Tuesday, June 30, 2015

“Believe” (Mark 5:21-43)

In J.M. Barrie’s story, Peter Pan, we learn the story of the boy who never grows up . . . lives in Neverland with the Lost Boys . . . and battles the villain Captain Hook.  We read how he encounters and brings to Neverland, Wendy and her two brothers while trying to get his shadow back.  It is a wonderful story that has enchanted and entertained children and adults ever since it was written back at the turn of the twentieth century.  I am sure many of you have either read the story or seen it as a play or movie . . . that you are familiar with the story.

In one part of the story Peter gets mad at Tinker Bell.  Tinker Bell is the little fairy that has a huge crush on Peter and watches out for him.  When Wendy and her brothers arrive in Neverland, Tinker Bell suddenly has competition as Peter begins to give Wendy attention.  This makes Tinker Bell jealous and she begins to play tricks on Wendy and Peter.  This angers Peter and he banishes Tinker.  A woman scorned . . . fairy or not . . . is a woman to watch out for, and Tinker Bell is no exception to the rule.  Mad, Tinker makes an alliance with the evil Captain Hook.  The result is that Wendy, her brothers, and all the Lost Boys get captured by Hook and his men.  He holds them for ransom . . . actually he holds them in the hope that Peter will come and attempt to rescue them.

Which, of course, is what he does . . . he shows up on Hook’s ship to rescue the captured.  At one point, Hook offers Peter “medicine” to drink, but the medicine is poisoned.  Tinker drinks the “medicine” before Peter gets the chance, and it kills her.

Do you remember what brings Tinker Bell back to life?

Falling to his knees Peter recants the lesson he was told to believe . . . that fairies do not exist.  Leaning over the tiny body of the lifeless Tinker Bell, Peter begins a heartfelt confession that he does believe in fairies . . . “I do believe in fairies, I do!  I DO!”  But nothing happens . . . Tinker just lies there.  But soon Wendy senses the despair and heart brokenness in Peter’s prayer . . . and, she joins in.  “I believe in fairies, I do!  I DO!”  As the Lost Boys hear Wendy they, too, join in the prayer. 

It is a moving scene and is difficult not to get caught up in the action.  Before long the audience is chanting the prayer, “I believe in fairies, I do!  I DO!”  In the belief and faith of one there comes new life . . . Tinker Bell springs back to life.

It is faith that brings Tinker Bell back to life.  In the raw emotion that Peter displays for his friend and the simple prayer he offers we discover faith.  From the faith of one . . . it becomes two as Wendy joins in the prayer . . . then it becomes the faith of many as the Lost Boys jump into the fray . . . until it becomes the faith of all as the audience joins in.  It is faith that brings life.

Is that not the message we heard in our scripture reading this morning?  That with faith there is life?

Upon arriving to the other side of the lake, Jesus and the disciples are greeted by a large crowd.  One individual comes forward and asks Jesus to come with him to heal his dying daughter . . . and, so, Jesus goes with the man.  The journey is not easy as the crowd presses in to see this teacher, preacher, healer they have heard so much about.  As they are pushing through the crowd, Jesus suddenly feels a burst of energy leave his body . . . someone has touched him.  He stops and asks the crowd who it was who touched him . . . a seemingly silly request seeing how the crowd is pressing in from all sides as they journey towards the man’s house . . . but, Jesus wants to know: “Who touched my clothes?”

Finally a woman . . . a woman who had been hemorrhaging for twelve years steps forward and confesses to Jesus that it was she who touched his clothes.  She tells Jesus that she knew she would never be able to get an audience with him, but that she believed that if she could just touch him . . . touch his clothes . . . that she would be healed of the suffering she had endured for twelve years.    She trembled at his feet.

“Daughter,” said Jesus, “faith has healed you.  Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.”
Meanwhile back at the ranch . . . I mean, the man’s house . . . the delay has caused Jesus to miss the opportunity to heal the man’s dying daughter as she dies waiting.  Messengers bring this news to Jesus and the man, and the man insists that Jesus just forget it and go on.  But Jesus insists that they continue on.  He tells the man: “Don’t be afraid; just believe.”

Of course when they get to the house they discover that the death laments of mourning had begun . . . the girl was dead.  Jesus sends everyone out and goes to the dead girl . . . with the girl’s mother and father, and the disciples with him; he takes her by the hand and tells her to get up.  Immediately she stood up. 

With faith there is life.

As the follower of Jesus we are not called upon to believe in fairies.  No, we are called upon to believe in Jesus . . . to believe in Jesus . . .his words, his actions, his life, his death and resurrection . . . and, that with such faith that there is new life.  Faith and belief are powerful resources for those who follow Jesus through the journey of life.

Life is hard . . . but, it is even harder when one does not have faith . . . when one does not believe.  With the bleeding woman it is her belief that heals her in the end . . . even it was only to brush up against the clothes of Jesus . . . she believed she could be healed.  And, she was.  With the little girl who dies . . . Jesus tells her father to believe . . . and, the little girl lives.  With Peter it is his heartfelt belief . . . heard and embraced by those around him who love him . . . that Tinker Bell is brought back to life.

In life, with all of its difficulties and frustrations, all we can do is to believe . . . not because we are told to believe, but because.  Sometimes that is the best reason to believe.

Maybe we need to join Peter in his simple prayer, but change it just a little bit . . . “I believe in Jesus, I do!  I DO!”  And, who knows, maybe others will hear our simple prayer and join in with us.  There is power is belief . . . power in faith . . . and, there is always new life.

Believe!  Amen!      

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