“Do I Matter ….”

“Do I Matter ….”

Epiphany 4 (NL2) John B. Valentine
Mark 5:21-43 January 28, 2024

“DO I MATTER ... ???”

How has 2024 been treating you so far?

Really ... on a scale of “one to ten” ... “one” being horrible and “ten” being outstanding ... how would you score this first month of the new year?

• “One” means “awful, horrible, terrible, rotten, lousy” ...

• “Ten” means “awesome, outstanding, unbelievable ... just perfect”.

Seriously ...

• Pause for just a minute ...
• Take a deep breath ... and
• Ponder how 2024 has been treating you so far.

Not this new year as you wish it were ... but the way it really is ... warts and tears and joys and fears and all.

+ + + + +

You know ... sometimes when I think about questions like that ... I’m kind of conflicted about what number I should go with.

Because I’m one of those ‘glass-half-empty and glass-half-full’ kind of guys.

I tend to see both the good and the less than good and one and the same time.

But this year ... not so much!

So far ... at least to me ... I’ve gotta tell you ... 2024 HAS BEEN AN ABSOLUTE BUST.

Now my reason for saying that is not so much a reflection on the global politics of this planet on which we live .... though it may have something to do with it.

• The mess in the Holy Land betwixt Israel and Hamas ... and
• The mess in the Red Sea with the Houthis and all ... and
• The mess in Ukraine with the imperialistic Russians ... and
• The mess on the Korean Peninsula ... and
• The mess with climate change and all that ...

Our world is a mess right now.

Then again ... the situation with the politics of our nation isn’t much better than the global one ...

With a looming presidential election between two candidates whose approval ratings are both below forty percent ...

And a Congress that is more concerned about scoring political points than they are about actually solving problems ...

And a Supreme Court that seems hellbent on asserting its authority ...

Our nation is a mess right now.

And our regional politics and our local politics ain’t any too much better either!

But what’s got me thinking that ... thus far ... 2024 has been an absolute bust has been what’s been going on here at Holy Shepherd ...

Our dear ... and longest-tenured ... congregation member June Howe ... who always sat back there on the aisle ... passed away last week ...

And dear Anne Johnson ... one of the stalwart members of the Women’s Book Club ... who always sat right on the aisle over there ... Anne passed away this week.

And Henry Kramer gave us a not-insignificant scare about three weeks ago ...

And my own dad gave us a not insignificant scare this week ...

So I’m thinking that ... thus far ... for me ... 2024 has been ... for me ... about a “two”.

And then only thing that keeps it from being a “one” is that the Niners are still in contention for the Super Bowl ... although they may not be by the time this day is over.

Now my reason for telling you that ISN’T to get you to feel sorry for ol’ Pastor John ...

No ... my reason for telling you that is to maybe make you realize that ... contrary to what some preachers might have you believe ... life isn’t always “eights” and “nines” and “tens” ...

No ... sometimes it’s just “fives” ... or “threes” ... or even “ones”.

+ + + + +

You see ... the lesson we read this morning ... from Mark 5 ... told the story of a couple of people whose scores would have clearly been “ones”.

∙ The first of them ... a man named Jairus ... a well-off well-to-do sort of fellow ... finds Jesus amid the crowd and falls at his feet ... and begs “can’t you do something ... Jesus ... my daughter ... my little daughter ... is dying!”

∙ The other of them is a woman ... an anonymous outcast of a woman ... who has probably been suffering from a chronic illness for at least as long as Jairus’ daughter has been alive ... a woman who seeks out Jesus precisely because she will do absolutely anything to be rid of that which afflicts her.

Now it’s real clear that the terror and the trauma in these two folks’ lives was no where near identical:

∙ One of them was a man with a name ... well-off and well-regarded ...

The other of them a woman ... who was as nameless and faceless as anyone could be.

∙ One of them facing an acute and immediate health crisis ...

The other of them a persistent “chronic” one.

∙ One of them hurting on account of something that was happening to a loved one ...

The other hurting on account of what she was going through herself.

But as different as these two folks were ... and as different as the crises were that they were facing ... both of them ... at that moment ... would have scored their life as a ‘one’.

+ + + + +

If you can ... try to imagine the kinds of questions that must have been going through those two folks’ minds in the midst of the respective crises they were facing?

Not just the questions on the surface ... but the questions at the bottom of it all. Questions like:

• “Can’t you do something to help ME ... Jesus? You seem able to help everybody else.”

• ”Don’t you care about ME ... Jesus? You seem to care about everybody else.”

• “Do I count for anything at all ... Jesus?

• “Do I matter at all ... Jesus?”

• “Do I matter ........”

Isn’t THAT the question that shows up at the most inopportune moments in our lives?:

∙ when a loved one dies a tragic death ...
∙ when we’ve been betrayed ...
∙ when a key life relationship blows up in our face ...
∙ when our physical or mental health utterly collapses ....


+ + + + +

A little girl asked her teacher how much the earth weighed ... and the teacher had to crack open a rather large encyclopedia to find the answer.

“Six thousand million, million tons” ... the teacher answered.

To which the little girl thought for a minute before asking ... “Is that with or without people?”

Consider the facts for just a moment:

Six thousand million, million tons ...... roughly six billion people ..... maybe on average one hundred and fifty pounds per person.

Go ahead ... do the math ... according to the calculations ... human beings account for less than one one-hundred-thousandth of one percent of the total weight of the world on which we live!

The math says in no uncertain terms that we human beings pretty much are insignificant ... that our lives and our living don’t matter much at all.

After all ... we’re but the microscopic inhabitants of a tiny planet orbiting a relatively obscure star in a small galaxy among the billions and billions of stars that make up the known universe.

But that question of the significance and the value of individual human lives is the question that really drives this morning’s gospel lesson.

For both well-known Jairus and the unknown woman come before Jesus ... and in their own peculiar way confront him with the question ... “Jesus ... God ... do I matter ... do I REALLY MATTER ... to you?”

+ + + + +

You know ... it had to be a decade or so ago now ... one of those times when we headed with some of our Senior High kids down to Rancho Santa Marta ...

And after a hard day’s work pouring all sorts of concrete ...

And after dinner and evening devotions ...

We headed up into the hills behind the Ranch and away from town ...

And ... together ... under a moon-less and crystal clear sky ...just stood there in utter silence and utter darkness ... looking up at a star-infested sky.

A sky so bright and sparkly that you could see satellites and meteorites ... and even the International Space Station.

And ... as we stood there ... I found myself thinking of the words of Psalm 8 ... the questioning song of a shepherd staring out on a starry sky some three thousand years ago or so:

O Lord ... our Lord ... how majestic ... how marvelous ... is your name in all the earth!

You have set your glory above the heavens ... and when I look at your heavens ... the work of your fingers ... the moon and the stars that you made ...

I can’t help but wonder ... “What are human beings ... what am I ... that you are mindful of them ... that you care for one like me?”


But Psalm 8 doesn’t end with a question ... no ... it ends with an affirmation of faith:

“Yet you have made them ... somehow ... you have made me just a little lower than you. You have crowned me ... crowned ME ... with glory and with honor.”

“Somehow God ... when I look at the stars ... I can’t help be see how insignificant I am. I realize how tiny I am ... how little I weigh ... and I can’t help but wonder if I really count for anything at all.”

“But then I hear your voice ... the one that says ‘you matter to me!’ ... all of a sudden I realize not how great I am ... but how good you are ... and I realize that ... because of you ... I count for something.”

+ + + + +

You see ... that’s the Bible’s answer to the question of human worth.

• That’s Jesus’ answer to hoity-toity Jairus ...
• That’s Jesus’ answer to the nameless suffering woman ...
• That’s Jesus’ answer to Jairus’ young daughter ...
• And that’s Jesus’ answer even to us.

“Do I matter?” ... we ask as we stare out at the immense and starry sky.

To which Jesus replies ... “This is me ... given for you.”

“Do I matter?” ... we cry as we struggle day after day with chronic pains and lingering sorrows.

To which Jesus replies ... “This is me ... given for you.”

“Do I matter?” ... we agonize as we sweat the acute terror of bad news for ourselves or a dear loved one.

To which Jesus replies ... ““This is me ... given for you.”

“Do I matter?” ... “Do I matter?” ... “Do I matter?” ... “YOU MATTER TO ME!”

Whether your year thus far has scored a “three” or a “two” or a “one” ... or a “five” or an “eight” or a “ten” ...

The fact of the matter is ...... THAT YOU MATTER ...... AND YOU MATTER TO GOD ... because “This is me, given for you” says so.

“Do I Matter …..” was a sermon preached by Pastor John Valentine on January 28, 2024 — the 4th Sunday after Epiphany.  The text upon which it was/is based is Mark 5:21-43.  To access a copy of this week’s worship bulletin, click here: Worship Order 20240128