. I don't know about you, but I feel weak and powerless. I don't know how to stop this country from descending into moral chaos, with few or no values to guide our behavior. I don't know what I can do, other than vote my conscience, make my voice heard, and do what I think God wants me to do.
     It's not a matter of us all agreeing on various social issues. We will never all agree on everything. I think listening to different opinions and perspectives is good. But we can still be respectful of those we disagree with and we can still love each other. We don't have to call each other names and dehumanize others. That's what bothers me. We put people in categories and then label them and see them as less than human. When we attack someone personally, we move the focus from the issue to the person. We can still have compassion for those who are hurting, those who need our help. We can take the moral high ground and not give in to making personal attacks - because we should be better than that. As children of God, we are better than that.
     In our gospel lesson this morning, we have two stories of healing - the healing of Jairus' daughter and the healing of the woman with the hemorrhage. Both are weak. Both are powerless in their situations. Both need help. They could not heal themselves. One had tried every doctor she could and nothing helped. She was incurable. The little girl had died, his servants told Jairus. Even as one of the leaders in the synagogue, he could not save her.
     They could not heal themselves. They needed Jesus, and the child's father Jairus and the woman with the hemorrhage, knew that. They both went to seek Jesus out - to find him and get his help - Jairus asking Jesus to come and heal his daughter, and the woman with the hemorrhage just wanting to touch his cloak. Both found Jesus and they were both healed.
     The important point, I think, is not that they were healed but that they knew they needed Jesus. They needed the power of his love, his compassion, his presence.
     And that's what we need to realize  - that we need Jesus as well - his love, his compassion, his presence. But the thing is - we already have it. We just have to realize it. Jesus calls us to love one another as God loves us. Why do you think God put the commandments to love as the first two of the Ten Commandments - love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and mind; and love your neighbor as yourself. There is power in God's love and God calls us to use it.
     The late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., once said, "We must discover the power of love, the redemptive power of love. And when we discover that, we will be able to make of this old world, a new world. Love is the only way."
     Love is the only way. Our Presiding Bishop Michael Curry had this to say at the royal wedding about the power of love: "Love the neighbor you like and the neighbor you don't like. Love the neighbor you agree with and the neighbor you don't agree with. Love your Democrat neighbor. Love your Republican neighbor, your black neighbor, your white neighbor, your Latino neighbor, your LGBTQ neighbor. Love your neighbor. THAT'S WHY WE ARE HERE!"
     When we live into the power of love, God can use us, especially when we are feeling weak and inadequate and powerless. Because then we are not relying on ourselves and our skills and puffing ourselves up with a "look what I've done" attitude. God uses us especially in our weakness because we are more open to God and what God wants us to do. When we are feeling inadequate, we know that we can't do anything on our own. We must have faith and trust in God to lead us and guide us and to act in ways that are faithful to the gospel.
    The 19th century Quaker author, Hannah Whitall Smith, writes of a visit she made to a school for developmentally disabled children.  There she saw a group of children being led through a series of exercises using weights.  She noticed how difficult it was for most of the children to manage their movements, and saw that for the most part, they were out of step with the music and the teacher's directions. "All was out of harmony," she reported.  "One little girl, however....made perfect movements.  Not a jar or a break disturbed the harmony of her exercises.  And the reason was not that she had more strength than the others, but that she had no strength at all.  She could not so much as close her hands on the dumbbells, nor lift her arms, and the master had to stand behind her, and do it all.  She yielded up her members as instruments to him, and his 'strength was made perfect' in her weakness.  He knew how to go through those exercises, for he himself had planned them; and therefore when he did it, it was done right.  She did nothing but yield herself up utterly into his hands, and he did it all. The yielding was her part; the responsibility was all his.  It was not her skill that was needed to make harmonious movements, but only his.  The question was not of her capacity, but of his.  Her utter weakness was her greatest strength."
     "To me," she concludes, "this is a very striking picture of our Christian life, and it is no wonder therefore that Paul could say, 'Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me'" (The Christian's Secret of a Happy Life, p.191).
      Have compassion. Show mercy. See each and every person as a child of God. Pray. Live into the power of love. With God there is hope. With love there is hope for a better world. For then, and only then, can we change the world. Amen.
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