Our weekly devotion from the sainted Rev. Earl Feddersen:
2 Corinthians 8:1-9, 13-18
Mark 5:21-24, 35-43
On Wednesday evening, June 25, I attended the closing service of the Missionary Orientation at Concordia Seminary in St. Louis. More than 100 missionaries and family members were sent out into the world. The preacher, Rev. Donald Bendewald, suggested that their job was the immediate conversion of 4.5 billion people. He said it might take them “a couple of weeks.” Talk about great expectations! Then again, what other expectations should the people of God have?
Sunday’s Gospel lesson is one of those split texts–10 verses are missing. Those verses are a miracle story in themselves. Sunday’s lesson is the beginning and ending of another miracle story. As a matter of fact, from Mark 4:35 to the end of Sunday’s lesson, Jesus demonstrates total controlling power over roaring wind and waves, a host of demons, a 12-year- old illness and death itself.
In addition to being amazing demonstrations of Jesus’ power, the four stories have an interesting similarity. The disciples wake Jesus in a panic with, “Don’t you care if we drown?” The man with the legion of demons inside him comes from the tombs to meet Jesus as soon as He steps out of the boat. The demons immediately know they are “on the way out.” The rich and influential ruler of the synagogue comes right to Jesus and gets on his hands and knees for the sake of his dying daughter. The poor hemorrhaging woman is too low on the scales of society and religion to approach Jesus directly. But she sneaks up behind Him to touch just His clothes. All of them come to Jesus. All of them have great expectations. It is very interesting that, in all these stories, only those who stayed behind at Jairus’ house lack positive expectations.
When the little girl dies, they seem a little upset that Jesus dallied too long with that unclean “nobody” of a woman. They also figure that it is now useless for Jairus to bother Jesus any more–it’s too late. Jesus told Jairus, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.”
Do you wait behind for Jesus to do something according to your prescription? Or do you go to Him with great expectations? When you read your Bible, attend worship or receive Holy Communion, do you expect God to do great things to and through you? Are you like Jairus’ friends–do you think Jesus is too busy, too unconcerned, too distant, too late to be helpful any more?
I love the hymn verse: “Thou art coming to a King–Large petitions with thee bring; For His grace and power are such, None can ever ask too much!”
In 1994, the journal Homiletics had this interesting note about a very common gesture: “Ever ‘cross your fingers’ for luck? Did you know you were making an ancient Christian symbol of faith, a bodily demonstration of faith in God’s protective, caring nature? Crossed fingers were a Christian’s ‘secret weapon’ against evil. Instead of crossing oneself openly, and thus inviting the attention of dangerous foes, a Christian could call on the powerful protection of the holy cross by making this small, inconspicuous gesture.”
Some people today would call that a silly superstition and dismiss it as useless and of no good purpose. On the other hand, maybe we Christians could reassert the symbolism behind the gesture, making it not a childish superstition, but an act of prayer and faith. Do you come to church with your fingers crossed?
The cross is our constant reminder that Jesus is never too busy, too unconcerned or too self-concerned. It represents the opposite truth–that Jesus willingly sacrificed His own needs and wellbeing, His honorable name, even His life for us! What’s more, He didn’t leave it at that. As with the disciples, the little girl and the woman who had the hemorrhage, Jesus restores us to full relationship with God and with each other! The cross reminds us that, as with Jairus’ daughter, Jesus even gives us life after death. He gives us resurrection. Cross your fingers and reach out in faith.
Come to Him with great expectations and reach out to others with great expectations! Reaching 4.5 billion people may take more than a few weeks, but you can reach one today and another tomorrow and another…