“Crying Out of the Depths”
July 1, 2018 – Year B – 6th Sunday after Pentecost
Preaching on today’s scripture passages is challenging – not that all of the Bible isn’t challenging. But, how do I do justice to a story within a story? How do I help you to look at what it means to be healed?
Perhaps a story helps – A little girl tells her Mother about her visit to her newly widowed neighbour. “I helped Mrs. White feel lots better,” the little girl says. Mom, worried about what her daughter might have said, and asks, “Oh, what did you say?” “Nothing, I just climbed on her knee, hugged her, and we cried together.”
Our Gospel text begins with an anxious father begging Jesus for help. Jairus, a synagogue official unaccustomed to asking for anything, is desperate. Jesus tells him to have faith, and they travel towards the man’s home. Then a 2nd story interrupts. Besides building tension, this story tells us something of what faith is about. Faith involves risk. The woman with the hemorrhage broke all the rules and taboos of her culture and religion, in order to be healed. She has been menstruating continuously for 12 straight years. Because of her illness, she was considered to be ritually unclean. For 12 years (that is 144 months) the woman was forbidden to touch, to shake hands, to make love, to cook, to bake, to embrace! She had no business being out among crowds where someone might accidently come into contact with her, let alone deliberately touch the teacher’s garment. And, as a result of her risk-taking, her illness disappears. But that is not the real healing which the woman needs. She trembles with fear as Jesus asks, “Who touched me?” She trembles because her need for a full, whole life promised by God, has forced her to break a sacred law, which is found in Leviticus 12:2-7. Jesus also is very aware of the law. He must have wanted her deed made public so other women could benefit from it – a healing of society. To fully appreciate the wholeness Jesus imparted to the unnamed woman, consider this: “Women are expected to be carriers of the basic necessities for human communion, in fact they value their associations with others more highly than themselves. Women tend to be so overidentified with others that the threatened loss or even interruption of an affiliation can be perceived not just as a loss of a relationship but as something closer to a total loss of self,” so says Jean Baker Miller in “Toward a New Psychology of Women.”
When she openly and honestly names what she has done, and why, Jesus declares that her faith has made her “whole.” Her faith gave her the strength to believe that such an action was acceptable to God, if not to the society around her. She has reclaimed her humanity and been set free from her trouble. Jesus sends her on her way in Peace – in true and complete shalom.
Meanwhile, news comes that Jairus’ daughter has died, but the news does not end the journey. When Jesus and his entourage arrive at the house, the mourning rituals have begun. Jesus’ comment that she is only sleeping is meant to attest that in the presence of Jesus and under his authority, death itself – real death – is but a sleep. Then Jesus speaks, “Talith cumi” (my dear little one) and the child gets up. The story concludes with Jesus suggesting that the child be given something to eat – a sure sign of recovery, but for whom this child was not a “case” but a little girl.
This miracle story is explained in many ways by theologians much more scholarly than me. However, what I do know is that sometimes there are healings when hope seems impossible. Other times there are deaths even when faith is strong and hope is great. I can’t explain why good people die. I don’t understand why children die. I don’t have any explanations why accidents happen. All that I know is that God’s love is greater than our pain, sadness, grief, or hopelessness.
These 2 challenging stories remind us that God is Liberator and Life Giver. Whatever the direction our life has taken – whatever the stresses we bear – whatever the pain we endure – Jesus walks with us, granting us abundant life.
I believe that both of these healing stories call us to reflect on our soul deep relationship with God. They remind us of the importance of risk-taking when we open our hearts and spirits to God’s abundant grace.
While all of that is important I think there is a community and global aspect in which we are to participate. After our Church Council meeting this week, one of our members spoke to me saying that this person will be writing to our mayor and city council members about one of the decisions we made. I too will be letting our local elected officials know about the decision our church is taking on loitering. We do so because we seek wholeness and safety for all who are affiliated with our building.
If our community, our province, our country and indeed our world is to see peace and justice it must begin within each of us. We must know with every breath we take that we are at peace. We are whole, loved people of God. We then look around us and see what difference Penticton United Church is making to the community of Penticton. Where are the gaps? What needs to be addressed? Can we be initiators of pathways towards healing? Will we partner with other groups, so that God’s blessings are experienced by all? Will we act on behalf of the environment? Will we petition the government ensuring that drugs are safe and available in a public distribution place, not the street?
May we have such faith that we risk reaching out to Jesus. May we touch his robe and experience deep, life changing healing. May we be woken from our sleep, so that we are fully alive to the possibilities and the risk of faithful living. May God’s power and love abide deep with you and all creation! Amen.