What is faith? Like at its core, how do we talk about faith? Is it an intellectual idea that only needs to be understood? Is it a matter of the heart, like an emotion or feeling? What is faith? I believe it is a both/and. Faith is the thing for me that names us, calls us, holds us, and pushes us. Faith is written and shared with us in scriptures, in the stories of individual lives. Faith is a mess that requires those who believe to sit, listen, wrestle, and dare to ask for what we need in ways sometimes only the inaudible yearnings of our heart can communicate. Faith is counter-cultural in that it rarely answers a question, brings authority to anyone but ourselves, and constantly shakes the foundation we make for ourselves in the world, a foundation borne on self-reliance and omnicompetence. We are something in this world based on what we can achieve and deliver, so how does a double story about healing from 2000 years ago have anything to do about our world today? It's a story, written in scripture, about our ability to dare greatly, in order to grow passionately.
The stories of our faith are hard to follow sometimes. We hear of contexts and ways of life that seem so far from where we are today in the world. We often hear stories about agrarian ways of life, cultures with names that members of our readers guild pray they don't get scheduled to read because they are hard to pronounce. We hear details of worlds and lands that are far separated from where we live today and yet we still read them. We run the risk of missing the point of these stories if we jump to a conclusion without really reading them with our heart, suggests Rowan Williams. It would be easy to skim over our gospel this morning and deduce that it is about healing, because its got the word healing in it.
Believe in healing, and you’ll be healed in Jesus name, yet it would be a dangerous reading of scripture. Why is it dangerous? Because reading it for application like this dilutes the life we are called to live into a formula. If you believe in healing in the name of Christ, you will be healed. Simple, yet for those of us who have faced major health issues know- no matter how strong your faith in the healing power of Christ- we still get sick. Yet we look around for answers within our faith to try and figure out what we are facing, and it is our scripture that invites us into that story in order to understand life. You see, scripture and faith is about you and I together, an act that takes some real vulnerability and truth telling to understand. When we read our own lives within the pages of scripture, we start to see and hear how and where Jesus is already moving in our world today. A movement that brings us into health and deepened faith.
Take this mornings Gospel, there are three main requestors of something from Jesus. There is Jarius, the woman, and the child. One could read this mornings gospel and think that it represents God's Grace to heal so many people all at once- with such different afflictions. And while that is not wrong, there is a missed moment of self reflection in the text. Scriptures is not just about some by-gone era that makes us feel good about today, they are about us today. The Gospels give us windows into who and what we are in order to give us a perspective in the midst of the chaos of this world. We read these stories because within them is written our own story- a story that takes personal vulnerability to see and hear. Think for a moment about this mornings Gospel. Think of one of the characters that interests you. Think about it.
Jarius is a leader of the synagogue. He is at the height of his power and authority, and he should have everything in his world together. So why is he asking Jesus for help? Maybe we are leaders in this world, of companies, of households, of friends, of classrooms, of teams. We should have our lives together, right? But do we really? Then there is a woman who has been bleeding for years, who is a social outcast because of it who dared to go beyond her place in society and touch the cloak of Christ. Maybe there are places in our lives where we feel like outcasts? Unable to get a job in our field, in a loveless marriage, struggling to be a parent, feeling crunched by the glass ceiling of social expectations. We might feel that we don’t belong here, so close to Jesus because we don’t fit into the mould. Then we have the little girl who is dead, whose loved ones know that hope is lost for because she is very dead. Maybe there are things within us that feel very dead. Who do you resonate with? The leader with everything going for them who still needs help? the woman who is isolated yet asks for help? or the child for whom all hope is lost yet whose time has not yet come?
Stories like ours this morning can simply remain a chronicle of ancient times, or they can be read as a constant communication from God. Our gospel this morning gives us the place from which we can see our own lives, in order for us to see Jesus more clearly in our midst. When we lean into our own vulnerability, that deep and scary counter-side to our egos, we start to see places where we are the leader, the woman, and the child. I know in my own life I can see places where I am all three of our gospel characters- sometimes at the same time!
Yet Christ continues to come to us through scripture and prayer, calling out of us new awareness, new capacities, new abilities, to see, know, and hear his voice in the world around us. This becomes reality when we lean into scripture as a relationship between ourselves, the world, and God, which is a self-reflective awareness of our own relationship with Jesus rather than a proclamation about what to believe to those we meet. As Archbishop Rowan Williams continues to remind us in his book “ Being Christian” the story of the bible “converges on Jesus” in every sense. Just like the lives of the three people in our Gospel this morning, their different and unique experiences converge on Jesus- and this morning we get to practice that convergence in our lives together.
In a few moments we will celebrate the Eucharist that great mystical feast, and like scripture, it is a story about you and I. In the opening sentences of the Eucharistic prayer, Hyok will ask you and I to assent to the communal act of giving thanks, and we in response will give him permission on our joint behalf to offer that thanks and consecrate the elements of bread and wine- our food for the journey we take out of this building today into the world. In this moment, we are brought into the sacred dance of creation which has spanned time since Christ first gave us the Eucharist on the night before he died. He did this, so that we can dare to reach out and touch the hem of his cloak, to ask for his help when we are in over our heads, or to be woken up to life when we feel dead inside.
Our gospel this morning gives us three lenses through which to see our lives, and as we come to the altar this morning I invite you and I together to bring those areas of our life where we need help, or acceptance, or life, and dare to reach out for Jesus and let him help you grow in your faith.
Dare to reach out, ask, and receive. Christ is calling you and I to lean into and live a vulnerable and faithful life of contemplative and active growth grounded in the Eucharist. Our faith in Christ brings us new understandings of ourselves through scripture, a story which is about us today. In a world so thirsty for healing, connection, and acceptance, through a story seen through a Eucharistic life- how will you respond?