How many of you remember Bishop Fulton J. Sheen? You probably do if you’re older than I am. Bishop Sheen had a popular, prime-time television program back in the 50's and early 60's. His name and face were well-known by folks all across the country.
Another well-known television minister – Dr. Robert Schuller – tells about the time when Bishop Sheen spoke at Schuller’s Crystal Cathedral. The bishop was mobbed by people who wanted to speak to him, to touch him, or receive some sort of blessing from him. As Bishop Sheen made his way to his car, someone pressed a note into his hand. It was from an elderly woman who had given up on life. She needed prayer.
Bishop Sheen insisted that his driver take him to this woman’s house immediately. She lived in a run-down trailer park. Imagine this woman’s surprise when she opened the door and saw Bishop Fulton Sheen – one of the most famous men in the country – standing at her front door. In her hour of need, he had set aside his busy schedule and important business to be with her. Bishop Sheen talked with the woman, and prayed with her. [He touched her life,] and when he left, he commented, “Now she’s ready for living – in this life – and the next.”
Something like that is happening in our Gospel lesson today. If you were with us last week, you learned that Jesus calmed a storm while in a boat in the middle of the sea. Today we discover that Jesus has crossed over to the other side of the sea, and is just getting out of that boat, when lo and behold, on the shore, a huge crowd is gathering around him. Seems like Jesus is always gathering a crowd –
– and one of the leaders of the local Synagogue
– a righteous Jew by the name of Jairus,
– comes to Jesus and falls at his feet and pleads with Jesus to come and heal his daughter who is near death.
“Lay your hands on her Jesus – just touch her Jesus – and she will be made well – and she will live.” So Jesus walks with Jairus. But on the way, as the crowds press in on Jesus, a woman who has suffered from some kind of bleeding disorder for twelve years
– comes up to Jesus and touches him
– she touches just the fringe of his garments
– and immediately she is made well.
– She is ready for living again.
Meanwhile, the daughter of Jairus has died. But Jesus continues to walk with Jairus to his house. And there – Jesus goes to where the little girl is – and he touches her. Jesus takes the little girl by the hand, and says, “Little girl, get up.” With a touch – just a touch of his hand – Jesus gives her life back to her again – and gives her back to her parents.
With just a touch – in the first case a woman touches Jesus – in the second, Jesus touches a little girl by taking her by the hand – and gives all of them another chance at living. They were all experiencing bumps in the road when Jesus comes to them and walks with them and touches their lives. The woman – the little girl – as well as her parents – Jairus and...Mrs. Jairus – are ready for living again.
Folks I want to talk to you today about being ready – about being ready for lvieing. In this life you and I will have bumps – when what we really want is to get over those bumps and to get on with the job of living, right? Some of us have incredible bumps in our lives.
– For some, it is the challenges that come from old age.
– For others, it is dealing with a rebellious child.
– Perhaps it’s the loss of a job.
– Some have trouble in school or at work.
– Maybe it’s a relationship that is breaking apart.
– Perhaps it’s grieving the loss of a loved one.
– Or maybe it’s a debilitating or life-threatening illness.
Folks, I’m here to tell you today that at those times, Jesus is the one who comes to us and walks with us and touches us in those areas – at those bumps in the road – where we need to be touched – and get us ready for living again.
Now – I wish I could say that when you turn to Jesus he’ll heal you of all that is wrong in your life – and take away all the bumps in the road. But that would be irresponsible of me – or any preacher – to say that. I can’t tell you why – sometimes Jesus heals – and sometimes he does not. But I can tell you this – that Jesus walks with you in whatever it is that you’re going through. Not just for the moment. But in order for us to see above and to move beyond and to rise above the bumps – in order to get us ready for living.
Jesus walked with the woman who touched his garments. Jesus walked with Jairus to his home. Jesus walked with Jairus and his wife into the room where their daughter lay dead. You might even say that as they stepped into that little girl’s room, that they walked into a life-changing situation.
Yes, Jesus walks with us and touches us and comes to us to turn our lives around. And I have found in my life that this happens most often when I am with other Christians. When Jesus walks with us, it is most often when other Christians are walking with us. When Jesus touches us, it is most often through the touch of another Christian.
Jesus makes us ready for living, but not just for our own benefit. Being a Christian is not an “It’s all about me” kind of thing. It can never be all about me. There are so many others that Jesus wants to touch. And guess who he uses to touch those others? That’s right. You guessed it. You and me folks. In many ways, we are his hands. We are his feet. He touches others and walks with others though our hands. Through our feet. Part of what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ is to reach out to those who are facing bumps in the road. When we see someone in need – just a touch – just a word of encouragement – just a smile – can make the difference between hope and despair.
Making a difference? You bet. That’s why I admire so much and give thanks to God for all of you who are actively making a difference in the lives of others. Many of you are the hands and the feet of Jesus in ways that I am not aware of. Helping a family member, or helping a neighbor or a friend. Well, we would expect that. But how about serving the stranger? Serving in ways that I don’t know about, but that the Lord is certainly paying attention to.
Then there are those things that we do together. And I’m thinking of Habitat for Humanity; Stephen Ministry; bringing in food to stock the food pantry at Resurrection Lutheran Church in the inner city of Buffalo; Family Promise – a ministry to the temporarily homeless; and let’s not forgot our mission trips over the years to New Orleans, Chicago, Biloxi, and of course more recently, to Haiti.
On page 2 of your Mission Minutes is an article that came to me just this week about how Christian high school seniors are coming to Buffalo to do home repairs in the neighborhood of Resurrection Lutheran Church on the East side of Buffalo. The Resurrection folks call the neighborhood in which they serve the Resurrection Village. You know, I like to joke that we send our kids to places like Chicago or Slidell Louisiana to make a difference. Where do kids from other parts of the country go to? Buffalo! And you’ll notice it says in that article there are ways that we can get involved with this effort in the Resurrection Village.
So whether it’s something we do as a group – or whether it’s something you do one on one with someone else – when you touch someone else in the name of Jesus – and the key phrase here is “in the name of Jesus” – you are making a difference!
Some years ago, Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote these powerful words. Listen…
“How do you measure success?
To laugh often and much; (I think some of us don’t laugh nearly enough)
To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children;
To earn the appreciation of honest critics
and endure the betrayal of false friends;
To appreciate beauty;
To find the best in others;
To leave the world a bit better
whether by a healthy child,
a redeemed social condition,
or a job well done;
To know that even one life has
breathed because you lived…
that is to have succeeded.”
There is nothing out of the ordinary in Emerson’s words – and yet these are very powerful words! You don’t have to be extraordinary. But let me suggest that the one thing that makes all of this possible – the one ingredient left out of Emerson’s list – is the gift of compassion. The touch of Compassion.
Jesus shows us what compassion looks like. He made a difference in the lives of many people as he simply walked along. With just a touch. And by doing so, Jesus made them – makes us – ready for living.
I want you to know that God has chosen to be in touch with you. He says to you – says to us – “Get up! Get up and get ready for living! Get up! I am walking with you – taking you through those bumps in the road. Helping you to rise above them. I have touched your life. Now go and touch the life of someone else.”
Just think of it! What a joy it is to be touched by Jesus – to be touched by others – and then to pay it forward – just to reach out and touch others. Our husbands. Our wives. Our kids. Our friends. Our neighbors. And yes – people we don’t even know.
Jesus comes to us and walks with us and touches us. He gets us ready – ready for living. In this life – and the next. Amen