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Monday, November 9, 2015

He Went with Him

“He Went with Him” (Mark 5:22-43)
Rob Tennant, HillSong Church, Chapel Hill, NC
Sunday, November 8, 2015

          Ok then, today, ecclesiology.
          Say what? Ecclesiology, you say?  What’s that?
          Do what everybody does.  Type it into Google and see what comes up.
          E-c-c-l-e-s-i-o-l-o-g-y …  Ah, the first hit.  The common definition of ecclesiology: that which “refers to the theological study of the Christian Church.”[i] Some of you will find this seriously fascinating.   OK, a few of you.  Others are mentally checking out as I speak.
          Check back in.  I am going to give you my ecclesiology, my thoughts on God and church, but I promise not to use technical terminology. 
Instead, let’s get personal.  “In the midst of our stories, my life, your life, our stories, our lives – how in the middle of it do we each bear the image of God?” 
You and I are created in God’s image.  How do we live the life we were created to live?  As we pay taxes and discipline children and tolerate that intolerable boss and cheer at the football game and complain about the overhyped movie and call the power company about the outage and plan the Thanksgiving trip to grandma’s and recoil as we watch the news TV and vote and deal with cancer and pray – as we live, how do we do it as God’s image bearers?
One of the main purposes of church is to help people live life in Christ.  The church helps the people who make up the body of Christ live as God-worshipers, God-followers, and joyful, thriving witnesses to the truth of the Gospel and the promise of life Jesus gives.  Church does more than that, of course, but what I describe here is, I firmly believe, a crucial aspect of Church.  Church helps all who attend live the abundant life Jesus promised. 
The gospel writer Mark shows a couple of people who were having trouble living that abundant life.  In chapter five we meet a man and then a woman, two image-bearers, who for different reasons were in great pain. 
First came Jairus, a leader in the synagogue.  We don’t know if he initially scoffed at Jesus and the phenomena around him the way many other religious leaders did, or if Jairus had faith from the beginning.  But, when his daughter’s life hung in the balance that did not matter.  His little girl was going to die.  He knew it.  Everyone around him and his family knew it.  The sickness she had brought death.
So he did what dads do – whatever they can for their kids.  Everyone knew Jairus had a prominent role in public life.  He was a synagogue leader.  Everyone knew Jesus was popular, on the rise, and everyone witnessed the tension that was growing between Jesus and religious leaders.  Would Jairus join the chorus of those who critiqued Jesus?  Or would he go out on a limb and support the rabbi from Galilee?
Jesus had recently driven 1000 demons out of a man in the Gentile region of Gerasenes.  The people in that community saw the miracle, feared the power of God, and asked Jesus to leave and he did.  He and the disciples traveled back across the Sea of Galilee.  Upon arrival, Mark writes “fell at [Jesus’] feet and begged him repeatedly” to help (5:23.) 
We see Jairus’ stance.  Did he sing along with his colleagues?  No way!  As they were challenging everything Jesus said, he fell at Jesus’ feet.  What was Jesus’ response?  Mark write, “He went with him” (v.24).
That’s what Jesus does.  Last Tuesday, I went to vote.  Jesus went with me.  I don’t know if Jesus had specific choices for town council in Chapel Hill.  But I know the Holy Spirit of the Lord was with me then and is with me now. 
At same time that he was with me in that voting booth, that same Holy Spirit was with you.  Coaching a youth soccer team?  On the commute home from work?  Recover from a chemo therapy treatment?  Studying for an exam?  The Lord goes with us, always, reminding us that wherever we are, whatever we are doing, we are belong to God. 
So, they went, in process from the shore, through town, to Jairus’ house.  Jesus, 12 disciples, Jairus, probably other family members and friends from the synagogue.  There may have been more than 20 people in this cluster.  It would have been a site, the kind of thing that makes your head turn and take notice, this little motley grew trouping through town. 
One who noticed, a woman whose proximity to other people was itself problematic, wormed her way through the throng so that she was right next to Jesus.  Mark tells us she had been “suffering from hemorrhages for 20 years” (v.25).  While scholarly opinion about what exactly this means varies widely, we can say a few things with confidence.  First, her condition was not normal or healthy, was a sickness, and made her life extremely lonely and painful. 
Second, she was unclean.  Anyone who came into contact with her would also be ritually unclean.  When she forced her way through a crowd, she touched everyone.  Thus her desperate hope that Jesus might heal her from a malady that had ruined her life led her to an action that affected a lot of people.  But she did it.
Desperation leads synagogue leaders to beg in the dust at Jesus’ feet and it leads untouchable women to ignore all social conventions and wade right into the crowd they’re supposed to avoid.  All of it comes as Jesus is in the flow of his own mission to announce the Kingdom of God.
Jesus heals the woman and the way he does it tells us a lot about the church.  He notices; he senses that power has gone out of him.  When he realizes it is because someone who is both sick and cut off from the community has sought him, he is filled with compassion.  He calls her daughter.  He commends her faith.  He sends her on her way in peace.   
The church today is the body of Christ in the world.  The church is where hurting people encounter the Holy Spirit of God in life-changing ways.  Of course the Spirit touches people outside the church too, but even in those cases, the person who has met God then comes to the church to make sense of it.  We – the people who make up the church – must notice those around us who in pain, who struggle, who need help, and who find themselves in desperation.  We must notice as Jesus noticed and respond with compassion, the compassion of the Lord.
In the delay that came with helping the woman, the daughter of Jairus died.  Everything that occurred there happened while Jesus was on the way to help someone else.  And when Jesus was asked to help Jairus’ daughter, that request came as he was on his way somewhere.
Someone came, reported that the daughter had died, and told Jairus to stop troubling Jesus.  Jesus would have none of such talk.  A hurting person in absolute need was not a bother to him.  Jairus was not troubling him.  Helping a person in such a state reclaim God’s image is why Jesus came. Don’t trouble the teacher?  Oh no!  Once again, Jesus went with him.  He told him to have no fear, but to believe.  The he brought the dead girl to life.
Through his church today, he continues to bring life through the love of a welcoming community.  Specifically, I imagine our church to be an island in the middle of a broad, fast-moving river.  Our community is the river – people moving through.  Some come as visiting faculty and are here a year or less.  Some are graduate students.  They stay anywhere from 3-5 years.  The community is transitory.  It is different in the school year when students are on campus and we feel it as those who rent parking spaces fill our lower lot. 
Then, in early May it clears out.  We find it easier to get around on Franklin Street.  Our town changes.  In those times, many in our church go on vacation or away for the weekend.  It is like this at holidays too.  You never know who will be here.  Our Sunday morning crowd has consistent attendees, but it is different every week, sometimes slightly different, sometimes very different.  The river keeps flowing by.  As it does, we here so people can meet God here and be reminded of who we are supposed to be – those who bear his image. 
We have cited numerous life is broken and bearing the image of God is hard.  It seems impossible for someone just surviving each day to think of herself as one made in God’s image.  Our church is here to help her see that.
Our church is an island in this river. Some pass by and we have them for a summer or a semester or three-five years.  Others, are moving through but decide they love it here.  A semester turns into 20 years.  Someone began here as 18-year-old freshman and is now on the elder board.  That’s our church.
With God present, the woman, ailing from this uncontrollable blood flow – sick and cut off and alone – is healed.  She is healed, she becomes a daughter of God and she has the peace of God.  She forces the community to take another look at those who have been pushed to the margins. We realize that when God is present, no one is marginal or overlooked, unnoticed.  Everyone is God’s image bearer. 
With God present, a father who has been reduced to begging for his child is given that child alive and healthy.  Her restored to life is life for him and for the entire synagogue community.  The entire community now has to reckon with what it really means to say God is present.  It means death will never win.
Our church, planted in the middle of the unending flow that is UNC and Chapel Hill and the triangle, our church is a reminder that God is present.  When God is present that means something. 
In your life, what does it mean?  Are you the woman, injured, feeling totally outside of mainstream life?  Jesus sees you and has healing for you.  Meet him in this church family and allow your life to be remade.
Are you Jairus?  Do you feel powerless as some oppressions threatens to rob you of your joy and of your life?  Meet Jesus here, in this church, and reclaim the image of God in you.
Are you one of the disciples riding the billowing waves of the sea as you follow Jesus wherever he leads?  Where will He lead you next?  What is he going to do next?  What will be your part in it?  Meet Jesus in this place this morning and once again say, “Here I am Lord.  I am yours will do what you say to do, will say what you tell me to say, and will go where you lead.”

See?  Ecclesiology – the study of church; our church family is an island in a river where people are constantly flowing past.  Those who stop in meet Jesus in this place.  They are healed, restored, and reminded of what it is to bear the image.  Whether they stay go some other place because that’s where He led them, they meet Him and become His disciples. 


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