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PAY ATTENTION

wild flowers inside old work boots, we are called to put ourselves in the shoes of others

Sermon, by Pastor Joel

Sixth Sunday After Pentecost

June 30, 2024

Lamentations 3:22-33

Psalm 30

2 Corinthians 8:7-15

Mark 5:21-43

What is a miracle? The trusty Oxford dictionary offers us this definition: “A miracle is a surprising and welcome event not explained by natural or scientific laws and is therefore considered to be the work of a divine agency. A miracle is a highly improbable development that brings very welcome consequences. A miracle is an amazing achievement.”

We are arriving at the stage of Jesus’s life when his amazing achievements begin to make headlines. He has gathered the disciples from their fishing boats. His parables are beginning to spread like whispers through the villages. His defiance of the powers that be is filling people with awe. And now he is performing miracles. And not just any miracle. The very top tier of miracles.

A woman who has been ill for years touches the cloak of Jesus, and when he finds her, he declares her healed. A little girl has died. Her parents are weeping for her. They believe her lost. And yet Jesus says to them, “Why are you weeping? She is only sleeping.” And he calls to her: “Wake up, little one.” And she wakes up. To heal someone by a simple touch from a long illness that seemed to have no cure. To bring back a loved one from a place of death. Highly improbable developments. Welcome events. Amazing achievements.

I know there will be some among you who are a questioning audience of science, who might want to investigate a little further, peer behind the curtain, so to speak. How did Jesus really do this, we might ask. Perhaps Jesus, armed with the gospel, empowered by the Holy Spirit, and having gained the trust of the people, was an incredible healer – a man of wisdom ahead of his time. Certainly, he was ahead of his time in many other ways. Why not this one? Perhaps the stories are exaggerated. Maybe the woman wasn’t that sick, and the daughter truly just sleeping. Did it even happen at all?

But I would suggest we not spend our time trying to figure that out. I don’t know, and you don’t know, not with the certainty of science and reason. We were not there.

I have said before that these details do not matter, because the lessons appear when we look with eyes of faith. To be clear, there are stories in the gospel where the details matter very much. But this is one where we can blur around the edges and look for the story of wonder and love that is being told in the centre.

We have a troubled woman, suffering greatly, who makes her way into the crowd just to touch Jesus. “Who touched me?” Jesus asks. The disciples scoff: look at the crowd, how can we know? But Jesus doesn’t continue on; he seeks out the hand reached out to him, and he finds the woman. And he stops to treat her with kindness. Your faith has healed you, he tells her. But it was also his love for another person that did so.

We have a family grieving, and Jesus does not steer away from them, awkward in the presence of their pain. He goes to them, he consoles them. Do not weep, he says. He tends to their daughter and returns her to them.

These are the healing miracles. But they are the same stories of love and other-centeredness that have formed the journey of Jesus from the beginning. His parents who keep him safe against all odds – a miracle. The disciples who leave their boats to follow him – a miracle. A carpenter’s son who becomes the voice of equality and hope – a miracle. The presence of God and the Holy Spirit – a miracle. Awe-inspiring and wondrous.

I wonder: in this age of facts and figures, and fighting about who is right and who is wrong, have we lost our ability to feel awe? To sit and be transformed by wonder? All around us, miraculous things happen every day. The sun sets on the horizon and casts beauty across the sky – how awesome. The birds sing in a city of concrete – how wondrous. A vaccine is found – what an achievement. A hand is held, a hug is offered – how unexpected.

Are these not also miracles?

When do I experience moments of true awe? It happens when I am paying attention, just as Jesus did in the crowd that day. It happens when my mind is open and my heart is full, just like Jesus approaching that grieving family. I don’t know about you, but when I experience awe and wonder, I feel lifted from within. I feel close to God. It is usually a moment that defies full explanation – what is it about this sunset, or this piece of music, or this moment with another person – that feels somehow bigger than others? Does it matter?

The tragedy of humanity is that we grow up and get used to the world. What was awe-inspiring when we were little, becomes just another butterfly, just another sunset, just another Canada Day celebration. The moments that seem so big become routine. And yet, we can feel awe if we pay attention. We can see miracles if we look for them. And when we do, may we feel close to God. Amen

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