(Lamentations 3:22-33, Psalm 30, 2 Corinthians 8:7-15)
(watch here: https://youtu.be/1RjP4QDRXM8)
21When Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a great crowd gathered around him; and he was by the sea. 22Then one of the leaders of the synagogue named Jairus came and, when he saw him, fell at his feet 23and 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.”
24So he went with him. And a large crowd followed him and pressed in on him. 25Now there was a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years. 26She had endured much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had; and she was no better, but rather grew worse. 27She had heard about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, 28for she said, “If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well.” 29Immediately her hemorrhage stopped; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. 30Immediately aware that power had gone forth from him, Jesus turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my clothes?” 31And his disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing in on you; how can you say, ‘Who touched me?’” 32He looked all around to see who had done it. 33But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling, fell down before him, and told him the whole truth. 34He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”
35While he was still speaking, some people came from the leader’s house to say, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the teacher any further?” 36But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the leader of the synagogue, “Do not fear, only believe.” 37He allowed no one to follow him except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James. 38When they came to the house of the leader of the synagogue, he saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. 39When he had entered, he said to them, “Why do you make a commotion and weep? The child is not dead but sleeping.” 40And 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. 41He took her by the hand and said to her, “Talitha cum,” which means, “Little girl, get up!” 42And immediately the girl got up and began to walk about (she was twelve years of age). At this they were overcome with amazement. 43He strictly ordered them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat.
There’s a story about a businessman who was deeply in debt and couldn’t figure a way out of it. Creditors were pressing in on him. Suppliers were demanding for a payment. One he was sitting on a bench in the park with his head down, thinking what could save the company from bankruptcy. Suddenly, an old man appeared in front of him. “I see that something is bothering you,” the old man said. After listening to the businessman, the old man said, “I think I can help you.” He asked the businessman what his name was, wrote him a check, and said, “Take this money. We will meet here exactly in one year, and you will be able to return it to me at that time.” After that, the old man turned around and disappeared just as suddenly as he appeared.
The businessman looked down and saw a check in his hands in the amount of $500,000, signed by John Rockefeller, one of the richest people in the world at that time! “I could end all of my problems in no time!” he thought. But instead, the businessman decided to put the check into his safe. Knowing that he had it in the safe gave him strength to find a solution to save his business. With the return of his optimism, he began making solid, profitable deals. After a couple of months, the businessman got out of debt and started to earn money again.
Exactly one year later, he returned to the park with the same check that he had hidden away in the safe. Sure enough, the old man appeared again at the agreed upon time. Just as the businessman walked up to the old man to return the check and share his story of success, a nurse ran up and grabbed the old man. “I’m so glad I caught him!” she exclaimed. “I hope he wasn’t bothering you. He always runs away from the nursing home and tells people he is John Rockefeller.” The businessman chuckled to himself. All year long he was spinning and rebuilding his business, buying and selling, convinced that he had half a million dollars. And suddenly he understood that it’s not the money, real or imaginary, that turned his life up. It was his new confidence and belief that gave him the strength to achieve everything that he had now.
While this is a story about the power of believing in yourself in times of despair, it is also a story simply about the power of belief. Sure, the businessman grew to believe in himself again and this helped him get out of his financial predicament. But his belief in himself was rebuilt on the belief that he had a financial cushion beneath him. Because he believed he had $500,000 in the safe, he was willing to take greater risks in his business deals. The $500,000 would cover any of his losses and this gave him the confidence he needed to rebuild his business. And yet, because he believed that he needed to repay the $500,000 in a year, he made wiser, shrewder deals. Yes, the $500,000 would cover any short-term losses but the businessman would have to be sure he had at least $500,000 to give back at the end of the year. He couldn’t just burn through the $500,000 in 12 months! His belief enabled him to conduct both high-risk and highly astute deals. His belief enabled him to become the successful businessman he longed to be. His belief enabled him to restore both his lost wealth and his lost confidence. Indeed, there is great power in belief!
We see this illustrated in our readings assigned for this week. In our first reading, we heard that “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…for the Lord will not reject forever.” That businessman was waiting for the Lord as he waited on that park bench. He had come to his wits end. He was lost and didn’t know what to do about his situation. Sometimes we, too, can find ourselves in despairing situations. We know how we got there; mistakes were made, pride took over, and before we knew it we found ourselves in desperate situations. What do we do in those situations? Some of us flail around, exerting all of our energy in making ourselves look like fools. Some of us try to bring others down with us. We tell ourselves that it’s better to go down with someone else than to be alone. But some of us of us listen to the wisdom of the Lamentations passage. Some of us believe God will bring us out of our despair. Some of us believe that “the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end.” If we but wait on the Lord to show us his love and mercy…if we but cling to our belief that the Lord will hear our cries…then the Lord will surely answer! The Lord will NOT reject forever! The Lord is eager to shower us with His love and mercy! WE ARE LOVED! The Lord restores us from our time of sorrow and despair. Maybe not on our time. Maybe not the way we want to be restored. But wait long enough and see how God restores. Like David, we too cry out, “O Lord my God, I cried to you for help, and you have healed me. O Lord, you brought up my soul from Sheol, restored me to life from among those gone down to the Pit.” It is God and God alone who brings us out of the pits of despair. We are called to simply believe this and live according to it.
The two characters in our gospel reading believed it and lived according to it. Mark described the miraculous encounters Jesus had with two people in the same day. One was with a woman who had been sick for 12 years and one with a sick 12-year-old girl. Yes, there is the helpful connection with the number ‘12’ shared between these two people. But in both encounters, the sick people are healed because of belief—the belief of the woman and the belief of the girl’s father. They didn’t have to pay Jesus for their healing. They didn’t have to plead with Jesus for their healing. They simply had to believe in Jesus; believe in Jesus’ healing powers, believe in Jesus’ reputation as the Son of God. Nothing more, nothing less. And that is exactly what they did—believe. The girl’s father came to Jesus and simply stated, “Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well, and live.” Not a question but a statement! He believed Jesus could save his daughter and simply stated his belief. The woman didn’t even go so far as to state her belief. She simply touched Jesus’ cloak and was made well. Implicit in her action was her belief. She didn’t even need to state it. Jesus knew her belief and rewarded her for it. There is indeed great power in belief!
Beyond illustrating the power of belief, our readings also raise an important question that we always need to be asking ourselves if we are to truly be faithful disciples. What does it mean to believe? Or perhaps more specifically, what does it mean to believe that God can and will restore us from our times of despair? For the girl’s father, it meant risking his reputation as a synagogue leader to reach out to an itinerant preacher on the fringes of society to heal his sick daughter. For the woman, it meant risking her life coming in contact with Jesus as both a woman and a sick person. Women and sick people were kept away from leaders at that time. For the impatient and despairing, it means sitting and waiting on the Lord. To truly believe often means doing what we don’t want to do. To truly believe, to be faithful disciples, means to take risks as if we’re sitting on $500,000 checks that can pay for our mistakes. To truly believe means acting on that belief. God wants us to believe in Him not because of what He can do for us but because He wants to be in relationship with us. God believes in us…God loves us…and that should be enough reason for believing in Him. We don’t need to see God’s healing miracles in order to believe. We simply need to believe, even if that means doing things we don’t want to do. There is great power in believing. Let us go forth confident in God’s ability to restore us and be glad that the reward for believing is believing.
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.