This was the message I gave at Pleasant Grove United Methodist Church for the 5th Sunday after Pentecost, 29 June 1997. The Scriptures for this Sunday were 2 Samuel 1: 1, 17 – 27; 2 Corinthians 8: 7 – 15, and Mark 5: 21 – 43.
It is during this week that the willingness of individual to give of themselves is probably more evident than any other time of the year. For it was this week some two hundred and twenty one years ago that fifty men put their signatures to the Declaration of Independence. Not all of them signed with the flourish that John Hancock did but sign it they did. And as each man signed this most important document in our country’s history, they knew that if the Revolution was a failure, that what they were signing was not a Declaration of Independence but rather their death warrant. For if the Revolution failed, the British would hunt each of the individuals down and hang them for treason.
In the reading from the Old Testament, David laments the death of Saul and Jonathan. He does so not because of who they are but for what they were doing at the time of their deaths. After all, Saul had been trying to kill David prior to the battle in which he lost his live but David knew that Saul’s death was a blow to the country. And that made the loss of Jonathan every more of a blow because of he was like a brother to David.
This week, we celebrate our country’s independence, but today we celebrate our independence, our freedom from sin. But to do that, we must first enter a new relationship with Christ.
It is not what you are nor what you have been that God sees with his all-merciful eyes, but what you desire to be. St. Gregory declares that
“all holy desires heighten in intensity with the delay of fulfillment, and desire which fades with delay was never holy desire at all.” For if you experience less and less joy when you discover anew the sudden presence of great desires you had formerly pursued, your first desire was not holy desire. Possibly you felt a natural tendency toward the good but this should not be confused with holy desire. St. Augustine explains what I mean by holy desire when he says that “the entire life of a good Christian is nothing less than holy desire.” (The Cloud of Unknowing)
That is the step that Jarius had to take. As Jarius was the leader of the local synagogue, he knew that what he was about to, seek out Jesus and ask Jesus to save his daughter, could possibly lead to his disgrace in the community. But he also knew that the only hope for his daughter lie with Jesus and, knowing that this act could lead to further difficulties for him in society, he still came to Jesus.
The saving grace of Jesus is there for everyone but it requires that everyone make some sort of step towards overcoming the barriers that they have put up. And Jesus also showed that he would put up no barriers.
While Jesus is with Jarius, a woman comes up from behind to touch his robe. For this woman, coming to Jesus represents her last hope. Because of her twelve-year illness, this woman has been effectively banished from society. Deemed unclean, no one can help her and she has nowhere to turn to. She cannot even go to the synagogue to pray for help because, as an unclean person, she is not allowed to enter. She has nowhere else to turn to when she makes the decision to come to Christ.
Jesus’ reaction to the woman touching his robe shocked his disciples because they did not yet understand how much Jesus knows about each one of us. That woman was lost to society and yet Jesus knew she was there and he stopped everything he was doing to find her. Jesus gives us his all, as Paul wrote to the Corinthians.
It was not Jarius’ position as the leader of the synagogue which saved his daughter but rather his faith. Not everyone believed as Jarius did. When Jesus, Jarius, and the three disciples came to Jarius house, friends came to say that Jarius’ daughter was dead. All Jesus said was to keep the faith and all would turn out okay. His friends just laughed at this suggestion.
Only when he came to Jesus was he able to achieve what he was seeking. Jesus did not look at the woman’s illness or her standing in the community as a barrier to her being saved either.
And that is the same with us today. If we choose to look upon our lives in terms of what we now have, we will gain nothing. But if we give up such things and allow Jesus to come into our hearts, then we will hear Jesus say to us, just as he said to Jarius and the women, “Go in peace”, knowing that we are saved.
All week long, as I have worked on this sermon, I have thought of a song which has the words, “What can I give him?” This is a song which I have sung around Christmas time and it, as I recall, is the dilemma of what to the give the new born Jesus. The three wise men gave gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh because they were gifts appropriate for a new-born King.
But for us today, all Jesus is asking is that we give wholly and freely of ourselves. As Paul writes in the beginning of the Epistle today
But just as you excel in everything, in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in our love for us — see that you also excel in this grace of giving.
Such giving knows no boundaries, is not limited by who you are or what you do yet is offers unlimited rewards.