holy cross sermon for the fifth sunday after pentecost, june 28, 2015

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

Today’s Gospel reading treats of Jesus raising a twelve year old girl from the dead. The passage begins with the girl’s father coming to Jesus and beseeching him on her behalf: “seeing Jesus, [the little girl’s father] fell at [Jesus’] feet, and besought him, saying, ‘My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well, and live’” (vv. 22-23).

This passage teaches us several things. First, it shows us something about prayer. In prayer, we come before the Lord, and we ask him for things, just as the father of the little girl has done. Moreover, the father of the girl shows us a kind of prayer that has transcended superficiality in one important respect: he is not praying for himself and his own needs.

Perhaps the most superficial kind of prayer is the kind where we ask God for a pony, or for a million dollars – something we think we want. But a soul that has been cleansed, to some degree, from self-seeking, will turn first toward the Lord, seeking him for his own sake, and then for the sake of others. And we see this in the father of the girl: he comes to the Lord in supplication, and he comes because of his love for his daughter .

We should also notice that the man comes to the Lord BELIEVING IN THE POWER OF THE LORD TO DO WHAT HE ASKS. Prayer must begin with faith in Christ: believing that Jesus is who he says he is – namely, that he is the Lord. And being the Lord means that he has power over every circumstance – both our own, and the circumstances of those whom we love.

We must learn to ask the Lord for good things, and we must ask him out of faith in him, and out of love. We know that the Lord’s own desire is to give us good things – indeed to give us EVERY good thing. Jesus said, “If you… know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” (Matt. 7.11). Why then do we so often find ourselves bereft of goodness? Saint James answers that question: “You do not have, because you do not ask,” (James 4.2). We have to learn to ask the Lord for GOOD THINGS.

And note that a big part of our problem, in contemporary America, is that we don’t even know what is good anymore. So what are good things? In short, as the father asks for his little girl: LIFE. And not simply the humdrum life of the world – in other words, not just, and not primarily, BIOLOGICAL life – but things that pertain to the kind of abundant life that is ours only in Christ. We must learn to ask him for things like healing, contrition, forgiveness, wisdom, discernment, prayer (pray for the gift of prayer!), joy in doing God’s will, the peace of God, and that we might be made vessels of his grace. How often do you pray for those kinds of things? If the answer is “not very often,” then there is proof that you have lost side of, or maybe that you have never become fully acquainted with what is truly good.

While Jesus is on his way to the house of the little girl, “there came from the… house some who said, ‘Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the Teacher any further?’” (v. 35). There is a worldly vantage point, and there is a heavenly vantage point. To the eyes of the world, many situations seem hopeless. But we should always be mindful of the fact that “with God, nothing will be impossible,” (Luke 1.37), and that Jesus tells us “if you have faith as a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, `Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you,” (Matt. 17.20).

 

And so we find Jesus exhorting the faith of the girl’s father, who has just been informed by the clamor of the world that the situation is hopeless. Jesus ignores the clamor of the world. The passage says, “Ignoring what they said, Jesus said to the [man], ‘Do not fear, only believe,’” (v. 36).

When they get to the house, the house is filled with the same clamor of hopelessness, the kind of noise that does not come from faith in the power of God, but in the inevitability of the natural. Jesus says to them, “Why do you make a tumult and weep? The child is not dead but sleeping.” And those who have no faith in his power laugh at him.

Very often Christians encounter what seem like hopeless situations. And often the Lord, in his providence, allows situations to seem hopeless so that we might call out to him in faith and so draw closer to him, and secondly so that he might make his power known. It is easy to give in, in the face of what we think is the inevitability of the natural. The situation is hopeless; end of story. But the Lord desires us to bring our hopelessness and fear to him in prayer – firstly so that we may be drawn more closely into his presence and his care, and so that he can manifest his power.

 

In 2 Corinthians, Paul tells the brethren about a troubling and difficult situation – he doesn’t say exactly what it was, but he does say that he prayed repeatedly to the Lord about it, and the Lord spoke to Paul’s heart: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness,” (2 Cor. 12.9).

So in the Gospel, the little girl is dead to the world, but to God she is sleeping. St. Bede says that sub specie aeternitatis, from the divine vantage point, “both the soul was living, and the flesh was resting, [in order] to rise again.” Jesus quiets the clamor of the faithless crowd: he puts them all outside, and taking the girl’s father and mother, along with Peter, James, and John, he enters the room, takes the girl by the hand, and says to her, “Little girl, I say to you, arise” (v. 41). “And immediately the girl got up and walked,” (v. 42).

The power of the Lord extends over the whole creation, and over every circumstance, even death. He desires to give us good things. Very often we do not receive good things for the simple reason that we do not ask for them. At other times, we are unable to see or to understand what is truly good. For example, we may pray for money, but God may know that were we to get ahold of the money we think we need, we would rest in the security of our wealth rather than in his power. “For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses himself?” (Luke 9.25).

“What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Cor. 2.9). God has unutterably good things in store for us. And we can begin to receive them even now, on this side of Paradise. We have only to trust him, to love him, and to ASK him out of trust and love. “You do not have, because you do not ask.”

 

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

Advertisements

About Fr Will

Fr Will Brown is rector of Holy Cross Dallas
This entry was posted in Sermons. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s