“Faith on the Other Side”

The following sermon was preached at the 10:00am Rite II and 6:00pm Rite I Eucharist services on July 1, 2018, being the Sixth Sunday after Pentecost, at the Episcopal Church of the Ascension in Lafayette, Louisiana.

Collect: Almighty God, You have built Your Church upon the foundation of the Apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone: Grant us so to be joined together in unity of spirit by their teaching, that we may be made a holy temple acceptable to You; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Readings: 2 Samuel 1.1, 17-27; Psalm 130; 2 Corinthians 8.7-15; Mark 5.21-43

Christ Healing the Hemorrhaging Woman

“Christ Healing the Hemorrhaging Woman”–Ivan Rutkovych (c. 1650s-c. 1708)

“Your faith has made you well.”—Mark 5.34

In the Name of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost. Amen.

Last Sunday’s Gospel[1] recounted Christ and His disciples on a boat amid a violent storm, Christ asleep in the stern, the disciples hysterically panicked. “Teacher, do You not care if we perish?” they cried. Seeing the winds cease and sea become still at Christ’s command, the disciples then asked, “Who…is this, that even wind and sea obey Him?”

God is the King of all creation. He stills life’s storms and hushes its violent waves.[2] We have no reason to fear because Jesus, who is “the [visible] image of the invisible God…in [whom] all things were created, in Heaven and on Earth,” (Colossians 1.15-16) delivers all who believe in Him from fear.[3] Instead of rushing to communicate our panic to Jesus, we should allow Jesus to communicate His calm to us.[4]

Unlike the disciples’ lack of faith last Sunday, faith today drives Jairus, a leader of the local synagogue, and the Hemorrhaging Woman to seek Jesus’ help. They are the conduits through which is reinforced the facts regarding who Jesus is and that He cares. Having great faith, the only thing she had left, the Hemorrhaging Woman “came up behind [Jesus] in a crowd and touched His garment…and…felt in her body that she was healed…” (Mark 5.27, 29) Because of Jairus’s trust in Jesus, his daughter got up from her “sleep” and walked. For them then and all now who put their trust in God, Jesus says, “Your faith has made you well. Go in peace and be healed of your disease.” (Mark 5.34)

This Good News is constant for “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” (Hebrews 13.8) And Jesus is God’s literal Body. Everything He does and speaks reveals who God is. In God “is the fountain of life; in [His] light…we see light.” (Psalm 36.9)

Though we did not read it, today’s First Lesson in Track Two from the Wisdom of Solomon (for us Anglicans, a book not part of the official Biblical Canon, but part of those we call the “Apocrypha,” which the Prayer Book teaches we “read for example of life and instruction of manners, but doth…not apply them to establish any doctrine”[5]) speaks of God’s intentions for us. It says that

“God did not make death and…does not delight in the death of the living. For He created all things that they might exist.

“God created man for incorruption and made him in the image of His own eternity, but through the devil’s envy death entered the world, and those who belong to his party experience it.” (Wisdom of Solomon 1.13-14, 2.23-24)

Sin is separation from God and “the wages of sin is death.” (Romans 6.23) One of the Collects in the Church’s Burial Office petitions God to “give us faith to see in death the gate of eternal life, so that in quiet confidence we may continue our course on Earth, until, by [His] call, we are reunited with those who have gone before.”[6] Nevertheless, death remains our mortal enemy. It will be for all of us the very last disease to overcome.

Hence, the healing of the Hemorrhaging Woman and the raising of Jairus’s daughter point to the eternal life that is for all who believe in Jesus that comes through His death and Resurrection. Had Jesus not come, keeping us separated from God, our lives would be a perpetual living Hell. But Jesus has come and twice in today’s Gospel puts Death on notice. Death will not have the final say. He delivered these two women from Death’s clutches and gave them new lives. In Jesus’ death and Resurrection is mercy and redemption from all iniquity[7] and Death’s defeat once and forever.

Though some of us may suffer from physical ailments, we are all broken people, carrying strains of “sin disease.” Sin distorts our relationship with God, other people, and our selves. But as the Hemorrhaging Woman and Jairus today show us, when we call and reach out to Christ in faith like we earlier heard the Psalmist shout, “Lord, hear my voice! Let Your ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications!” (Psalm 130.2) His redemptive call, “Little [one], I say to you, arise” (Mark 5.41) will bring us “to fulness of life in Him, who is the Head of all rule and authority.” (Colossians 2.10)

I’ve said many times before and will say again what a blessing it is to experience Christ’s healing and to touch Him through the Bread and Wine of the Eucharist. There is a line in the Prayer of Humble Access that was removed from our current Prayer Book that I wish had remained (some of you may remember it), wherein was prayed “that our sinful bodies may be made clean by His Body, and our souls washed through His most precious Blood.”[8] The Eucharist is the tangible sign that Jesus “is the expiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.” (1 John 2.2) In this blessed Sacrament is Jesus’ promise that all who believe in Him shall live forever.[9]

God is good and from His love comes all that is good for us. We have seen His goodness in His Son our Savior Jesus Christ, who came that we might “have life, and have it abundantly.” (John 10.10) He showed God’s care on the wood of the cross, entering in, conquering, and defeating Death’s dominion. Jesus’ Resurrection from death forever ensures that nothing, not sickness, nor death, nor anything in all creation will ever separate us from God’s redemptive healing. For all who call and reach out to Christ in faith, His words are Good News for all time: “Your faith has made you well; go in peace.” “Arise.” (Mark 5.34, 41)

I would like to close with the refrain of an old-time hymn, one of the good ol’ good ones.

He touched me, oh, He touched me

And, oh, the joy that floods my soul

Something happened and now I know

He touched me and made me whole.

In the Name of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost. Amen.

[1] Mark 4.35-41

[2] Psalm 107.29

[3] Hebrews 2.14-15

[4] The Interpreter’s Bible (Volume VII: New Testament Articles, Matthew, Mark) (Abingdon-Cokesbury Press, 1951), p. 710.

[5] #VI of the Articles of Religion, The Book of Common Prayer (1979), p. 868.

[6] “Burial of the Dead—Rite II,” The Book of Common Prayer (1979), p. 493.

[7] Psalm 130.7-8

[8] “The Order for the Administration of the Lord’s Supper or Holy Communion, The Book of Common Prayer (1928), p. 82.

[9] John 6.48-57

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