Text: Mark -43
The Daniel Marsh Chapel,
Humbled and honored we are to stand among you today, in this happy and historic space. Another chapter of life and ministry is opening. We do not yet know each other, neither sanctuary congregation and preacher, nor radio congregation and preacher, so we will need to go on a bit of trust—trust in God, in the Gospel, in the Spirit, in the community and in ourselves.
We have traveled to you from
This is also the region that invested earlier in
One said of his minister’s sermons, “sometimes I arise inspired, and sometimes I awake refreshed.” Both are good, which brings us into today’s text…
Sleeping Not Dead
The dear girl was sleeping, not dead. She is not dead, but doth she sleep…the wrong shall fail, the right prevail…
Looking back forty years to Jesus’ ministry, our writer has in stylized memory recalled a healing moment. All the Gospels, including are text, were formed, formed in the white heat of early church life, when the hand of death threatened a frightened church, perhaps in
So Mark will teach the meaning of a Hebrew phrase to his many Greeks. Talitha cumi. He will recall or imagine the child’s age, 12. He will repeat the standard command to secrecy which gives his gospel its strange allure. He will mention Jesus’ advice to eat. (Matthew and Luke, reading Mark 20 years later, are as puzzled as we are to interpret these features, and readily remove some of them.) In all, what looked like death turns out to be a need to wake up from slumber.
This is the meaning of the sermon, to wake us up from a death-like sleep, to take us out of the arms of Morpheus. With Mark’s frightened early church, we may again hear good news. Sometimes what seems like death is merely napping. A word fitly spoken, and a life rightly lived may cause us both to arise inspired, and to awake refreshed! For example, this holiday weekend, we may want to remember…
Out on the
It is a cold day in early March, 1865. and eight years after
“With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work that we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”
Into the next decade the state of
A remarkable warning. Do these words awaken us to a sense of contrition?
Now we witness another gathering, and we hear another sermon. A hundred more years have past. It is
Remarkable, truly remarkable words. Do they awaken us to a sense of conviction?
had roles to play in the divine human drama. They spoke in a way that awakened the hearer.
They warned of tragedy, they endured tragedy, they honestly acknowledged tragedy. What
A Sermon on the Mound
But God has not left us, nor does God abandon God’s children. God works through human hearts, to bind up the nation’s wounds. It is the preaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ which will bring peace. The church has nothing better to do, nothing other to do, nothing more important to do, nothing else to do than to preach.
And some of the best preaching happens beyond church. Some is spoken and some is lived. Said
Here is one saving story from which, over time, we may gain strength and insight for our common story, poetry and preaching. For what Whitman said about poetry is doubly true for the Gospel itself: “The United States themselves are essentially the greatest poem…Here at last is something in the doings of man that corresponds with the broadcast doings of the day and the night…Really great poetry is always the result of a national spirit, and not the privilege of a polished and select few the strongest and sweetest songs yet remain to be sung.”
Next year we shall pass the 60th anniversary of Jackie Robinson’s entrance into major league baseball. 60 years ago, the armed forces were still legally segregated. So were public schools. So,
Where is the Branch Rickey of Wall Street? Where is the Branch Rickey to waken the local church? Where is the Branch Rickey of the urban public schools? Where is the Branch Rickey of your neighborhood? Where is that secular saint who doesn’t realize it can’t be done? Where is the preacher of the next sermon on the mound? And where are the actual preachers of the next generation who will remember and hope in grace and freedom?
Maybe she is here today.
Maybe you are she.
Things can change for the better, when sleepers awake.
I heard William McClain, an African American preacher, tell about growing up in
Don’t let people tell you things can't change for the better. They can. This country can work. We just need a few more Branch Rickeys.
And a few more sermons on the mound…