Looking back on this sermon, it was such a fun Sunday it Rehoboth, because it was the Rehoboth 375th Anniversary Parade! After church was over, everyone went into Fellowship and grabbed lunch and then got ready for the parade. I was offering the blessing at the opening ceremonies and needed to be at the grand stand early, so the parade organizers had one of the police officers on duty come and get me (and one of my church members, who was a grand marshal). We rode to the grand stand with the lights on and it was so much fun to see all of the floats prepping to step off! Definitely a great day to be in Rehoboth.
Here’s my sermon from that Sunday – enjoy!
Rehoboth Congregational Church
October 7, 2018
Mark 5:21-24, 35-43
Last Sunday, I was on the phone with the 375thparade organizers and they told me they needed to pick me up at 11:20 this morning to take me to the grandstand so that I could say a blessing at the opening ceremonies. They were on speakerphone and Steve Brasier was in the room; when he heard 11:20, he raised his eyebrows at me and said, “Communion Sunday?”
Point taken. It’s gotta be a quick sermon.
My first thought was, well it’s a good thing the parade wasn’t last week when I was trying to explain the demonic pigs falling off a cliff and drowning, because that was not happening in five minutes.
Truth be told, however, I had a hard time with this one, as well. It seems so simple, right? Jairus believed that Jesus could heal his daughter and she was healed. So all we have to do is to have faith and those who we love who are sick will be healed, right?
We all know that sometimes it is just not that simple.
October is Rett Syndrome Awareness Month and many of you have been following Holly Rutko’s daily Facebook posts talking about her experiences as the mom of a daughter with Rett Syndrome. This is what she wrote on Monday:
I am also scared to death. For each year that passes I see the toll it is all taking on her. This past year especially has been the hardest on Bella’s health and the hardest on those that love her. We watch helplessly as seizures are back with a fierce vengeance which almost seems personal. Her stamina is weakened, her body harder to coordinate and function. She is sick more than she is not. This past year it seems cruelly clear that Rett Syndrome has won most of the battles against her body.
I read this on Monday evening and then Tuesday morning read our scripture for this week where a little girl – just three years old than Bella Kai Rutko – was healed. And I’m sorry, but I just cannot reconcile the two. This is one of those moments where the preacher is stumped.
Because I believe in the promises of the Gospel. I believe that our faith can heal us, that God has the power to make us whole again.
But I also have seen the very heartbreaking depths of our brokenness as human beings; a brokenness that tears us down and, like Jairus, brings us to our knees, begging and pleading with God to heal the people that we love.
And sometimes those prayers are not answered the way that we want them to be.
At the same time, I think we have to remember and hold onto the powerful and incarnational truth of our faith: That we are not alone. Jairus was not by himself when he found Jesus and begged him to heal his daughter. A large crowd had gathered around him. They shared in his grief and in his sorrow; they wept with him; they sat with him in a moment of heart wrenching grief. They were the Body of Christ, the Church – what we are called to do, who we are called to be in our lives.
I really do believe that healing happens in community; that lives are changed when we come together, hungry to see and hear and understand what Jesus did and still has the power to do in our lives today. I believe that healing happens when our desire to enact our faith and proclaim the Gospel to a broken world overpowers our own fears and uncertainties about the world. I believe that healing happens when, together, we take the pieces of one another’s lives and try to put them back together so that we might be made whole again.
A few years ago, the Rutkos started using the phrase, “Bella’s Army” to describe the group of people – from every different part of their lives – who come together and support Bella and their family. People who love them, pray for them, raise money for her medical care and show up in their moments of anguish. As I thought about the army of people that showed up for Jairus and his wife and his daughter, I reflected on Bella’s Army. I asked Holly the question, “What does Bella’s Army mean to you?” This is what she said:
It means survival. It means the strength to continue to fight. It means love. It means everything.
Friends, I believe that healing happens when we show up and bear witness to the presence of Christ in our world today. Like the crowd that followed Jairus, we, too, can gather around and let people know that they are not alone in their times of need. We can share in one another’s sorrows; weeping, wailing and even sitting together in the grace of the silences that happen when there are just no words that seem adequate to speak.
And that is why the work that we do here is so important.
This morning is World Communion Sunday, a day when we are united as Christians: United around a table. United in our brokenness. United in our hope. United in our love for one another. United in our hunger and our thirst for bread and wine that remind us just how much we are loved and cherished by God. United in our desire to come together and be the presence of Christ in those moments when people need it most.
And healing might not happen the way we want it to or as quickly as we want it to, but together we wait. Together we weep. Together we celebrate. Together we feast. Together we pray. Together we sing. Together we love. Together we shine light into the darkness of the world.
And together we hope.
This is church. Thank you all for being here. I love you all very much.
Thanks be to God!