Shannon Headen’s sermon begins at 39:55
I couldn’t write a sermon for today. The more I tried, the more difficult it became. The weight of this, all of this- just got too heavy. I prayed. I cried. I re-read the scripture. I binged watched Jane the Virgin on Netflix. I wanted God to give me the perfect words to end this perfect story.
But God has God’s own plans. Instead God led me in a different direction. I felt like God wanted me to tell my story. Behind the dresses, and high heels, and makeup, God was leading me to tell my story. My story of redemption, my story of resurrection. The Spirit led put in my heart, tell them who Shannon is. Tell them what I did for you.
Those of you who know me well, know that I am an analytical, observant, and objective person. I love history, facts, systems, data, predictability…
That was my nice way of saying, I’m not the kind of person who would say God spoke to me, but I’m about to tell you just that.
Like the song Caleb just sang, Mark’s gospel is tragic and beautiful. Jesus’s story is tragic and beautiful. This girl’s story is tragic and beautiful. My life is also tragic and beautiful. And just like this 12-year-old girl, I was dead or sleeping for a long, long time.
The youth and I have been discussing, was she dead or sleeping? Linnea offered maybe she was “spiritually dead”. Brian offered maybe she was dead, dead because in the text, the family is clearly bereaved. Lotus argued that she had to be physically dead in order for Jesus to demonstrate his power over death. Jaden and I were both undecided. Sam and I joked that maybe she was like Wesley in the Princess Bride. She was “mostly dead” but just a little bit alive.
I knew God had plans for me in the church since I was a little girl.
I’ve always loved church. The music, the people, the Bible, the joy, the outfits. I could feel God’s presence around me. Ever since I can remember, I’ve had a curiosity bordering on obsession with God. Who is God? Where is God? What does God want with me? God called me, but I didn’t answer. It seemed too crazy, too far-fetched, and too weird.
I had never even met a woman pastor. Besides, only “special people” are pastors. Really, really, good, holy, pure, people (of which I wasn’t one) became pastors. In addition, I was way too cool to be in the church. You may have noticed, I’m a bit of a nonconformist.
I thought I knew better than God. I thought I knew everything. I thought I had life all figured out. I was in such a hurry to be grown and on my own. At 21, I got married. I had kids. I became a housewife. I cooked and cleaned and had dinner on the table by 5 :15 pm.
I was a soccer, PTA mom. I was doing everything society told me to do to be successful and happy, but I was miserable, so I went on autopilot. I went to sleep. I didn’t feel. I didn’t think. I didn’t engage. I didn’t dream. I didn’t wonder. I didn’t hope. I went to sleep. I was gone, mostly dead.
In the song Paradise by Coldplay, Chris Martin sings, when she was just a girl, she expected the world, but it flew away from her reach, so she ran away in her sleep. Turns out life was harder than I expected. Turns out I didn’t know as much as I thought I did.
The text tells us Talitha was 12. In the Bible, numbers are always symbolic. She could’ve been 12, but it’s more likely that the number 12 is there to indicate her “stage” rather than her “age”. She was complete. She was whole. She was on the cusp of the next phase in her life. Maybe it was time for her to marry. Maybe it was time for a rites of passage ceremony, but instead of celebrating, her family was in bereavement. They told her father, don’t bother the teacher any further, your daughter is dead. The die is cast. The case is closed. The matter is determined. The mourners and wailers are in place. She is gone.
I imagine Jairus, her father, had hopes and dreams for his daughter as all parents have for their children. Her untimely death wasn’t part of the plan. He refused to accept it. He held on to not the possibility, but the probability of God. Not maybe there is a God, but YES, God is. YES, I believe. Jairus faith was deep, wide, and beautiful— even in the face of tragedy. Faith raised his daughter. Hope raised his daughter. Love raised his daughter. Belief raised his daughter. Jesus said do not be afraid, only believe.
After being sleep or mostly dead for a long, long time. I was very afraid and I did not know what I believed. I was afraid to fail. I was afraid to succeed. I was afraid of humiliation. I was afraid of retribution. I believed I was too old, too dumb, and too late to do anything with my life. So, I slept.
One day, something changed. Something was calling me, pulling me inward and outward. Something I couldn’t ignore. Something soft, something gentle. Something beautiful. As clear as I’m talking to you right now, God spoke to me and I answered.
There was no bush. There was no lightening. There were no angels. But God spoke to me and told me to GO. I can’t prove it. I don’t usually hear voices. I’m pretty sure I’m not crazy but God spoke to me. God spoke to me and told me to GO. God resurrected me. God gave me new life. Talitha Cum, Arise Little Girl.
And so I did.
There are people who would’ve liked for me to stay sleep. There are people who didn’t want me to think, engage, wonder, or dream. But as Caleb sang, they won’t go where I go.
Who are the obstructionists in your life? Who are the people, the organizations, the systems that want you to stay sleep, docile or dead? People that tell you, the die is cast. The case is closed. That’s just the way it is. We are going to pray for these people because obviously, they don’t know about Jesus. That’s what the Roman Empire thought. That’s what the Pharisees’ thought. They thought death was final. They foolishly thought that human logic, reason, and law was the highest truth. Until Jesus broke through every barrier and dimension. Jesus breaks through time and space, light and dark, tragedy and beauty and life and death. Jesus breaks through. Jesus reigns. God is.
What in your life needs to be resurrected? Are you awake? Are you listening for God’s call? Because God calling us is not possible, it’s probable because God wants to talk to us and we want to talk to God. Especially in the tragic times in our lives. Especially is the darkness, especially in the unknown. Because that’s when God can do what God does best which is create and transform.
Through pain, we find our depth and dimension. Through suffering, we become free.
Through sadness, we meet Jesus. We become multifaceted. We sparkle and shine. We wake and we rise.
Talitha Cum, Arise.