By Paul Black
PEORIA -- Using the stories of the woman with an issue of blood and the death of Jairus’ daughter, Christ demonstrated a commitment to work on the nature and depth of our faith.
“We’re not just marching to Zion. We’re not just joining William Cullen Bryant’s ‘innumerable caravan of death.’ We’re not just singing It is well,” said Bishop Jonathan Keaton in the annual conference memorial sermon. “We’re on our way to that Great Getting Up Morning. On that day, Christ will call us to ‘Get Up.’ He will wipe every tear from our eyes… ‘mourning, crying and death will be no more’ for the former things will have passed away. Get up, there will be no more night (in the city of God) … no need for light of lamp or sun … for the Lord God will be our light, and we shall reign forever and ever. Hallelujah. Amen.”
Keaton noted our experiences of life and death do not parallel the two gospel stories.
“A crowd saw Lazarus get up, but we didn’t. A house full of worshipers witnessed the healing of the paralytic let down through the roof get up, but we didn’t. Peter knelt down in prayer at the bedside of a dead and gone woman and said, “Tabitha, Get Up.” Tabitha opened her eyes and got up to shouts of joy. We’ve lived routine lives devoid of these kinds of miracles happening to us,” Keaton said. “Maybe, we are left to ponder the stories of Jesus as teaching narratives about healing, death and resurrection. I know, ‘we’ll understand it better by and by.’ Until then, we are required to wait for that Great Getting Up Morning. The trump’ shall sound. And the Lord will appear. Some folk will be caught up and meet him in the air. Others will spring forth to new life at the divine utterance of two words, namely ‘Get Up.’”
In the Jairus story, Christ was moved by Jairus’ faith. “A non-Christian leader demonstrated what Christians forget sometimes,” Keaton said. “Faith is a better medicine than laughter and because of his faith-based plea, our Lord agreed to go see Jairus’ daughter and heal her.”
But Keaton also acknowledged that death and dying still occur. “It’s true, we do not always get what we want no matter how much we pray or how hard we pray,” he said. “The book of James is correct, ‘the prayers of the righteous availeth much’ (James 5:16). Even though your loved one is gone, keep prayer. Christ desires and wants the kind of intimacy with his children that arises from the unsolvable daily crises that reveal our need for God’s help. Hold on to what you’ve learned in this process of a beloved’s illness, dying and death…Our help comes from the Lord.”
And Keaton noted the woman’s story demonstrates how one’s faith is not given but formed.
“She had learned ‘to keep hope alive’ even as life gave her a good beating,” he said. “The woman’s faith carried her a lot of years before she touched the hem of his garment and met the Master. ‘Get up’ fit the faith of a woman who took the initiative to touch the hem of his garment. In response, Jesus said, ‘Your faith has made you well.’”