Ordinary Miracles

The text of the sermon, based on Mark 5.21-43, preached with the people of St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church, Spartanburg, SC, on the 6th Sunday after Pentecost, June 27, 2021.

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Ordinary Time. An ordinary title for the Season after the Day of Pentecost. Running nearly half the calendar year, it offers us an opportunity to reflect at length and in depth on our Christian sacred story that we annually retell from Advent to the Day of Pentecost.

The words of a hymn express our purpose in Ordinary Time: 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]

And where does the “bud” of the “ancient Church’s story” become a “glorious flower”? In us!

Advent announces the coming of Jesus, who, by the Spirit, is conceived in the wombs of our souls…

Christmas celebrates the birth of Jesus, who, by the Spirit, is born in us…

Epiphany proclaims Jesus as Messiah for Israel and the world; who, by the Spirit, we, in our words and deeds, declare to all…

Lent follows Jesus to Jerusalem to die to redeem us, so that we, by the Spirit, confessing our sins, are reconciled with God…

Easter celebrates God raising Jesus from the dead and, by the Spirit, our resurrection from our death in sin…

The Day of Pentecost commemorates the fulfillment of Jesus’ pledge to send the Spirit to his disciples to share his gospel and we, beneficiaries of that same promise, do the same.

And, even more, in Ordinary Time, this Season after Pentecost, through our lengthening, deepening reflection, we behold the “bud” of the “ancient Church’s story” becoming a “glorious flower” as the daily pattern of our lives: conception, celebration, proclamation, confession, resurrection, and more proclamation!

And today, I summarize the “ancient Church’s story” in one word. Love. God’s love who is Love made flesh in Jesus and poured into our flesh through the Holy Spirit!

Now, whenever we talk about God’s love, we’re not talking about an emotion, which rises and falls, waxes and wanes, comes and goes, 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.

Our gospel passage is an overrunning cup of this good news!

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 “otherness”! Jairus was a member of the religious authorities; some of whom would be Jesus’ enemies. The woman, merely having heard about Jesus, didn’t know who he was. (Even the demons Jesus cast out from the man possessed cried out, “Jesus, Son of the Most High God!”[3]) She, in desperation, was driven by superstition: “If I touch his clothes, I’ll be made well.”

Nevertheless, 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 and, drawing near, touched Jesus’ cloak.

And Jesus, honoring no boundaries, loved them. 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? Her condition, her contagion, and that in touching him she must have believed, according to God’s law, that she had made Jesus unclean! Her courageous honesty prompted Jesus, who came to fulfill God’s law, to call her “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 to life. Yes, it was a miracle that the woman was cured of her bodily disease and her exile from her community.

Yet, as miraculous, though 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, no matter what we’ve said and done and what we’ve not said and done, no matter how we think and feel about ourselves, even on our worst day, no matter where we’ve been and where we’re going, today, let us sing, “Just as I am without one plea…O Lamb of God, I come!”

And when we hear the voice of Jesus singing to us, “Just as you are without one plea, I, the Lamb of God, come to you!” then we will know that our faith in Jesus, our faith in the love of Jesus, our faith in Jesus who is love makes us well.

© 2021 PRA

#GodisLove #Godsloveisloveisloveisloveislove #Godlovesall


[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

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