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Today’s gospel reading is one of the best known bible stories, since all four of the Gospel writers recorded the so called “loaves and fishes miracle”, Jesus’ feeding of the 5,000, which most bible scholars believe was likely thousands more with the women and children.
Rest – what a concept – “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest for a while.” Does that sound wonderful, or what? Rest – Jesus’ words ah-rrest my frantic, over-anxious and over-extended self. Ah – rest – sounds so inviting – but you people – you, stay awake for the next few minutes. Sorry.
Today I have invited a special guest, well – sort of. Mark, Gospel Writer, is here through the power and magic of “Creative Non-Fiction,” to be questioned about what we’ve just heard in his gospel. I know what you’re probably thinking right now and no, I haven’t lost it, nor have I been hearing voices. Just fire up your imagination and just come along with me.
Last Sunday I rather boldly revealed the trajectory of today’s sermon. Normally, I wouldn’t announce ahead a topic, but I’ve thought a lot about and been deeply pained by the tragedy in Charleston and what’s taking place in our nation. I thought I might know something to say by today. My confidence lasted until last Monday. Writing a sermon is a lot like playing golf. You tee it up, swing, and only God knows where it’s going. I wish I were smart enough to give you the answer as to what’s wrong in our nation these days, and what to do. But I’m not that smart. I’ll point us to a story, though, that might shed a little light.
In today’s gospel reading, there are two different stories of healing woven together into a single story. While Jesus is on his way to heal and restore life to Jairus’ 12 year old daughter, he heals an unnamed woman who has been hemorrhaging for 12 years.
So who has the real problem here? Is it the growing masses, following Jesus closing, beginning to think he could be Messiah? They’ll soon be turning on him. Is it Jesus and the disciples, so popular, attracting such crowds, they can’t get a table even at McDonald’s? Is it his mom and brothers who hear neighbor’s rumors: “Your boy ain’t right” and try to drag him home? Is it the scribes Jesus calls out, saying they blaspheme the Holy Spirit? That’s pretty serious. Is it Jesus, accused by the scribes of being in cahoots with Satan? Whose side do you take in this squabble? Our default choice, of course, is Jesus. Yet also according to Jewish norms, he’s doing some goofy things that cause him problems.
In case you missed the memo, today is Trinity Sunday. A noted Seminary President says he dreads preaching on Trinity Sundays. Is that not inspiring as I began working on my sermon, or what? The seminary President is not our dear member, Dr. David Zersen. I am sure he knows more than I about the Trinity, and would not have the dread I do.
I’m uncertain. You confuse me. I asked you to sit in someone else’ spot and you did it. I am confused. I can’t tell who’s here and who’s not. But that’s not why I am uncertain. Did the first disciples become Episcopalians between Easter and Pentecost? About what other religious gathering could it have been said: “For crying out loud, it’s 9am, and they’ve already started Happy Hour.”
This year we’ve moved the Feast of the Ascension from its assigned day of last Thursday to today. Weekday services no longer draw many. So we transfer the feast to the next Sunday when more people, like you, show up. It is permissible in the church do this. I have checked.
Have you ever forced yourself to love someone who annoys the daylights out of you? Jesus’ only command is that we love one another as he loves us. That’s not a suggestion. Keeping that command frees us from conflict, judging others, and general crankiness. Thank goodness that’s the way life is in the church, right? And when we understand this command and do it, Jesus bumps from servants to friends on the spiritual ladder. We enter his joy. Can love for someone you don’t particularly like be commanded, and that love be genuine – or lasting?