Sunday, November 18, 2012

Trinity 24 Sermon

Trinity 24 – Matthew 9:18-26 – November 18th, 2012

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit +
          We are approaching the end of the Church Year, and as we move towards the end of the Church Year, the readings tend to shift.  There becomes more of an undercurrent, a focus upon how this world is broken, how it is fallen apart, how things just aren’t right.  We move beyond the lessons that focus us on teaching, on what is right or wrong – and rather we just see things being messed up.  And that’s what we see in our Gospel lesson today.  Two tragedies, two situations that are just utterly horrible.  So let’s consider this text, let’s see how Christ deals with tragedy, and indeed, remember how He ultimately deals with every and all tragedy.

          “While He was saying these things to them, behold, a ruler came in and knelt before Him saying, ‘My daughter has just died, but come and lay Your hand on her, and she will live.’”  It’s an interesting contrast.  In the verse just before our Gospel, we hear that the disciples of John the Baptist came up and they complained to Jesus, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?”  Why aren’t Your disciples fasting Jesus, why aren’t they acting like good little Jewish boys?  And Jesus gives an interesting response – “Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bride groom is with them?”  I am here, I am with them – the Messiah has come – the time for mourning is not now.  When I am present, I take away mourning and fasting.  And then, even as Jesus is teaching this, who should come up to him, but a ruler, a powerful man, who by rights should be mourning.  His daughter has died.  His child.  A terror, a sorrow I don’t even want to think about.  And yet, there he is, kneeling before Jesus.  You are here, Messiah, turn what should be a cause for wailing into a cause for joy.

          “And Jesus rose and followed him, with His disciples.”  And Jesus stops His teaching.  He rose – He got up from where He was sitting down and explaining things to people.  Teaching has its place, but now there is another task at hand – confronting tragedy, confronting sin and death.  This story isn’t the way it should be.  Death shouldn’t be here.  It’s not right, it’s not good – so Jesus stands up, and He goes to fix it.  Priorities are priorities.  Again, this is a great reminder to us.  The world around us, they will often concede that Jesus is a great teacher, but that isn’t His main job.  Jesus is the great Savior; He has come first and foremost not to merely teach us how to live now, but He has come to defeat sin and death with His own Cross, with His Resurrection, so that we live forever.  And so, the teaching is paused – rather now, let the healing commence.

          “And behold, a woman who had suffered from a discharge of blood for twelve years came up behind Him and touched the fringe of His garment, for she said to herself, ‘If I only touch His garment, I will be made well.’”  What is life like in this fallen world?  Jesus can’t even get to the ruler’s house before He comes across another tragedy.  Behold, a woman suffering for a discharge of blood.  Now, I will not go into all the details, but just let’s think about what this means for a Jewish woman.  There are ritual purity laws – and if there is a discharge of blood – you are socially cut off.  You cannot have contact with folks – you don’t get to, spend time with your husband, shall we say.  Your hopes for a growing family are utterly dashed and destroyed.  You are a social pariah.  This isn’t an indifferent thing – this is something that in Christ’s day would be been viewed as horrorific.  And the woman is utterly embarrassed about it – there is no loud call to be healed – it would have been too shameful, too embarrassing to even say out loud.  So just very quietly, up she comes.  While no one is noticing, maybe I can be healed.

          “Jesus turned, and seeing her He said, ‘Take heart, daughter, your faith has made you well.’  And instantly the woman was made well.”  She doesn’t slide past Jesus’ notice though.  Instead, He pauses, even just for a short moment, and addresses this woman in the midst of her suffering and trials.  Take heart, be encouraged, rejoice.  Take heart, daughter – be encouraged, you who are close, who are dear to me.  You are healed.  You have seen where there is healing, you have looked to Me, and you will be healed.

          And that’s it.  We don’t hear any more about this woman.  She’s healed – and that’s it.  Off she goes.  And it is fascinating that here you have Jesus on the way to do one miracle, and even on the way, a second just spin out.  And He does so gladly, joyously, and then off He continues about His business.  There is no big production – indeed, the people standing by may have no clue what is wrong with the gal.  Take heart, daughter, your faith has made you well.  Kindly, gently, and quickly, one small tragedy is dealt with, and off Jesus goes.  The faithful woman sees, believes, is blessed, and goes on her way.

          Jesus comes across a different sort of reaction when He arrives at the ruler’s house.  “And when Jesus came to the ruler’s house and saw the flute players and the crowd making a commotion, He said, ‘Go away, for the girl is not dead, but sleeping.’  And they laughed at Him.”  It’s a fantastic contrast.  The ruler who kneels before Jesus.  The woman who knows that if she merely touches the Lord, His grace and love will surely pour out from Him onto her.  And the crowds who laugh.  And it’s not only laugh – these crowds were in the middle of mourning, of weeping, of playing funeral songs on the flute – and they stop their mourning, not in faith, not in hope, but in order to mock and deride Jesus, to treat Him as though He is insane, is a lunatic.  Isn’t this what we still see today in the world – where so many will pause merely long enough to mock Christ and Christians, and then go back to their expectations of nothing but death and doom.  And these folks would have known who Jesus is – He’s been teaching, He’s been healing.  The ruler knew to go quickly to Him – but the crowds, indifference turned to scorn.  This Jesus doesn’t know what He is talking about.

          The crowd doesn’t stop Christ.  “But when the crowd had been put outside, He went in and took her by the hand, and the girl arose.  And the report of this spread throughout the district.”  The ruler comes home, and he chases out all the mourners, all the people making the fuss, and then Jesus walks on in, and again, He restores this girl to life.  And again, note how.  He takes her by the hand.  He touches her – and she is healed, healed from death.  It is a wondrous miracle, a wonderful thing.  The mourners, the mockers – both their mourning and their mockery is silence, and the ruler and daughter are reunited.

          In this world in which we live, fallen, broken, decaying, we see sorrow.  We experience sorrow.  Suffering and death confront us all the time, more often than we want to admit.  There isn’t a one of us here who could spend hours telling tales of woe and heart ache.  That is just what life in a sinful world is.  But here is our hope.  God Himself is not content to let us remain alone and abandoned, consigned just to this time here in this fallen world.  No, Christ Jesus came and He entered this fallen world, He got involved.  He came, and He healed people – our God is a hands on sort of God, He gets directly involved.  Jesus is hands on – the woman’s hand touches Christ’s robe, and she is healed.  Jesus takes the little girl by the hand, and she is healed.  And most wondrously, the nails pierce those hands, nail Him to the tree, and our Lord takes on death, immediately, takes it on and swallows it up with His own death.  Jesus steps into the middle of decay and sin with His own death, all so that He might rise again and defeat death, that He might win life beyond just this fallen time.

          Jesus got involved many years ago – but this is not just a story of His action thousands of years ago.  Christ Jesus has taken you by the hand.  He took you by the hand when He washed you in the waters of Holy Baptism – declared you to be His own, His son, His daughter, declared that you were clean of all of your sin, of every spot and blemish.  He stepped into your life, when you were stuck in a world of death and decay, and He said to you, “No, you will live, you will be mine forever, you are forgiven.”  And He continues to tell you this, over and over and over.  The world around you mocks – He tells you that you are forgiven.  The world around you sees nothing but death – He tells you that you have life now, that even if you die you will live, for He is your life.  The world thinks and lives only for the here and now – He says, “Come to my Supper, have a taste now of the heavenly feast, join in even now with the Angels and Archangels and all the Company of heaven.”  And all of this, it’s all points to yet another truth.  He shall come again.  The Bridegroom will return.  The time of sorrow, of fasting, of struggles in and against this world, that will be done away with – and we will have nothing but joy before our eyes.  That is our hope, that is the promise that Christ Jesus has made to you.  You will live with Him for all eternity, for He is your God, He is the God who has claimed you as His own in the waters of Holy Baptism, and He sustains you through His Word, even until He comes again.  In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit +

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