Lectionary blog for Mark 5:21-43
Texts for the Fifth Sunday after Pentecost, July 1, 2012
Early one fall morning when I was 9 years old, I awoke to a cold and silent house. I got up and looked around. My brothers were not in their beds in our communal bedroom; the lamp would not turn on. I stumbled downstairs to the kitchen; no one was there. I ran through the entire house; it was empty. I tried every light switch, and the TV and radio. Nothing worked.
I ran out to the barn; still no one. And still, nothing worked. Then I did what every reasonable 9-year-old fundamentalist child would do; I fell on my knees and cried for Jesus “to come back and get me,” for I assumed that the rapture had come and I had been “left behind.” There was, in biblical terms, much “crying and gnashing of teeth,” as I collapsed onto the cold, dewy grass in my underwear.
At that moment, I heard a tractor coming over the hill from behind the house. I had indeed been “left behind” — by my forgetful Daddy when he gathered up the family to help him get a wagon-load of cured tobacco from the storehouse to take to market. That and a power outage explained my personal “rapture” moment.
In our Gospel lesson, I was struck by the words fear and faith.
After the woman with the flow of blood touched Jesus and he stopped and asked who touched him, it says she “came in fear and trembling, fell down before him and told him the whole truth. He (Jesus) said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well.”
In the wrap-around story of Jairus’ daughter, at this point, the text says, “some people came from the leader’s house to say, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the teacher any further?” But Jesus says to the man, “Do not fear, only believe (have faith).”
When I was a child I had a lot of faith; I also had a lot of fear. My faith was faith in the reality of God, not any sort of trust in the goodness or compassion of God. And my fear was rooted in a fear of the power of that real but vengeful God I had conjured up from Sunday school and fundamentalist preaching, comic books, horror movies and God knows what else.
As I have grown older, faith and fear have remained in dynamic tension in my life. Just as my faith has matured and become more sophisticated, my fears have grown less generalized and more realistic.
But they are still there, as they are for all of us. All of us fear things: terrorism, avian flu, economic collapse, earthquake, fire and flood, to name a few.
The last few years have shown us that our fears are realistic and founded in reality, not fantasy as were mine. And the question is, as we face these realistic fears, where do we place our faith, our assurance, our hope for the future? In money and its accumulation and clout? In armies and governments and secret agents? Where? In whom?
Scripture call us to trust in God, a thing much easier said than done. Lamentations reminds us “that the steadfast love of the LORD never ceases, (God’s) mercies never come to an end.” The author then goes on to talk about those times when one feels abandoned by God. This is a realistic look at faith in the face of fear.
Psalm 30 repeats this theme, as in “then you hid your face, and I was filled with fear” but also cries out, “O Lord, My God, I will give you thanks forever.” And our lesson from 2 Corinthians reminds us not to hoard our money in time of other’s need, but to share our resources with the needy, trusting in God to provide for us in our time of need. Generosity is shown to be an act of faith overcoming fear.
In the last several years the church has been in the midst of uncertain times. The question is: Are we going to face the future with fear or faith?
Are we going to reach out to one another the way the woman in the story reached out to Jesus for comfort and healing? Remember: The church is, we are, the body of Christ, and we have God’s spirit and healing power flowing through us. Are we facing the future with fear or faith?
Amen and amen.
- When have you experienced a fear of God?
- Are you going to face the future with fear or faith?
Delmer Chilton is an assistant to the bishop of the Southeastern Synod of the ELCA, with responsibility for eastern and central Tennessee, northern Alabama and northern Georgia. Ordained in 1977, he has served parishes in North Carolina, Georgia and Tennessee.