Pentecost 5B. “Possibilities” June 27 & 28, 2015.
Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, Manasquan, NJ
Lamentations 3:22-33; Psalm 30:1-13; 2 Corinthians 8:7-15; Mark 5:21-43
21 When Jesus had crossed again in the boat* to the other side, a great crowd gathered round him; and he was by the lake. 22Then one of the leaders of the synagogue named Jairus came and, when he saw him, fell at his feet 23and begged him repeatedly, ‘My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well, and live.’ 24So he went with him.
And a large crowd followed him and pressed in on him. 25Now there was a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years. 26She had endured much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had; and she was no better, but rather grew worse. 27She had heard about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, 28for she said, ‘If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well.’ 29Immediately her hemorrhage stopped; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. 30Immediately aware that power had gone forth from him, Jesus turned about in the crowd and said, ‘Who touched my clothes?’ 31And his disciples said to him, ‘You see the crowd pressing in on you; how can you say, “Who touched me?” ’ 32He looked all round to see who had done it. 33But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling, fell down before him, and told him the whole truth. 34He said to her, ‘Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.’35 While he was still speaking, some people came from the leader’s house to say, ‘Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the teacher any further?’ 36But overhearing* what they said, Jesus said to the leader of the synagogue, ‘Do not fear, only believe.’ 37He allowed no one to follow him except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James. 38When they came to the house of the leader of the synagogue, he saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. 39When he had entered, he said to them, ‘Why do you make a commotion and weep? The child is not dead but sleeping.’ 40And they laughed at him. Then he put them all outside, and took the child’s father and mother and those who were with him, and went in where the child was. 41He took her by the hand and said to her, ‘Talitha cum’, which means, ‘Little girl, get up!’ 42And immediately the girl got up and began to walk about (she was twelve years of age). At this they were overcome with amazement. 43He strictly ordered them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat.
“There is no hope,” said the doctor.
“there is no hope,” said the man’s friend.
“there is no hope.” You may have heard these words, or felt them. Or you fear they may be around the corner sooner or later.
People in 12-step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous know the stories: recovery starts when you are desperate, when you hit bottom, when it feels hopeless, when you recognize you are powerless over the problem.
And powerless is exactly what the people in today’s Gospel story are. A bleeding woman and a girl child – both sick unto death. The woman was ostracized and considered unclean because of her bleeding; to most people, children were only important if they were male. There was a saying, “When a boy comes, peace comes. When a girl comes, nothing comes.”
Jesus thought differently! Jesus has recovery in mind for both of them. Jesus didn’t wave his arms over all of Palestine and heal every man, woman and child. But He did choose these two vulnerable souls and showed his deep compassion.
Jairus, like Jesus, discounted the saying about girls, and loved his little daughter deeply; he was faced with a parent’s worst nightmare. Even though, considering this important religious leader, people might have thought he had a fast track to God, he is powerless over this sickness. He has exhausted all other possibilities. He falls on his knees before Jesus – probably an uncharacteristic posture for him in normal circumstances.
His hopes are kindled when Jesus agrees to go to his home. Can you imagine him hurrying Jesus away from the crowd!?
But then this interruption! Jesus stops and asks a seemingly ridiculous question for someone surrounded by a crowd, “Who touched my clothes?”
And another desperate person comes forward and falls on her knees before Jesus – this one is an outsider and she is terrified. She admits she has touched Jesus’ coat; she has broken the rules, venturing about as an unclean woman in a crowd, touching the clothes of many and this man’s robe in particular. Her life has been lonely and out of control for twelve long years – as long as Jairus’ daughter has been alive. As leader of the synagogue, Jairus knew well that she would never be seen there.
Imagine the chaos – almost like the storm on the sea last week. A socially powerful father feeling powerless, rushing Jesus to his home. A frightened woman on her knees who has broken society’s taboos. Disciples trying to both reason with Jesus and shield him, crowds still pushing forward for healing.
One of my former confirmation students says he thinks that God reaches best the people who are out of control. People who have everything perfect and in control lose sight of God, he said. Well, the people in today’s Gospel – and sometimes we too -- are sure out of control.
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Jesus takes his time. He is the ultimate non-anxious presence. He knows his hurry will not make a difference to the little girl. He looks at the woman and sees the possibilities for her life that she has long given up. He meets her eyes, establishing a connection. “Daughter, go in peace!” he says, knowing she is healed. Power! A sign! God’s love in the flesh.
Jesus turns then to go with Jairus. They are met on the road by people who tell them there is no hope, the little girl has died. Jairus begins to cry, “You hid your face, Lord, I am filled with fear.” (Ps. 30:8) Like last week, when Jesus slept through the storm, “do you not care that we are perishing?”
Once again, Jesus sees possibilities that the others do not see. Jesus says the girl is just sleeping and presses on. Some laugh, mocking his faith and his divinity. Jairus rushes into the house, finds his wife kneeling beside the little girl’s bed. Jesus enters the room behind the desperate father. Peter, James and John wait in the shadows.
“Little one, get up!” And she does! Another lightning flash of power! Another sign of the reign of God on earth! Another reminder of God’s steadfast and faithful love!
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If only all our prayers could be answered like this.
Well, they are and they aren’t. We have lost children. The life blood of our loved ones or ourselves ebbs away in long illnesses. We don’t usually receive people back to life when they die.
Jesus knew the vulnerabilities and sufferings of this life as well as its possibilities. He lived them all. He accepted the unclean touching of the bleeding woman and he did not shrink from touching the dead child. He takes on our uncleanness – and gives back life and healing in return.
We might not find those we pray for cured of their illnesses. But we can all be healed.
When Jesus offers faith in God, power within our powerlessness, he also offers healing and wholeness. Faith . . . a gift, not something we can wrestle away from God or create in ourselves by sheer effort, but something we CAN pray for when we are out of possibilities, when we find ourselves hopeless over against our diseases and bereavements and sins.
When we receive the gift of faith in Jesus Christ, it’s like the healing of the woman and the family in today’s story. “Little one, get up!” . . . “daughter, go in peace! Your faith has made you well.” Another sign of the reign of God on earth! Another reminder of God’s steadfast and faithful love!
Imagine the woman standing up straight, slowly realizing she can walk home without hemorrhaging, throw away the useless medicines and painful cures she had tried for 12 long years, and return to her community of faith. She might have even broken into song, hurrying to tell her girl friend.
Imagine Jairus and his wife! How they hugged that little girl! How they brought her favorite meal to her. How they talked about this day all their lives. I wonder if the healed woman ever met Jairus’ daughter at the synagogue – and what kind of friendship they might have shared.
When hopelessness is healed by Jesus, everything is different. Like walking along a street and turning around and walking the other way. What was on your left is now on your right. What you used to fear, now you accept. What you used to ignore, you now seek with all your heart.
Jesus touched Jairus’ daughter. The desperate woman touched Jesus’ robe. The Holy Spirit touches you in worship, and in other ways you may not even recognize. Dead souls are restored by God’s power. You touch one another sharing the peace, talking over coffee, at the Lord’s prayer.
What garment of Jesus can we touch today?” Well, we don’t have to sneak up behind him and try to touch the edge of his coat. We can come up to the Communion table this morning with our hearts and hands open and receive the BODY and BLOOD of Christ himself – given For US. To forgive us, to restore us, to heal us.
We hear his words at the table, “given and shed FOR YOU.” And “Go in peace.” And we return to the illnesses and stresses of our lives. To the broken relationships, the difficult family situations, the loneliness, the feeling of wanting to escape. But we go back IN PEACE, in the peace the world cannot give. Changed in attitude, mindset, and spirit. Healed to be healers. Touched to touch those in need.
People at home, people inside these doors and people outside. People we never expected to interrupt our conversations with Jesus – a conversation no longer private! Jesus sees possibilities in our congregation’s life that we may not yet see ourselves! Possibilities of healing for those closest to us, to both outsider and insider. Those with mature faith and those seeking faith.
“Little one, get up! . . . go in peace.” . . . There IS hope, my dear brothers and sisters. We are all invited to interrupt the king of the universe and share Jesus’ time and healing power. You are touched this day by the healing Word of Promise and the Body of Christ. And you are made whole, to GO in PEACE and to touch others. In so doing, you thank and serve the Lord of Love and Life. Amen.
May God bless you with wholeness and may God be with our brothers and sisters in Charleston this morning and bless them with wholeness and healing. Amen.
Pastor Beth Orling