Summary: Funeral message for Mrs. Thora Mohler, a long-time member of our mostly African-American Baptist church, but proud of her Swedish Lutheran heritage, and devoted to certain tasks in the life of our church.
Anyone who ever counted money with Thora Mohler will tell you that she was a woman with a determination to get things right. She would not let go until she had the right answer.
On Mondays, Mrs. Mohler, until recent months, was one of those faithful behind-the-scenes workers our church has, whose thankless task is to go to the bank on Mondays and deal with what our people have put in the offering plates on Sundays. This means that they not only open envelopes and count loose cash, but that they also interpret the scribbled instructions that some of us pitch in, trying to describe where we want our offerings to go. Some give to the church’s overall budget, some give to missions, others buy audiotapes, still others are purchase Easter lilies or SHARE baskets or something else. It gets complicated. But, the assignment is that, by the end of the morning, those locked away in that room at the bank are to prepare a tally sheet that shows how much came in and to what accounts it is to be credited.
Well, yesterday, Tax Day, some of us found out just how bad we are at accounting, didn’t we? We found out that it’s hard to trace every dime and follow every dollar. Some of us are a little like the person who said to the bank teller, “What do you mean, my account is overdrawn? I still have ten blank checks in my checkbook!” We just don’t have the talent or the patience for precision. But Thora Mohler did. So when our church’s team would produce a tally sheet that didn’t tally – when the amount of money counted and the distribution to accounts didn’t match – to whom did they give the task of finding the mistake? To whom did they entrust the weary, eye-blinding, headache-inducing task of getting it right? To Thora Mohler, because Thora was determined to get it right. Thora was going to stay with it until it was literally, “on the money”.
I wonder if it was the same kind of determination that moved that woman who stood along the path that Jesus took one day. I wonder if it was the same sort of absolute commitment to getting things that were not right made right that led an unnamed woman, sick for twelve years, to reach out and touch the fringe of His cloak. She hoped for a miracle – no, more than that: she expected a miracle, she was certain of healing. Most of us would have given up after twelve years of illness. Most of us would have toughened our hearts and would have resigned ourselves to a life of nothingness. But this woman, sick but determined, insisted on making things right. She said, according to the Scriptures, "If I only touch his cloak, I will be made well." A dogged determination to get things right. Touching the cloak.
The Gospel writers put this incident in Jesus’ ministry in the context of His speaking about cloaks and cloth. It’s interesting that it should be while Jesus is using an image about sewing that this woman should make her move. Who knows but what Jesus’ words suggested this action? She heard Him speak about cloaks and she looked at His, and an idea was born.
But what was it, exactly, that Jesus was saying about cloaks and cloths? What was the point this woman heard before she reached out to receive what she knew she must have? Jesus was making a point about the freshness of the Kingdom. Jesus was speaking about how wonderfully new everything was to be, now that God was bringing the Kingdom into being.
And Jesus said to them, "The wedding guests cannot mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them, can they? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast. No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old cloak, for the patch pulls away from the cloak, and a worse tear is made. Neither is new wine put into old wineskins; otherwise, the skins burst, and the wine is spilled, and the skins are destroyed; but new wine is put into fresh wineskins, and so both are preserved."
“No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old cloak, for the patch pulls away from the cloak, and a worse tear is made.” How radically new Kingdom life is! The Kingdom is utterly fresh, totally new, astoundingly vital. The Kingdom is about new things, and you cannot just carelessly slap a new patch onto something old and expect it to hold. You must understand that the Kingdom is about change, about life, about something that cannot be easily contained. The Kingdom is like fresh wine, bubbly, active, and if you pour it into tired old wineskins, they will burst open. You cannot contain the vitality of the Kingdom in old vessels. Kingdom life is like a cloak, a garment, which needs to be mended, but you cannot just throw anything on it, carelessly; you must know that carelessness with the lives of people will only make them worse. You must see that God wants to do something new. God wants to give them life. God wants to mend the old cloak completely. God wants to do it right!