In the Name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
What would you do if your little girl needed a heart transplant and the doctor said, “The only way I can give her a new heart is if you give up your left hand.” You wouldn’t hesitate for a instant, any sacrifice, any price, any hardship would be worth it. But what if he said, “The only way I can give her a new heart is if you and the Mrs. work things out and fall back in love.” Would you try it? Would you commit with your whole being, sacrifice yourself, your ego and ambitions, your income and honor for the sake of the marriage to save your little girl’s heart? More than one little girl has been killed because Daddy walked away in vanity and pride.
I am forever astounded at how bold we are in promising big things, our left hand in the case above. But we hedge on the little things. In the Confirmation vows we never flinch as we promise to suffer all, even death, rather than cease to continue steadfast in the confession of this Church. We are ready to suffer death. It is inconvenience that we are worried about. We imagine ourselves ready to be burned at the stake, but that doesn’t mean we are ready to give sacrificially of our income. After all, we need cable TV and DVDs. In the same way we are ready to confess without compromise before kings and rulers, just not in front of our friends. We are a pathetic people, curved in on ourselves, weak with greed, lust, and ambition. Our priorities are right on paper, just not in our hearts. Repent. Stop the lies. Hear the Word of God.
Jairus, the ruler of the synagogue, was heartbroken. His 12 year old daughter lay at the point of death. He said to Jesus: “Lay your hand on her and she will live.” And so He did and she lived. But what of us? What of our dying children, our broken families, our failing friendships and crumbling neighborhoods? What of our hurting souls? He has gone up with a shout. Can He yet lay His Hand upon us? Or are we left with nothing more than the shadow of the Word Incarnate? Has the Word made Flesh become a ghost? Is the Jesus who walked the earth and felt the nails bite into His hands now nothing more substantial than a silent thought in our brains, the fluff of the butterflies wings and the sting of a snowflake on our noses? No. He is flesh still. He is Man forever, for there are not two Christs, but one. He has forever united Himself to us in the skin and bones, cartilage and tendons, and in the blood of Mary. And all that, for us.
The Hand that laid upon Jairus’s daughter and called her again to life is encased in the bread by the power of His Word. He lays His Hand upon your tongue to bring you over from death to life, to rouse your sleepy faith, to forgive your sins, and make you well. He touches you, His Body to yours. Maybe the liturgical formula should be modified from “The Body of Christ given for you” to “Christ’s Hand laid upon you.” He places Himself, the Body that bore your iniquities and sits at the right hand of the Father, into your heart that your hungry soul would be satisfied, that you would be healed and whole.
In similar fashion, the woman who had suffered many things at the hands of the doctors while searching for relief from the 12 year old flow of blood, thought to herself: “If only I may touch His garment, I shall be made well.” She came behind Him and touched His clothes and as healed. And so it is that we too approach God from behind. In our sins we cannot bear His holiness. We touch the garment of bread that clothes the Son of God and Son of Man. He is our salvation. In that touching, that eating and drinking, that Holy Communion, the flow of blood, the years of dying, the uncleanliness are removed. We now belong. For this flow of power from Him to us, this flow of His Blood that stops our bleeding, our dying, has not one unnoticed. In fact, it was His intention all along. His Blood and His death have been substituted on our behalf.
He bled and died in our place. Now, we don’t have to. For death is not natural. He did not create us to die. By Grace, we won’t – ever. For no one who believes in Him, who trusts in the merits of His suffering, death, and resurrection, who rests in the mercy of the Almighty, who confesses Jesus as Lord, will ever die. Believers don’t die. They fall asleep. Their souls go to heaven while their bodies wait in the grave for the resurrection and reunion to come.
Here is power for life. We live by and in Grace, forgiven and forgiving. We lay all things upon the hem of His garment. We hear His address of affection, He calls us “daughter. And He calls us by name, by His own Name. Thus we have the strength to carry on. His bleeding, His dying, His rising, His praying these are the things that make us Christians and declare us alive.
In +Jesus’ Name. Amen.
Rev’d David H. Petersen
Redeemer Lutheran Church
Fort Wayne, Indiana