ST. STEPHEN’S PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH JULY 1, 2018
Rev. Sabrina Ingram
LAMENTATIONS 3: 19 – 33; Mark 5: 21 – 43
Timing may not be everything, it’s certainly important as we can see from this short video:
So, how’s your timing? Ever felt like you’re in the wrong place at the wrong time? Or that you’ve missed a beat? Or that you’re a step behind everyone else? Can you recall a time when your timing was off? Was there ever the possibility of a relationship that presented itself at the wrong time? Or an opportunity for reconciliation, put one party wasn’t ready? Can you think of an event you just missed by a few minutes? An illness you wish had been caught sooner? A chance you let pass? Human timing is just that – human. Imperfect at best.
Our gospel reading is the account of two people who’s timing was off. First there is Jairus, a leader of the synagogue, a man of faith, whose young daughter was ill. The family assumed she’d get better, but she had grown worse. Jairus lay beside his daughter’s bed that night praying for her recovery. Overcome with exhaustion, he drifted off to sleep and jolted awake, filled with dread. His little girl was at death’s door. Time was running out. Then there’s a woman who went to bed that same night, packing herself with linen to absorb the blood she was hemorrhaging. It was the same routine she’d for years. She’d seen numerous healers and doctors who took her money but left her in worse condition. She fell asleep looking at the walls of the small, dark flea pit she lived in, wondering when her money would run out and she’d be on the street. She woke in the morning to another lonely day of emptiness. Her condition made her unclean and she rarely went far from her room. Gossiping with friends and filling her social calendar were things of a long, forgotten past. Why even bother getting up? But her body ached, and her cloths needed changing. After so many years, there was nothing more she could do. Time had passed her by.
Yet notice the time frame of the story. For the last twelve years, Jairus had watched his daughter grow up. From infancy, through toddlerhood, through childhood playing on the streets with her friends. He’d seen her helping her mother and learning how to cook and keep a house. Where had the time gone? Soon, he’d be looking for a good man for her to marry. He had said many prayers for her over the years and taken great delight in her. She was God’s gift. During those same twelve years, the woman had been hemorrhaging, suffering, despairing. She’d lost everything. With every new doctor her hope had risen, only to be disappointed. At first, she’d prayed for healing. Now she prayed that if she couldn’t be well, God would be merciful and let her die. As it was, each day was an eternity. She endured her lot. This was God’s curse.
And what about God? Where had God been all this time? Did he hear their prayers? What was he waiting for? Any time would be good. No time like the present. Well, God had been biding his time; waiting for the right time. When that moment came, the lives of these two people collided. That morning, word spread that; Jesus, the teacher, the mystic, the healer was in their village. They both ran from their homes. They ran for their lives. The crowd around Jesus was already dense. Jairus wasn’t a tall man, but he was strong and determined. He pulled people by the shoulders, elbowed them, and pushed ahead until he was face to face with Jesus. Then his emotions spilled out. He fell to his knees, tears running down his cheeks and begged, “My dear daughter is at death’s door. Come and lay hands on her so she will get well and live” (Mark 5: 23). Jesus agreed, and Jairus led the way with the crowd rushing along beside them eager to see Jesus in action. Who was in this crowd but the woman? She saw her one and only chance and seized the moment. Slipping under arms, around hips and between bodies all she could think was, “If I can put a finger on his robe, I can get well.” (vs. 28) Pushed from behind, trying to break her fall, she reached out and touched the hem of Jesus’ cloak. Jesus felt energy move through him. The woman felt the flow stop; the pain ceased. She was healed! Then suddenly the whole entourage stopped. People bumped into one another like a 50-car pile up. Jesus wouldn’t go another step until he knew who dared to touch him. He stood there looking at the crowd, all denying it was them. They argued, with the crowd pointing out anybody could have jostled him and Jesus demanding the person come forward. Precious time was passing. Jairus couldn’t believe it! Panic overtook him. His daughter was dying! How could this matter? Why is he wasting time? The woman finally stepped forward ready for the scolding or worse, the reversing of her healing. Instead, Jesus affirmed her faith and sent her on her way with a blessing. The crowd applauded and cheered. A miracle! Right before their eyes. Then Jairus felt a hand on his shoulder. His brother-in-law was there to say it was too late. His daughter was gone. Feeling utterly betrayed, Jairus looked at Jesus. His torment and anger percolated – how could the life of some horrid woman have been more valuable than his little girl’s?! What kind of a healer did that?! What kind of God would allow it?! But the words couldn’t come out for the sobs. Jesus hushed him, “Don’t listen to them; just trust me” (vs. 35). They went on to Jairus’ house. Leaving the thrill-seeking crowd outside, Jesus went in and prayed over the girl’s lifeless body. He clasped her hand and drew the girl up from her deathbed and into her father’s arms.
I wonder when those two people thought back to that day, what they thought? Did Jairus think God had acted in “the nick of time”? Did the woman tell her friends it was “about time” God showed up? The prophet Jeremiah lived during a time of turmoil when the kingdom of Judah had been conquered by the Babylonians. Jerusalem and the Temple had been destroyed and the citizens forced into exile. Living in servitude in a strange land challenged the faithfulness of the Israelites who felt abandoned by God and were influenced by the religion of the culture around them. What challenges your faith? Perhaps like the father in the story you worry about the future of someone you love. Or you may be like the woman suffering a great deal at the hands of others and living with shame. Like Israel, you may feel isolated and hopeless. Like Jeremiah, you may feel God has forgotten you. Perhaps, like the Psalmist, you cry out to God, “How long must I wait for your comfort? How long do I have to put up with all this? (Psalm 119: 82)
Do you know the expression “in God’s good time”? God’s timing isn’t like ours. God breaks into our lives when the time is right. In the New Testament several Greek words are used for the concept of time. There is one word for “now” and another for chronological time. And there is Kairos, a word used for God’s time. The critical moment. The moment chosen by God for a crucial action. This is the word Paul used when he said, “At the right time, Christ died for the ungodly” (Romans 5: 6). At the pre-ordained moment; the moment of God’s choosing, Jesus was born; a woman was healed; a child was resurrected; Christ died for the ungodly. God’s timing is never off. While our timing is like the video with which we began, God’s timing is more like this:(video)
An interesting thing about that video is: no matter how often you swing a pendulum the gadgets will always work. They’re consistent and reliable, just like God. God is faithful, patient and constant. In the book of Lamentations, Jeremiah expresses his despair but when he looks to God, he sees something else, “God’s loyal love couldn’t have run out, his merciful love couldn’t have dried up. They’re created new every morning. How great your faithfulness!” (Lamentations 3: 22 & 23). No matter how many times in our lives the pendulum swings, God’s love, mercy and faithfulness are steady and unfailing.
In the Jewish tradition, days are not measured as we measure them. Days begin and end when the first 3 stars appear in the sky. As the blanket of darkness descends the first act of the day is to sleep. This action reminds them they are in God’s hands; life is a gift given by our Creator, not something they create by their actions or their will. For Christians the day begins “at the crack of dawn” (Luke 24:1) reminding us we are in the hands of the God who has conquered death; we’re given this resurrection life not by our actions or our will, but by God’s grace through Jesus Christ. Both practices are symbolically powerful. The one allows us to enter the stillness in quiet rest and trust; the other allows us to awaken in anticipation and hope. Yet how many times do we head for bed reliving the ups and downs of the day we’ve just had or with the next days events racing through our brains? How often do we wake up anxious about all the things we need to do and accomplish in the coming hours? Or worried? Or ashamed? Or miserable? How often do we begin the day feeling defeated by a sin in our life that sits on our soul like a boulder? Or drained of energy because of an illness with which we or a loved one are living? Rarely do we lie down in peace and rise up in praise. We greet the morning burdened by many things. God greets it with renewed love and mercy.
Jeremiah suggests, “When life is heavy and hard to take, go off by yourself. Enter the silence. Bow in prayer. Don’t ask questions: Wait for hope to appear. Don’t run from trouble. Take it full-face. The “worst” is never the worst.” (Lamentations 3: 28 – 30) In God’s timing, the worst is never the worst because at the right time, Christ died for the ungodly. “The Master won’t ever walk out and fail to return” (vs. 31). In all the days and times of our lives, Christ’s holy Spirit is with us and in God’s good time, at the critical moment, Christ will come into our village bringing wholeness and the dawn of a new era.