A father brings his daughter’s plight to Jesus, a woman who has been struggling for twelve years reaches out. What do we do with our attention? When despair is real how do we reach out in hope?
I don’t have children. I’ve seen faces and I’ve heard cries but the truth is I don’t know the responsibility and the joy of being a father, of being the one who takes care of, protects, strengthens and teaches a child. When you see your child thirsty, or in pain, and you connect them with what they need to be well you’re fulfilling a holy thing, a love after the image of our God. And because of my ignorance, I’m aware that I can not know the pain of Jairus who finds himself powerless to save his daughter. To see her suffering and dying, and have no power to save. That is the desperation we meet in the Gospel this morning.
Lamentations 3 begins “I am the man who has seen affliction by the rod of his wrath”(3:1)
That’s who is crying out. I think because we read it as if its prose we lose the fact that the book of Lamentations is actually, like the book of psalms, a collection of songs. They are songs that begin in desperation, they are anthems sorting out the gap between security in God’s promise and the falling apart of everything the people of Israel knew to be good. They are the wails of those who have lost loves, those who have had hope and defeat, those who have seen unimaginable horrors. They are melodies from the hearts of the vanquished. They are hymns for us to receive now when we suffer that we need not sort out that suffering alone but in fellowship with our ancestors in faith.
The portion of the song we heard today is entered into with this introduction:
“I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them and my soul is downcast within me. Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope:” (Lamentations 3:19-21)
This is hope in defeat. He spends the first part of the song talking about the suffering that God has allowed them to endure. But here his focus shifts, his eyes turn to hope.
As Jesus follows Jairus to his daughter the eyes of a woman fix upon him. A woman with a hemorrhage.
When one bleeds its not just one thing. There’s the pain of vulnerability, involuntary exposure to the world, to more dirt, more disease more poison. Blood carries nutrients through our body, invigorating us, keeping us going. And that vigor, that life was pouring out of her, emptying for 12 years. This drain trained her attention, her focus upon itself. She wanted her energy back, she wanted her safety back and so she sought a solution. When we bleed it not only drains our energies it occupies our minds like a foreign invader. She marshaled all of her resources, her relationships, her problem-solving acumen under the advice and treatment of many doctors. This meant she had less time and money and relationship to spend on anything else. This drained her dry…and the leak had not stopped.
Out of this hopelessness, out of this desperate scrambling, she reaches out.
This is the hope of the man who has seen affliction: that though he has suffered he will not be consumed, that out of this affliction he can turn his attention to who God is. Out of his affliction he can see that the God who allows suffering is a God of great love. God’s compassion never fails and renews itself every morning. And so he turns his attention to that love.
I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion therefore I will wait for him” (Lamentations 3:24)
The Lord is our portion therefore we wait for him. Its a humbling thing to wait for the Lord, to silence the scrambling of our desperation, to let a promise be more real than our aches, to call our true king to announce himself amid our oppressors, to have no control over the when and the how, but to trust in Him. The ache doesn’t disappear, the pain of the memories are no less true, and yet in this we turn our focus in an inheritance we are still learning to see.
Yet Jairus rushes from his family to Jesus. This woman beholds him and reaches out in silence to touch the hem of his robe.
The Lord is good to those who hope in him. to the one who seeks him. It is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord. (Lamentations 3:25)
Waiting is a relinquishing of control. Waiting is letting the walls come tumbling down. Waiting is casting off distractions and stories that might come pouring out from within. Waiting is listening for the one who stands at the door and knocks. Waiting is a dance in which we follow and let God take the lead. Waiting is hard. And yet I tell you those times when God has been most clear to me, and hope has overwhelmed me have come in those silent hours upon my knees when I have fallen down before him and he has made me free to let go and to wait.
This is the kind of waiting where we sit alone in silence. This is the waiting where we feel the weight that God has placed upon us. This is the waiting where our hearts reach up and our faces look down.
And so the man who has seen affliction waits quietly on God, trusting that God is good and saves those who wait on him. And that’s the thing. I can not presume to promise for God the when and the how of that salvation. I don’t know what it will look like for each person. I am not the king of their heart and neither are they. That’s why we wait on the one who reigns. I stand here as dumbstruck as the apostles when Jesus asked “who touched me?”
The woman receives in that moment when she touches Jesus, the movement of God’s power making her well. When Jesus calls out the question she comes forward in fear because she knows, Jesus is the power from on high, and so she falls down before him. Its is good and proper to fall down before him, and in that collapse she receives his smile, his love, his encouragement and his commission. He calls her his daughter, he sends her in peace and freedom that only can come from him.
Its in that moment that messengers with despair but without hope arrive on the scene. Jairus’s servants come and tell him that his daughter is dead, and to leave Jesus alone. Jesus’s example for those voices is a challenge to us. He ignores them. Our lot in despair is hope. Jesus does not want us to be attentive to hopelessness. There is nothing but death there. He tells Jairus not to be afraid, and to trust him.
Two things about this:
1)Jairus could easily have given in to anger and asked why did you just save her but let my daughter die? He could have been jealous of Jesus’s mercy going a way other than he had hoped. Or he could receive it as encouragement to trust and to wait.
2)Waiting on God sometimes makes absolutely no sense. I’m somebody who really likes things to make sense, and I believe God gave us our reason to give him glory, and he did. But our reason can build up faith or it can tear it down. Which of these gives God glory? When we lack a sense of motion toward progress we need to remember that when we are waiting on God we aren’t in the drivers seat and we don’t even have the map. Our job isn’t to watch the road, its to watch the King.
When Jesus arrives at the house are they waiting in silence? Are they waiting out of despair and in hope? No. They are wailing in pain, their being is turned in the direction of hopelessness, into the reality of the loss. Jesus again dismisses this and kicks them out of the house. That disposition has no place in our walk. To walk in faith we have to change our direction, we have to walk in hope.
And what does Jesus speak into this despair with hope? Talitha koum. Daughter, rise up. And with her hand in the Messiah’s she is lifted up out of the grip of death.
And so we come this morning out of whatever we are coming out of. We come to fix our eyes on the ruler of the universe. We have come to let go and to wait. As we fall on our knees this morning may the Word of God speak into us. May we wait in hope. May we be lifted up by his hand. Amen.