Almighty and everlasting God, by whose Spirit the whole body of the Church is governed and sanctified: hear our prayer which we offer for all your faithful people, that in their vocation and ministry they may serve you in holiness and truth to the glory of your name; through our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.
Almighty God, send down upon your Church the riches of your Spirit, and kindle in all who minister the gospel your countless gifts of grace; through Jesus Christ our Lord.
because God did not make death,
and he does not delight in the death of the living.
For he created all things so that they might exist;
the generative forces of the world are wholesome,
and there is no destructive poison in them,
and the dominion of Hades is not on earth.
For righteousness is immortal.
for God created us for incorruption,
and made us in the image of his own eternity,
but through the devil’s envy death entered the world,
and those who belong to his company experience it.
Wisdom 1:13–15, 2:23–24
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul,
‘therefore I will hope in him.’
The Lord is good to those who wait for him,
to the soul that seeks him.
It is good that one should wait quietly
for the salvation of the Lord.
It is good for one to bear
the yoke in youth,
to sit alone in silence
when the Lord has imposed it,
to put one’s mouth to the dust
(there may yet be hope),
to give one’s cheek to the smiter,
and be filled with insults.
For the Lord will not
reject for ever.
Although he causes grief, he will have compassion
according to the abundance of his steadfast love;
for he does not willingly afflict
or grieve anyone.
Now as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in utmost eagerness, and in our love for you—so we want you to excel also in this generous undertaking.
I do not say this as a command, but I am testing the genuineness of your love against the earnestness of others. 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. And in this matter I am giving my advice: it is appropriate for you who began last year not only to do something but even to desire to do something— now finish doing it, so that your eagerness may be matched by completing it according to your means. For if the eagerness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has—not according to what one does not have. I do not mean that there should be relief for others and pressure on you, but it is a question of a fair balance between your present abundance and their need, so that their abundance may be for your need, in order that there may be a fair balance. As it is written,
‘The one who had much did not have too much,
and the one who had little did not have too little.’
2 Corinthians 8:7–15
When Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a great crowd gathered round him; and he was by the lake. Then one of the leaders of the synagogue named Jairus came and, when he saw him, fell at his feet and begged him repeatedly, ‘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.’ So he went with him.
And a large crowd followed him and pressed in on him. Now there was a woman who had been suffering from haemorrhages for twelve years. She had endured much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had; and she was no better, but rather grew worse. She had heard about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, for she said, ‘If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well.’ Immediately her haemorrhage stopped; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. Immediately aware that power had gone forth from him, Jesus turned about in the crowd and said, ‘Who touched my clothes?’ And his disciples said to him, ‘You see the crowd pressing in on you; how can you say, “Who touched me?” ’ He looked all round to see who had done it. But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling, fell down before him, and told him the whole truth. He said to her, ‘Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.’
While he was still speaking, some people came from the leader’s house to say, ‘Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the teacher any further?’ But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the leader of the synagogue, ‘Do not fear, only believe.’ He allowed no one to follow him except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James. When they came to the house of the leader of the synagogue, he saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. When he had entered, he said to them, ‘Why do you make a commotion and weep? The child is not dead but sleeping.’ And they laughed at him. Then he put them all outside, and took the child’s father and mother and those who were with him, and went in where the child was. He took her by the hand and said to her, ‘Talitha cum’, which means, ‘Little girl, get up!’ And immediately the girl got up and began to walk about (she was twelve years of age). At this they were overcome with amazement. He strictly ordered them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat.
Sermon on Fifth Sunday after Trinity
‘Do not fear, only believe.’ This theme of having no fear comes up again and again, especially when we talk of faith and God. It is something that we confront daily in our lives. We are forever afraid – of all sorts of things. What will I have to do today at work? Who is ringing me now? How will I cope with everything when I get home tonight? What will happen to me?
Our fears are manifold – some are trivial, while others are existential. President Roosevelt once said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” I think this is what Jesus is saying here in his ‘Do not fear, only believe.’ Jesus may be speaking two thousand years ago, but his words apply to us today.
Fear need not be at the heart of our lives. We can go forward in faith, in trust. You know I like murder mysteries and the more I read the more I see that the villain of the piece hems himself in because he is afraid of being found out. The detective is on the trail and there are fewer and fewer options for him to make his escape. That is a very different type of life than Jesus is advocating here, isn’t it? I want us to understand the limitations of life without any future, a life without hope, a life without faith in anything.
That is the nature of fear – it limits us. But the life we know within faith is not a life which is constrained. Doesn’t Jesus promise life in abundance? It is a promise to everyone. It is not a promise made only to me or you. It is a promise made to your next door neighbour. It is a promise made to the stranger on the shore. The promise is universal. Once we realise that, however, everything becomes so complicated.
Yes, everything is complicated. I know we are in church and belief is supposed to make everything so very simple, but it does not. The life offered to us is abundant, overflowing, so much more than we ever expected, but it is so very complicated. When we live in Christ, our choices are simple, but it seems so very complicated to everyone else who wants to make everything simple for themselves, selfishly.
The first thing we need to do in our belief is to show that we are followers of Christ, and that is to show that we love one another. That is the only command Jesus gave to his followers, those who believed in him. That command is simple but it is not the easiest of things to accomplish, is it? There are people we don’t like very much, and yet we are supposed to love them! How can we do that? That is one of the complications of faith – that we love one another – whoever we are and whomever they are.
It does become very complicated, doesn’t it? When we are upset with family, we find it awfully hard to love them. It is so very hard to be open and honest – without prejudice and rancour – with that person who has provoked us, so we fume at worst and at best we ignore. That behaviour is not loving though, is it? We may say to ourselves, “I will do my best for them,” but we get behind that wall of hurt and we hide. Our silence to those we supposedly love does nothing to show the love Christ commands, does it?
See how complicated this love is. Yet this life of love which Christ offers is supposed to be simple. Abundant life and love – that is the hallmark of a christian. Yet do we expose that to the world? We may feel love, but love must be expressed, don’t you think? Even in the most frustrated loving relationship there is, a token of affection is shared. At the very least a soft word or a tender touch exhibits the love we hold for each other – a pat on the arm to reassure, for instance, may be all that is needed.
Even that token can be complicated, for both parties to the touch must be engaged in the love it is to reveal. That touch must be mutual. When I am sad, I must raise my arm to offer it to the assurance of another. We cannot rush in without that invitation. That is why it is complicated.
But being faithful should be simple, I hear all around me say. When you love someone, isn’t everything so simple? Well, ask Romeo and Juliet. Did love make their lives simple? Obviously those famous lovers did not find that their devotion to one another simplified everything. Perhaps between themselves all was very clear, but when they talked to their families, it was so very difficult. How do you make what is self-evident to yourself clear to anyone else, let alone those who don’t want to hear or see that love is your answer? The Beatles once sung, “All you need is love …” and I think they were right – perhaps that whole generation of peace and love was right.
Faith and love have a lot in common. Both engage the person with another. This is clear, isn’t it? If I love you, we are connected without a doubt. I may never touch that person I love, but everything I do is done for the sake of that other person. We have all read the classic romance novels based on this premise and we see that it is true.
And this is what we do when we believe. That significant other – God, the most significant other we can name – focuses the whole of our lives. Faith frees us from everything that ties us down. Belief opens our eyes to a future without limitation. Certainly faith opens us to the infinite possibility of life in abundance, that life we share with each other here in this community of faith. That infinite possibility of an abundant love for all.
Faith opens our eyes to hope – the hope we have for the future. We should always say “This is possible,” especially when it means that the other is given freedom to be themselves, the truly good people they can be. The people we can love without constraint so they can be free of all bonds.
I think this is the whole purpose of faith, to open us to a future of salvation, a future given to everyone. Jesus promised this in the guise of abundant life. Abundant life is the life that loves. We should know this here in the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church founded on the greatest act of love, the life of Jesus Christ our Lord.
‘Do not fear, only believe.’ That is such a simple sentence in this story of the healing miracle. That is the centre of this story, isn’t it? It is the focus of our lives, that we no longer fear, but believe in that other beyond all things which draws us to our completion in abundant life, in a freedom the everyday will not provide. Faith blasts away all fear and limitation. Faith opens life up for us and all whom we love.