Fr. Bill Carroll – The Fifth Sunday After Pentecost, June 27, 2021
I will exalt you, O Lord, because you have lifted me up *
and have not let my enemies triumph over me.
O Lord my God, I cried out to you, *
and you restored me to health.
You brought me up, O Lord, from the dead; *
you restored my life as I was going down to the grave.
We are told that Jairus is a leader of the synagogue. And, although he has likely prayed the thirtieth psalm many, many times, I’m sure it’s the last thing he has in mind as he falls at the feet of Jesus.
His thoughts are consumed by the danger to his daughter. Repeatedly, he begs Jesus to come and heal her. “My little girl is at the point of death,” he says. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well and live.” The cry of Jairus’s heart is the same as in the psalm. He is calling on God, the giver of health and salvation. He is calling on God, who raises the dead.
If we live for long enough, we experience the death of people we love. We also experience situations that threaten our lives—or those of people we care about. Jesus had experiences like that himself. He had them in the garden of Gethsemane, during his trial before Pilate, and, of course, on the Cross. When his friend Lazarus died, he groaned in his Spirit, and he wept.
In the words of the old spiritual:
Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen. Nobody knows but Jesus.
Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen. Glory! Hallelujah!
Sometimes, we feel so broken and separated from God. And yet, these experiences can also open us up to God’s awesome reality. Some of my closest moments with God have been those of loneliness, grief, and fear. As Christians, we have a faith that embraces darkness, as well as laughter and light.
The first time the words of Psalm 30 touched me was in high school, right after a friend’s suicide. But I learned to cry out to God long before that. I don’t think I’ve ever really “gotten over” the losses of those I love. (Nor would I want to. Grief isn’t like that.) But I have found healing mercies in God’s presence. And, like many of us, I have found new life on the other side of loss.
Tracey and I cried out to God, when her doctor told us about the fatal birth defect that killed our first child. Years later, with Danny, we prayed the same way in an intensive care unit, when we were unsure whether our son would live or die. I suppose that’s why many of us find the story of Jairus’s daughter so moving. We feel especially vulnerable when we are faced with the death of a child.
I know the power of prayer first hand. It is always answered, though sometimes not in the ways that make sense to us. We can bring all our troubles to Jesus. Jairus, for example, asks him to lay his hands on his daughter, so that she might be healed and live.
But sometimes, healing takes forms other than a cure. Especially in times of death, it may mean picking up pieces of our lives and putting them back together. We do this without ever being able to fill the hole that’s left behind. With time and the grace of God, our memories become less raw and less intrusive, but the loss never really goes away. We wouldn’t want to lose the memories of those we love.
As Christians, we live in the hope of the resurrection. Jesus Christ is God’s answer to our suffering. We trust in his mercy. Yet, this side of glory, we often struggle to find him. Again and again, we need to look for Jesus. We need to ask God for help.
In Jesus, we see God turned to us in mercy. He is the faithful God of Israel, alive in our flesh. And we can find his love at work in our world.
We can find his love in church. But we’re always in danger of speaking pious words about brotherhood and sisterhood, without living out the reality. Hypocrisy has always been a risk for believers. But in church, we do find people who show us the love of Jesus. In church, Jesus does show up in grace and power to heal us. He gives us grace to help each other carry heavy burdens.
That’s what Jairus discovers, when he turns to the Lord for help. Jesus hears his cry, and he answers him. He comes to his house and takes his daughter by the hand. “Little girl,” he says to her, “I say to you arise.”
Jesus is the One who conquers death. He is the One who brings us the power of life—right here where we really, really need it. In Jesus, death is no longer the end. It has become a new beginning.
And so this morning, no matter how we are grieving—no matter how far we have wandered or strayed—whatever burdens or griefs we may be carrying, I invite all of us to listen for the voice of Jesus—to come to him in faith and ask him for healing…
“My child,” (he says to us), “My little child.” And then he takes us by the hand.
My child, I have joined you in the valley of the shadow of death.
I have come to you here—and I have triumphed over everything that harms and frightens you.
“My child, I say to you ‘ARISE!’”