You know that famous icebreaker question that goes something like “When is the last time you did something for the first time? And what was it?”
What comes to mind?
I asked that question recently at a church staff meeting. Some of the responses included “Meeting my daughter’s boyfriend,” “Taking guitar lessons,” “Riding a john boat through a Louisiana swamp,” and “Going hang gliding.”
How about you?
Doing new things… some of us are wired to enjoy doing new things, others of us are wired to loath doing new things…
I think I’m wired to enjoy it… possibly to a fault… I graduated from college in 1981… long before some of you were born! I’ve been employed by 16 different companies in those 28 years. Some were by my choice; some by my employer’s because a division was being closed or sold. I never thought I’d have that many job changes in my whole career, much less just half of it. And while sometimes it’s been way more than a challenge, I do enjoy change and doing new things. In fact, most of the time it is fuel for me and is allowing me to truly thrive in my work right now where I’m wrapping up one big assignment for another.
I celebrate one of those birthdays ending in zero here in couple of weeks… and maybe it’s the “reds sports car” phase of my life, but I feel like I’ve been doing a lot of new things lately… and for me, that’s very good. I went parasailing on my vacation… and that’s leading to me going to celebrate my birthday by jumping out of an airplane.
I believe God is all about doing new things as well. God’s first act was to create… take something from nothing… that’s about as new as you can get…
And then… actually become the thing that you created… when God sent Jesus to take on flesh… new again!
And then Jesus flipped so many paradigms of the day… teaching rabbis as a youth, then training blue collar fishermen to be compassionate and passionate about the message of the Gospel… radically changed the world… new again. Death leads to life. Being a bondservant leads to true freedom. Serving the best wine at the end. Finding fish where there was none. Calming storms with mere words. Granting health for chronic pain, not through the science of the day, but by a touch. Encouraging people to throw stones, yet none did…
Jesus causes people to think and, more importantly, to act with faith… in unconventional ways. He caused people to do things for the first time, even if it was late in their lives.
A Risk of Faith (Mark 5, The Message)
21-24After Jesus crossed over by boat, a large crowd met him at the seaside. One of the meeting-place leaders named Jairus came. When he saw Jesus, he fell to his knees, beside himself as he begged, “My dear daughter is at death’s door. Come and lay hands on her so she will get well and live.” Jesus went with him, the whole crowd tagging along, pushing and jostling him.
25-29A woman who had suffered a condition of hemorrhaging for twelve years—a long succession of physicians had treated her, and treated her badly, taking all her money and leaving her worse off than before—had heard about Jesus. She slipped in from behind and touched his robe. She was thinking to herself, “If I can put a finger on his robe, I can get well.” The moment she did it, the flow of blood dried up. She could feel the change and knew her plague was over and done with.
30At the same moment, Jesus felt energy discharging from him. He turned around to the crowd and asked, “Who touched my robe?”
31His disciples said, “What are you talking about? With this crowd pushing and jostling you, you’re asking, ‘Who touched me?’ Dozens have touched you!”
32-33But he went on asking, looking around to see who had done it. The woman, knowing what had happened, knowing she was the one, stepped up in fear and trembling, knelt before him, and gave him the whole story.
34Jesus said to her, “Daughter, you took a risk of faith, and now you’re healed and whole. Live well, live blessed! Be healed of your plague.”
Jesus says to this woman, you took a risk of faith. Why did she take a risk of faith? Well, she had had enough. 12 years of this affliction. And she had tried everything.
Here is one commentary from the Talmud on what she may have tried:
Rabbi Jochanan says: “Take of gum Alexandria, of alum, and of crocus hortensis, the weight of a zuzee each; let them be bruised together, and given in wine to the woman that hath an issue of blood. But if this fail, “Take of Persian onions nine logs, boil them in wine, and give it to her to drink: and say, Arise from thy flux. But should this fail, “Set her in a place where two ways meet, and let her hold a cup of wine in her hand; and let somebody come behind and affright her, and say, Arise from thy flux. But should this do no good, “Take a handful of cummin and a handful of crocus, and a handful of faenu-greek; let these be boiled, and given her to drink, and say, Arise from thy flux. But should this also fail, “Dig seven trenches, and burn in them some cuttings of vines not yet circumcised (vines not four years old;) and let her take in her hand a cup of wine, and let her be led from this trench and set down over that, and let her be removed from that, and set down over another: and in each removal say unto her, Arise from thy flux.”
This sounds more like creative cures for the hic-cups… the prescribed medicine of the day.
And, it all but depleted this woman… So, she took a risk of faith… she tried something unconventional. And Jesus says “you’re healed. Be blessed. Live well.”
I am a big fan in studying where and when Jesus said the words he spoke, because if you dig deeper you will see incredible meaning.
First, you need to look at the day Jesus was having. He had been across the sea of Galilee and back before this took place. It is very likely that on this cross-over, one of the two storms at sea that are mentioned in the text took place. It is recorded in Matthew 8, Luke 8 and just previously in the Mark text in Chapter 4. His own disciples said, “Lord, save us, we’re perishing!” And Jesus rebuked the storm and brought calm to the sea… and then he looked at his disciples and said “Why are you so afraid? Where is your faith?”
And juxtapose this with a woman, who’s faith made her well. Why did she have such faith?
The second thing you need to know about the time and place is that Jesus, being a good Jewish rabbi, would have been wearing a Tallith, a prayer covering. At the corner, there are threads hanging down. They are called tzitizit’s. They are tied with five knots, representing the Torah, the five books of the Law of Moses, the Pentateuch. This word tzitzit, or in Hebrew “Kanaugh” is also translated “wings”… as in Malachi 4:2… “But to you who fear my name, the Sun of Righteousness shall arise, with healing in His wings…” This woman recognized that Yeshua could be Messiah… and if so, all she had to do was touch the wings of his garment… very outside the box thinking… she had tried everything else… she was weary… exhausted… probably embarrassed as her illness marked her as “unclean” and she was not permitted to worship in the temple…
It has been concluded about this passage: You can be a part of the crowd and never get any blessing from being near Jesus! There were many who were just a part of the crowd. And even those closest to him, his disciples, didn’t have faith to do something unconventional… didn’t have the faith to do something new. This woman did. And it changed her life.
So what does that have to do with us? I think we often get stuck in ruts… even in ministry. A worship leader in our church the other day shared that sometimes she often gets into a check box mentality in our relationship with God. Did we pray today? Check. Did we read scripture. Check. Did we do the ordinary, routine? Check. Sometimes we just don’t have the energy to do more than follow the same plan, meeting to meeting, Sunday to Sunday.
Isaiah 43:19 (The Message)
16-21This is what God says,
the God who builds a road right through the ocean,
who carves a path through pounding waves,
The God who summons horses and chariots and armies—
they lie down and then can’t get up;
they’re snuffed out like so many candles:
“Forget about what’s happened;
don’t keep going over old history.
Be alert, be present. I’m about to do something brand-new.
It’s bursting out! Don’t you see it?
There it is! I’m making a road through the desert,
rivers in the badlands.
Wild animals will say ‘Thank you!’
—the coyotes and the buzzards—
Because I provided water in the desert,
rivers through the sun-baked earth,
Drinking water for the people I chose,
the people I made especially for myself,
a people custom-made to praise me.
If God is up to doing new things, can’t we also?
At our church there is a new strategic plan on the table to reach our city in creative ways. In fact, it calls for some radical, outside the norm, thinking… and acting. I want to encourage you to encourage those who are in your ministry circles… get up and do something different for the Kingdom. Let me repeat that: get up and do something different for the Kingdom.
Feed the hungry. Don’t just write a check, but get up and go someplace uncomfortable and do it.
Pray with a neighbor. First, for many of us, go meet our neighbors… and then when they describe an anxious moment or confusing personal situation, don’t just say you’ll pray for them… but do it. Right there at the mailboxes. It’s okay.
Visit the sick. Write a letter. Give a drink of water. Encourage a felon. Go on a mission trip. Get up and do something new for the first time. Be creative… celebrate God’s creativity in an act of worship. Romans 12:1 says: So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him.
That’s from The Message… and I would challenge us to give God, not just the ordinary, everyday, but, isn’t He worth giving the extra-ordinary?
Every day this past school year, when I dropped my son off at school I left him with these words: Be Strong and Courageous. It started when we as a family read Joshua’s story together toward the beginning of the school year. Is your courage building? I ask myself regularly: Rich, are you willing to take on anything God gives you? The answer should be “Yes.” Because God’s Holy Spirit gives me the boldness, courage, strength to tackle new Kingdom assignments… and to continue to have faith to believe that God WILL continue to use me… for the Kingdom.
And I know He wants to use each of us to tackle big projects for the Kingdom.
Can I leave you with some encouraging words from Paul?
From First Corinthians, Chapter 9 (The Message):
I’ve become just about every sort of servant there is in my attempts to lead those I meet into a God-saved life. I did all this because of the Message. I didn’t just want to talk about it; I wanted to be in on it! You’ve all been to the stadium and seen the athletes race. Everyone runs; one wins. Run to win. All good athletes train hard. They do it for a gold medal that tarnishes and fades. You’re after one that’s gold eternally. I don’t know about you, but I’m running hard for the finish line. I’m giving it everything I’ve got. No sloppy living for me! I’m staying alert and in top condition. I’m not going to get caught napping, telling everyone else all about it and then missing out myself.
Did you notice that Paul assumes we are all IN the race… we are NOT spectators.
Let’s run to win. And if that means doing some new things… let’s do so with courage and gusto.