How Do You Approach God?

Posted under The Rectory Bulletin | Sundays

“And when Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a great crowd gathered about him, and he was beside the sea. Then came one of the rulers of the synagogue, Jairus by name, and seeing him, he fell at his feet and implored him earnestly, saying, “My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well and live.” And he went with him.

And a great crowd followed him and thronged about him. And there was a woman who had had a discharge of blood for twelve years, and who had suffered much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was no better but rather grew worse. She had heard the reports about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his garment. For she said, “If I touch even his garments, I will be made well.” And immediately the flow of blood dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. And Jesus, perceiving in himself that power had gone out from him, immediately turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my garments?” And his disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing around you, and yet you say, ‘Who touched me?’ ” And he looked around to see who had done it. But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling and fell down before him and told him the whole truth. And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”

While he was still speaking, there came from the ruler’s house some who said, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the Teacher any further?” But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the ruler of the synagogue, “Do not fear, only believe.” And he allowed no one to follow him except Peter and James and John the brother of James. They came to the house of the ruler of the synagogue, and Jesus saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. And when he had entered, he said to them, “Why are you making a commotion and weeping? The child is not dead but sleeping.” And they laughed at him. But he put them all outside and took the child’s father and mother and those who were with him and went in where the child was. Taking her by the hand he said to her, “Talitha cumi,” which means, “Little girl, I say to you, arise.” And immediately the girl got up and began walking (for she was twelve years of age), and they were immediately overcome with amazement. And he strictly charged them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat.” (Mark 5:21–43)

As we come to this passage, we come to the close of a series of passages in Mark’s gospel which serve to make the point that Jesus is God. We’ve had the parable of the sower and learnt that even though the seed is good and fertile, the ground might be lacking. The best seed can fall on a path and come to nothing. Christ may preach, but some are simply not receptive. All this sets us up for the preaching which Christ continues to do, and the various responses he receives.

There is the incident of the storm-tossed boat, where the disciples are fearful for their very lives while Jesus sleeps comfortably on a cushion. He had said they would go to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, and so they would. He was unconcerned, and slept on until shaken awake. And then - with a word - he stilled the storm. “Who is this?” the disciples wondered.

Then there was the business with Legion, the much possessed man living in the country of the Gerasenes who was brought to his senses and Jesus cast out the demons. Jesus has shown mastery over nature, and now over evil too. In the present passage we find yet more mastery: over sickness, and even death.

There is more in today’s passage, though. In it we also find an answer to that most vital of questions: “how do you relate to God?”. Make no mistake, this is the most important question which one might ask. The question of how to approach the Almighty God, is one which lies at the heart of Christianity. Here we find two people who exemplify the right approach.

On the surface these two could not be further apart. One is a synagogue ruler, no doubt well regarded. The other is a woman who has spent all her money on medical fees. One is esteemed in society, the other suffers from a discharge which renders her unclean. One boldly comes to Jesus, the other simply reaches out her hand. Both, though, have their petition answered.

So what is it that Mark is telling us, as these two stories occur side by side? That God is a person.

Now I need to explain myself here. What I am getting at is that God is someone with whom we can relate. He is not an impersonal force, or a concept of “good”. He’s not simply a benign influence, sort of up there and everywhere. Not some dispenser of karma, or a force to be channeled as if we were living on the set of Star Wars.

No, in the person of Christ we see God. These two came to Christ and reached out for mercy. They didn’t try to channel power ,or earn favour. They simply came to Jesus, took a risk and threw themselves on his mercy. They trusted him and had faith in him. And Jesus bolstered both of them, encouraging that faith. Their circumstances did not matter, or their timing. Their boldness was not at issue. It was simply faith.

The fact is that God does exist and the way in which we engage with him is a question of eternal importance. Do you rely on your family, an inherited religion or a vague sense of God? Or do you rely on the God revealed to us in the person of Jesus? Do you think of God as a force, or in personal terms? Are you willing to meekly reach out and place your trust in him?

Here in this passage we find two starkly contrasting people, but the same result. They both reached out. Will you?

Above Nature

“He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb. No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God,” (Romans 4:19–20) - The history of the Church is scattered with unpromising people who were mightily used by God. God is able to act above nature, and that is something which gives great hope. You may feel a small Christian, but you have a great God. And that is plenty.

What About Evil Deeds?

“this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.” (Acts 2:23) - Right at the end of Genesis Joseph is speaking with his brothers, those brothers who threw him into a pit and then sold him into slavery. The brothers were fearful that Joseph would take revenge, but he assured them: “as for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good” (Genesis 50:20). Never think God is absent in the face of evil. He is not.

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