Finest Worksong

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

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

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?”But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the leader of the synagogue, “Do not fear, only believe.” He allowed no one to follow him except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James. When they came to the house of the leader of the synagogue, he saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. When he had entered, he said to them, “Why do you make a commotion and weep? The child is not dead but sleeping.” 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. He took her by the hand and said to her, “Talitha cum,” which means, “Little girl, get up!” And immediately the girl got up and began to walk about (she was twelve years of age). At this they were overcome with amazement. He strictly ordered them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat.  Mark 5:21-43

Death. Have you found yourself in a situation where you prayed for death? The odds are stacked against you. You are faced with something beyond your ability, beyond your understanding. You do not have the words to ask for help.

I resonate with the kind of despair that leads one to pray for death. Death is a heavy thing. Death is filled with so many questions. Death has far more questions than answers. Doesn’t hearing the word, Death, from the pulpit make your skin crawl?

Yet death is what we have been dealt. Death along with life itself is the common denominator to all of creation. All of creation is born, lives, and then dies. Death will not go away nor will it forget to call your name.

Death is not a pretty thing. Death is a certain finalization of this life we know here on earth. When you die family, friends, and colleagues will surly experience loss. Death will leave its mark on families, communities, and nations. Imagine if 1963 and 1968 had not witnessed just three deaths. What would have come of this nation if King and Kennedy’s had lived to lead and inspire.

Death has little to no morals and is essential devoid of ethics. Death is the rain that falls upon the just and unjust as surely as money buys political clout. Death is also the last frontier. Death is the last and final experience to which you get to have.

I used to fear death. In a history class in college the material we were discussing inspired thoughts of death and fear. I got frightened and began to sweat. My fears dropped down my brow on to the desk I was sitting in I got up and never returned to class.

In seminary I had trouble falling asleep. I wrestled with my mortal coil at night and rarely went to sleep. I passed out in exhaustion. Exhausted from the struggle, as I sought to exert control over my finitude.

I encountered no theology that would deliver comfort from this. I prayed to God for answers. I called out to Jesus for relief. Every night I lay my head to pillow I would say, “Jesus how do I know you are real? Jesus, please help me. Lord, if I die I pray you take my soul tonight.” The fires of hell tormented me. The ravages of sin confronted my woes and delivered me further in to restlessness. Where art thou comfort? Where art thy peace?

I hold on to Jesus’ words from todays Gospel, “Do not fear, only believe…The child is not dead but sleeping.” Too often we are the bystanders to death and are paralyzed with fear. Death clouds our minds and hearts with its intoxicating allure. We fixate on Death. We fear death.

Death is in the hearts of many gathered this week in Pittsburgh for General Assembly. The PC (USA) has lost over half a million members in the last 10-15 years. It seems like everything we have know or have tried is not working.

It is liberal theology that is killing the church. It is conservative theology that is killing the church. There is all kinds of finger pointing going on with little to no responsibility taken.

What would happen if we listened to Jesus? “Do not fear, only believe…The church is not dead but sleeping.” We have to remember that the church is Jesus’.

The success, the failure, the accolades that this church experiences or that any church experiences is up to God. We are actors in the play at best. You or I do not grow a church. You and I live in to our faith and seek to become disciples of the Christ as we pray together, study scripture together, serve the community together, and humbly walk with the Lord our God.

“Do not fear, only believe…The church is not dead but sleeping.” Jesus is calling for us to awaken and get up. Jesus is trying to feed us.

We are a community of faith and belief. We study scripture and pray together so that we may develop our beliefs. Our beliefs are the stuff that allows us to communicate to others what it is that we believe in, stand for, or stand against. Our beliefs help us to wrestle with faith and those nights in which death seems a much more pleasant alternative.

Our faith is an entirely different matter. Our faith moves us out of the pray for death moments and in to new hope. Our faith allows for us to live in mystery and trust that Gods abundance is present. It is our faith that moves us to pray with our hearts as tears flow down our cheeks. Faith is the stuff miracles are made and belief is the stuff that prepares us for faith.

For the last six or seven years I have declared myself eligible for the NBA draft. I know right, when you look at me I do not scream power forward or even point guard. In fact, I may be the world’s worst basketball player.

It all started in seminary. I played a couple of pick-up games with fellow students. They were good. I was not. I quit playing almost as soon as I started. I had the natural, raw talent of a circus elephant out on the court.

I went to my room after a game and thought, “would it be funny if I declared myself eligible for the draft.” I found an address and some kind of form. I downloaded the form and filled it out then sent it away.

I did not get any response the first year. I did not ever get a response. Every year I filled out the form and sent it away. One year I thought about finding a middle school with shorter rims, so I could go there and film myself owning the court and send it in with my application. By the grace of God I did not find the school nor did I film myself. Therefore, I am employable today.

Declaring myself available for the draft was my little joke. I knew I was never going to be drafted by any team. God help them if any team did draft me. I was never talented in that way. I also had no desire to play professional basketball.

To get to the NBA you must have a set of natural skills and a will to commit to playing. Then you must practice and practice. The same can be said for any professional athlete. To achieve success in professional sports one must practice daily. The same is true for ones faith.

You must exercise your faith in order to be successful at it. Faith is not something that you just do. Faith is a continuous process of learning, trusting, and building in relationship with God. God starts us off small and we work our way to more and more faith.

We need to get back to a corporate faith built upon the daily task of belief building. “Do not fear, only believe…The church is not dead but sleeping.” We are not dead but sleeping.

We are called to pray.

We are called to study the word.

We are called to serve others.

I know I have room to grow in all of these areas. I may not be dead but I got sleep still in my eyes and I am groggy from that long nap I just had. “Do not fear, only believe…The church is not dead but sleeping.” It is time to get up out of bed, stop hitting snooze, and get to work.

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