Sermon for June 28, 2015
The Fifth Sunday After Pentecost
The Rev. Vicki K. Hesse
St. Philip’s In The Hills, Tucson, AZ
Mark 5: 21-43
Lord, Open our Lips,
that our mouth shall proclaim your praise. Amen
Listen to this sermon, here.
When my mother was alive,
she traveled extensively around the world,
accompanying my father on his business trips. She used to say that she loved
traveling to England best –
because it was the one “foreign” country
where she felt like she could
almost speak the language.
This last week, we took the
St. Philip’s Youth Group (or “SPY”)
on a mission trip
that was, in a way,
like traveling to a foreign country
were we could almost speak the language.
(I say “we,” because you, the congregation,
generously supported this mission trip,
co-led by me, Katie Fouts, Sasha Velgos and Michael Kat as the adult leaders for
seven of the SPY youth group.)
The trip took place in the Navajo nation,
near the four corners: AZ, UT, CO and NM.
We stayed at a school near Teec Nos Pos and
joined about 260 other youth
from 15 churches.
Divided into in 43 mixed-gender crews,
We completed weatherization construction
and home repair for
34 residential homes;
a kind of youth version of Habitat for Humanity, but on steroids.
While the work itself was challenging,
we learned construction skills and
how to work as a team with others who held different views.
It was the “Jesus-centered mission experience”
that provided a bit of “foreign country” feel
to the week.
Today’s gospel lesson reminds me of this trip.
In the first part of the gospel,
Jairus asked Jesus to come visit his daughter
and to “lay his hands on her,
so that she may be made well, and live.”
We learned that the leaders
of the Navajo regions, called “chapters,”
worked with State of Utah engineers
and Group Mission Trips company
for Jesus to work through us and
“lay our hands upon these houses”
so that they may be made well
and offer wholesome lives to the residents.
In the gospel story, however, we read that
on the way to visit Jairus’s daughter
something happened that interrupted his plans.
There was a woman with a constant
hemorrhaging that lasted 12 years.
She spent all her money on doctors
who had not helped.
When she heard that Jesus was passing by,
she reached out in desperation.
She was at the end of her rope.
And she reached out, yearning, praying, seeking – if only I can touch his clothes,
if only I can get close to him,
if only I can get near the power of Jesus,
then I can be healed, she thought.
The woman’s severe hemorrhaging
was not only a problem for her personally;
it made her “impure.”
And in 1st century context,
her impurity isolated her from her community,
because anyone who touched her
also became impure, kind of like “cooties.
If you survived middle school,
you know that having cooties is very isolating.
She reached out and touched
– just the “hem” of his cloak.
And in sharing her impurity,
in 1st century context,
Jesus should have been made impure, too.
Her impurity was overcome,
however, through her contact with Jesus.
Jesus rescued her and flipped the whole scene
– who was contagious now?
And Jesus replied,
“your faith has made you well, go in peace.”
What was her faith?
Her faith was not a
belief-in-a-set-of-doctrines kind of faith.
Her faith was an experience.
Her faith was her conviction
that Jesus could heal her.
Her faith was her certainty that
Jesus looked beyond her human condition.
Her faith was a fervent assurance
that Jesus had the power to restore her. And he did – both heal her and restore her to community.
On our mission trip,
we saw the isolation and sense of shame
that the residents felt about
asking for help with their homes.
See, although the state of Utah engineers
had advertized how residents could
simply apply and receive free hands-on help
for the sorely needed home repairs,
only 3 families of 38,000
had applied in the first 90 days.
The Utah engineers decided then
to personally invite over 100 families
to apply for the aid,
and helped them one-on-one
with the applications.
Out of these applications,
our mission trip assisted in the 34 cases
that were appropriate for our crews,
with their supervision and
the needed repairs for the week-long workcamp.
The Utah engineers,
and the Group Mission Trip company knew,
with conviction and fervent assurance,
that through the power of Jesus
in this experience
we could heal the homes
and restore to these families
a pride of ownership and wholesome living.
In the gospel, after Jesus
reframed the woman’s status in community
we hear again Jairus’s plea
for Jesus to visit his little girl,
“so that she may be made well and live.”
“Do not fear,” Jesus said, “only believe.”
And here, too, Jesus was not talking about
a belief in a set of doctrines,
but a faith of conviction,
a sincerity of confidence in Jesus
and his power of healing.
When they arrive at Jairus’s home,
the mourners are already grieving.
Jesus asked, “why do you make a commotion?
The child is not dead, but sleeping.”
And Jesus offered his hand to her
and lifting her up, said, “Little girl, get up.”
On the mission trip,
our SPY youth showed the strength Jesus’ words, “do not fear, only believe.”
For under the theme of “#reframe,”
the program curriculum offered
morning and evening Jesus-centered programs,
presented through worship
of guitar-led praise music
with lyrics projected on a big screen
and a video presentation
followed by a gospel-based homily
by the program leader.
Each crew’s appointed “Devotion Leader”
guided the daily mid-day on-work-site devotions, as well as making 30-second themed videos on specific topic like
“who are you?” or “#this just happened!”
Each evening, someone from the crew
shared to the whole group their “God-sightings,”
including some surprising ways that
God’s presence was seen that day.
This program structure
invited the participants to
re-friend, re-think, re-visit,
re-connect, reflect and respond
to Jesus as their personal savior;
providing the opportunity
to “reframe” their relationship to Jesus Christ
and his death for salvation.
If this language is unfamiliar to you
or creates in you some reaction,
perhaps you have a sense of how
in this foreign country
we felt like we could almost speak the language.
And the SPY youth did not fear, only believed.
For in the midst of our trepidation
about this Jesus-centric and
relatively conservative nature of this program,
the youth remained hopeful and inspired.
Our youth wrestled with the concrete
and very directed message.
Every evening we debriefed
about the day’s program
and reframed the reframe
in the context of Anglican thought.
In these discussions, the youth
found their voice
and engaged in serious (and silly) conversation.
They learned a new language of faith.
They dove into theological reflection
about the core doctrines of our faith:
the dual nature (human & divine) of Jesus,
the definition and implications of the trinity,
the doctrines of sin, human nature, predestination and the character of God.
They talked through
portions of the catechism in the BCP.
They explored the rite of reconciliation
and God’s abundant forgiveness.
They looked squarely into
the complexities of faith
and learned what it means to be an Episcopalian.
And, nearly every night
we prayed the evening prayer liturgy or compline.
One day we shared the Eucharist
overlooking a canyon near Mesa Verde
and found that in that remote place of nature,
Jesus was present in our lives.
They don’t have it all figured out.
I don’t have it all figured out.
But all along the way,
the youth continually
offered their hands to each other,
lifting each other with new perspectives
and deeper questions on their faith journey.
My sisters and brothers,
if anyone is concerned about
the future of the church,
I state today with conviction
that The Church of the future
is in very good hands.
Through the experience of Jesus
in that foreign country last week,
our youth learned
how to speak a language
from their own hearts,
from their own experience,
from their own sense of worship.
And they will not put their lights under a bushel, no,
they will let their light shine.
Today’s good news is that
Jesus has power over cooties
to restore communities.
Jesus has power to awaken new life,
in us, through our youth.
So today, when we share the peace,
join me in lifting
the neighbor sitting next to you,
as Jesus lifted up the girl.
Lift up your neighbor and share the good news
that Jesus restores our dreams to new life .
Do not fear. Only believe.
And Jesus will reframe our life.