Sermon, Sixth Sunday after Pentecost (July 1, 2018)

In the Episcopal Book of Occasional Services, the healing of Jairus’ daughter is one of the possible readings assigned to the Public Service of Healing. It is just one of many suggested readings that each highlight the promise of wellness and wholeness, and the miraculous restoration of health and community that is central to Jesus’ ministry. In this liturgy of healing, we only read the opening verses of the story. We read how Jairus seeks Jesus and begs him repeatedly, desperately, to come and see his dying daughter, a young girl, only twelve-years old, whose name is unknown to us. The reading ends with the assurance that Jesus responds to this gut-wrenching plea and goes with this father to heal his dying daughter. What blessed assurance.
 
In our expended reading today, we also read that, when Jesus gets to Jairus’ house, the poor girl has already died. It’s any parent’s nightmare to have to bury a child, no matter what age we may be, and Jesus is no stranger to this tragedy. He goes into the house with the distraught parents, takes the dead girl’s hand, and speaks: “Talitha cum”, ancient Aramaic for “Little girl, get up.” Immediately, the girl is restored to life and gets up. We assume, to lead a life happily ever after. It is a brief, secret, preview of Jesus’ divine power over death, hence Jesus’ fib; “No, she is only sleeping.”. It is a power we also know from the raising of Lazarus and other stories. It is a power most fully revealed in Christ’s own resurrection after his death on the cross.
 
However, today, my attention goes to what happens in between these two scenes. After Jesus gets up to go and see Jairus’ daughter, and before he gets to the house, he is interrupted. A woman who has been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years (as long as Jairus’ daughter has been alive), this desperately sick woman, she pushes her way through the crowd and touches his cloak. She is healed instantly. Jesus stops to seek her out, questions her actions, and finally blesses her: “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace and be healed of your disease.” (Mark 5:34)
 
Despite this final blessing, her story reeks of inappropriateness. First of all, the gospel suggests, it is her action that delays Jesus so that when he finally gets to Jairus’ house, the poor girl has already died. Second, she has no place being among a crowd. As a woman constantly bleeding, she would have lived her life in continuous impurity. She would have been shunned by her community and her presence among a throng of people would have resulted in the ‘contamination’ of countless folk. Third, she doesn’t ask, plea, or beg Jesus to heal her, like Jairus did, instead, at her own initiative, she grabs his cloak, causing him to stop and say: “Who touched me?” It is for all these reasons that I love her and I love her story.
 
The hemorrhaging woman, again a woman without a known name, does not have the luxury to sit to the side and play by the rules of polite society. “She has endured much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had and she was no better, but rather grew worse.” (Mark 5:26) She does not have the luxury to wait around for the crowd to dissipate; she does not have the luxury to wait for Jesus to work his way down the local hierarchy, from Jaurus, a leader of the synagogue, all the way down to her, a lowly poor and unclean woman; she does not have the luxury of waiting around for Jesus to simply find her and heal her. She stakes her claim, here and now, for healing and restoration. It is brave, daring, and faithful.
 
Those of us in need of healing, and who is not in need of healing, can recognize ourselves in her. We do not have the luxury to sit around and wait for healing to come to us. We know too well the devastating, destructing, impact of disease, addiction, poverty, grief, depression, disability, ailment, and so on, has on our lives. It is, what we sometimes call, the cross we carry: it weighs us down; it grinds us down, it tears us down. If we don’t speak up and claim our healing, here and now, we surely will perish too. Like this nameless woman, we know, we are lost if we don’t speak up now. So, we with this audacious woman, we stake our own claim: “If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well.” (Mark 5:28)
 
Today, during the Prayers of the People, we will pray the Litany of Healing from the Book of Occasional Services I mentioned earlier. You can find it on the insert of your bulletin. As always, we will name the people for whom we have been asked to pray, and you are invited to add additional names at that time, by either speaking the names out loud, or holding them up in silence, in the privacy of your heart. 
Also, after we pray our prayers of confession, I invite any member of this congregation who wants to, to come forward for an anointing with healing oil. This oil has been blessed by the bishop specifically for this purpose.
 
My friends, know that we are children of a God who loves us, who seeks us out in the midst of a crowd, to know our brokenness, and to restore us to wellness and wholeness.
 
Amen.