The synod staff and I begin every staff meeting with devotions and prayer. Last week our new intern, Adam Fairchild, led us in a Bible study of Mark 5 (the woman with the issue of blood and the girl woken from her sleep). We spoke of the trauma exhibited in a father, a woman, a crowd, and in context. A father afraid that he is losing his daughter, a woman with an issue of blood for twelve years who spends all she has on doctors to no avail, a crowd of people- hungry, sick, homeless, desperate-, and a context in need of rescue from a system that keeps people economically or spiritually poor.
We noted that the text is very much alive and was speaking to and about us today. And so, we dared have an honest conversation about the trauma history and this particular season has inflicted on many, if not on us all. We spoke of the crippling, depleting, and excruciating effects of racism, this pandemic, civil unrest, and socio-political and economic uncertainty. We grieved, lamented, and held loud silences as we shared and contemplated how each of us have been affected by this moment in history. The burden of the world grew heavier by the minute and we could have gone into collective despair. But by the grace of God, God, through the text kept speaking…
Just after we witness the woman embody risk and courage for the sake of her healing, “some people came from the leader’s house to say [to Jairus], ‘Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the teacher any further?’”
As in, “What you were afraid of has come to pass.”
As in, “Your daughter, the one you have been fighting for, praying for, and running great lengths to save is gone.”
As in, “All hope is lost. Jesus cannot help you now.”
Like those who came to Jairus, we may warn each other,
“Why trouble the teacher any further when it is yet again confirmed, Black, Brown, and Indigenous bodies do not matter in our culture?” Bullets that pierce sheetrock are more punishable by law than the bullets that killed Breonna Taylor.
“Why trouble the teacher any further when systemic sin politicizes humane behavior, human dignity, and care of creation incessantly?” Families are still separated, children still live in cages, communities are still displaced, and wildfires are still a blaze.
“Why trouble the teacher any further when so many now hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ, confuse it with partisanship, and threaten to leave our communities of faith?” The Conference of Bishops is navigating this unfortunate truth on a daily basis.
“Why trouble the teacher any further when it would seem that all our work – our very call in the church and in the world – is in vain?”
“But overhearing what they said [and what we have said],” Jesus responds in verse 36, ‘Do not fear, only believe.’”
“Do not fear, only believe.”
If I were speaking these words to you, you would notice a long pause. The same pause I took as I heard these words anew and again, as I write them now. “Do not fear, only believe” …
I pause because these words land so firmly over all that our warning voices have said. They are uttered with a kind of love and authority that require a full stop and acknowledgement; they require ears to hear and hearts to dwell in. These words land so firmly because they speak to the very root of the warning voices, namely fear.
Dear Beloved Friends in Christ, are warning voices consuming and overwhelming you today? Are ramblings in your hearts and minds threatening to overshadow your ministry and daily living? Is trauma caused by the known and unknown keeping you from the fullness of who you are and who you are called to be right now- in this moment in history? If so, can you hear Jesus’ words for you today, “Do not fear, only believe.”
Do not fear.
Do not fear the known or the unknown of this world. Neither will have the last word.
Do not fear the “warning voices.” They do not hold the truth.
Do not fear confrontation or consequence as you do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with your God. The Spirit will surprise you.
Do not fear.
Only believe in the One who chose to call you into being for such a time as this.
Only believe in the loving and firm words of Jesus Christ for you and for us all.
Only believe the God who is the Alpha and the Omega -the beginning and the end- the same One who chooses to lead and walk with you every moment in between.
We will navigate much in the coming weeks and months. We will certainly experience tensions rise within our bodies and among our loved ones and peers.
I pray that when this happens, we do not fall into collective despair, but dare lean into brave, bold, and gracious conversations.
I pray we quiet the “warning voices” with love and authority.
I pray we live and lead unafraid and only believe… with God’s Help and in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Bp. Leila M. Ortiz