A sermon, based on Mark 5.21-43, preached with the people of Epiphany Episcopal Church, Laurens, SC, on the 6th Sunday after Pentecost, July 1, 2018
Ordinary Time. An ordinary title for this Season after Pentecost, running nearly half the calendar year, offering us the opportunity to reflect at length and depth on our Christian sacred story that we annually retell from Advent to the Day of Pentecost. The words of a well-known hymn well express this intent:
God of grace and God of glory, on thy people pour thy power;
crown thy ancient Church’s story; bring her bud to glorious flower…(1)
Where? In us!
Advent announces the coming of Jesus whose birth we celebrate at Christmas, who Epiphany proclaims is the Messiah not only for Israel, but for the world, leading to Lent’s declaration that Jesus was born to die to redeem and reconcile us to God, a death overcome by his Easter-resurrection, not only his, but ours, for, in fulfillment of his promise, by the coming of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost, we, the church, are born and bound together, strengthened and sent forth to share with the world, with our lips and through our lives, this gospel, this good news.
God’s “ancient Church’s story,” our Christian sacred story, I summarize in one word: Love. And manifold are the ways to say it:
God who is love…
God’s love made flesh in Jesus…
God’s love poured into our flesh through the Holy Spirit.
Whenever we talk about God’s love, we must remember that we’re not talking about an emotion, but rather active benevolence that wills and does the best for us, that is unconditional, unconstrained by time of day or place, mood or temperament, preference or prejudice, judgment of merit or deserving; therefore, bestowed, lavished upon all, always and in all ways.
We see this good news in this morning’s gospel passage.
Jesus, an itinerant preacher, has little in common, other than being Jewish, with Jairus, a leader of the synagogue. Jesus, in a patriarchal society, has little in common, other than being human, with a woman. Jesus, a rabbi, a teacher with a following, in a hyper-religious culture, has nothing in common with one whose sickness made her and anything and anyone she touched ritually unclean.(2) Jairus, by class, and the woman, by gender, were “the other” to Jesus and Jesus “the other” to them.
There’s more! Jairus was a member of the religious authorities, some of whom would become Jesus’ enemies. The woman, having heard about Jesus, didn’t know, couldn’t know who he was. Even the demons cast out by Jesus from the man possessed cried out, “Jesus, Son of the Most High God!”(3) She, in her desperation, was driven by superstition: “If I touch his clothes, I’ll be made well.”
Nevertheless, naked, vulnerable, insatiable hunger for healing overrode the difference of otherness, the distance of strangeness. Jairus fell at Jesus’ feet, pleading for his daughter’s life. The woman, infirm and impoverished, isolated by her illness, moved from the periphery of the crowd, drew near to Jesus, reaching and touching his cloak. And Jesus, doing love, being love, honoring no boundaries, ministered unto their needs.
To Jairus, Jesus refused to stay, to be at a distance, going to his home…
To the woman, Jesus called her into conversation, compelling her confession of “the whole truth.” What? Of her condition, her contagion, and that in touching him she must have believed, in accordance with God’s law given through Moses, that she had made him unclean! Her courageous honesty prompted Jesus, who came to fulfill God’s law, to claim her as a “daughter”, a child of God and to redeem her superstition, proclaiming it faith.
Yes, it was a miracle that the little girl was brought back from death. Yes, it was a miracle that the woman was cured of the disease of her body and her exile from her community. Yet, as miraculous, though seemingly ordinary is that Jesus comes to us just as we are, who we are, where we are. There is no distance too great, no need too grand, no sin too grave that can keep Jesus from coming to us.
No matter who we are, what we’ve said and done, not said and done, how we think and feel about ourselves, where we’ve been, or where we’re going, today, singing, “Just as I am without one plea…O Lamb of God, I come,” can we hear Jesus singing to us, “Just as you are without one plea, I, the Lamb of God, come to you!”?
If so, then we know that our faith in Jesus, our faith in the love of Jesus, our faith in Jesus who is love makes us well.
(1) From the hymn, God of grace and God of glory (1930); words by Harry Emerson Fosdick (1878-1969)
(2) See Leviticus 15.25-27
(3) Mark 5.7
The Raising of Jairus’ Daughter, James Tissot (1836-1902)
Jesus and the Woman with the issue of blood, James Tissot (1836-1902)