Rev. George Miller
“Hope Amidst Hopelessness”
July 1, 2012
Recently I watched season one of “Downton Abbey,” a sumptuous British mini-series complete with Lords and Ladies, butlers and chefs.
It shows how the rich family lives upstairs, hosting extravagant banquets, changing into 4 outfits day, while the servants live and work below; cooking their meals, washing their clothes, making sure everything proceeds like clockwork.
Everything is neat and in its place, working on a structured system of honor and shame.
Though they may be cordial to one another, the two classes are never to mix; boundaries are not to be crossed over.
Crossing over is an important theme in today’s scripture. Look at the first sentence of today’s reading: Jesus crosses over, once again, to the other side.
It is in his crossing over that Jesus will have an encounter with and change the lives of at least three people.
Mark is a provoking Gospel, written by a creative author who refuses to give easy answers or supply us with comfort food.
Mark likes to challenge us. “What kind of person are you?” he seems to ask.
Are you the kind who looks out at the world and sees hopelessness amidst the hope?
Or do you see the hope amidst the hopelessness?
Take for example today’s reading.
In ch. 4 Jesus compared the Kingdom of God to a person who scatters seed all over the place, and to a mustard seed that grows branches for all the birds to build their nests.
In ch. 5, after his lessons are completed, Jesus crosses over the sea to where he meets a Gentile man, tormented by demons.
After healing him, Jesus crosses over again, this time to the west side of the lake.
This mention of crossing over is not to be missed. It’s akin to saying “When Jesus took the ferry from Staten Island into Manhattan.”
Or “When Jesus drove down Martin Luther King Blvd until it changed over to Power Line.”
Anyone who has driven that route knows the cultural shift that takes place in just a few short miles.
Jesus is now on the West side of the sea, where the Jewish people live. But apparently even on the west side folk still face their own trials and tribulations.
Jesus is approached by a religious leader whose daughter is dying and he’s approached by a woman whose life blood is pouring out.
But before we go any further, let’s stick with this notion of Jesus crossing over, because it’s not just a geographical thang; it is social, spiritual, and economical.
Jesus has crossed over from Gentile to Jew. From male to female. From young to old.
From the financially spent to the financially solvent. From the prestigious to the ostracized.
From honored to shamed.
This is Jesus crossing boundaries after boundaries after boundaries.
Touching and affecting lives in ways that go beyond time, cash and status.
Even as the world presses in, this is Jesus finding a way to bring wellness and peace into people’s lives.
This is Jesus in the process of creating a new community even in the midst of things seeming to fall apart.
Let’s take a listen to the moment when we get to hear Jesus “cross” over; the moment where life and death exist at the same time.
While Jesus is going to Jairus’ house to heal his daughter, Jesus is touched by a woman who is unclean. He stops and asks who touched him.
Boldly, the woman comes before him and tells her whole story. When the woman stops talking, Jesus says to her “Daughter, your faith has made you well.”
A family term of belonging; God knows who she is.
There is hope.
But as Jesus is talking to her; people come to Jairus and say “Your daughter is dead.”
There is hopelessness.
Mark has done something crafty: if you read verses 34 & 35, you’ll realize that both lines were spoken at the same time.
Which means that it would have sounded like this: “Daughter, your faith has made you well/Your daughter is dead.”
This is key. Jesus is in the process of creating a new community, when both realities come together: life and death.
On one hand, we have the good news that a woman has been made well, on the other hand we have news that a daughter is dead.
There is hope and there is hopelessness.
What happens when they both exist at the same time?
Do we succumb to one and deny the other?
Do we smile through the pain? Do we cry through the healing?
Which does Jesus choose?
What will this new community be based on?
In this moment we are witnessing something amazing; a community in the beginning stages of being formed.
And it is being formed by hope.
When it seems like all hope is lost, when others laugh and scoff at him, Jesus presses on, making a way for the Kingdom of God to break on in.
Jesus creates a community that goes beyond master and servant; that goes beyond young and mature.
Jesus creates a community of hope.
A community that says “Even with chronic illness, we will find the strength to fully live out the rest of our lives.”
A community that says “Even when the money has bled out, we will continue pressing forward, trusting that in God we have ‘enough.’”
A community that says “Even when we’ve fallen down and are flat on our backs, we will find a way to get on our feet again. No matter how many times we fall.”
In Jesus, this is a community in which space is created for stories to be told, naysayers do not have the final word, girls matter just as much as boys, and the poor matter just as much as the rich.
The community Jesus creates here is one that still continues 2,000 years later.
Through religious persecution, through violent revolution and segregation, through depression, recession and Supreme Court intervention, the community that Christ has created is still here.
The community is still here, because the seeds Jesus planted have been scattered far and wide, growing branches that have created homes for all the birds of the air.
In conclusion, when Jesus crosses over into our lives, a change occurs, and with that change a chance to take part in a new creation.
The community Jesus has created is one where there is no such thing as upstairs and downstairs, there is no such thing as separation of class, but we are all equal, all daughters and sons worthy of our Father’s love.
In that new creation are elements of hope.
For in Jesus we can get up and we can say “I am a child of God, and I know I am worthy of being healed.”
For this we can say “Amen and amen.”