July 1, 2018 NEW BEGINNINGS START TODAY
NEW BEGINNINGS START TODAY
This morning we begin a new month and a new year for the IGRC. Every July 1 appointments are confirmed, and pastors and churches begin new relationships. My friend Curt Rush is very excited as he begins serving a church, not just filling in the pulpit. I’ve always remember this time since being in ministry, not only because I went into retirement on June 30, 2006, but I began a new adventure on July 1 of that same year being assigned to the Williamsville UMC. It was a new beginning for both of us. For me, it was retirement and not being appointed but serving as a supply pastor so to speak, not being full time. For the church, it was going from having a full-time pastor to one who was retired. We both had to adjust. We both had to work things out. We both had to seek God’s help and direction as we took the journey together counting on each of us, and of course counting on God.
It has been a good fit these past 12 years and now we begin a new conference year looking ahead to what God has planned for us. I would like to remind us all that this is God’s church, we are His servants. And when we worship, God is the audience and we are the celebrants. So may we always remember that chorus “I am the church. You are the church, we are the church together.” Keeping that in mind, we start a new year together looking to God for visions and directions to follow to accomplish his mission for our lives and ministry. Let us not forget John Wesley’s command that the world is our parish, and our mission, to bring the hope of Jesus Christ to all people.
This mornings Scripture lesson from Mark 8:21-43 is a familiar story about two wonderful miracles that occurred. Mark says a “large crowd gathered around Jesus while he was by the lake. Then one of the synagogue rulers, named Jairus, came there. Seeing Jesus, he fell at his feet and pleaded earnestly with him, “My little daughter is dying. Please come and put your hands on her so that she will be healed and live.” So Jesus went with him.”
However, that’s not the end of the story because something happened that brought their trip to a halt. Mark continues, “A large crowd followed and pressed around him. And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse. When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, because she thought, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.” Immediately her bleeding stopped, and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering.”
2 stories of faith in this one passage. A man whose daughter is dying coming to see Jesus and “pleading earnestly” with him to come touch his daughter. The other, a woman with this bleeding problem for 12 years that no doctor could cure, and lots of money dished out to no avail and now she was without hope, except that “when she heard about Jesus” she thought in her own mind if she could just touch a piece of his clothing maybe something will happen.
Stories of faith. One that Jesus could help one close to death. The other Jesus could help a woman who had a disease for over 12 years that kept her out of lots of community things because, well the Law said she was unclean.
They are both a part of the same story. Jesus in town. Crowds gather. Sounds like a church. A synagogue ruler, and a peasant woman with problems. And who do they come to see for help? Jesus. Hey, isn’t that the church being the church? So, while Jesus goes to help one, another finds healing by just touching the hem of his garment.
But the story doesn’t end there. You see, when Jesus stopped to see about the woman who had touched him, it took time. While he searched for the one who drew power from him, everyone was amazed because when Jesus asked who touched him, the disciples said there were so many around him it could have been anyone of them. But Mark gives us the answer. “Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet and, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth. He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.”
The crowd could see the joy in her eyes as she looked up at Jesus. He didn’t yell at her for touching him but responded to her faith that believed just a touch of any part of his garment could make her well. And it happened. And Jesus responded by setting her free. It would be a new beginning for this woman who could now go back to her home, to her children, to her husband, made whole. It was a fresh start of her life, touched by the grace of God.
We need to return to Jairus because when we left him, they were in a hurry to get home to his sick daughter. But while Jesus was speaking with the woman a servant from Jairus’ house came to tell him it was to late. His daughter had died. Mark records, “Ignoring what they said, Jesus told the synagogue ruler, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.” Boy how many of us need to embrace those words. And they continued to the house where there was weeping and mourning. When they got there Jesus said, “Why all this commotion and wailing? The child is not dead, but asleep.” But they laughed at him.” They didn’t laugh with Jesus. They laughed at Jesus. In other words, Jesus you weren’t here a few hours ago when things went south. She’s gone! But that did not stop Jesus.
Then the rest of the story as Jesus put all the unbelievers and doubters outside and takes the parents and the disciples who were with him to where the girl was. “Jesus took the girls hand, called out to her, “Little girl, I say to you get up.” Immediately the girl stood up and walked around. At this they were astonished. He gave strict orders not to let anyone know about this and told them to give her something to eat.”
What do these two stories have in common? First, they are a story of faith in what Jesus could do if he knows about a situation. Second, you don’t give up when bad news comes. For the woman it was that the doctors couldn’t find a cure. For Jairus it was not believe what his servants said that his daughter had died. They both had to listen to Jesus that amid struggles, still believe. They believed Jesus could help them and they needed to continue to do so even though things didn’t look great for Jairus.
There is a third thing and the focus of the rest of this sermon. It was a new beginning for both stories. Jairus’ daughter arose to new life. The woman with the bleeding had a new life. New beginnings that started because of what Jesus did for them.
But as I thought about them, I thought yes, in every healing that Jesus did, whether healing a lame person or a blind man, or curing one leper or 10 lepers, we know each one had a new beginning. All were able to go on with life. The blind could see, the lame could walk, the lepers could return to their families and life itself. It was a new day, new hopes for tomorrow.
Then I thought, hey, there was another person who found a new beginning, but it wasn’t because of a physical healing. He wasn’t ill. He didn’t go see Jesus seeking help. He came to see Jesus out of curiosity. This man was a tax collector who took advantage of the people in his town. Instead of charging a just tax he charged more in order to get some cash for himself. He became a very wealthy man. But with that wealth he also became a very hated man. Not many friends. Not many pals who wanted to play golf with him or go fishing. Even his family was ignored. People would snicker at them in the stores, pointing them out as the family of Zacchaeus, the mean tax collector. His wife and kids could feel the sting of their eyes and their words as they shopped or when they walked down the street.
You’ve heard of this man I’m sure. You know his story. When he heard Jesus was coming to town he decided he would go see this man who everyone around raved about. He heard the stories of healing. Some had said how he had compassion on many people, how he even fed thousands with just a couple of fish and a small loaf of bread. How could he do that?
So, this small man went to see Jesus because he was curious what Jesus might do, or what he might say. But the street was filled with townsfolks and each time he tried to get close to the front folks would push him back. Remember he was not a welcome man in his community. Zacchaeus pushed on until he got to a tree with a branch hanging over the road. He climbed the tree and laid across the branch looking down the street where he could see this man he came to see reaching out his hand to those who were crowded around him.
Then it happened. Jesus appeared right in front of the tree where Zacchaeus was. As Zach looked down, Jesus looked up. “Hey Zacchaeus, come on down from there I want to have lunch at your house today. We got some stuff to talk about.” Zacchaeus almost fell out of the tree, but Jesus reached up to him and helped him down and they walked to his house while others just looked and thought, “Man, Jesus is eating with sinners.”
We never will know what they talked about that day in full. But we know this. The results were that Zach found forgiveness, and he found a new heart. He repented of his sins, his cheating of the people and to show Jesus and to show the people, he promised to pay back the people four times what he had cheated them out of.
The next day after Jesus left, Zacchaeus set up his table as he always did but this time he had a sign above him that might have read “Come and receive four times what I have cheated you.” Some were skeptical. But once some got their money and spread the word, others got in line to receive their rewards,
It was a new day for Zacchaeus. It was a new beginning for a man who was hated and now was loved. All because of one thing. His curiosity about a man who he had heard about and who came to dine at his house and a life was changed.
New beginnings. That’s what today is all about. It’s a new beginning for me as your pastor. It’s a new beginning for our church as we begin a new year together. And it’s a new beginning for everyone who comes to this altar of grace.
Three stories of new beginnings that point us to our own new beginnings today.
We come this morning as the disciples came to be with Jesus and to receive from him the living bread and cleansing blood. May our prayer be “Feed us till we want no more.”
It’s a new beginning. A new beginning spiritually that will make us whole.
So be it.”