2 Corinthians 8.7-end
Rev Canon Cheryl Collins
May I speak in the name of God, who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit
What is the most precious thing in your life? One of the time -honoured ways of helping us think about that question, is to ask what you would grab first if the house was burning down? If we exclude sentient beings, then you could say that we are left with, souvenirs, symbols and tools. Souvenirs- the things that conjure up precious memories for us, that old valentines card, the pressed rose, the trophy, certificate or photograph. Symbols- the wedding ring, ordination stole, medal. Tools- the credit card, passport, car keys. I have to confess that nothing especially came to mind when I considered the question about the burning house. I couldn’t come up with a definitive answer, not even the books. How about you?I don’t imagine that St. Paul would have any trouble deciding on the most precious thing in his life, but it is unlikely there was anything tangible he needed from his burning tent to remind himself of it. He even tells us in Philippians that he has written off the benefits of birth, education, religious zeal and character because of Christ. As he memorably puts it: ‘ I count it so much rubbish, for the sake of gaining Christ.’
So for Paul clearly the most precious thing in his life was the moment when it was touched by Jesus Christ and the relationship that ensued. At the moment when we meet them, both Jairus and the unnamed woman with a haemorrhage had already lost or were about to lose the most precious thing in their lives. For what could be more precious to a parent than a beloved child? And for the unnamed woman, twelve long years of bleeding have weakened her body, emptied her purse, cut her off from her community because of religious restrictions, and taken away her hope. She had nothing left. The wonder is that either can have any faith that Jesus can help. But their faith is repaid a thousand fold when Jesus gives of himself to heal them. And this was the moment when despair was turned to hope, lack to abundance and death to life. Both
the insider from the family of the leader of synagogue and the pariah cast out from ‘decent’ society are touched by Jesus and given back their lives. He brings them the abundant life that the gospel of John has declared as his mission statement. I come that they may have life, life in all its fullness. The abundance of life in Jesus is a contrast to the scarcity thinking of those around Jairus. ‘Your daughter is dead, they tell him, no point in bothering the teacher any further. But Jesus tells Jairus ‘ Do not fear, only keep believing.’
We live in a world that preaches scarcity and need, even for those of us, who on a moment of reflection have so much. The prevailing wisdom is that to get anywhere we need to scramble for what we can get, everything is limited there is not enough to go around so we need to do everything possible to make sure that we get at least our share, however we define that. According to this view of the world our neighbours are a threat and we have the right to do whatever it takes to protect the little we have from everyone else. At least part of the problem is the philosophy of consumerism, which tries to create a need in us in order to claim that it can meet that need. It ensures that we can never be allowed to rest satisfied with whatever we have be it car, body, relationship or lifestyle. We are always being encouraged to demand better because ‘we’re worth it,’ at least we will be if we follow the seductive siren call of the advertisement and get whatever it is we apparently need to be truly worth it.We live in a society that constantly encourages us to concentrate on what we don’t have, not on what we do have. The media updates us hourly on what we’re missing out on in terms of money, status and possessions and makes it so easy to miss the truth of our situation. WE are the rich.
Yes, if your income is more than £22,200 per year you are in the top 4% in terms of wealth in our world. You might feel poor compared to the average investment banker, but half the global population lives on less than £1.80 a day so it turns out that we have a whole lot more than we think we do. We are, by and large, living in abundance, even though we’re not one of the 26 people whose wealth taken together is equivalent to the wealth of the poorest 50% of the world where nearly 30,000 children are dying of poverty related causes every day. The Corinthian church was convinced of its own abundance- in wisdom, in prophecy, in the more dramatic manifestations of the spirit’s presence. Now Paul is inviting them to demonstrate their abundance in a more prosaic way- by making their gift to the hard-pressed Jerusalem church and thus proclaiming the unity of Jewish and Gentile Christians. But this is not the prime reason he gives to inspire them. No, for Paul, everything is ultimately theological, even and especially when it deals with the practical, down to earth and mostly messy details of ordinary life. So he points to Jesus- to the way that Jesus gives of himself so that we may enjoy the abundant living he promises us. In Jesus, he tells the Corinthians you are not living in a situation of scarcity but of abundance, for through Jesus God will give you everything you really need, as opposed to what you think you need, so you can afford to give generously.
What about us? If like Jairus and his family, like the woman with a haemorrhage and like the Corinthian church we have been touched by Jesus and given the gift of abundant living, then we have an abundance from which to give– our time, our talents and our money. This is the pattern of Christian living, that it ripples outwards from our encounter with Jesus, like water from a dropped stone. Jesus touches us and we in our turn touch others with that same self-giving love because we are no longer afraid that there will not be enough left for us. We find that with God there is always more, always abundance. In my own experience of journeying in faith I have found that that God is always giving me more so that I have more to give. it is typical of Mark that he interrupts the story of the daughter of the important man to show us Jesus’s interaction with an unnamed and insignificant woman. What must have gone through the mind of Jairus as he shifted impatiently from foot to foot, wanting to drag the teacher away from this stupid woman before it was too late. But Jesus told Jairus not to be afraid. God’s love and God’s power are not that small. There is enough and more than enough for the woman and for his daughter. There is enough for all. Let us act in that belief.