HOMILY & IDEAS

Wisdom 1:13-15, 2:23-24; 2 Cor 8:7, 9, 13-15; Shorter Form, Mk 5:21-24, 35b-43

Turning Over Stones

Here are some stones I have overturned to see what ideas are underneath. I hope you can grab hold of something, pull -- and discover that it has some homiletic roots for you.

I will use OPTION B in the Gospel choices this Sunday which only relates the Jairus Story.

Two things stand out for me in this Gospel passage, and luckily they are closely related -- and they preach!

The first thing that stands out for me is that although a slew of characters are mentioned in this story -- Jairus, Jesus, the crowds, the mourners, Peter, John, James, the wife of Jairus, and the daughter of Jairus -- there are three characters that I find particularly intriguing because they radiate the utterly UNpredictable, the plainly predictable and the ultimate risk-taker.

These characters are Jesus, the collective crowd/mourners and Jairus.

The second thing that stands out for me is the command of Jesus to Jairus -- Do not be afraid. Perhaps one would have chosen several other possible words than AFRAID; for example, how about distraught, sorrowful, upset, mournful, or crushed? Why would Jesus think that Jairus would be afraid?

Let me explain why these things stand out for me and how they might preach.

When Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a large crowd gathered around him, and he stayed close to the sea. One of the synagogue officials, named Jairus, came forward. Seeing him he fell at his feet and pleaded earnestly with him, saying -- My daughter is at the point of death. Please, come lay your hands on her that she may get well and live. He went off with him, and a large crowd followed him and pressed upon him.

The love that Jairus has for his daughter and the desire he has for her to be cured supersedes everything else in his life -- including his career, his social standing and his future.

Jairus was a man of great importance. He was a man worthy of respect. He was the ruler of the synagogue, its administrative head, and the chairman of the board of elders.

On the other hand, in the circles that Jairus traveled Jesus had been spoken of as dangerous -- a blasphemer, a rebel, a heretic, a sabbath breaker, a troublemaker, a dissident. However, what they did not openly talk about was the undeniable fact that Jesus exercised power -- extraordinary power -- perhaps divine power.

And, this is exactly what Jairus is thinking about now; for his daughter is dying and he is desperate.

How much is Jairus willing to risk to save his daughter from death? Everything. This respected and powerful man prostrates himself at the feet of Jesus and cries out for help.

The large crowd is not necessarily following and pressing upon Jesus and Jairus because they anticipate a bona fide miracle to occur; but because they have just witnessed one of the most powerful men in their town lay everything on the line out of love and desperation and news of this spreads like wildfire. The reaction of the crowd is predictable -- they follow, they are intrigued.

While he was still speaking, people from the house of Jairus arrived and said -- Your daughter has died; why trouble the teacher any longer? Disregarding the message that was reported, Jesus said to the synagogue official -- Do not be afraid; just have faith. He did not allow anyone to accompany him inside except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James.

Evidentially, these people from the synagogue could use some brushing up in Pastoral Counseling 101. The delivery of their news is a bit severe and to the point.

Nevertheless, Jesus disregards this message and tells Jairus to not be afraid and to just have faith. Why does Jesus tell Jairus to not be afraid? Because in addition to hearing the four most devastating words he has ever heard -- Your daughter has died -- Jesus knows that through groveling for his healing power Jairus feels that he has lost everything. The future of his daughter is gone as well as his own future.

Further, these words from Jesus would have been unexpected. Jairus had heard that Jesus can heal -- that Jesus can cure -- and Jairus was in a race against time. He risked everything and lost; after all, dead girls are not brought back to life in the world that he lives in.

When they arrived at the house of the synagogue official, he caught sight of a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. So he went in and said to them -- Why this commotion and weeping? The child is not dead but asleep. And they ridiculed him.

Again, Jesus is radically unpredictable. His question and statement sounds completely absurd to its hearers. The reaction of the mourners is predictable and if I were there perhaps I might have joined them. How would you feel if someone walked into your home after you have lost a loved one saying -- Why this commotion and weeping? How would you feel if someone said to you -- Your loved one is not dead but asleep -- after you have watched that person draw their last breath and turn blue?

Then he put them all out. He took along the child's father and mother and those who were with him and entered the room where the child was. He took the child by the hand and said to her -- Talitha koum, which means: Little girl, I say to you, arise! The girl, a child of twelve, arose immediately and walked around. At that they were utterly astounded. He gave strict orders that no one should know this and said that she should be given something to eat.

Jairus has nothing left to lose -- and nothing more to risk. With his wife he accompanies Jesus repeating in his head the words -- Do not be afraid; just have faith. Do not be afraid; just have faith . . .

And in the most radical, most unpredictable moment in the ministry of Jesus thus far, a young girl is brought back to life with the words -- Little girl, I say to you, arise!

What a magnificent story. How does it preach?

HOMILY: Like Jairus, sometimes we seem to wait too long to ask Jesus for his help. How many doctors, exorcists, or remedies had Jairus tried first? Perhaps many. Like Jairus, sometimes a major crisis is required before we break through the restraints of apathy, fear, or pride and ask Jesus for help; and even then sometimes we feel it is too late!

Sometimes we are like the crowds and mourners who accept a world that appears absent of the power of God -- a power that can turn predictability and logic on its head. We forget that nothing is impossible with God -- and this story proves that point.

Sometimes we need to hear the beautiful and simple words of Jesus repeat in our heads -- Do not be afraid; just have faith -- and trust that it is never too late to call upon the help of Jesus -- even when it looks as if GAME IS OVER is flashing in luminous letters ten foot high.

Your daughter is dead -- is defeated by -- Talitha koum!

How soon will we risk? How much will we risk? How will our belief in the power of God help us to suspend what seems FIXED in our lives? When will we let the words -- Be not afraid; just have faith -- sing in our minds and hearts?

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