Wow, you go away for a couple of weeks and a lot of things happen.
We were in Yellowstone and the signal is a little iffy so I pretty much shut the phone off after we left Mammoth Hot Springs and went touring through the park and so it was with much consternation that I came back to Mammoth and found that someone had once again shot up a black church and that the media word was once again at odds over what it all meant.
We were on our way to see Debbie’s relatives in Montana when the Supreme court made a decision on the Affordable Care Act and again the world online and over the airwaves was fraught with commentary both for and against this development, this charting of a course toward the future.
We were driving back to the airport on Bozeman when we heard on the radio that the Supreme court had ruled on Same sex marriage and while we heard cheers coming from many quarters, both on the radio and from our own imaginations, we knew that somewhere there was genuine consternation over the decision, over this new direction we would be taking as a nation.
Hey, I was only gone twelve days. Imagine what might have happened if I was away for a month?
One thing is for sure though. I missed the opportunity to, in the aftermath of the shooting, to bring the word of Christ into that moment, to allow the power of His name to move through and among you, among us all. I missed the chance to celebrate with some and mourn with others the court’s decisions, to greet the new day dawning as a member of the Body of Christ and to bring His love into every minute of that new day.
That is what we are here for, after all.
Not to bend the world to our will but to greet the world with His will, with His word on our lips and in our hearts. This is not to say that we are not to change the world, simply that our power is manifested differently; our methods are not those of the world.
Actually it should frighten us a little if our methods look too much like the world’s.
But entering into these moments, these turning points in human society armed with the love of God, armored in our faith by the scriptures we cannot turn aside from those who mourn this day, this hour or change and turmoil, of having their world turned upside down.
Ours is a ministry of reconciliation. Ours is the voice of Christ, not parsing the worthiness of the suffering, not presenting each with a questionnaire concerning the relative merits of their pleas for relief, merely healing, simply showing forth the love of God in every situation.
It should come as no surprise that the young man who committed the horrifying, racist attack on a Bible Study class in Charleston has a mother and a father, a family and people who knew him the day before he became the poster child for horror and murder and inhumanity.
Maybe they taught him to think the way he did. Maybe they are as surprised as we are. He is their son, though and they probably love him and are lost amidst the cries for his life, the statements that he is an “animal” and a “monster.”
And nine people are dead because of him.
It seems too much but it cannot be too much. The love of God extends to Dylan Roof also, and to his parents and to the people who knew him in high school who wonder what kind of bullet they dodged over the years before he snapped and took nine lives.
The love of God is also with a church family that mourns it pastor’s death, the deaths of those who gathered just to learn more of God’s word for them, to hear more of God’s care for them, there is an awful lot of hurt that needs tending to in Charleston about now and we, even we, a white, suburban congregation 2,400 miles away cannot throw up our hands and wonder how it will all work out.
We, who have received so much, who have been so blessed. We have a church to love, a community to nurture and support us, we have a new preschool through which we can reach out to other families, a new generation of people to teach them of the love of God, we have pleasant weather, for today at least; we are rich beyond measure in the grace of God. We, of all people, must have, in the name of Christ which is above every name, the power to do something.
We tend to diminish and to hide from our power, from the glorious gift we have received in Christ Jesus, who died so that we might live. We think of ourselves as “just a little church” as if that excused us from taking all that we have received and using it to work for a better world in Jesus name.
Think of the times when your heart was split open, laid bare by a tragedy, by a loss, by some inexplicable event beyond your understanding or power to stop. Now think of the Body of Christ in that moment. How the power of God made itself know to you in the form of other believers, who sheltered your heart and held your hand and spoke to you again and again the words of the promise.
Think of the times when you were unsure, of the times when you didn’t know which way to go, which decision to make, which way to turn. Think the of the comfort of knowing that in whatever event, in whatever state, in whatever is going on in the world, Christ is always present, in word and in the flesh of His body here on earth which is the church.
Think of the blessing it is to have a community of faith to claim as your own, to work in and through and so help to build up the world Christy would have for us to live in.
That is power, not because it makes us powerful, but just because it allows us to be unafraid.
Unafraid to reach out to friends here in town who have felt the sting of racism in their own lives and to remind them that they are not alone. Unafraid to have a cup of coffee with someone who is struggling with their very identity, with who they are in this world and to be able to assure them that Jesus love is theirs, whatever they become. Unafraid to greet someone who finds justice and truth to be hard to find in the decisions of the Supreme court of late, no matter what we ourselves may think and to know that it is in our power, in our callings as disciples of Christ, to bring comfort to those who mourn, peace to those who struggle.
We have the story of two women, well, a woman and a girl in this morning’s Gospel reading. One is a faceless child, the sick daughter of a leader of the synagogue and the other is a woman who has been suffering hemorrhages for twelve years.
One is clean. We always assume that children are clean, are innocent. We ruffle our hands through the hair on their heads and say cute things because they are so perfect, so innocent.
The other has been unclean, ritually unclean for the entirety of her adult life. She is the poster child for untouchable, only she is not a child and nobody expects her to be innocent.
That’s the scene we have before us, a girl is near death, a woman has been bleeding for a dozen years and has been unable to participate in society because of it and Jesus is approached on both of their behalf.
He does not present Jairus with a questionnaire concerning his daughter’s Sunday School attendance, her preference in boys, or girls for that matter, or about her eating habits.
Jesus isn’t trying to manage what is. Jesus is interested in what will become.
The woman is easier because she does not ask. Too many times she has been turned away already. Doctors treating her in those days may have prescribed all manner of bizarre cures based on the popular superstitions of the day, but the society of her time would have had no problem diagnosing her. Being unclean must be the result of some kind of sin, God wouldn’t have inflicted it on her otherwise.
She is apparently tired of that and reaches out, grasps bravely at what she knows that she needs, the power to heal that is not bedeviled with judgment, but only asks what can be if the power of God is used to build it up?
The power of God greets us as we are, so that we might change into what we can be.
We cannot change Dylan Roof. We cannot wind the clock backwards and find the moment when he strayed from the path and fix him. We are powerless to manage what is.
But we are able to influence what will be tomorrow.
If, as Christ we can lay aside judgment for the moment, its time will come at the ending of things so it can wait a while, we can lay aside judgment and set our eyes on the horizon of God’s love in Christ Jesus and work to build a world that is healed from the pains of today.
The woman with the hemorrhage knew what tomorrow she wanted to build and knew how to achieve it and knew also, from the reputation of Jesus she had heard in the streets, that this was right up his alley, his kind of thing. She reached right out and grasped it.
When she was called on it she came forward and knelt in thanksgiving and humility because something that had seemed impossible, a real life for herself, was made real by the power of God.
We too have been healed, been made whole by the power of God made flesh in Jesus. Maybe not in as obvious a way as the healing of a hemorrhage but healed nonetheless. We reach out our hands and take into ourselves bread and wine, body and blood and we can feel judgement slipping away and healing taking its place. We hear the words of forgiveness and our consciences emerge clean, fear and doubt and guilt leaving us in a moment of grace.
It is for such times as these that this grace is called. It is for times when people are broken and bruised by the events of the day, when they feel adrift in the currents of the world, judged on every side, too fat, too thin, too poor, too loud, too quiet, too hairy, too smelly.
Jesus pierces through those judgments and sees us as we are and loves us anyway, judgment has its place, but it is not here, it is not now.
In moments like these we are all bleeding a little. We feel impotent at the very moment we have much to say, much to do if our cause is building up tomorrow, and our cause most certainly is.
We can be the ones who build up tomorrow if we remember Jesus words to Jairus, “Do not fear, only believe,” and set aside judgment for a time and bring Christ’s word of healing and grace into a world all too bloody right now.