Sunday, June 28, 2009

B, Pentecost 4 Proper 8 - Psalm 130:1-4 "A Deadly Serious Business"

There were two men who became ill. The first man, Bob, took himself to the doctor after a couple of days of not getting better. When the doctor discovered Bob had pneumonia, he put him in hospital, administered antibiotics, and kept Bob under close medical supervision to make sure the drugs were working on the particular strain of pneumonia. Bob eventually made a full recovery at home faithfully taking the medicine prescribed by the doctor.
A second fellow was wheeled into the hospital too. Fred also had pneumonia, the same strain, yet he was on the verge of losing his life. Fred had spent a couple of weeks at home resisting the opportunity to go and see the doctor. Instead he got the latest advice from the internet and television news. He was sure he had the human swine flu — H1N1 Influenza 09.
Although he was as crook as he was, Fred had gone to the trouble of stealing some vials of vaccine and administering it to himself. Yet this only made his condition worse. Between the stress of stealing and misadministration of the wrong vaccine, Fred died a horrible helpless death. Fred's pneumonia became so critical that his whole respiratory system collapsed and his body was starved of the air. There was nothing much the doctors could do except what his life slip away!
Our health is serious business. Our bodies are susceptible to all types of illnesses these days. So many different things can go wrong with the human body. It seems new stains of viruses appear all the time. And no matter how vigilant one is, it's only a matter of time until one get's sick.
So let's say you get an illness; are you a Bob or a Fred? Are you a self-administrator, one who diagnoses and prescribes your own remedy? Or, are you one who goes to a doctor to get advice?
Now a self-administrator might get their diagnoses right some of the time, but they don't know everything there is to know about medicine. How do they really know they're helping themselves or making things worse?
But then again doctors don't know everything either! Yet they have been trained a certain way, to work through processes to narrow down and finally fix the problem, or at least help relieve the symptoms. If they don't know the answer they turn to the worldwide fraternal of medical minds to seek a solution.
People sought Jesus' help while he lived amongst humanity in the days leading up to his crucifixion. A synagogue ruler, an administrator of worship and responsibilities at the local Jewish gathering place, came to Jesus pleading for him to attend to his daughter who was dying. His name was Jairus.
So Jesus went to Jairus' house to heal his daughter who had since died. On hearing the she had died Jesus said to Jairus, "Don't be afraid; just believe!" (Mark 5:36)
What Jesus was saying was… don't fear death, instead fear me! Don't turn and give homage to death as are those mourning the death of your daughter, rather face me. Don't believe the power of death, believe be, commit yourself to the power of God! And in all power Jesus healed the little child with just two little Aramaic words, "Talitha koum!"
On his way to Jarius' house, a woman also came to Jesus seeking relief from a serious menstrual bleed which had gone on for twelve years. After seeing physician after physician all powerless to fix her body, remarkably she knew if she touched the corner of Jesus robe she would be healed.
Twelve torturous years of trouble treated with the touch of one's garment! Who'd believe that would work? But it did!
Jesus knew it did too! He felt the power of freedom leave him and give her instant relief from her bleeding. This woman knew his power of healing and fell at his feet in fear. She believed, and was healed; and her fear led her to come trembling before the one in whom she trusted. Therefore, Jesus sent her on her way commending the faith which gave her healing, fear, and trust. "Daughter", Jesus said, "your faith has headed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering." (Mark 5:34)
If one's health is serious stuff, Jesus' power is even more serious.
This fear the woman felt was not the same as the fear Jesus told Jarius not to have, in that her fear led her to fall before Jesus in submission, knowing his power over her. After all, he was the one who healed her after twelve years, without prescribing an ointment or doing anything.
Whereas, Jarius seeing his dead daughter, like any parent seeing their lifeless child, would have caused him to fear death and come face to face with its known power!
Although Jesus healed these people of their sicknesses, he was sent to heal a greater sickness. You see, our human illnesses, like those Jesus healed the woman and Jairus' daughter, mask the true illness which led Christ to the cross! This is a sickness he seeks to take from you too.
This is the sickness of sin. Jesus' power has to be serious because your sin and my sin is an eternally serious business. In fact it is a deadly business! Your life hung in the balance.
So to where do we turn in this seriously life threatening state of being? Take note to whom the Psalmist turns!
Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord; O Lord, hear my voice. Let your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy. If you, O Lord, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand? (Psalm 130:1-3)
Out of the depths of sin the Psalmist seeks mercy from the Lord. He knows his sin and he knows its serious stuff. In fact, he knows its life threatening saying, "O Lord, if you kept a record of sins who could stand!
Your sinful being can't help but be a committer of sin. This is why Jarius' daughter died, why the woman suffered, and why you too suffer at times and someday will die. If you think sin is not serious, you're fooling yourself, it's deadly!
Sin is so serious no one would be able to stand in God's holy presence! Left to our own vices our sinful being is so shameful and septic not only would we fail to take a physical breath of air, and remain living ourselves, we would fail to exist before God.
Your sin, my sin, all sin, is completely contemptible before God! If Jesus needed nails to stand up under the weight of sin, what makes you think you can stand up under your own sin before God?
But the Psalmist continues, "But with you (Lord) there is forgiveness therefore you are feared." (Psalm 130:4)
When you and I are made to know our sin and it's eternally devastating deadly power, but also made to know the power of God and his forgiveness, that hung on the cross and comes through his word by the power of the Holy Spirit, then we fear God, knowing there is nothing else in all creation that we should fear.
So we return to Bob and Fred. But rather than comparing ourselves to their actions for the benefit of our physical health. Perhaps it's best if we ask the question of ourselves regarding our eternal health.
Do you diagnose yourself, your sinful actions, and your sinful nature? If you do, there's every chance you fear yourself, you believe in you, and you probably work very hard to fix yourself. If your being is eternally sick, surely your diagnosis and prescription will be sick too!
In fact, it will work out the same way as it did for Fred – fatally! Fred is dead because he killed himself by trusting himself with poor judgement. Judge before God, "Do you know what's good for you better than God does?"
On the other hand, there is Bob, convalescing at home, but he is alive. His airways are getting better, helped by the right diagnosis and prescription from the doctor.
Like Bob, know that your situation is serious, deadly serious. Let yourself be diagnosed by God, 'a sinner!' And know how bad it is! So bad sin causes death! But also know it caused Christ's death, he paid your price for sin. Sin is serious stuff!
But God's forgiveness is also serious stuff! Those who know how serious there sin is and therefore turn to God in fear, love and trust, also know God comes with holy healthy air in his Word by the power of the Holy Spirit.
So come seek his mercy! Know his ears are attentive to your cries for mercy! And he will continue to have mercy on you, eternally! Stand and continue to stand before the Lord, knowing that the record of your sin has been hung on the cross. God chooses to remember your sin no more!
Put your hope in the Lord because he is faithful to you in his unfailing love. His healing is eternal and complete, giving full redemption. For Jesus Christ, himself, is exchanging your sickness with faith, hope, love, and peace. So convalescing today you know someday soon you will be eternally freed from all suffering. Amen.