The readings on which this sermon is
based can be found at: http://frsparky.net/a/r125.htm
s125g12 Sunday 13 1/7/2012
'Talitha cum' Mark 5.41
We really do have to deal with the conjunction of last week's gospel
with this week's. Last week we heard Jesus wondering why
the disciples in the boat were fearful for their lives, yet this
week we find Jesus raising this little girl from the dead, then
telling people to keep it to themselves. Either death is
something not to be worried about, or indeed Jesus comes to save us
from death. And this follows directly on my thoughts
from last week about the difference between faith and covetousness.
The raising of the various people from the dead, this girl, the
widow's son from Nain and Lazarus, have most often been interpreted
as a foretaste of the physical resurrection for which we all look
forward. Eternal life becomes a thing for the future,
granted to one and denied to another, on what are actually rather
esoteric grounds. If the difference between faith and
covetousness is so fine, it requires great discernment to spot it,
and it is almost impossible to discern in oneself.
This 'god' is a phantom at best, nothing real like Jesus and the
down to earth attitude to life he had. We have only to
read of the healing of the woman with the haemorrhages to realize
how down to earth Jesus was.
We have somehow to deal with the fact that Jesus was more concerned
with the health and welfare of people other than the disciples, and,
of course, himself.
Woe betide any parish priest who is more concerned about the health
and welfare of others rather than the members of the
congregation! But what is even worse, that the parish
priest wants those others to be quiet about his or her
concern. The priest should get them to talk to all their
friends about it and get them to come to church - like the rest of
the congregation! It just doesn't make
sense! The concern to get 'bums on pews' is essentially
covetousness, not faith.
Discipleship and faith are the opposite of covetousness.
And for me, it is vital to see that belief in an afterlife is no
less covetous than belief in earthly blessings. Belief
in God, an afterlife, or God blessing one and not another, are no
less selfish for all their religious finery.
And covetousness is death, both personally and corporately, and
Jesus takes us by the hand and lifts us to our feet saying 'Talitha
cum' - giving us life - a life free of covetousness, not an excuse
to sanctify our own experience of life and deny it to others who
haven’t had precisely the same experience as us. We are
not freed from covetousness by becoming more powerful than others so
we can inflict others rather than they afflict us.
If we are disciples because we or the church benefits at the expense
of others, then we have got the message wrong. The path
of discipleship is where the well-being of all is the only
consideration. Nothing is more important than life
without covetousness and it begins with us. Indeed it is what
we are prepared to lose our own lives for, and it is surely what God
wants and wants the church to bring about.
I must repeat what I said in 1994 http://frsparky.net/a/125g94.htm
and 2009 http://frsparky.net/a/125g09.htm that in this reading we
have a graphic illustration of Jesus' blessing sexual
intimacy. When this woman was cured, she was enabled to
enjoy intimacy again. So passing from death to life is
not away from real life and unmentionable things – but to life and
the full enjoyment thereof. It is important to realize that it
is the woman’s enjoyment of physical intimacy that is important to
Jesus – not quite a usual perception for a male, methinks.
For me it has been so important for me to explore my
faith. My reflections which led me to an appreciation of
the substitutionary theory of the atonement just last week are a
case in point. The only sin deserving death is
covetousness; indeed it spawns death and infects everyone
around. So Jesus died because of religious covetousness
in order to free us from religious covetousness which is
death. It is only covetousness that actually brings some
sense to much of the New Testament.
One of my increasingly regular reads is the Huffington
Post. Recently I found these words of Michelangelo
Signorile: '.. recent events have underscored what we've known for a
long time about the Vatican. Men in the church who act
out are protected and even rewarded, and lying is acceptable if it's
in the service of covering for the church. Women,
however, are slammed for espousing compassion and truth if it
deviates even slightly from what the men in charge have
decided. And homosexuals are blamed for
This ‘faith’ is really covetousness in religious finery.
One of the interesting things about modern society is that people
will say that they are spiritual but not religious, and I suspect
that this expresses a belief that they hold a faith while implicitly
accepting that others hold a different faith which is no more and no
less valid for them. In this way they are saying that
they are not covetous, and their rejection of religion is actually a
rejection of covetousness, which they rightly see as demonic.
Death is life without others so life is being in community, and this
applies as much on the corporate level of the church as it does on
the personal level. Jesus reaches out and takes us by
the hand, and if we are willing as people and as a church ,bids us
live rather than die, returning from isolation and death, to society
Do we hear these words of Jesus addressed to us as individuals and
as church: 'Talitha cum'?
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