Get Up

Randall Tremba
July 1, 2012
13th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Shepherdstown Presbyterian Church

Mark 5:21-43
Jesus took her by the hand and said to her, "Talitha cum," which means, "Little girl, get up!"

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This morning I want to commend the youth of two churches—the youth of our church and the youth of the Bedford Presbyterian Church.

Twenty five youth from Bedford stayed here overnight and attended the 8:15 service this morning before heading home to Bedford, NY. Mission teams from that church have stopped here for the past 10 years. We are glad to host them.

Youth from each church, along with adult chaperones, just completed a week of hard work, working for and with people down on their luck. The Bedford group worked in Buchanan County, VA; our youth in Wayne County, WV. Each county is one of the poorest in their respective states. People there and in many other places in the country are being bled to death by forces they cannot see or control.

Now there was a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages, chronic bleeding for twelve years. She had endured much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had; still she was no better, but rather grew worse. She had heard about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, "If I but touch the hem of his garment,” she said, “I will be made well."

And she did. And she was.

Did you hear that?She had spent all that she had and still she was no better off, but rather grew worse.

In other words, money alone won’t cure this bleeding world. It also takes the right touch. And from what I’ve heard, our youth have discovered there’s more to life than “houses of gold” and “temples of pleasure.”

If you know teenagers you know they are nocturnal creatures, which is to say, it’s hard, nearly impossible for them to get up in daylight. It goes against their natures. But these particular youth got up. They got up and got out shortly after sunrise each morning.

Not only did our youth get up, they got up and got out of themselves in order to get into the suffering of others—in the Wayne County case, a young family—a working father named Josh, a working mother named Vanessa and a one year old infant named Noah. This past March that family’s flimsy rented house was destroyed by a tornado. And so just like that they had no place for themselves.

And then along came Habitat for Humanity to build a home, not for them but with them. As required by Habitat, the family would contribute “sweat equity.” One church group helped build the foundation. Our group undertook the next stage.

Our crew of seven—Alex, Molly, Nate, Georgia, Michael, Karis and Josh—arrived on site every morning at 7:30 and worked through heat and humidity until 5:00. In a matter of days they constructed and set four walls. Friday was to be the last day of work. Our youth decided among themselves to work until the job was done, until the roof was up and sheeted. They finished the job at 7:30 Friday night—a twelve hour day in heat and humidity.

Why did they work so long and so hard when they didn’t have to? Here’s what our own Georgia Musselwhite told the reporter from the Huntington Dispatcher.

"It's really hard and it's really hot, but you take one look at this family and know you are meant to help out.”

And that, my friends, is called compassion. Feeling what others feel. You walk a mile in their shoes. You do for others what you would want others to do for you. You give others the same break you’d like for yourself. Compassion. You take one look at that family and know you are meant to help out.

The newspaper report continued. The new homeowners Josh and Vanessa said they are excited to one day tell their son Noah the story of how they got their first home. The father said he hope it inspires his son to serve others. "I plan to teach Noah that it's better to give to someone than to receive. To lend a helping hand any time you can."

Brandon Dennison, our former youth director and founder of the two-year old non-profit Coalfield Development Corp. in Wayne Co., was deeply impressed by our crew and sent me this reflection on Thursday.

A full life isn’t defined by money and easiness. A full life usually involves great challenge and hardship.

My own trainees and the SPC crew worked together. Each crew comes from very different backgrounds, but neither has an easier path to full life than the other. The numbness, materialism, and loneliness of many middle class experiences are just as difficult to spiritually navigate as the struggles of poverty. And bad luck can befall anyone at any time. That’s why it’s so important for people from different backgrounds to spend time together. The more we spend time together, the more we understand each other. The more we understand each other, the stronger our little communities, our webs of relationships, get. I’m convinced that a full life is nearly impossible without a strong community.

Yes, life is hard. Yes, it’s hard to keep the faith. Yes, poverty is real and debilitating. Yes, materialism and excess dull the soul. But Jesus shows us a new world where life becomes full.

And that brings us back to the gospel for today.

When Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a great crowd gathered around him. One of the leaders of the synagogue came and fell at his feet, "My little daughter is at the point of death. Please, please, come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well, and live."

That “daughter” is not unlike the youth of our nation; not well, not fully alive, laying about as good as dead. Or so we in the older generation think. And then along comes an invitation from the Beloved.

So Jesus went with him. When they came to the house, Jesus saw a commotion of people weeping and wailing loudly for the child had died.

Jesus said to them, "Why do you weep? The child is not dead, just sleeping."

They laughed at him. But Jesus took the child's father and mother and those who were with him, and went in where the child was.

Jesus took her by the hand and said to her, "Talitha cum," which means, "Little girl, get up!" And immediately the girl got up and began to walk about. She was twelve years of age. At this they were overcome with amazement. Jesus told them to give her something to eat.

There ends the gospel lesson from Mark.But another lesson has just begun in Wayne County, WV.

"I plan to teach Noah that it's better to give than to receive. To lend a helping hand any time you can."

This morning I commend our youth who have taken to heart the life and way of Christ. Over many, many years, at this Communion Table and in this baptized community of the Beloved, they have eaten the bread of life and drunk deeply of God’s love poured out for all people. And so, it’s no wonder these young people got up and became the hands and face of the Beloved.

Compassion isn’t easy. It’s often very, very hard. But when you happen to see it at work, it is very, very sweet indeed.