2 Corinthians 5, 6-8 + Mark 5, 21-43
If we understand the words of this Gospel correctly, then we can say with all the confidence with which Jesus spoke: “Max is not dead. He is asleep.” What lies before us in this holy place is not Max. What we have placed before this altar where Max was fed on the Body and Blood of Christ is not Max. It is the remains of what was given to Max and what Max used so well to live his life and grow to be a man. Each of us has a personal sorrow on our hearts this week after the news that brings us here together. There is a mother’s sorrow beyond measure. There is the sorrow of a father, grandparents, and the grief and pain of brothers left alone now so early in life. On my own part there is sadness that I never got see or know Max as an adult. My memories of Max Hollman are of a Catholic Grade School boy who had more than his share of energy, enthusiasm, and interest in things beyond what was being taught in the school. To make sure you get my point, I will say it more simply. He, more so than his brother Michael, required a little more direction and supervision than most of the other children. Max had trouble with the uniform and all that it suggested. The shirt tail was only invisible when I was in sight. On the days when the tie was required, it was either too big or just too much to manage. My memory is that mother didn’t help a lot. Perhaps there is something in their Irish blood or some genetic compound that made it so, but the encounters we had were always good, ended with a laugh, a roll of the eyes, and a shrug. There was always a next time.
The real Max is now in the presence of God. He has completed this part of his life as it was imagined in the mind of the one who called him to life in the first place. The one who speaks with power and authority in this Gospel has three things to say which we much hear and remember today. These people in the gospel do not believe. “Don’t bother. It’s too late”, they say as others laugh at Jesus. Their laughter reveals a great deal about these people. They are pragmatic, faithless, and therefore hopeless. They know nothing of this man Jairius has summoned, and they are rude enough to laugh. Mark does not tell us what happened to them when those amazed came out; but we can only imagine, but you can be sure they stopped laughing.
In the face of their laughter and hopelessness, Mark gives us four sayings to reflect upon today in the face of what looks like death.
“Do not fear, only believe.”
Faith and fear are always at odds with one another. Where ever fear has taken root, hopelessness has control. Time and time again all through the New Testament, the message first spoken by an angel is repeated: “Fear not.” Where ever faith has taken root rather than fear, the power of God will be known. There is no room for fear in the heart of a believer. They live every day filled with hope.
Then Jesus says:
She is not dead, she is asleep.
To the faithful these are words of comfort and hope. To the fear filled, they might be a cause for laughter, because in their helplessness, they think there is no hope.
Then to the sleeping one he says:
“Talith cum”, which means, get up. Words he says to the lame, to the son of a widow, to the child of a Roman Centurion, and words we can all hope to hear whenever we are down.
Finally, he says:
“Give her something to eat.” In a final gesture of love he restores her to parents whose love and care have fed and nurtured her to that day. It does not take much imagination to think of how they will “feed” her with this story bringing her deeper into faith and further from fear through the healing touch of the one who wants to feed us all just as well feed on this story today to calm our fears.
The risen Christ still speaks those words to us who gather in faith rather than fear today. He speaks them to all of you who are, not were, friends of Max. He speaks them to you, Jeannie and Michael, Nick and Tom. Faith not fear is what you must have today. Max is not dead. He sleeps now. The best thing we can say to him springs from our faith. Not “good bye”; but “See you in the morning”; that morning when we shall all rise again. Having been fed on the Body and Blood of Christ, Max does not die because of a promise made to all who share the food of this table. It is our hope that in the sleep of last Saturday night, Max awakened to the voice of Christ that said to him: “Talitha Cum. Get up.” With that, I believe, that Max did get up and left behind everything that ever held him down. I also believe that Christ says that to us today. “Get up from grief.” “Get up from sadness.” “Get up from any fear or unbelief that keeps you from the joy that hope can bring.”
Finally, as he turned the attention of that crowd and that family to food, he does so today. He gives something to eat and through his church he spreads this table at which we share the Bread of Life and the Cup of Salvation. Do not fear. Max is asleep he is not dead. Get up from your fear and your sorrow. There is something to eat that gives us hope and life everlasting.