The Rev. Ronald Habedank, pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church in West Seneca, attended Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Ind., and was ordained in June 2002. Previously, he taught in Lutheran schools in Illinois, and was executive director for outdoor ministry centers in Illinois and Angola, N.Y. He also was a youth executive for the 152 churches of the Eastern District of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.
It happens to each of us -- teachers and students, parents and children, corporation heads and blue collar workers. What happens? Problems and the despair they bring.
Think of some ways people handle their problems: A dentist can pull a problem tooth or a carpenter can turn his problems into sawdust. You and I don't have the luxury of turning our problems into anything. They must be faced and handled. The way you handle problems and the despair they bring gives insight into who you are and what you can become in Christ.
Today I'd like to introduce to you Jairus. He was a man who came to Jesus with a problem so big that Jesus was his last hope. The story occurs in Mark 5:23: "Then one of the synagogue rulers, named Jairus, came there. Seeing Jesus, he fell at his feet and pleaded earnestly with him: 'My little daughter is dying. Please come and put your hands on her so that she will be healed and live.' "
Of this man Jairus we know only that he was a leader of the synagogue in the nearby town of Capernaum and as such he was a very devote Jew. His coming to Jesus says volumes about his devotion and love for his daughter. You see, Jesus was definitely not on the "A list" of people that the leaders of the temple would seek out for help. But here is Jairus pleading at Jesus' feet for help.
His request begins with "My little daughter." We know from verse 42 that his daughter was 12 years old. Jairus is pleading for his little girl who was "at the point of death."
Being a leader of the synagogue, Jairus made a very good living. I'm sure that he had tried his family physician, called in various specialists, and maybe even tried taking her to their equivalent of the Cleveland Clinic. Despite doing everything that money could buy, it wasn't enough.
Have you ever faced a seemingly hopeless situation? Terminal illness of yourself or a loved one; a marriage that seems impossible to live with; emotional pressures that are too much to bear? Take a lesson from Jairus; get down in the dust at the feet of Jesus and confess, "I've tried everything and it doesn't work; please help me."
There is a song called "Spirit of the Living God." Some of the words of that song go like this: Spirit of the Living God, melt me, mold me, fill me, use me. . .
The words "melt me" are ones that really struck home as I think about Jairus, and so many others who are being melted down and refined like pure silver by what they are going through in life.
In refining silver one needs to hold the silver in the middle of the flames where they are the hottest to burn away all the impurities. The silversmith has to sit in front of the fire and watch it the entire time because if left too long in the flames the silver would be destroyed. Once a silversmith was asked how he knew when the silver was fully refined. He smiled and said, "Oh, that's easy, I know it's pure when I can see my image in it."
Jesus could see it in Jairus' face; he was refined in the furnace of the impending death of his daughter. He was ready to be molded into the person God would have him to be. Yet at that moment all seems lost as in verse 35 Jairus is told that his daughter had died.
I don't know how many of you have received news like that. One minute everything is fine, then suddenly you are stunned and empty. It's at times like this, an instant when all seems lost, that we are completely open to our Lord and he does some of his most fantastic work.
Jesus' response to this seemingly lost situation of the little girl's death is anything but hopeless. Jesus takes the father and mother along with three of his disciples into the bedroom where the dead girl lies. Jesus calmly walks over, takes her hand and simply says, "Little girl, I say to you arise," and immediately she got up and walked around.
Did you catch the power shown here? Do you see the implications for our lives? Jesus raised a girl from the dead with just one word, arise. The same word that he will say on the last day for this world and all people will stand before him.
The words of Jesus still have power over life and death, not just physical but more importantly eternally. Listen to Jesus' words of promise from John 11:25-26: "Jesus said to her, 'I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.' "
Do you believe? Do you believe that an out-of-work carpenter could be the son of God? That he can do what he said he can do -- take away your sins and give you eternal life? Each person needs to answer that question in his/her own heart through the faith that the Holy Spirit works in and through God's word and Christ's love.
So where does that leave us today? The world is still a dangerous place, taxes keep going up, who knows about the Bills this year, and it's a sure thing that on this side of heaven we will face some very difficult problems and the despair that they bring.
I would pray that whatever difficult situation you might face, you remember that God will walk with you step by step. He knows and understands how you feel and through it all you, like Jairus, can be blessed. Remember, God's mercy is faithful and his love and forgiveness is there for all who humbly seek him.
If you wish to suggest a local clergy man or woman of any faith whose sermon could be included on this page, contact Paula Voell at The Buffalo News, P.O. Box 100, Buffalo, N.Y. 14240; call 849-4457, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org