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.
We celebrate the closing of our Vacation Bible School on this day. The students have memorized 2 Samuel 22:29.
Evening prayer may begin with a blessing of the light. That blessing begins with a greeting that quotes Psalm 27, the first verse. It goes like this.
The Lord is my light and my salvation:
my God shall make my darkness to be bright.
The benediction or prayer that follows the greeting thanks God for dispelling the darkness of sin from its hiding place deep within our hearts, that we might walk in the light.
Blessed are you, Lord God, creator of day and night:
to you be praise and glory forever.
As darkness falls you renew your promise
to reveal among us the light of your presence.
By the light of Christ, your living Word,
dispel the darkness of our hearts
that we may walk as children of light
and sing your praise throughout the world.
Blessed be God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit:
The congregation responds, "Blessed be God for ever."
In the light of a bright, summer morning, we give thanks, as we welcome our Vacation Bible School students and staff and their families to worship. As you all know by now, the Bible verse at the heart of this week's activities comes from the same book of the Old Testament as does this morning's Old Testament reading, 2 Samuel. That verse is from the 22nd chapter of 2 Samuel, the 29th verse, and it reads, "The Lord lights up my life." We thank Dana and his crew for helping our little ones to shine God's light, that the world around them may be blessed by God's renewing, saving presence.
That is harder to do than one might think, and I'm not talking about the logistics of providing meals for families and crafts supplies and crafters and training teachers and getting forms out and filed. I'm talking about preaching the light and teaching people to share it.
In a world like ours, where a flick of a switch or a button on your smart phone can turn on every light in your house, the dramatic contrast between light and dark may not be as obvious as it was when the books of Samuel or the Psalms or the Gospel of Mark were written. But our fathers and mothers in the faith knew this: it's when it's dark that we yearn for the light, seek the light, and gladly receive the light.
The bright and direct light of the sun in July washes out the the reflections of the chancel lights off the brass of the altar furnishings and the flickers of the candles' flames. Did you ever hear this old chestnut, "Don't burn holes in daylight?" It is what frugal parents used to tell the children who wanted more light for their reading or their games in the house during the day. Pretty as they are, the lit wicks and high polish of the metalware on the dias cannot compete with the brightness of the day's light coming in through the windows. But substitute the sun's rays with the less robust beams of even a nearly full moon and within the darkened chancel the candles will burn like stars and the reflections off the brass will create a lovely haze of light.
The light that is of God, the light that reveals God's nature and his intent, that light is best seen in the darkness of human failure and folly and fear. When all seems to go well with life our yearnings for God are too often misinterpreted as the result of boredom or a momentary aloneness. Generally we see ourselves as the captains of our destinies, the source of all we enjoy, and the center of life. It is when disaster, despair, and death threaten that we see the center is largely empty of meaningful content or substance, that life is tenuous, and no future is certain. Then, in the midst of our darkness, we look for the light that reveals the love of God, his mercy, and his plans for our eternal well-being.
The darkness is certainly very much a factor of life in each of the readings of the day. We had two choices for the Old Testament reading, Lamentations or 2 Samuel. I chose the alternate text, because our VBS verse came from that same book, and because David, soon to be King David, certainly knew what it meant to live in the darkness, and yearn for God's light. Chapter 1 of 2 Samuel is the reading of the day, and it begins with David, now the captain of a mercenary troop, a bunch of soldiers for hire who will fight for anyone with money. A messenger comes to David and tells him that King Saul, Israel's first king, and his best friend Jonathon, Saul's son, have been killed in a battle with the Philistines. For most of the rest of the chapter, David mourns both old King Saul and his friend Jonathon in words both beautiful and loving.
The loving words are no surprise when it comes to Jonathon, for he and David grew up together as young men. But David's glorification of King Saul is, for Saul, after he lost God's anointing, became David's bitter enemy, and tried to have young David murdered on numerous occasions. David, Saul's protector and commander, was forced to run for his life, and then to cobble together a means to support himself. But the words of the lament David crafts upon hearing upon the deaths of Saul and his three sons bear no word of recrimination for Saul's hateful and destructive behavior.
As a young man, David relied on God for everything, for he was in constant danger and in constant need of protection. Whether the danger was in the form of Goliath the champion of the Philistines or Saul his very own king, David need and received the Lord's protection and guidance. As king, David would himself do things that were both hateful and destructive. He would throw himself on God's mercy, and he would receive it. His life was full of sad darkness, but it was David who gave us these magnificent words in the second and third verses of the 22nd chapter of 2 Samuel, "The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer, 3my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold and my refuge, my savior; you save me from violence." And then he gave us this, "Indeed, you are my lamp, O Lord, the Lord lightens my darkness."
Generations later, the Apostle Paul with much passion and hurt did his best to turn the attention of the church in Corinth to the light that is Christ Jesus, the Son of God. That church was enmeshed in the darkness of personal corruption, and brothers and sisters in Christ were involved in behaviors which were hurtful to the body and to its witness to nonbelievers. They did not "shine God's light," but revealed their own darkness.
And it is surely darkness that surrounded the woman isolated by twelve years of constant hemorrhage, a darkness that finally forced her to violate social conventions to find healing in the light that is the power and glory of God in Jesus. So she followed him, this solitary woman, and in her desperation and her faith touched the one part of him she could reach through the crowd that thronged about him, his robe. And her darkness was turned to light by the power of God's healing love. She stopped bleeding, and stopped fearing too, so when Jesus asked the crowd who touched him she could step forward, and own her own action.
It was darkness and the desperation death engenders that forced Jairus, a leader of the local synagogue, to abase himself in front of an itinerant Rabbi and trust him with his daughter's life. And it was darkness, the ultimate darkness, Jesus overcame when he raised that young woman up from her deathbed.
As Jesus Christ raised this girl child from the bleak darkness of death, the woman who bled from the isolating darkness of illness, the congregation in Corinth from the perverse darkness of self-gratification, and David from the bitter darkness of rejection and hurt, so he will raise the darkness that threatens us. The world is full of terrors now, a recession of global reach, radical governments in charge of nuclear weaponry, pandemics, and much more. The older one gets the darker life looks, and the more we fear for the young ones we have brought into the world with God's help. But even as he helped us bring them into the world so will he guard and preserve them now. We are none of us without access to the aid and the healing that Jesus can give. His light will shine through the darkness that encompasses us, even when that darkness is at its darkest. We will see him shine in his word, in the bread and wine of his table, in the prayers offered by the church. We will see him shine in one another, in a shared faith offered to strengthen us when we grieve or we rage at the world's unfairness or we falter for loss of faith. We will see him in our sons and daughters, in the newness and the wonder of their faith, as they shine God's light, and help lighten our darkness. Amen.