June 28, 2015 – Fear & Faith

Pentecost 5   June 28, 2015   Mark 5:21-43   Fear & Faith
Isaac (Ryong Jae) Jung

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What’s the most precious thing in your life? Some people cherish their fame; some their health; some their family; some their jobs; some their money; some their family background. However, worldly possessions, regardless of quantity or value, will one day disappear. The most important thing we must secure in life is our Savior, Jesus Christ, and he is our one eternal hope.

In today’s Scripture from Mark, there are two different stories. The first story speaks about a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages, or constant bleeding, for twelve years. The second story speaks about a daughter of Jairus. His most cherished daughter was dying.

These two stories from today’s Gospel lessons are basically identical with many common points.

First, we can see the fear and despair in two stories.

In the first story, a woman had been bleeding for twelve years. In those days, bleeding of this nature was considered incurable. So she must have become extremely weak. Her life would have been of constant pain. She tried everything to be healed from her disease. She went to many doctors and spent all she had; but instead of getting better, she grew worse. Indeed, this woman must have despaired. According to the Jewish law of her day, women who were in their time of blood flow were to be separated from any direct contact with their congregation because this kind of woman was treated as unclean and impure. This means that she would have been marginalized for twelve years. Her condition of hopelessness and aloneness would have left her with intense psychological pain in her heart. Who could understand, comfort, or heal the pain of both her heart and body?

In the second story, a daughter of Jairus became seriously ill. Jairus, the synagogue leader of Capernaum, of the northwestern side of Lake Galilee, had a beloved twelve-year old daughter who lay on her bed dying. He must have tried many things to heal his daughter. But her condition worsened. We can only imagine Jairus’ terrible agony.

What should we do when unexpected trouble happens? What should we do when we are surrounded by hopelessness? Let us suppose that you thought you were healthy, but visiting the doctor for a small problem revealed that you had cancer. The fear of death would sweep across your hopeless soul. Let us further suppose that you worked hard to manage your company well, but your company partner went personally bankrupt, which pulled your company into bankruptcy. What would you do in such a case? Life is full of unexpected fears and problems like these.

The most challenging aspect of my ministry has been facing those who are sick. There were a lot of people who were sick—physically, emotionally, spiritually—in the church. Fortunately, I was honored to have people open their hearts and share their concerns in life. All I can do is continue praying to God.

Second, we can see the faith and hope in two stories.

In the first story, this woman heard about Jesus and Jesus healed all her sickness. She, who used to live in utmost hopelessness, now had hope. “I can be healed if I get to meet Jesus.” She really wanted to meet Jesus. While attempting to find Jesus, she overheard that he was passing by. She was extremely weak because of her disease. While trying to inch her way toward Jesus through the crowds, she fell and was pushed back by the other people who had gathered to see Jesus. But she continued to struggle with all her might and got closer and closer to Jesus before finally touching him.

In the second story, Jairus heard news that Jesus healed various diseases. Jarius was a synagogue leader which was a respected profession by the people. At that time, the Jews built synagogues at the center of their towns wherever they gathered to live. He must have tried many techniques to heal his daughter, but nothing worked and her condition worsened. In spite of his position, reputation, and pride, Jairus went to Jesus and fell at his feet with the hope that he could heal his daughter. He begged him, and Jesus turned around to set off toward Jairus’ house.

When I was a high school student, I read a book called “Chicken Soup for the Soul” by Jack Canfield. The book includes a story called “Biggest Hope Comes When it is Most Depressing.” I remember reading about two doctors both cancer specialists, who were in friendly discussion. Two doctors prescribed the same drugs, the same dosage, the same schedule, and the same entry criteria. One doctor gave drugs to his patients, saying, “Take these drugs in the same way.” Another doctor also gave the same four drugs (Hydroxyurea, Oncovin, Platinum, Etoposide) to his patients, however, saying, “Here is your hope. You will find HOPE by taking this drug. Take HOPE and you will get well.” The result showed that the HOPE-treated patients had a 74% response rate while the other group had only a 22% rate.

We need hope. Our greatest reality in life is that the Lord Jesus, our absolute hope, is with us. If all the roads around you appear to be blocked, you must look at heaven. The road to heaven is open. Hope will help us overcome all despair and problems.

Third, we can hear the voice of Jesus Christ.

In both stories, we can see the crowd. The crowd must have been very excited to see what was going to happen. What a sensational event in a small town! People who heard this news and saw the great crowd moved toward Jairus’ house and joined the crowd. So, the crowd was getting bigger and bigger. There was so much physical contact, just as when we enter the Fenway or Gillette Stadium.

However, among those numerous contacts and touches, there was a touch that made Jesus stop and turn around. It was a woman’s touch. Who was she?

He realized that the power had gone from him. He looked around the crowd trying to discern who had touched him. The disciples did not understand what he was saying. Even though many people gathered around Jesus, this woman was the only person who touched his clothes with faith. She was instantly healed in that moment. Jesus was looking for a person who would stretch out a hand of faith. She didn’t say “No, I am not.” She said “Here I am.” This woman looked at Jesus and told him the truth. After hearing what the woman said, Jesus replied to her, “Go in peace.” All worry and agony from our hearts, and all sadness, loneliness, weariness, pain, and feelings of being lost, evaporate under the authority of these words of grace and blessing from Jesus.

In the second story, some people from Jairus’ house approached Jesus. They said that the girl had died. This news was like a thunderbolt from a clear sky. Jairus went home with Jesus in the hope that his daughter could be healed. But he heard: “Your daughter is dead. Now it is over. Jesus does not have to come.”

However, Jesus would not allow Jairus to listen to what the others were saying. He encouraged Jairus regardless of the depressing news of hopelessness.

“Do not fear, only believe.”

Sometimes when we pray, we hear negative remarks from others. They may say to us: “It is over. Prayer is useless. Give it up. The doctor said that the patient cannot survive tonight. The company cannot be spared. It will go bankrupt soon. It is finished.” I suggest you do not listen to such negative comments when you pray.

Faith makes the impossible possible. Jairus gained strength by listening to Jesus. Jairus waited a woman suffering from bleeding and in need of healing on the way to his house. He followed Jesus, holding onto his words, “Do not fear, only believe.”

However, without Jairus’ orders, funeral preparation was made for his daughter. It was part of the Jewish custom at that time to hire mourners and flute players to wail with a weeping family, thus turning funerals into quite a noisy affair. There was a commotion and people were wailing loudly when Jesus arrived at Jairus’ house.

Jesus went in and said to them, “Why do you make a commotion and weep? The child is not dead but sleeping.” They laughed at him. So, Jesus dismissed all those who were speaking negative words from the house. This is also true with our lives. We must rid ourselves of all negative factors if we want to experience the miracles of the Lord. After dismissing all the negative people from the room, Jesus went to the girl, took her by the hand, and said, “Talitha cum!” (which means, “Little girl, get up!”).

When we too are in the middle of hopelessness, pain, and agony, the Lord will come and say to us: “Get up from hopelessness!” Miracles will happen as we get up.

When I was eight years old, I suffered from severe sinusitis. Sinusitis made it difficult to breathe through my nose. Sometimes I also had bad headaches. The constant concern of my family was to find a cure for my sickness. My parents and I went to a famous hospital and prominent specialists. But there was no way to cure my sickness. My church members asked my family: “Why don’t you pray to God?” All that remained for my family to do was pray.

Even though I am from a fourth generation of Methodist family, my parents and I are Sunday Christians. At that time, I thought that spending time at church was a waste. I doubted the existence of God.

One day, when I was twelve years old, I went to church on Friday. After the worship service, my pastor invited my family to the altar and prayed for us. All church members made a circle around me. They reached out their arms toward me. This situation was uncomfortable for me. I was so scared. My pastor shouted to me, “Pray loudly.” And then, everyone prayed with a loud voice. It was weird. It was so noisy. But I tried to pray with a loud voice like them. During the prayer, my heart was warmed, and I burst into tears. I felt the Holy Spirit dwelling within me and communicating to me, “Isaac, you are my beloved.”

All of a sudden, I could clearly breathe through my nose. It was realized. I couldn’t believe it. I was so surprised. God had completely healed my sickness. From God’s healing, I experienced God’s abundant love and grace. I realized God was real and living within me. This experience also strengthened my faith and my family’s. I met God during my physically weakest moment. This is my conversion experience.

Ever since I accepted God’s call to the ordained ministry, my family and church members have prayed for me to be a good pastor. With this support, I was able to finish my two master’s programs at Boston University School of Theology in the last month. I greatly appreciate your prayers for me. I would like to thank Rev. Tim Atwater and the whole congregation.

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It’s the last Sunday of June today. This means that we are halfway through 2015. Today we decide to seek only Jesus Christ. Then, we have no time to be discouraged. We have no time to look back. We only have time to see Jesus Christ, who is our hope. The end of our hope is the beginning of God’s hope. We cannot overcome trouble with our own strength. We can overcome trouble only when God is with us.

The woman who suffered from bleeding for twelve years had the faith that if she touched his clothes, she would be healed. In the same way, we must have faith and pray. All our problems will be resolved. Like the woman, we should move toward the hope in Jesus Christ.

Jesus Christ, who raised the daughter of Jairus, is now speaking to us: “Get up from your place of failure. Get up from your place of hopelessness. I will solve all your problems.”

Listen to the voice of God and gain strength. Never give up. Never step backward. Shake off any failure, wounds, pain, and agony that may be entangling you. Focus only on Jesus and march forward with faith.

Thanks be to God.

Amen.