Sunday’s sermon: Risks of Faith

R-I-S-K

Texts used: 2 Corinthians 8:7-15; Mark 5:21-43

  • As the parent of two 2-yr-olds, I feel like I’m constantly telling someone to “Be careful.
    • Playing at the park – climbing, sliding, swinging (worse yet, walking near swings)
    • Riding tricycles around in the garage/driveway
    • Hauling themselves up onto changing table
    • Engaging in one of their favorite activities: “big jump!” → jumping off anything and everything they possibly can
    • And I know I’m not alone in this. Anyone who’s ever spent more than 10 minutes around kids – be they their own children, nieces/nephews, kids that you babysat, or even just standing and waiting for the bus next to some little girl or boy – you know that there seems to be something built into children that causes them to wildly abandon all caution and take whatever crazy risks pop into their minds from one minute to the next.
      • “Be careful!”
      • “Be safe!”
      • “Watch out!”
      • “Make good choices!”
      • All of these well-meaning admonitions often fall on deaf ears as we listen to squeals and giggles and triumphant ‘whoops’ as well as tumbles and crashes and wails of distress. → 2 amazing things about this reckless riskiness
        • One: the incredible heart that children put into every risk they take – It’s all or nothing!
        • Two: children’s amazing ability to bounce back, to keep trying, to get up and brush themselves off
    • So I’m going to propose that we take our inspiration from the children in our lives this morning because sometimes, friends, our faith straight out calls us to take risks.
      • 2 different kinds of risks that we find in our Scriptures this morning
        • Risks in our choices
        • Risks in our actions
  • Jesus presents us with our first risk in our gospel text this morning.
    • UP TO NOW: Jesus has been traveling and teaching and healing
    • TODAY’S PASSAGE: gets out of boat after crossing yet another large body of water designated as a ‘sea’ and met by large crowd → interrupted in the middle of teaching by Jairus – begs Jesus: “My dear daughter is at death’s door. Come and lay hands on her so she will get well and live.” And Jesus went with him.[1]
      • Jesus’ first risky choice = going with Jairus
        • Jesus’ first risky choice in this passage is actually deciding to go with Jairus in the first place. Remember how Jairus is introduced? “One of the meeting-place leaders named Jairus.” You see, even this early in his ministry, Jesus has already been hassled and challenged by just such “meeting-place leaders.” So for all he knew, Jairus could’ve been angling for even more trouble. There could’ve been some hidden agenda involved here. But still, Jesus made the choice to go with Jairus because of the strength of his faith.
          • How do we know about that strength? – Jairus: “My dear daughter is at death’s door. Come and lay hands on her so she will get well and live.”[2] → NOTICE: no qualifiers in this sentence
            • No “if it’s possible”
            • No “Can you?”
            • No “Are you able?”
            • Jairus believed, so Jesus made the choice to go.
    • Jesus 2nd risky choice = pausing in that journey – traveling to Jairus’ house with him and the whole entourage (Jesus’ disciples, Jairus and whatever servants/guards are with him, the crowd) when he’s suddenly interrupted by the hemorrhagic woman → Now, we’ll talk about this woman in a minute, but even though he knew that Jairus’ daughter was close to death and time was of the essence, Jesus chose to stop and have an interaction with this woman. He chose to spend precious time with this woman who was poor and alone and suffering.
      • Chose to pause in his critical journey to save Jairus’ daughter → led to child’s death: While he was still talking, some people came from the leader’s house and told him, “Your daughter is dead. Why bother the Teacher any more?”[3]
      • Despite this naysaying – chose to continue on and not just heal Jairus’ daughter but bring her back to life: [Jesus] clasped the little girl’s hand and said, “Talitha koum,” which means, “Little girl, get up.” At that, she was up and walking around![4]
    • Can you grasp what incredible risks of choice these were for Jesus? He chose to go with a man who could have been out to get him. He chose to associate with a woman who was a social stigma. He chose to continue on to the bedside of the now-deceased little girl and raise her from the dead! → amazing power in taking risks of choice = give us the ability to take responsibility, to forge our own path, to own our decisions and the consequences that come with them
      • Powerful and empowering → There’s a reason Frank Sinatra sang “I did it my way!” instead of “I did it whatever way someone else told me to!” When we are allowed to make those choices, to take those risks, and to follow through with whatever comes next, we find a strength and a conviction that we may not have known we possessed before that moment. And taking those risks of choice allow us to test our own belief as well as enact the power of our faith for others.
        • Part of the beauty and blessing as well as the challenge and burden of free will that God gave us – power to choose
  • Also risks of actions → Here we return to the story of the hemorrhagic woman.
    • Not clear what condition this woman was suffering from but Gr. implies it’s something along the lines of continuous menstrual bleeding → all sorts of severe ramifications in her life
      • Physical: One cannot continuously lose blood like that for 12 straight years and not appear pale, drawn, and sickly. This is the sort of condition that saps you of your strength, your energy, your vitality. And she’d been living with it for 12 years.
      • Spiritiual: Because of the continual bleeding, the woman would have been continually regarded in Jewish law as … ceremonially unclean. In order to be regarded as clean, the flow of blood would need to stop for at least 7 days. Because of the constant bleeding, this woman lived in a continual state of uncleanness which would have brought upon her social and religious isolation.[5] → No one could touch this woman or interact with her without becoming ritually unclean themselves, forcing them to go to the mikveh (the consecrated cleansing pool) for re-purification. This condition combined with her gender and her poverty (Scripture: she had spent all her money on doctors to no avail) made this woman virtually untouchable, completely and utterly marginalized.
    • Kind of woman people probably didn’t even see in the crowd anymore – ignored for so long, social pariah for so long, marginalized for so long → The crowd probably didn’t even see her edging closer and closer to Jesus. But that’s exactly what she did. Imagine how overwhelming that seemingly simple action must have been for her.
      • Emotionally: inching ever closer to Jesus as he and the disciples as they passed by – caught up in the awe and reverence and excitement and fragile hope of the moment, being so close to the one that she believed with all of her heart could truly heal her
      • Mentally/spiritually: weight of all that had been (pain, rejection, loneliness, shame) and weight of all could be (healing? wholeness? acceptance? inclusion?) equally suspended in the same moment
      • And, of course, physically: visual = basically a rugby scrum around Jesus – shuffling and chaotic mass of humanity packed in tightly against each other → This is the kind of crowd that the woman had to make it through to get to Jesus. She literally dove into that risk of action by physically reaching out to Jesus, believing with every fiber of her being that just brushing the fringe of his clothing would be enough to heal her of her terrible affliction and isolation.
        • Result: She slipped in from behind and touched his robe. … The moment she did it, the flow of blood dried up. She could feel the change and knew her plague was over and done with.[6]
    • Other risk she took = speaking up!: At the same moment, Jesus felt energy discharging from him. He turned around to the crowd and asked, “Who touched my robe?” …The woman, knowing what had happened, knowing she was the one, stepped up in fear and trembling, knelt before him, and gave him the whole story. Jesus said to her, “Daughter, you took a risk of faith, and now you’re healed and whole. Live well, live blessed! Be healed of your plague.”[7] → For all this woman knew, Jesus could’ve been angry with her or disgusted by her like everyone else. Maybe the disciples would’ve had her punished. Maybe the people in the crowd would take it upon themselves to punish her for such a brazen disregard of the social conventions. But still, after reaching out, she stepped out, claiming her action and her faith before Jesus.
      • Jesus’ response: “Daughter, you took a risk of faith, and now you’re healed and whole. Live well, live blessed!”
    • Incredible power of risks of action.
      • POINT OUT: difference between risky actions and risks of action à (my own distinction) risks of action include element of forethought and purpose and character-building that are distinctly lacking in plain old risky actions
        • g. – risk of action = trust fall (learn about yourself, build group dynamic, nurture trust among those in a group) à risky action = stacking 4 picnic tables on top of each other and jumping off because it’ll make an interesting YouTube video
      • Actions are definite
      • Actions are visible
      • Actions are irretrievable (can’t be undone once it’s been done)
      • Require commitment, self-assurance, courage, strength
  • And through it all, in the face of all the choices and actions that we are presented with that seem to be risks – those choices and actions that scare us, the worry us, that challenge us – we have Paul cheering us on from our other Scripture reading this morning: You do so well in so many things – you trust God, you’re articulate, you’re insightful, you’re passionate, you love us – now, do your best in this, too. … So here’s what I think: The best thing you can do right now is to finish what you started last year and not let those good intentions grow stale. Your heart’s been in the right place all along. You’ve got what it takes to finish it up, so go to it. Once the commitment is clear, you do what you can, not what you can’t. The heart regulates the hands. [8]
    • Original context: encouraging the Corinthian Christians to continue in their mission giving
    • Words of encouragement that could easily apply to all of those risks that we mull over
      • Remind us of God working in and through us
      • Remind us of our gifts
      • Remind us of need for our conviction to be strong in the face of risks
      • Reminds us we are in this together: This isn’t so others can take it easy while you sweat it out. No, you’re shoulder to shoulder with them all the way.[9]
  • Friends, nothing in the entirety of Scripture tells us that our faith is supposed to be safe and comfortable and carefree. Jesus wasn’t safe. Jesus wasn’t comfortable. Jesus wasn’t content to “dial it back” for the sake of those around him. In fact, he took the risks that he did exactly for the people around him and the people after them … and the people after them … and the people after them … all the way down to us. And as those who proclaim to be followers of this radical Savior, we are called to follow in those risky footsteps in order to bring God’s love, peace, and justice to this world. Amen.

[1] Mk 5:23-24.

[2] Mk 5:23.

[3] Mk 5:35.

[4] Mk 5:41-42a.

[5] Dr. John McArthur cited in “Jesus healing the bleeding woman,” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jesus_healing_the_bleeding_woman, edited 9 June 2015, accessed 27 June 2015.

[6] Mk 5:27, 29.

[7] Mk 5:30, 33-34.

[8] 2 Cor 8:7, 10-12.

[9] 2 Cor 8:13.

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