ST. AUGUSTINE’S EPISCOPAL CHURCH
THE REVEREND BARRY GRIFFIN, RECTOR
there is nothing a father will not do to save the life of his child. There is nothing a mother will not do to do the same.
I have known many people who have lost spouses. The death of a spouse must surely be one of life’s most painful experiences.
I have known some people who have lost both spouses and children. Here’s what they tell me: it’s different. You cannot compare the loss of a spouse with the loss of a child. It’s a different kind of hurt. It’s apples and oranges. That’s what they tell me.
Here’s my observation: as difficult as it is, most people eventually come to terms with the death of a spouse. Many people do not come to terms Perhaps that is why there is nothing a mother or father will not do to save the life of a child.
“Save the life of my child.” There are physicians among us who have heard that phrase or some variation of it many times.
It doesn’t get any more basic than that.
That’s what happened in today’s gospel. In today’s gospel that’s what Jesus heard: “Save the life of my child.”
It came from Jairus, one of the leaders of the synagogue. He came to Jesus, fell at his feet, and begged him repeatedly, “My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hand on her, so that she may be made well, and live.”
There is nothing a father will not do to save the life of his child.
For just a moment let’s step back from this human drama. Consider this: Jesus healed many people. For the most part we do not know their names. Most of the healed remain nameless.
Jairus is an exception. We know his name. We don’t know his daughter’s name. But we know his name. Mark made a point of telling us his name.
Mark also tells us something about Jairus. Jairus was a leader of the synagogue. He was a man of influence. He held a certain station in first century Judaism. His name was a name worth naming.
But his little daughter was at the point of death, and none of that mattered anymore. There is nothing a father will not do to save the life of his child. Jairus was a desperate man.
I am no expert at getting God’s attention, but I’ve noticed this: God pays attention to desperate people. Jesus paid attention to Jairus.
There’s something to be said for desperation.
Desperate people know exactly what they want in no uncertain terms. Desperate people know exactly who they are. They have no illusions.
Desperate people know they are totally and absolutely dependent on God. In that sense desperation is a gift.
Desperation brings us back to our senses.
It was desperation that made Jairus fall at the feet of Jesus.
Nothing much has changed today. For the most part it is desperation that brings us back to God. Desperation reminds us that we are creatures of God. Desperation reminds us of our own limitations.
Desperation jerks us out of the illusion of complacency. That’s a violent jerk. It makes your neck hurt.
My neck has ached a time or two. If you’ve lived long enough so has yours.
But ultimately it’s a good ache. Ultimately, if you pay attention, you learn a few things. Desperation teaches.
You learn your place in the bigger scheme of things. You’re not as important as you thought you were. At the same time you discover you are a better person than you thought you were.
Funny how that works.
Desperation informs your sense of self. It helps you learn yourself.
Desperation informs your sense of others, too. If you’ve known desperation you know it when you see it in others. You get patient with people. You give them slack. You give them room to be wrong and confused.
Desperation is a gift. You learn yourself and you learn others.
Back to Jairus. Jairus was a desperate man.
I appreciate his desperation. There is nothing a father will not do to save the life of his child.
In my mind Jairus is the patronal saint of the desperate. God hears the cries of the desperate.
Every week Bp. Wright sends out an email. His weekly devotional is called “For Faith”. I appreciate receiving it. For Faith is brief and often inspiring. You might appreciate receiving it, too.
Last Week’s For Faith was entitled “Desperate”. Bp. Rob wrote:
“Jairus must have been desperate. Leaders of the upper class don’t seek out low-class street preachers unless they’re desperate. His daughter was dying. Parents will do anything to save their children. Parents who don’t pray will pray. Those who have been indifferent to Jesus will call on his power, if the fear is great and the loss will devastate. Jesus didn’t judge him or lecture him. He blessed him. He saved the child. I guess what lower and upper class folks have in common is the space for new faith that desperation creates. And, a merciful God.”
Nobody seeks out desperation. But when it happens to you, use it. Go with it. Let it draw you closer to God.
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