Sermon preached by Archdeacon Trevor Harrison at the Midnight Mass of the Nativity 25 December 2019 It’s a marvellous, wonderful,... read more
Selected readings: Lamentations 3:22-33 & Mark 5:21-43
Sunday 28th June 2015
The readings this morning are somehow disturbing and well reflected in the title of our O.T. reading this morning which is called “Lamentations”.
The book of Laments has primarily to do about Jerusalem being sacked, the people taken into captivity into faraway Babylon, how they dreamed about their lost land, their temple the place of worship where they had a sense of closeness to God, now destroyed. Their feelings truly reflected in Psalm 137 “By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion”.
It’s called ‘Heimweh’, homesick, also mingled with regret at not having faithfully followed the Lord, wondering if they will now be estranged from God for ever.
The collection of writings in the book of Laments reflects the time they were allowed to go back to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple and the city, and when the first flush of refugees came back and saw the ruin, rubble everywhere. How were they ever going to rebuild the temple and the city, how could they make a new start?
The Gospel reading maybe even more disturbing, Jairus the Synagogue ruler, a very important and influential position, his daughter is very sick. The priests and the Sanhedrin are mostly negatively disposed towards Jesus and his followers. What was he to do, stay in good standing with them all, or risk it all and try to save his beloved daughter, he hopes against hope that she would recover, then finally makes his way to see Jesus.
Something like that hits home much harder, it’s something that we hear and see and touch in our own life experiences. We all remember Carrie, she was about the same age, and more recently Gabby Devine both so tragically taken by this dreadful disease called Cancer .
And we wonder, we reflect on tragedies that we have experienced, maybe not the loss of a child. There are all sorts of tragic losses. One’s health, accidentally or severe illness, or the loss of a home through fire flood or earthquake.
In the Gospel reading there is yet another person struggling with her own tragedy. Her illness took all her life energy away we don’t know if she had a family or not, the Bible is silent on that. Her affliction not only robbed her of an enjoyable life. A life she may have dreamed of as a child, it took all her money to no avail, and because of the social stigma that proclaimed her unclean made her an outcast on top of that. She shouldn’t be in the crowd she certainly should not have touched Jesus, because of what society had decreed. You can imagine how she felt as Jesus turned around having noticed, and those many people’s eyes on her, maybe with angry looks when they recognised who she was. But Jesus has gentle eyes and a gentle way dealing with her all the while no doubt Jairus impatient to get Jesus to see his little girl, impatient at the hold up and yet filled with a surge of new hope at perceiving this latest miraculous healing. And then the worst news from his home, his beloved daughter is dead. Dead. No it can’t be, and somehow on autopilot makes his way home, a shattered father.
Things are not always rosy and easy in life, even in the Bible accounts we have the stoning of Stephen, and several crucifixions, the beheading of John the Baptist. And history tells us that men and women were burned at the stake for their faith. Simply because they did not fit the stereotype that society had set.
When we have a closer look at the book of laments, the middle section of the book, that’s the section from which today’s reading came from.
In the middle of the book, the theology of lamentations reaches its apex as it focuses on the goodness of God. He is the God of hope, the God of love, of faithfulness, the God of salvation. In spite of all evidence to the contrary, ‘His Compassion Never Fails’. They are new every morning; great is thy faithfulness. And this reminds me of this lovely compline prayer:
In your mercy, Lord,
dispel the darkness of this night.
Let your household sleep in peace
so that at the dawn of a new day
they may, with joy, waken in your name.
Through Christ our Lord,
Thus we pray, we live, and through life experience grow ever closer to God, and yet still wonder how and why.
My own experience of Kathi’s ill health with a baby then toddler and then young child, Kathi twice nearly died and the despair I experienced at times wondering why and where was God. At times not even able to pray anymore. And Kathi having to experience those moments in her own way, with fears and hope. Peter was a child growing up knowing his way around hospital corridors and relating to nurses and Dr’s. , experiencing it through the eyes of a child.
Where was God, was he absent? There certainly were times when I felt like that. Somehow we found blessings through those many good and faithful friends, helping where they could, sensing our needs and giving us the support we needed, needs that sometimes I didn’t even realise I had. One of them was their prayer support, and helping me to find words again to formulate into prayers, and of course the practical support,
And this brings to mind the words of Jesus:
For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in,I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me. ’“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you?When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you? ’“The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’
On the most basic level the middle episode allows time for Jesus to go with Jairus part of the way to his house. On a deeper level the first healing prepares the way for the more spectacular wonder-and in fact both stories point to the resurrection of Jesus and his sovereignty over sin and death.
Let us not grow weary of trusting God, allowing us to be channels of God’s love, supporting one another, measuring success not in worldly ways, but by trusting God in all that we are and becoming through his Grace.