6th Sunday after Pentecost (B)
July 1, 2018
“When It’s Time To Go Home”
God’s grace, mercy and peace be to you all in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, our great Triune God. The sermon today is based on our Gospel lesson from Mark 5.
My Dear Friends in Christ Jesus,
Valleyfair is a 125 acre amusement park located in Shakopee, MN and is currently the largest amusement park in the upper Midwest featuring more than 75 rides – 8 of which are thrill rides with very high barf indexes, I mean, thrill indexes. I know this because I have been there many times. During my time there, which is very much like visiting one of the amusement parks in Orlando, I realized that spending a day at an amusement park is parallel to life and the life experience. Let me explain.
Spending a day at Valleyfair or a Seaworld or Cedar Point in Ohio or Worlds of Fun in Kansas City or Six Flags St. Louis or any of the Disney parks or any amusement park is at lot like life: there is only one gate to get it, it requires a lot of physical effort, you do a lot of waiting, you do a lot of walking, the food is expensive, there are things that make you joyful, there are things that make you cringe, and you’re really tired by the end. But there is another connection I made, and it’s very appropriate for today. At Valleyfair and other theme parks, when it’s time to go home there is only one gate. One. Everyone comes in the same way…and everyone goes out the same way. So also in life there is only 1 gate; Jesus Himself said so regarding Himself in John 10; He IS the gate: the gate of life, the gate of death, the gate of life after death. And we see that visibly today in the raising of Jairus’ daughter. Today we learn 2 truths: (1) Faith in Christ Jesus – the Lord of both life and death – changes how you and I live our lives, and (2) it gives us hope as we approach the end of our life; hope for when it is time for us to “go home.”
At a theme park or any large gathering of people, you see quite a cross section of people. So also, in today’s Gospel lesson from Mark 5, we get a good cross section of what people thought of Jesus. He is seen as and called a Teacher (5:35). Clearly He is seen as someone who could really heal or (1) he wouldn’t have been approached by Jairus; and (2), the woman suffering from a bleeding issue wouldn’t have wasted her time on another doctor (5:26). But you know what else? There were also some present who saw Jesus as a fool. When He tells the mourners to “beat it” because the girl is only sleeping, they laugh at Him (5:40). Teacher, Healer, fool. Quite a mixed response to Jesus and His way of doing things, and people’s attitude and opinions about Jesus changed their behavior.
Well, that’s also what we continue to observe in this world. Now don’t get me wrong. There are many people who see Jesus for who He is and live life accordingly. Large gathering places like Valleyfair and Disney theme parks are opportunities to see what kind of impact Jesus and faith in Him makes. It was “Lutheran Youth” day once when I went to Valleyfair and the kids from various youth groups were evident with their matching t-shirts and appropriate levels of dress and language and behavior. But when people regard Jesus as someone other than Lord and God, that’s when you see an immediate, drastic change. I observed levels of clothing – and lack thereof – that wouldn’t be appropriate for adults let alone teenage girls. Some of the most foul language I have heard in a long time caused me to look around wondering “who let wounded pirates in here?” Turns out the words came from the mouths of two girls who could have been no older than 15. The point is clear. Having an up-close and personal saving faith in Jesus changes us…or at least it should. Why? He is the Son of God come in human flesh for the forgiveness of OUR sins. Mark made that very clear in the opening line of his Gospel: “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God” (Mark 1:1 ESV).
Faith or no faith, death is the exit gate that every person must face. There is nothing that I or anyone else can do about it; that is the reality of the human life experience. You start dying the moment you are born. That is the inevitable consequence of sin. In today’s Gospel lesson, we know nothing of the girl’s faith. Her father Jairus believed in Jesus, though. Even as a public figure (a synagogue ruler was a lay person who took care of the building and ensure services were offered), he was willing to fall at the feet of Jesus begging Him to help because of his daughter’s impending death. Was that seen as an appropriate action by a public figure? No, not really. But for a father whose daughter’s death is imminent? Of course. Jairus’ actions are acts of faith knowing that death was near for his daughter; there was NO time for pomp, pageantry, or politics. So, Jesus raises her from the dead.
Physical death is not the end. The eternal Son of God has conquered death not only for Jairus’ daughter, but also for you and me, for he has paid for the sins of all. He died our death and has promised to raise us up again on the last day. Our death too will be but a sleep. Awakening from it through His word of power, we shall live with Him forever. And remember, Christ did not raise Jairus’ daughter in secret. There were 5 witnesses, 3 of whom were His disciples. His victory over death is no secret here any more than it was a secret after Easter as Jesus showed His resurrected self to many people many times to show the world He is alive. Having a living faith in a living Savior changes life. It impacts the clothing choices we make. It causes us to re-think how we speak, behave, give, love, serve, and work.
May I ask you all a question? We are a low tech church (words, water, bread, wine) caught up in a digital, high-tech world. The rate of change is so rapid that no one can keep up and that’s causing a lot of social angst. So how do people respond? By attaching what they DO know: traditional institutions and beliefs that get swept past by all the changes. Nearly every trace of God seems to be vanishing or has vanished from our society, and yet here we are…still obedient to Christ. Why? Because we have faith. Because we believe. Because we too have heard Jesus say “Do not fear, only believe” (5:36). We come because we have hope. And we know that when it’s time to go home, there is only a single gate through which we pass by God’s mercy and grace and opens into the land of glory – the sweet by and by – where we shall meet on the beautiful shore that is heaven.
Have a happy 4th of July everyone.