- Parish House
Sermon for the Sixth Sunday after Pentecost – Mark 5:21-43
The Rev. Hannah Hooker
Good morning! I just can’t tell you how thrilled I am to be here with all of you. When people ask, I always say that the very best part of being a priest is the people I serve, and I’m so excited to meet and get to know each and every one of you. Many of you may have read the blurbs about me in your newsletter or on Facebook, and we have plenty of time to get to know one another, so I won’t bore you with too much biographical info this morning. But I would like to say a few things about myself as a priest, a pastor, and a preacher.
First, I love to worship, and it is both an honor and a pleasure for me to preside over liturgies for God’s people. I may be only a few years into my ordained ministry, but so far, consecrating the Eucharist on behalf of the people never seems to get old. Secondly, I love to tell stories. Most of my sermons will have personal anecdotes or experiences from my own life as illustrations of the Gospel. And thirdly, one of the places that I find the Holy Spirit most vividly at work in our lives is in our lectionary.
In the past couple of weeks, we have all been overwhelmed with stories of children being separated from their parents at our nation’s southern border, and lo and behold, this morning, our Gospel presents us with a story about a reunion between child and parents. There’s no coincidence here. At first glance, I was thrilled to see this story pop up because I am craving guidance about this border crisis. I’m horrified to think about what those children and parents are going through, but I have no idea what to do about it, or if there’s anything I can or should do about it. So I read this morning’s Gospel passage feverishly, looking for clues.
In so many stories about Jesus preaching and teaching and healing, the crowd of onlookers play an important role in the narrative. Unfortunately, this does not seem to be one of those stories. Jairus, a leader in the synagogue hunts down Christ because his daughter is very ill. Jesus follows him home but when they arrive, the folks in the house announce that the girl has already died. Jesus casts aside their sadness and certainty and with just a few words returns the girl to life and health. And throughout the whole ordeal, all the crowd seems to do is follow behind weeping and wailing.
This Gospel passage puts us face to face with one of the hardest parts of our relationship with scripture: how does this story relate to me? If I haven’t lost a child or been separated from my parents, what’s my role in this story? We have the same struggle as members of a global society: if I don’t live in a border state or have any friends or loved ones who are immigrants, what is my role in our nation’s current crisis? So often, in scripture and in our lives, we’re the crowd, the bystanders, so what does the Gospel have to say to us?
In the midst of all the weeping and wailing that the crowd was doing, what stood out to me most in this passage was Christ’s declaration to Jairus after the man learned that his daughter had died: “Do not fear, but believe.” Growing up, I always heard that the opposite of fear is love. I’m not supposed to hate or fear my enemies or the things and people I don’t understand, I’m supposed to love them. But here, Jesus is just asking Jairus (and us) to believe. I imagine that Jairus’ brain and heart were telling him that the world had ended and everything was hopeless. I imagine this because, when faced with devastating loss in my own life, that has been one my response.
When things are horrible beyond our understanding, that’s where we all usually end up: utter hopelessness. Lately, we’ve seen pictures of frightened children who are surrounded by giants in uniforms. No one speaks their language and they can’t find their parents. And then we’ve read 37 conflicting headlines about what that picture means in terms of politics and money and safety. Then, in a fit, we give up on trying to comprehend what is happening and what to do about it, and we turn off the TV or shut the computer or put our phone or the newspaper down and we turn back to the safety and comfort of our own home with our own family in our own world.
I say “we”, but in all fairness, I can only confirm that it’s me. I do that. But then this morning, Jesus says, Hannah, don’t do that. Don’t give up. Don’t give in to fear. Don’t shut down. Believe that God is at work. Believe that there can be answers. Believe that you have a role to play. Believe that there is work to be done. And Christ says all this in one of my favorite phrases in all of scripture, because it’s what my dad said to me at 7:00 a.m. every morning of middle school, “little girl, get up!”
This is the journey that you and I have been called by God to go on together. In the midst of the crazy world we live in, instead of being a weeping, wailing crowd, we will work together to overcome our fear by believing in God’s presence and God’s work in the world. We’re going to get up together to face each day. We’re going to show our friends and families and this town that the Spirit is alive and that in the face of pain and suffering anywhere in the world, we will continue to believe.