Not Dead, Only Sleeping Luke 8:41-56

Sermon from November 3, 1991:                   Luke 8:41-56          Jairus’ DaughterI want to take these few minutes of the sermon this morning to reflect with you on death and dying. Certainly the Gospel lesson of the death of the 12 year old girl forces us to think about death – that insatiable monster who eventually consumes as many children as we are able to produce.

I know some of you have been recently confronted with the death of someone close to you. I know some of you have questions regarding what happens to the soul after death. Perhaps some of you have even faced up to your own mortality. In any case, I want to look at today’s Gospel lesson, to offer you some observations on death and how we can joyfully and fearlessly face our strongest enemy.

You remember the Gospel today, a father totally distraught by the illness and impending death of his 12 year old daughter comes to Jesus to seek Christ’s help. Certainly we have here a model for us all – in any time of need or stress, bring your concerns to the Lord Jesus Christ, He will come with you, just as he walked with Jairus. But just as they are walking toward home,

 “someone came from the ruler of the synagogue’s house, saying to him, ‘Your daughter is dead. Do not trouble the Teacher.’ But when Jesus heard it, He answered him, saying, ‘Do not be afraid; only believe, and she will be made well.'”   (Luke 8:49-50)

I think we hear similar comments from many people today. “She’s dead, why bother with a funeral, just cremate her and be done with it.” “She’s dead, no one can help her now. Why do you have memorial services and prayers for the dead?” “Why trouble the Lord any more about the dead?” That is what Jairus’ friends were telling him. Jairus no doubt, didn’t know what to think. He wanted to believe in Jesus, but if his daughter was dead, what was the use?

Jesus encouraged Jairus. Jesus comforted Jairus and gave him hope with those words, “Don’t be afraid, only believe and she will be made well.” That is our response to death. We believe God loves us and works for our good. It is OK to believe in the God who takes care of the dead. It is OK to pray for those already dead, because the scripture every where testifies to us that they are alive in Christ. They are asleep in the Lord, but it is a gentle sleep from which Christ awakes them. They do not cease to exist, but rest in God. When Christ confronted death in his friend Lazarus, in Jairus’ daughter, in the widow of Nain’s son, he awoke the dead as if they were only asleep. He easily overcame the finality of death. In Christ’s story of the poor man Lazarus who dies and goes to heaven, in Christ’s teaching that God is the God of the living Abraham, Issac and Jacob, in the book of Revelation, the souls of the dead praying before Christ, all are proof to us that Christ is Lord of the Living and the dead, and whether we live or whether we die, if we are believers, we remain alive in Christ who is Lord of the living and the dead. As St. Paul tells the Romans, not even death separates us from Christ’s love for us.

Yes, those who believe in and follow Jesus remain alive in him even though they die in this world. Yes, it is good and right to continue to pray for them, in our love for them, because they are not separated from Christ, but are alive in him. It is no bother to the Lord for us to offer their names up in prayer.

“When He came into the house, He permitted no one to go in except Peter, James, and John, and the father and mother of the girl.  Now all wept and mourned for her; but He said, ‘Do not weep; she is not dead, but sleeping.’  And they laughed Him to scorn, knowing that she was dead.”

Please note, Jesus treats death as a sleep, a temporary condition, which life is not snuffed out, but in which the soul is at rest. St. Basil the Great said that for us faithful, death is the blessed rest that God has promised us from our labors, and we can enter it joyfully and not fearfully, because of God’s love.

Believe and trust in God, the dead are asleep for a while, but Christ will call them back to life as easily as he called that little girl. He will call you, he will awake your mother, grandfather, daughter, friend. So do not be afraid of death.

St. John of Kronstadt says it is those who make idols of their lives, of their food, of their money and possessions and egos who find death so hard to accept. When we overcome these thoughts through repentance and the spiritual life, we find we can trust Christ, and not weep or fear death. In Christ, we overcome death with eternal life.

“But He put them all out, took her by the hand and called, saying, ‘Little girl, arise.’  Then her spirit returned, and she arose immediately. And He commanded that she be given something to eat.  And her parents were astonished, but He charged them to tell no one what had happened.”  (8:54-56)

Nothing is impossible for the Lord Jesus Christ. He even overcomes the sting and finality of death. So my brothers and sisters, be of good courage. Do not fear death nor be embittered by the death of those you love. God loves them, as He loves you. Christ died for them as he died for you in order that they and you might have eternal life.

The resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come is a small miracle when we compare it with the miracle of God saving us from sin. Ephesians 2:5: “even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved). ” There is the true miracle of God. That God can revive a dead body and give it life again is the same miracle as God creating the world. But that God can by an act of grace forgive us our rebellious sinfulness and heal our souls and give life to one who is dead because of sin, that is a truly impossible miracle. What is impossible with men, is possible for God, and all who believe in him.

Luke 8:41-56 Touching Christ

Sermon Notes from November 1989:   (Luke 8:41-56)   Jairus’ Daughter, Woman with the flow of blood  

Jesus Christ revealed to us in these miracles that He is the Lord of all the forces and people of the universe. He has power over life and over sickness, and even over death. Jesus reveals to us that He is our Master and our God who we ought to worship.I want now to focus our attention on this one women who came to Christ and was healed by Him. For every Sunday we come here to not only touch Jesus, but to receive Him into our lives through Holy Communion. We come here intentionally to not just touch the hem of His garment, but to receive His Body and Blood into our lives.

Touching Christ means, as the story shows, having one’s life changed by the power inherent in him. The Gospel lesson shows us the difference between seeking one of the elementary powers of this world, and coming to the Creator of the world. Pagan religion attempts to control the forces of nature through superstitious manipulation of the forces. In Christ, we come to the Lord of all natural forces. In Christ, our lives become radically changed, rather then us controlling nature, we come to know the God who controls nature. Pagans do not want to know God, they only want to control the natural forces in order to get their own will done. But Christ Jesus calls us to the Lord of the Universe, to the only one who truly controls all nature and every human being and over every human sickness and tragedy.

In Christ, we come to see the complete foolishness of trying to manipulate God by our behavior. In Christ, we abandon the pagan effort to control God into doing our personal will and desires. For we come to know that God in fact cannot be controlled or manipulated by our behavior, by our worship, by our superstitions and rituals. Instead, we come face to face with God, and our life become utterly changed, everything becomes revealed by God even our most secret inner selves. And though we fear this exposure and feel totally weak and vulnerable, it is in this total exposure of our inner lives that God’s power is made known to us. And God speaks to us and tells us not to be afraid. Don’t be afraid of what you have done. Don’t be afraid to admit your sins and failings. Don’t be afraid of what people will think of you. Don’t be afraid to acknowledge your shortcomings before all. Don’t be afraid to admit what you personally want and need from God. Don’t be afraid to stretch forth your hand to reach out and touch God. For God will not reject you, no matter what you have done. God will not despise you no matter how despicable and unclean you are. God will not ignore you no matter how many more important people are pushing ahead of you. God will not lecture you and criticize you and belittle you.

For God loves you. He will comfort you. He will fill you with joy. And with peace. He will heal you and forgive you. He will restore your health, your life. He will mend your broken relationships and restore you to the fellowship of His people. He will call you His daughter or His son. He will take away your fears. Because He is your creator. He is the Lord of the Universe. He is your shepherd.

When you come to realize all of this, you will no longer ever want to try to control God or to bargain with Him or demand your way with Him. You will know He loves you and will provide for you. So, submit to Him, and serve Him. For in serving God, rather then trying to control or manipulate Him, God will care for you and provide for you. In giving up your own will, in saying no to your self and your desires, you will find out what God’s good and perfect will is. You will then attain all that God has made possible for any human being. You will realize all of your potential to be like God. For you are created in the image and likeness of God, and your goal is to be like Him.

You will obtain this goal, when you learn the value of humble obedience to God’s will. Instead of trying to grasp hold of God and control Him to do your bidding, submit your life to God in obedience and in love, in prayer and in fasting, in charity and service to others, in worship and listening to His Word.

The women with the flow of blood, came to Christ seeking to be rid of her illness. She came to see if she could get Christ’s powers to do her will. She went away from Christ, totally healed, with a life transformed, no longer living in fear, in isolation, in superstition. For in Christ, all was revealed to her about God, and she revealed her life to all. She came away from her desire to be healed, knowing God and receiving eternal life. She came seeking comfort in this world, and found instead the peaceful Kingdom of God.

Let us pray:

O Master, Lord our God, the women with the flow of blood came to you for healing. Like her we each come to you with our own needs and requests amidst a crowd of people who all are wanting things from you. We come to touch your Body and to receive You into our lives. We humbly ask you to grant us her experience. Let your power touch our lives so that you will reveal yourself to us, and we in turn will worship you, offering You thanks for your healing miracles in our own lives. Then we will proclaim your mighty deeds to all those around us. Take away our fears. Heal us, O Loving Lord. Restore our relationships which have been shattered by sin. Call us to be your daughters and sons. Fill our hearts with joy and gladness. Send us forth in peace so that we will be able to live our lives according to your holy will. Amen.