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Another Way

The Rev. Joseph Winston

June 28, 2009

Sermon

Grace and peace are gifts for you from God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.1
There is a caged lion at the Houston Zoo. If it is like most other days, you can
find him pacing from one side of his pen to the other. Trapped inside of his cage,
he literally has no place to go. On his own accord, he cannot wander down the hill
to the watering hole for a drink of water. No one will let him chase down game
hiding from him in the tall grass. He can never walk to the shade produced by the
few trees found on the savanna.
The rest of lion’s existence is just as fixed. From his birth to his death, his
keepers carefully choreograph his entire life. They decide what he will drink, what
he will eat, when he sees the vet, and even if he has a chance to reproduce.
The only thing that changes in his environment is the almost endless variation
1
Romans 1:7, 1 Corinthians 1:3, 2 Corinthians 1:2, Galatians 1:3, Ephesians 1:2, Philippians
1:2, 2 Thessalonians 1:2, Philemon 1:3

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of humans that come to see him. Every day we like to come to his enclosure and
see our “superiority” over the “king of the jungle.”
This type of behavior on our part is definitely not new. Almost three thou-
sand years ago, in the area of the world now known as Iraq, the Assyrian kings
around 850 BC were breeding and keeping lions in captivity. Historians report
that Alexander the Great (356 - 323 BC) who lived about three hundred and fifty
years before Christ had lions given to him by people living in Northern India as
presents. This trend of capturing and controlling these wild animals continued and
spread to new lands. In England during the thirteenth century, King John (1165
- 1216) kept lions in the Tower of London. This practice of having lions in this
fortress by the Thames River finally ended in 1828 when King William IV (1765
- 1873) transferred the lions to the newly formed London Zoo.
From what we have seen, it is evident that we humans like to rule over the
“king of the beasts.” That is why we have placed the lion behind bars for all these
years. We want to show him who is boss.
This way of life, forcing our will onto others, is not limited to keeping the
lion in the zoo. It can be found in just about every aspect of life. Nations that are
more powerful set the agenda in world politics. Stronger corporations crush the
competition. Families decided what behavior is acceptable for their members.
That is why it is extremely difficult for us to hear today’s Gospel lesson with
its two healings. We desperately want to be in charge of God, but we are not.
It is hard to predict when this feeling of being upset at Jesus first washed over
you. For some people, it happened when they hear how Jairus comes to Jesus with

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the request to save his daughter, the apple of his eye, from death.2 Why is this one
child so special? Why should she be given a second chance when so many others
die every day?
Others of us became perturbed when that woman came. It is clear that she
had the money to spend on physicians.3 Should not Jesus spend more time with
the poor who cannot afford that kind of care? Surely, some one else deserves His
attention.
There are very good reasons for our attitude of wanting to set God’s agenda
on who is healed. We all know people of deep faith who sincerely prayed to God
for health and wholeness but instead only received silence from God. It seems
like they deserve a miracle from God. Each of us can name friends and family
members whose pain and suffering were never abated although they were good
Christians. Do they not need help just as much as the two females in today’s
Gospel? Then there is the truth that we all must face. Everyone here will die.
This is a certainty. No matter what kind of life you lead, your days on earth are
numbered. You cannot change this. Then why did Jesus give more time to that
twelve-year-old girl?
The truth of the matter is simply this. We all want Jesus to heal those people
that we select. In our minds, we think that Christ must respond to our specific
2
The ςῴζω verb in Mark 5:23 indicates saving and Jairus’ daughter needs to be rescued from
death. John R. Donahue, S.J. and Daniel J. Harrington, S.J.; Idem, editor, The Gospel of Mark,
Volume 2, Sacra Pagina, (Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 2002), p. 173. Additionally,
the Greek τὸ θυγάτριόν μου in the same verse could be translated as “my dear daughter” since
θυγάτριον also conveys affection. ibid..
3
In this period of history, only those with wealth saw physicians. Ibid., p. 174.

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priorities, no matter what they might be. We actually want to identify who will
live and die.
There is a reason for our behavior. We are afraid that God is just like the rest
of the world with its limited assets.
When we mistakenly believe that God’s blessings might run our at any mo-
ment, our viewpoint dramatically shifts to protect our best interests. That is why
we want to specifically identify those people who God will heal. We want to en-
sure those dear to us are better before the supply of health runs short. The identical
argument holds for those friends and family members who are suffering. Our wish
is that their pain ends during the time that God still has the ability to make them
feel better. The shared hope for a longer life is based on the same reasoning. God’s
reserve of extra days could end sometime soon.
While we started out with the best intentions in the world, with the belief that
we are really helping those we love, the result of our feelings is frightening. When
Jesus heals the sick woman, rather than rejoicing with her that finally after twelve
years of suffering she is made whole, we complain that Jesus has not helped others
people we consider to be more important. We do not want the girl’s family to be
happy that she is restored to life. Instead, we list all those others who we think
should live a bit longer.
There is another way of life. This point is beautifully illustrated in a line that
Paul writes to the church in Corinth. He says, “For you know the generous act of
our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor,
so that by his poverty you might become rich (2 Corinthians 8:9).”

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This lifestyle modeled by Jesus in the Gospel according to St. Mark is com-
pletely opposite with our inclination to control everything. Jesus leaves the luxury
of Heaven and comes here to live among us. His home on earth is not filled with
servants or creature comforts. He now calls the region around Galilee home and
in order to earn a living, He works wood with His hands (Mark 1:9; 6:3). Unlike
a king that travels a far distance to squelch a rebellion or to extract tribute from
His people, Jesus is here for one reason only. He wants to save you. This work of
salvation is very costly for Jesus. Many people reject Him and His teachings. This
includes His own family that will have nothing to do with Him (Mark 6:1-6a).
After a while, the authorities are absolutely fed up with His actions and they plan
His end (Mark 3:6; 14:1). They ultimately catch Him because one of His own fol-
lowers gave Him to the leaders (Mark 3:19; 14:10; 14:43). Everyone in the know
realizes that He cannot get a fair trial. But that does not stop it from going forward
(Mark 14:53 - 15:20). No one even cries out when He is tortured. Finally, He is
put on the cross where He dies (Mark 15:21 - 15:47).
This is the price Jesus paid for you. He gave everything up so you might live.
Today’s Gospel lesson gives us several brief glimpses into the way of life that
gives everything away so that others might be rich. Jesus ignores the fact that other
leaders of the synagogue are planning His death when He decides to follow Jairus
(Mark 3:6). Jesus is willing to ritually defile Himself by touching the child’s body
(Mark 5:41). Jesus sets aside all matters of common courtesy and speaks directly
to a women in public (Mark 5:34).
This is a message that we need to hear time and time again. Jesus chose you.

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We cannot believe this because we know the truth. Jesus gives life to those who
do not deserve it. He came to save people like you and me.
We are richer than we can imagine. But we did not earn a penny of it. All
that we have is given to us by God. This unexpected wealth should cause us to
completely reject the idea that God only has a limited amount of resources that
He can spend on the world.
Sometimes, we actually believe this and work very hard even though the odds
appear against us. Lutheran Disaster Relief is one of those agencies that model
this practice. They have been working all over the United States to help people
recover from tragedies. In the Midwest, they are helping to clean up after the
floods. Along the Gulf Coast, they are assisting with hurricane recovery. Another
shining example is Lutheran Social Services. Not only do they help place hard to
adopt children in loving homes but they also help care for our elders.
This love for the world spills out in other areas also. Today, we are very con-
cerned about the survival of lions. It is estimated that their numbers have dropped
between thirty and fifty percent in the last twenty years. This means that there are
less than fifty thousand lions in the wild.
At other times, we forget the price God paid for our lives. Are you worried
with what you see happening in the world? Then go and give to others just as
Christ has given to you.
“The peace of God, which passeth all understanding, keep your hearts and
minds through Christ Jesus.”4
4
Philippians 4:7.

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References

Donahue, S.J., John R. and Harrington, S.J., Daniel J.; Idem, editor, The Gospel
of Mark, Volume 2, Sacra Pagina, (Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press,
2002).