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By Lucia Lloyd, St. Stephen's Episcopal Church, Heathsville, VA

 

Don't Fear, Only Believe

 

 

Mark 5:21-43

 

In September of 1988, for the first time ever, a song that was completely a capella hit #1 on the Billboard charts, and stayed there for two weeks.  Marshall will play that song for you now:

 

Here's a little song I wrote
You might want to sing it note for note
Don't worry, be happy.
In every life we have some trouble
But when you worry you make it double
Don't worry, be happy.
Don't worry, be happy now.

CHORUS:
Don't worry, be happy. Don't worry, be happy.
Don't worry, be happy. Don't worry, be happy.

Ain't got no place to lay your head
Somebody came and took your bed
Don't worry, be happy.
The landlord say your rent is late
He may have to litigate
Don't worry, be happy.

CHORUS
(Look at me -- I'm happy. Don't worry, be happy.
Here I give you my phone number. When you worry, call me,
I make you happy. Don't worry, be happy.)

Ain't got no cash, ain't got no style
Ain't got no gal to make you smile
But don't worry, be happy.
'Cause when you worry your face will frown
And that will bring everybody down
So don't worry, be happy.

Don’t worry, be happy now.

CHORUS
(Don't worry.  Don't worry, don't do it.
Be happy. Put a smile on your face.
Don't bring everybody down like this.
Don't worry. It will soon pass, whatever it is.
Don't worry, be happy.
I'm not worried, I'm happy...)

 

The lyrics of this song by Bobby McFerrin have some similarities to the teachings of Jesus in Matthew 6:34, where Jesus says, “Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.”

             

There are some times in our lives in which all we need in order to change our attitude is the phrase, “don’t worry; be happy” especially if it is sung to a catchy little tune.  And there are other times when we feel we can’t quite stop worrying and be happy.  What reminded me of this song was Jesus’ teaching in today’s gospel reading, in which Jesus tells Jairus, “Don’t fear, only believe.”  There are some similarities between “Don’t worry; be happy” and “Don’t fear, only believe,” and there are also some important differences.  Jesus does not insist that Jairus summon up an emotion of happiness that he doesn’t feel.  Jesus knows Jairus has just been informed that his daughter has died, and Jesus does not expect him to be happy at the worst moment of his life.  Jesus simply tells Jairus, “Don’t fear, only believe” and Jesus goes with the grieving father, and calls the grieving father and mother in to see him to raise their daughter from the dead.  We are not surprised that when the parents see Jesus raise their daughter from the dead, the parents are, as Mark tells us, “overcome with amazement.”

           

This is a great miracle narrative on its own, but what intrigues me about today’s gospel reading is the way the story of Jairus and Jesus is interrupted by the episode with the bleeding woman.  This woman is in some ways the exact opposite of Jairus.  In a patriarchal society, he is male and a father.  She is female and unable to bear children.  He has a position of status as a leader of the synagogue, and Mark mentions him by name.  She has no money, having spent everything on doctors, and there is no record of her name.  Most important, a woman with a flow of blood was considered to be ritually impure, and anyone who touched her would also be rendered ritually impure also.  It is not hard to imagine that many people, especially religious people, would reject this bleeding woman.  We can see why she would have plenty to be afraid of.  After having been rejected by holy men in the past, when Jesus asks, “who touched me?” she comes “in fear and trembling” terrified that this holy man Jesus will be furious with her for defiling him.  As if that weren’t bad enough, she has violated the command that adults said to all little girls from the time they were toddlers, “don’t interrupt.” And yet she had interrupted this religious teacher, this holy man, while he was right in the middle of a conversation with a man who was a prominent religious leader, Jairus himself, as they were dealing with a matter of life and death.  Now she has defiled the holy man with her touch and brought even more shame and condemnation on herself.  As the entire crowd turns to look at her, no wonder her response is fear and trembling.

           

And yet, this woman who is never called by name, and is identified only by her illness, is held up in scripture as a model of how to deal with fear.  She has suffered from rejection by religious leaders in the past and is afraid the next religious leader will reject her again.  She is afraid that she is setting herself up for another big disappointment that this new healer Jesus won’t be any better than any of the other healers.  She is afraid that maybe she doesn’t deserve to be healed.  She is afraid that God has better things to do with his time than to pay attention to the medical problems of an insignificant woman.   But the important thing to remember about this woman is that her faith reaches out beyond her fear.  In the times when our situation looks most bleak, and our worries or fears threaten to overtake us, having faith that reaches out one arm length past the fear can make all the difference in the world.   Having faith that reaches out one arm length past the fear means you can touch God.

           

The opposite of fear is faith.  So Jesus tells Jairus, “Don’t fear, only believe.”  Jesus can see that the bleeding woman comes forward “in fear and trembling” and he can also see that her way of dealing with fear is to reach out in faith.  He does not scold her for her fear; he praises her for her faith that reaches past it: “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.” 

           

So, Bobby McFerrin says, “Don’t worry, be happy” and if you can do that, that’s great.  For situations that are tougher, Jesus says, “Don’t fear, only believe.”  Depending on how you translate the Greek, that could come out to “Don’t fear, have faith” or even “Don’t worry, be faithful.”  And if you only remember one thing from the story of the bleeding woman, remember, “if you worry, be faithful anyway.”

           

Now all we need is for someone to come up with an a capella song for Jesus’ words, set to a catchy tune.

 

Here's a little song I wrote
From Mark’s gospel with some notes
Don't worry, be faithful.
In every life we have some trouble
But when you worry you make it double
Don't worry, be faithful.
Don't worry, be faithful.

 

When you are bleeding and you’re sad

Because the people treat you bad,

If you worry, be faithful.

Ain't got no cash, ain't got no style
Ain't got no man to make you smile
If you worry, be faithful.

The crowd may think that you are odd,

But with your faith you can touch God.

If you worry, be faithful.

Even if you’re scared as hell,

You’ll hear your faith has made you well.

If you worry, be faithful.


CHORUS:
Don't worry, be faithful. Don't worry, be faithful.
Don't worry, be faithful. Don't worry, be faithful.

 

Ain’t got no place to kneel to pray

Somebody took your church away

Don’t worry, be faithful

People say you have to wait

It takes so long to litigate
Don't worry, be faithful.

 

A lot of people still love you

They come to buy your barbecue

Don’t worry, be faithful.

You worship with the sky and trees

And you get a lovely breeze

Don’t worry, be faithful

And you can anticipate,

That Chilton chapel looks just great.

Don’t worry, be faithful.

 

Some say they’re holier than thou,

But Jesus loves you anyhow.
Don't worry, be faithful.


CHORUS:
Don't worry, be faithful. Don't worry, be faithful.
Don't worry, be faithful. Don't worry, be faithful.

 

 

06/28/09

 

Note: If you are still confused about how a gay Christian can feel they are 'right' with God I encourage you to read the section of the web site entitled "Gay and Christian? YES!"

 

 

 

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