Harrowing Of Hell
July 1, 2012

Patience Found in Faith, Hope, and Love

Preacher: The Rev Doyt Conn

A lot of questions come to mind when I hear this mornings Gospel.

I wonder how Jesus knew the woman touched his robe?  I wonder why Jesus made such a big deal out of it, particularly when he was on his way to attend to a dying girl.  I wonder why the woman with the hemorrhage was so afraid?  I wonder about the power difference between the head of the synagogue and the outcast woman? Both of whom fell at Jesus’ feet.  I wonder why Jesus made the woman’s secret healing public, and yet sought to keep the public healing of the young girl secret?

I wonder where God was in this story?  And I wonder where I would be or who I would be had I been there that day?

Knowing our bible is about more than knowing the stories, it’s about knowing where we are in these stories.

That is the power of scripture; it is our script.  We are actors on the stage; cast into a plot, curving and twisting around the converging theme of reconciliation … reconciliation between how things are and how God made them to be.

This story of Jairus, the hemorrhaging women and the dying girl are full of lessons on reconciliation.  How I hear them reflects where I am at any given point in life.  That is the beauty of scripture,it moves to meet us where we are.

And right now, as I hear this story, I can’t help wondering…. How could Jairus be so patient?  With his daughter dying and Jesus his last hope, how could he just stand there as Jesus stopped and then called and then talked to and then listened to the story of a woman who hadn’t really been called out or talked to or listened to  or spoken to for twelve years.  For God sakes, that story must have dragged on and on!  Forget the cliché of “The patience of Job,” it should be “The patience of Jairus.”  I would have had Jesus by the hair dragging him toward my house had I been in Jairus’ sandals.  Patience would not have been my first impulse…though I do particularly value it in other people.

Like any character trait, patience is formed with practice through a series of choices made over and over again until it becomes second nature.

Jairus had clearly made patience a practice at some point along the way.

I thought of him the other day as I sat in my car, tapping my foot, considering honking the horn.  The doors were open, the engine running, and I was eye-balling the clock…waiting, waiting for the family to come out of the house so we could get going.

I have a habit of impatience around leaving the house and this never gets us there faster nor does it foster an environment of reconciliation.  It is certainly a personal problem, one I am working on, but it may also reflect my internalization of a broader culture of impatience.

Thomas Wright, the retired bishop of Durham England tells this story:   “When a well-known bank in England, introduced credit cards in the early 1970’s, they declared that this piece of plastic would ‘take the waiting out of wanting.’ Their message struck two different chords. The majority signed up as quickly as they could, others warned that credit cards were a slap in the face to the virtue of patience and would lead to pain.” (After You Believe, p. 249)

Where are you with patience?

Has it lost its cultural appeal becoming a virtue only good for getting us kicked to the back of the line?  Is the exercise of patience only a missed opportunity?  Could patience cost us the race, or be passed up for promotion?

Why should we wait for something we want? So we whip out the credit card, or sit in the driveway with the engine running. And I ask…. How is that working?

Maybe we have something to learn from Jairus about reconciling how things are with how they were made to be?

That is the point of scripture after all.  A picture of a reconciled world is painted as a garden at the beginning of the bible. Where humanity and God walk together.  (Gen 1 para) A picture of a reconciled world shows up again at the end of the bible as a city on a hill, where God lives among mortals; where death is no more, nor crying or pain; where these things have passed away, and there is a new heaven and a new earth, unified and reconciled. (Rev 21 para)

And in between the beginning and the end are stories, that we are invited to step into as agents that act to bring about a new creation, and agents who live as if a new creation is already in place. This is what Jesus means when he says the kingdom of heaven is yet to come, and the kingdom of heaven is already here.

Jairus lives easily in this tension, as seen through the power of his patience.

What Jairus has internalized I call the three great virtues: faith, hope and love.

The apostle Paul claims these are the abiding virtues of the kingdom of heaven. (1Cor 13:13) They are the traits that make us most human and most divine, bridging the span of our temporal life and our eternal life. Our minds and bodies and possessions will parish, but the measure of our faith, hope and love lives on with us for eternity.

And when faith, hope and love are expressed in this temporal realm they reflect the beauty and fullness of who we are, as a deeper reflection of our being made in the image and likeness of God.

That is what we catch a glimpse of in Jairus today.

But it was his decision; at some point along the way Jairus made the choice for faith, hope and love.  It required forethought.  Forethought is a front loaded exercise of determining an action in anticipation of needing to act, and then practicing that decision over and over again until it becomes second nature. Like flying a plane or tying a surgeons knot.  When the bleeding happens in the OR we don’t want the surgeon practicing her knots, we want her slamming them out second nature.  When the plane hits a flock of sea gulls and an engine cuts out we don’t want the pilot grabbing for his manual, we want his emergency landing to be second nature.

And when we are confronted with an opportunity to allow things be and become what they were fully intended to be we want our reaction to be second nature, helping or waiting, whichever is called for in the moment.

Jairus response was second nature when Jesus stopped to attend to the woman with the hemorrhage, because Jairus had frontloaded faith, hope and love.

And this is what he frontloaded: Faith as a “settled, unwavering trust in God through the person of Jesus.”

And he also frontloaded hope as a “settled, unwavering confidence that God never leaves us, and always has more in mind for us than we could ask for or imagine.” Hope means confidence that God has a plan that includes us.

And love is what emanated from a person who radiates the divine, eternal choices of faith and hope.

Jairus trusted Jesus.  He had faith in him, which gave him the capacity to wait through the twelve year retelling of the woman’s story.  Jairus had confidence in Jesus.  He had an unwavering hope for his daughter, beyond the parameters of her life or death.  His hope sat in the fact that God would never leave her, and whether, in the temporal or eternal, God had a plan for her.

And what we witness through Jairus’ faith, hope and love is a person of patience.  Patience practiced and perfected as a trait that is second nature.  And from it love, the love to stick with God, and not run ahead or throw a temper tantrum; a love which allowed Jairus to witness the reconciliation of an outcast woman and her community.

And this scene foreshadows the reconciliation of heaven and earth, the reconciliation of the world as it is, becoming and then being the world that God made it to be.

And Jairus stood there, radiating by faith, hope and love, as a witness watching reconciliation…patiently.