Preached on 28 June 2015 at St. Luke’s Memorial Episcopal Church, Tacoma
Fifth Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 8, Year B
We don’t talk much about “Salvation” nowadays. I mean we don’t really use that word. Oh we might say that we were “saved.” Usually from something unpleasant or that we simply don’t want to do. In other words we managed to avoid it.
Salvation is deeper than that. We might speak of salvation when a deep need is met or when a longing, deep within our souls is satisfied. We might seek salvation out of desperation. We see that in our gospel stories this morning.
We heard two stories of salvation. As is typical of Mark, one story interrupts the other. The first story begins with Jesus and the disciples by the sea and the crowds are pressing in. Remember, last week when they crossed over the Sea of Galilee to the land of the gentiles and there was the storm? Well, now it’s the next day and they have crossed back again to where they were.
Suddenly a man, a father, one of the leaders of the synagogue falls at Jesus’ feet in desperation, begging him to come with him and save his daughter. She is near death. Jesus goes with him and it appears that we can expect another healing story.
But instead, the story comes to a halt. A nameless woman interrupts. She, too, is desperate. She has suffered for twelve years – not only with the disease, but because of it, she is ostracized, shunned by society. She has probably lost her family and she is destitute. She hears of Jesus and sees a light of hope. “This time. This man. He will heal me. If I can get close enough to just touch his cloak, maybe finally, I will be healed.”
And so she does, and she is healed, saved. But Jesus stops. He knows something has happened. And the progression of the first story stops, putting the little girl’s life at greater risk. “Who touched me,” he asks. The woman confesses that it was she who touched him. Jesus calls her “Daughter.” Not only does she receive the salvation of healing in body, but she receives a deeper salvation. Jesus restores her identity; He restores her to relationship, to community; to wholeness.
But then the father’s worst fear is realized. Just as one daughter is saved, the other is lost. Messengers arrive to tell Jairus that his daughter is dead; it’s too late. Jesus is ready to move forward again, though and tells him to believe, to have faith. When they arrive at the house, he restores this daughter to her family. Salvation from death to life.
We find in these two stories salvation in several forms
- The salvation of healing
- Of restoration of identity
- Of return to relationship, to family, and community
- Salvation from loss
- Salvation from death
- Salvation of being made whole.
I wonder if this is the salvation we most deeply long for – to be made whole.
These two stories are grace-filled, but they are not very graceful. The jostling crowds, the interruptions. A fearful father begging. A desperate woman plucking up the courage to make her way through the crowd to touch a strange man’s clothing.
What I notice in these two stories is that salvation is not passive. Both the father and the woman actively go after the salvation they need. But it’s not a matter of doing it right, either; the right words, the right prayer, the right action, the right faith.
Now I want to say a little bit about faith. It seems that many people define faith as believing something without any evidence. I disagree. I would say that faith is based on the evidence of personal experience and observation of others’ experience.
Whether it’s a baby’s faith in her parent that when she cries her parent will respond and relieve her discomfort, or faith in our spouse, or faith in God, or faith in the Scientific Method. Our faith is born from our experience of the object of our faith.
The biblical witness is one piece in that puzzle of evidence. We retell the stories of Scripture like the ones we heard today, NOT so we can say, “Oh look what Jesus did 2000 years ago.” No, they help us recognize God at work in our lives, in our neighbors’ lives, and in the world around us.
We hear this in our canticle this morning.
Using the language of Rite 2, “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,” Mary sings, “my spirit rejoices in God, my savior.” She goes on to sing the song of Hannah from the story of Samuel’s birth in the Old Testament. She recalls God’s work of salvation in a familiar story and recognizes God now acting in her own life.
How have you experienced God’s salvation?
What other stories does it call to mind?
What is the salvation you long for deep in your soul?
Is it health? Or Strength?
The restoration of a relationship with family or a friend or with yourself?
Or maybe you seek salvation from demons that plague you – doubt, depression, addiction of some sort, your past?
Or do you seek the salvation of meaning for your life?
Or maybe it is a profound longing to be made whole. Does that longing for wholeness extend beyond ourselves to our families and communities; to our nation and the world; to the whole Creation?
Salvation is not only about us as individuals. Salvation is communal. God saves the people of Israel. What is the salvation we long for as a people? How will we seek it? How will we pray for it? It doesn’t have to be graceful. As the psalmist prays,
Out of the depths, I call to you, O Lord.
Lord, hear my voice.
My soul waits for the Lord; in your word is my hope
Whether our prayer is stumbling or graceful, we can rest in the faith that God’s salvation will be grace-filled.
Let us proclaim together, Canticle 9 on page 86.
Surely it is God who saves me;
I will trust in him and not be afraid.
for the Lord is my stronghold and my sure defense,
and he will be my Savior
Therefore you shall draw water with rejoicing
from the springs of salvation.
And on that day you shall say,
give thanks to the Lord and call upon his Name;
Make his deeds known among the peoples;
see that they remember that his Name is exalted.
Sing the praises of the Lord, for he has done great things,
and this is known in all the world.
Cry aloud, inhabitants of Zion, ring out your joy,
for the great one in the midst of you is the Holy One of Israel.
Surely it is God who saves us.
We will trust in God and not be afraid.
The great one in the midst of us is the Holy One.
Thanks be to God.