The Twenty-Fourth Sunday after Trinity
+ IN NOMINE IESU +
It’s easy to be jaded. It’s easy to become overcome by what appears to be the demise of society. It’s easy to denigrate our forebears for their faults, for their indiscretions, for their failures and their imperfections. Who isn’t able to critique Jefferson or Lincoln for their apparent contradictions on slavery. Who can’t point out the failings of those who have gone before us? If you doubt this only read the paper or listen to the news or enter the break rooms of your workplaces. The easiest thing in the world is to tear down. Anyone can throw a bucket of paint on a Fra Angelico or a Michaelangelo.
And what was their crime? It is that they are not as wise as we are. But be careful for this is what we are teaching those who follow us. We are teaching them to tear down. And you will be caught in the next generation’s denigration of when you point fingers because there are always three pointing back at you.
The hard thing, the difficult thing is to build up. The difficult thing is to honor and revere those who have gone before us for what good and noble things and people they were. Doing that does not mean that we overlook their faults, but that we don’t measure them by their faults. It means that we don’t seek the bad or the evil motives of those around us. Rather we seek what is good and build upon that.
This is what the great missionaries of old did as they went out to preach the Gospel to the nations. St. Boniface to the German barbarians didn’t denigrate them for worshipping trees. He simply said you are focused on the wrong tree. For there is only one tree of life, and it is the cross of Christ. So also St. Paul when in the Areopagus did not say to the Greek philosophers that they had it all wrong. Instead, he pointed out the altar to the unknown God and told them who that God really is. He saw that they were religious; he saw their piety, their humanity in desiring to worship what is true, and he encouraged them in that piety and in that truth by teaching them who and what the Way, the Truth, and the Life really is.
It’s easy to tear down. And part of this leads us to see the bad, to focus on the evil of around us. We see it not only in society, but even in our own families. Divorce, adultery, fornication, workaholism, the worship of sports, illness, drugs, mass consumerism and entertainment: You name it. We have struggled with it. And we look at the faith of our forebears and think it was easy for them to believe because it was simpler then. We look at the faith of Jairus, in today’s text, and the woman healed from her twelve-year flow of blood, and in a way think less of them because we think it was easier for them to believe because they had Jesus in the flesh and mighty miracles. We tear down their great faith because thinking that we’re wiser than they. The easiest thing in the world is to tear down. Anyone can do it.
But the Lord doesn’t tear them down. He builds them up. He lifts them up for what is noble in them. He reveres them, as should we, for their great faith. “Take heart,” he says, “your faith has made you well.” This to a woman who did not have the Mayo Clinic, Barnes Jewish, or Riley’s. She didn’t even have Sarah Bush or Carle. She believed in who Jesus was and what He was able to do despite her experience. That is the power of faith. Faith as small of a mustard seed can move mountains and cast them into the sea.
In comparison, we have much more. God has blessed us beyond their wildest imagination. And having all this, it should be far easier for us to believe, far easier to be generous and compassionate. We know where our next meal is coming from. We know that when the weather turns cold or hot, how to flip the switch to make us comfortable. We know the promises of god in the Bible, have received the benefits of His Name placed upon us in Holy Baptism, enjoy the body and blood of our Savior every Sunday. Jesus did not promise to heal all your illnesses in this life. He did not promise to take away your cancer or give you great wealth or success or raise your loved ones from the dead in this life. He gave that to them. To us, he has given far more.
This is what He promises you: the forgiveness of sins. And with it everlasting life and salvation. Your faith in Christ does more than heal your illness or raise the dead in this life. Your faith saves you. It reconciles you to your Father in heaven so that you will be healed of your illnesses and be raised from the dead in eternity, forever, in the life to come.
Your faith saves because it clings to Jesus Christ the crucified but risen. Jesus lives. Death is defeated. The devil cannot have you. Hell is vanquished. And so we count our blessings. We interdict the powerful thoughts of complacency, of spiritual torpor, and outright despair. We interdict them with the blessings God is giving us now and the promises He gives always. It’s easy to be negative. But you have every reason to be hopeful, every reason to live with joy, every reason to rejoice. For your faith has saved you. Jesus lives.
May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. Amen.