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While God Is Marching On

Mark 5:21-43

The Rev. Jon Roberts

1 July

2018

Calvary Episcopal Church

Indian Rocks Beach, FL

21 And when Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a great crowd gathered about him; and he was beside the sea. 22 Then came one of the rulers of the synagogue, Ja′irus by name; and seeing him, he fell at his feet, 23 and besought him, saying, “My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well, and live.” 24 And he went with him. And a great crowd followed him and thronged about him. 25 And there was a woman who had had a flow of blood for twelve years, 26 and who had suffered much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was no better but rather grew worse. 27 She had heard the reports about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his garment. 28 For she said, “If I touch even his garments, I shall be made well.” 29 And immediately the hemorrhage ceased; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. 30 And Jesus, perceiving in himself that power had gone forth from him, immediately turned about in the crowd, and said, “Who touched my garments?” 31 And his disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing around you, and yet you say, ‘Who touched me?’” 32 And he looked around to see who had done it. 33 But the woman, knowing what had been done to her, came in fear and trembling and fell down before him, and told him the whole truth. 34 And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.” 35 While he was still speaking, there came from the ruler’s house some who said, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the Teacher any further?” 36 But ignoring[a] what they said, Jesus said to the ruler of the synagogue, “Do not fear, only believe.” 37 And he allowed no one to follow him except Peter and James and John the brother of James. 38 When they came to the house of the ruler of the synagogue, he saw a tumult, and people weeping and wailing loudly. 39 And when he had entered, he said to them, “Why do you make a tumult and weep? The child is not dead but sleeping.” 40 And they laughed at him. But he put them all outside, and took the child’s father and mother and those who were with him, and went in where the child was. 41 Taking her by the hand he said to her, “Tal′itha cu′mi”; which means, “Little girl, I say to you, arise.” 42 And immediately the girl got up and walked (she was twelve years of age), and they were immediately overcome with amazement. 43 And he strictly charged them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat.

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Pickett’s Charge at The Battle of Gettysburg, Thure de Thulstrup, 1887

In the beauty of the lilies
Christ was born across the sea,
With a glory in his bosom
That transfigures you and me:
As he died to make men holy,
Let us die to make men free,
While God is marching on.[1]

Known as The Battle Hymn of the Republic, our hearts are captured as we discern once more the value of our independence. “Glory, glory, Hallelujah.” Julia Ward Howe, daughter of a well-to-do banker in New York, was in her forties in the year 1861, traveling on assignment with her husband, Dr. Samuel Gridley Howe and The Rev. James Freeman Clarke in Washington, D.C. They were members of President Lincoln’s Military Sanitary Commission, and took the afternoon to walk among the thousands of union soldiers encamped along the Potomac. She was deeply moved by the men who were singing the song, John Brown’s Body, the one that identified the heart and soul of the abolitionist movement. It was unrelated to the hanging of a young black man at Harpers Ferry two years prior, but still it was the visual and the hymn that these men were committed to fight. As she heard them sing, she was inspired and that night the words came to her and she wrote them down. It was that last verse that she spent the longest time.

In the beauty of the lilies
Christ was born across the sea,
With a glory in his bosom
That transfigures you and me:
As he died to make men holy,
Let us die to make men free,
While God is marching on.

An editor, Mr. James T. Fields, paid her $5 for it and gave it its current title. He published it four months later with every copy sold out and a new song that the soldiers would hold dear. July 1st, a year later in 1863, the turning point of the Civil War took place in Pennsylvania at a place called Gettysburg. General Robert E. Lee of the Confederate Army had the momentum and planned to shift the war away from his native land of Virginia, and push it further north. This battle was nearly won, except for the resolve of the Union forces that did not retreat on the line that defeated Major General Pickett’s Charge. In two days, 50,000 men from the north and the south, died for the sake of preserving their way of life, for independence.

With only a few days away from the observance of our nation’s independence, a different war, a different way of life, we continue to focus on the meaning of peace, justice and freedom. We know all too well that it comes with a cost. When we fight for our independence, whether from the tyranny of taxation by a sovereign king, or for emancipation as proclaimed by an abolitionist president, it means someone is going to die. Freedom of death is something we know about as Christians, as Jesus Christ came and died for us. He did more than make us free; He taught us that we were designed and destined to be holy.
Life is so unfair, so unjust and always a game of balance. One envies the life of another and there is strife. One takes from the other and there is injustice. One kills another and there is war. As Christ died to make men holy, let us die to make men free. If you continue to go back in time, past the Civil War, past the Revolutionary War, you will see that people of faith in God have always been in the battle for equality. But is it for the sake of freedom or the direction that such freedom takes us to holiness.

Look at who Paul was speaking to in Corinth for example. It was all about an imbalance between the haves and the have nots in that city. The Christians who were there were suffering to get through as they felt so much was taken from them because of their faith. Remember, said Paul, “Jesus was rich yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty you may become rich.”[2] He ends with, “The one who had much did not have much, and the one who had little did not have too little.” Paul was referring to the passage from the Exodus when the people complained to Moses for not having enough meat and bread in the wilderness. Yet Moses said that God will provide an abundance and the very next morning a cloud of quail descended upon them and the dew they touched on the ground was manna/bread falling from heaven.
We will always want something we wish we had. A better life with resources that were greater than anything before or to keep a good life where no one wanted to give up.[3] That is why we fought for freedom in the past. But do you not remember when Paul also said, “The one who was free when called, is Christ’s slave.”[4] Not one of us will have more than the other when we go to heaven. We are equal in the eyes of God.

What if Jesus treated us differently? Take into account the Gospel this morning. Jairus, a wealthy elder had a twelve-year old daughter at home who was dying. While being led to his home Jesus was surrounded by a crowd of hundreds maybe thousands and in the midst of that sea of people, he felt the woman who reached out to get just a touch of his garment.[5] Power left him and he knew it. This woman, poor as she was, sick for twelve years (there is 12 again; 12 disciples; 12 tribes of Israel…a relation?) received his attention. By the time he finally arrived at Jairus’ house, they said his daughter had died. Jesus said, “No she isn’t. She’s only asleep.” He took her by the hand, told her to get up and she did!
Jesus gave only two commands. Feed her and don’t tell anyone. What would have happened if he bypassed the poor woman on the street? What if he didn’t heal the rich man’s daughter? He could have been accused of treating one unjustly over another. Then, another war of society would have erupted. Peace, Love, Joy, Justice, Freedom are all applied in the quest to be healed and to be whole. There are always brothers at war, to preserve or to change a way of life due to injustice, and there are the rest of us caught in between.

What way of life are we to change? Did Jesus not say, “Be ye holy for I am holy?” Are we not the lilies of the field, those like Egypt, like Gettysburg soaked in blood, so that independence would be won? When our nation rebounds it will only be when we as a people of God confess something is broken. It is our relationship with Christ.

For in the beauty of the lilies
Christ was born across the sea,
With a glory in his bosom
That transfigures you and me:
As he died to make men holy,
Let us die to make men free,
While God is marching on.

[1] Julia Ward Howe, The Battle Hymn of the Republic, February 1862.
[2] 2 Corinthians 8:7-15
[3] Exodus 16:18
[4] Colossians 7:22
[5] Mark 5:21-43

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