June 30, 2024 – The Sixth Sunday After Pentecost

Category: Weekly Sermons

Lamentations 3:21-33; Psalm 30; II Corinthians 8:7-15; Mark 5:21-43

The Rev. Candice B. Frazer

Marquese wanted to be known as Mark. It wasn’t that he was ashamed of his name, on the contrary, he was rather proud of it and proud of his mother who had named him Marquese. But he did feel that “quese” made him sound more ghetto than he wants to be thought of and that going by the name of Mark might open more doors for him. 

Coach Ron said that his class learned and retained more in one month in the summer than they seemed to do in the course of the entire school year.

Ms. Williams has noticed a tremendous difference in the Pre-Kers who come to Jump Start in the summer versus those who don’t and wait until August to begin school. These are just a few of the testimonies I heard this past week at Sawyerville.

“It’s all for the kids! It’s all for the kids!” is the mantra that rings out through the halls of Greensboro Elementary School in the month of June. The school is the location of Sawyerville, a diocesan mission that serves the children and youth of Hale County. For more than thirty years the Diocese of Alabama has shown up every summer to spread the Good News of God’s love to the people of Hale County. In that time, the Vacation Bible School Camp has grown to three weeks, added a Summer Learning program for 1st – 3rd graders and Jump Start for Pre-K4

and K5 that lasts four weeks, instituted a “mentor” program for high school Juniors and Seniors, this past year they gave 17 scholarships to students who went on to post-high school education—both college and technical school, and made an economic impact of more than $300,000 each summer in Hale County alone. Sawyerville is about more than simply making an impact, it is about transformation—one need only talk to Marquese (Mark), Coach Ron, or Ms. Williams to understand how important and powerful this place and its mission truly are.

Jesus and his disciples have crossed the Sea of Galilee in a boat during a storm. The disciples had become afraid and they woke Jesus up, questioning whether or not he cared for them as they seemed to be perishing. Jesus rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” I wonder if his words were intentional and though directed to the storm, meant for the disciples for he immediately asks them if they have not lost their faith. Now they have reached the shore, and two events will happen there to put faith and doubt into perspective—Jesus will resurrect a little girl and heal a hemorrhaging woman.

Apparently Jesus’ reputation for being a healer proceeds him, for it is not long after reaching the shore that Jairus finds him and asks Jesus to come quickly and heal his daughter. Jesus assents and on the way finds that someone has touched him, and power has gone forth from him.

Imagine this scene: A great throng of people are closing in on Jesus from every side—lots of people are touching him—and in the midst of the crowd, someone intentionally touches him in order to be healed. Power goes out from him and though Jesus is in a hurry, he stops and seeks the person who has professed such faith—believing that simply touching the hem of his cloak will bring healing. The woman confesses to Jesus, in front of all her neighbors—her entire community, that she is the one and instead of being rebuked, Jesus empowers her, “Your faith has made you well.” It Is not Jesus that heals this woman, it is her faith in Jesus that heals her.

Sawyerville is the hem of Jesus’ cloak. It is a place in which one finds healing not because Jesus has performed some miracle there but because through faith, healing happens. Marquese is sixteen years old. He wants to be known as Mark because he wants to pursue more opportunity in life than what he has known living an impoverished existence in which the culture and social mores of a life structured around gangs and power dynamics would otherwise limit his opportunities and expectations in the world. Mark has been going to Sawyerville most of his life. He started in Summer Learning, at that time it was called the Yellow Hammer Literacy Project, and then entered the day camp. At 15 he became a CIT—Counselor in Training—and now serves on staff as a Middler Camp counselor. Sawyerville has empowered Mark, but it is Mark’s desire to reach out and touch the hem of Jesus’ cloak that has made him well. 

Mark has faith in the Good News and trusts that God has more for him just as God has more for the hemorrhaging woman. Their faith is not simply a profession of belief, it is an active engagement of trust. Mark trusts what is happening at Sawyerville to bring him a better life. The hemorrhaging woman trusts in Jesus’ healing power to free her of disease.

Coach Ron and Ms. Williams are of similar ilk but their stories resonate with the story of resurrection that Jairus’ and his daughter portray. Coach Ron has been with the Summer Learning program in its various formats since its inception. He has taught third grade for 28 years at Greensboro Elementary and when Sawyerville started its summer learning initiative, he saw children’s test scores increase by the equivalent of two and a half months—a retention rate that is relatively unheard of especially considering the poverty level of that area. Mrs. Williams noticed that though the Jump Start program that thought he Pre-K does not test in the same way as Summer Learning, there is a notable difference in the children who start the school year having been a part of Jump Start versus those who do not take advantage of the program—they demonstrate less behavioral issues, are more attentive, and learn new concepts quicker than their counterparts. When Pre-K and Kindergarten teachers are paired together, there is an even greater jump in the education process for the children. For both Coach Ron and Ms. Williams, Sawyerville has brought new life and renewed energy to both the teachers and the students.

As Jesus lingered to discover who had drawn power from him, news that Jairus’ daughter has died reaches the group. Jesus comforts Jairus by encouraging him not to fear only believe—to trust in Jesus. They continue to the house where Jesus takes the little girl by the hand and lifts her to renewed life.

The stories of a faith built on trust that the hemorrhaging woman and Jairus’ daughter tell are in deep contrast to the doubt that the disciples exhibited in the boat. The disciples have seen the miracles and yet, continue to try to understand or know Jesus in some particular way or through some particular profession of belief. Their witness to the experience of Jairus and the hemorrhaging woman is an opportunity to learn how true faith is not simply a profession of belief, it is more than that, it is an active engagement of trust. That trust doesn’t require answers or knowledge, simply a willingness to seek, to reach out, to be transformed. At the core of our faith, that is who we are called to be as Christians—seekers who are willing to reach out in faith, trusting that there is something more even if we cannot imagine, much less understand it. 

Though Jesus no longer walks among us in human form, the hem of his cloak still trails behind him. We are the hem of the cloak—as Christians, as The Episcopal Church of the Ascension, as the Diocese of Alabama. We are not Jesus, but through our touch we can invite healing into the world. Just ask Mark or Coach Ron or Ms. Williams or any of the number of children, youth, and adults who have been a part of Sawyerville.  Our faith is not simply a creed; it is our willingness to trust that we find healing in Jesus.