Carolyn’s Sermon for the Fifth Sunday after Pentecost – 7/1/12

Sermon Pentecost 5 year B

Growth and Healing

Grace to you and peace from God our Creator and our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

Today’s story is a story of healing. When we are hurting or in pain or injured, the pain is sometimes all we can think about.  We aren’t thinking about growing spiritually or physically or any other way.  We can only think about the hurt, the injury, the pain. Relief becomes our first and only priority.

But when you think about it, healing is a type of growth.  When a bone is broken, it must grow back together in order to heal.  Bruises heal when the tiny blood vessels inside us grow back together or grow to find new pathways.  When we are cut, our skin grows back together.

There are three characters in today’s story who come to Jesus for healing.  They all have different kinds of pain. And Jesus responds to their pain.

Jairus is the first character.  He is a leader in the synagogue.  It is important to know that all of Jesus’ early followers were Jewish and not all of the religious leaders were against him. Jairus is an important man, well known in the village.  He is not someone who is used to begging.  He is someone who normally told other people what to do and they did it.  He had authority.

Jairus breaks through the crowd and falls down at the feet of Jesus.  Jairus is desperate.  He doesn’t address Jesus as an equal,  although he could since he is a rabbi himself.  He is too concerned about his little girl.

The second character who comes to Jesus for healing is the woman with the hemorrhages.  She has suffered for twelve years with this medical problem.  Her problem makes her ritually unclean.  She isn’t even supposed to be out in public, much less in a crowd, much less touching a rabbi.  She has violated all kinds of social rules.

The unnamed woman is literally an untouchable.  She has been isolated from people for years.  Her family would bring food to her and leave it outside of her tent. The only contact she was allowed to have were the other women she would see for the few days of each month when they were also considered ritually unclean. Perhaps one of these women, a sister, or her mother, told her about Jesus.

This woman’s life was in many ways the opposite of Jairus’ life.  He is a prominent man.  Everybody knows his name.  The crowd allows him through to see Jesus first.  He has a home and family.  She cannot marry because she cannot have children.  Only a few others even know her or know that she exists.

She has exhausted all her resources. She remains unnamed. She is desperate enough to even just touch the cloak of this miracle worker she has heard about.  She doesn’t dare approach him and speak to him.  She knows that would be impossible.

The little girl is the third character who needs healing from Jesus.  She isn’t able to go to him on her own.  But she is better off than the woman because she has someone to speak on her behalf.  Her father is her advocate.

The little girl is also nameless.  She is identified only by her relationship with her important father.  Interestingly, she is twelve years old.  Twelve is the age at which a girl would begin to be able to bear children, so it is the age at which many girls would become betrothed, that is, engaged to be married.

But this little girl is very sick, so sick that she is dying.  Her future is in grave jeopardy.  She may not live to adulthood and there is nothing she can do about it.

Altar flowers at St. Mark’s

Jesus touches all three of these characters.  They are each in their own way, desperate. They are unable to help themselves.  They cannot find healing anywhere else.  Jesus heals all of them.  He doesn’t distinguish among them.

Jesus stops to talk to the unnamed woman, interrupting his trip to the important rabbi’s house.  He knows that he has healed someone and he cares enough to learn who he has helped.  He cares enough to find out who she is and what she needed.

Then he goes into see the little girl even though the mourners tell him it is too late.

I suspect we all identify with each of the these three characters at some point in our lives.  Perhaps we identify with Jairus, the important ruler, whose influence doesn’t help him at all when his daughter is sick.

Or perhaps we identify with the woman.  She has endured so much for so long she is not sure she can take any more. She is hidden away from society, as many nameless people are today, afraid to go out publicly and say who they really are.

Maybe because they don’t have the documents the government says they need.  Maybe because of fear that they would be bullied for their sexual orientation.

I have to tell you I really admire this nameless woman.  She stole her miracle.  She stole it.  She didn’t ask.  She couldn’t ask.  And what did Jesus do?  First he demanded to know who did it.  She bravely confessed and told her whole story.  And Jesus commended her faith and he blessed her!  He made it clear to the crowd that this poor woman was just as deserving of health care as the important man’s daughter.

Or perhaps we identify with Jairus’ daughter.  This little girl has no voice to speak for herself and is totally dependent on others to speak and care for her.  She hopes for a future, but is utterly dependent on others, completely unable to help herself.

We may all wish we didn’t relate to any of these three characters.  We prefer to believe that we are not the ones in need of healing. But God knows us as we really are.  God knows the broken parts of our lives, the parts we like to keep hidden away.  And God loves us even in our brokenness.

It is in our broken places that Jesus meets us and heals us.

Jesus willing went with the anxious father who feared his daughter was dying.  And Jairus grew in faith.

Jesus stopped everything to find out about the nameless woman who touched his cloak.  He acknowledged her as a child of God and commended her faith.  And the woman grew in courage.

Jesus healed the little girl even when everyone else had given her up for dead.  And the girl was able to grow up and be strong.

When Jesus comes into our lives, he shares his healing power with all of us.  Because we are all like Jairus and his daughter and the nameless woman.  We all need Jesus. We all need healing.

And as we are healed, the love of Jesus gives us the strength we need to grow in faith and courage.  Thanks be to God. Amen.

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