GUEST POST – A Sermon Preached at the ACK St. James Buruburu during the Holy Communion Service in the first service
Lectionary Readings (Holy Communion):
- Psalm 130
- 2 Samuel 1:1, 17-27
- 2 Corinthians 8:7-24 (Not referred to)
- Mark 5:21-43
Once upon a time, phrases such as claiming and receiving, naming and getting, believing and receiving were very common among the radical Christians who believed in miracles. Today, we talk of miracles as if they are just references from historical books. Of course there are ‘miracles’ taking place in the form of answered prayers for those who pray and trusted in God. BUT what about the “extraordinary” miracles? For example: is praying for someone to get a job an answered prayer and commanding an aeroplane which had taking off, leaving you behind to return and pick you up an extraordinary miracle? What is the problem today? Probably, is it because the humanistic theology seems to be taking an upper hand? Humanity seems to believe in man’s personal creativity and ability rather than miracles through faith. The technological advancement also appears to be replacing or have replaced belief in miracles. In some cases, even miracles are reduced to coincidences.
From today’s lectionary readings, we are being challenged to regain our belief in God’s working of miracles. Believing and Receiving – Breaking Forth Through Faith points us to three crucial steps to receiving God’s miracle:
- The Desperation Point – Calling for God’s Intervention
Sometimes life will push us to situations which are beyond human intervention. We will find ourselves in desperation; desperation for God’s intervention.
Desperation is a place of:
- Dead end – where there is no way out
- Being cornered by problems which are beyond human ability to solve
- Helplessness – where everything have been tried but nothing seems to work, until we have run out of options.
Our responses towards our debilitating circumstances are diverse:
- For Jairus
Mark 5:23b, 35 “…My little daughter is dying…” 35 While Jesus was still speaking, some men came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue ruler. “Your daughter is dead,” they said. “Why bother the teacher any more?”
For Jairus, his response was being in a state of despair for he had reached a dead end.
- For the woman who had bled for twelve years
Mark 5:25-26 “25 And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. 26 She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse.”
For the woman, it was attempting something out of the ordinary – they say: “desperate times call for desperate measures”. Nobody had ever touched the clothes of Jesus except this woman.
- For the Psalmist
The Psalmist gives the picture and a cry for desperation:
Psalm 130:1-2 “1 Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD; 2 O Lord, hear my voice. Let your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy.”
In their desperation, they responded by crying out to God.
- Believing in God’s Divine Intervention
Believing God in the midst of turmoil can be a hard thing, believing even when all hope is gone; believing even if there is no any ray of hope; believing even if there are no options can be a tall order!
The King David’s lament confronts us with this hard reality:
2 Samuel 1:1, 17, 19-24 “1After the death of Saul, David returned from defeating the Amalekites and stayed in Ziklag two days… 17 David took up this lament concerning Saul and his son Jonathan… 19 “Your glory, O Israel, lies slain on your heights. How the mighty have fallen! 20 “Tell it not in Gath, proclaim it not in the streets of Ashkelon, lest the daughters of the Philistines be glad, lest the daughters of the uncircumcised rejoice. 21 “O mountains of Gilboa, may you have neither dew nor rain, nor fields that yield offerings of grain. For there the shield of the mighty was defiled, the shield of Saul—no longer rubbed with oil. 22 From the blood of the slain, from the flesh of the mighty, the bow of Jonathan did not turn back, the sword of Saul did not return unsatisfied. 23 “Saul and Jonathan— in life they were loved and gracious, and in death they were not parted. They were swifter than eagles, they were stronger than lions. 24 “O daughters of Israel, weep for Saul, who clothed you in scarlet and finery, who adorned your garments with ornaments of gold.”
For David, the death of King Saul and his son Jonathan had landed Israel into a deep ditch; darkness hanged over the Israelites without a king:
2 Samuel 1:19, 24 “Your glory, O Israel, lies slain on your heights. How the mighty have fallen! 24 “O daughters of Israel, weep for Saul, who clothed you in scarlet and finery, who adorned your garments with ornaments of gold.”
However, for the Psalmist, there is hope in believing in God’s Divine Intervention:
Psalm 13:3-8 “3 If you, O LORD, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand? 4 But with you there is forgiveness; therefore you are feared. 5 I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I put my hope. 6 My soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning. 7 O Israel, put your hope in the LORD, for with the LORD is unfailing love and with him is full redemption. 8 He himself will redeem Israel from all their sins.”
- Receiving God’s Intervention Through Faith
God’s intervention can only be received through faith. One must take a step of faith to approach God for His intervention and working of a miracle.
Faith only becomes active faith when it is exercised. Believing in God calls for exercising an active faith.
James 2:17-19 “17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. 18 But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do. 19 You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that —and shudder.”
Jairus, the synagogue ruler and the woman who had been bleeding, took a step of faith, believing that Jesus can intervene in their situations and perform a miracle:
For Jairus, Mark tells us that:
Mark 5:22-24 “22 Then one of the synagogue rulers, named Jairus, came there. Seeing Jesus, he fell at his feet 23 and pleaded earnestly with him, “My little daughter is dying. Please come and put your hands on her so that she will be healed and live.” 24 So Jesus went with him.”
Jairus, had faith that when Jesus would lay His hands on his daughter, his daughter will be healed and will live. Where is such kind of faith today? Do we believe that by faith when the pastor prays for our sick they will be healed or prayer has been reduced to just a formality and a ritual BUT without believing and without faith?
Example: As we went around serving the sick and the elderly in their homes with the Holy Communion, one parishioner was so excited to see me and kept thanking God for answering her prayers. For she confessed that she had prayed that I might be the one assigned to visit her house to serve her communion and pray with her. She kept repeating this her amazement and confirming with her lady friend whom we found with her: “this is the pastor I had told you that I was praying to God that he might come to my house today, because I have faith that if he prays for me, God will hear and I will be healed”. I was so touched and felt very inadequate indeed.
Friends, for the woman who had bled for twelve years, Mark tells us that:
Mark 5:27-29 “27 When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, 28 because she thought, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.” 29 Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering.”
The woman interrupted the journey to Jairus’ house through faith. She had heard about Jesus and through faith, believing that if she just touched Jesus’ clothes she would be healed. She did not even want Jesus to notice her presence nor to lay hands on her, but just to touch His clothes. Indeed, according to her faith and belief in Christ’s healing power, she received her healing. How many would have such faith that even if Jesus doesn’t pray for me but I just come into contact with Him, I will be sorted out of my predicaments? How many today, would have such faith that if I shake the pastor’s hand on my way of the church service, my need will be met? Where is such faith today?
Example: In my years of ministry, I have only heard of such a testimony once. I was preaching in a crusade in Malindi when the following day, a lady came to give a testimony in the crusade that as I prayed for various needs during the altar-call, she decided to go and touch my car believing that God will answer by giving her husband a job because he has been without a job for many years. Indeed she was thanking God that her husband finally got a job.
Friends, “Believing and Receiving – Breaking Forth Through Faith” is very much possible by “Believing in God’s intervention through Faith”.
The Psalmist wrote at a time of the Babylonian exile; when the Israelites were like in a deep ditch. Yet, he encouraged the Israelites that God is still their redeemer and saviour. Israel’s king Saul died but David had faith in God’s Divine Intervention through faith.
God is still in the duty of performing miracles. Today, we are being called to rediscover the simple faith of Jairus and the woman who had bled for twelve years. These were simple and ordinary people with an unadulterated / pure faith; just believing that God can intervene in their desperate situations if they took a step of faith.
5th Sunday After Trinity, 2018
The Rev. Simon J. Oriedo
Curate – ACK St. James Parish – Buruburu