A sermon preached at St. Francis by the Lake, Canyon Lake, Texas.
The Lectionary readings for today are found here.
Do you remember the bit I told you about last week that we skip in the lectionary? Jesus heals a man of a Legion of demons?
After Jesus had healed this man of the demons the man begs Jesus to let him join the disciples. Jesus tells him no, that he has a different plan. Jesus tells the man to return to his home and tell everyone what Jesus has done for him. And the man does just as Jesus instructed him and everyone listened and was amazed at what Jesus had done for him. This man was re-membered, re-connected to his community. He was restored to wellness and wholeness not just as in individual but so that he could again be a part of a community.
This story of community acceptance that was the closing bookend to last week’s story is this week’s opening.
As we heard, Jesus and the disciples return back across the lake. And he finds himself surrounded by a large crowd of people. From this crowd, a leader of the synagogue approaches Jesus with an urgent plea about his very ill daughter and without hesitation Jesus goes with Jairus and the crowds follow.
They are interrupted on their journey, not by someone confronting Jesus openly and publicly as Jairus had done but by someone who didn’t want to be noticed. A woman who had been ill for so many years that she probably couldn’t even remember what being well felt like. And not only had she been physically ill but the system that was supposed to help her had made her situation worse and she was now financially depleted as well. She was not a welcome member of her community. She would have been considered unclean and would have been banned from social gatherings and public places by the very synagogue that Jairus was a part of.
But she’d heard of this healer named Jesus and so she tried to sneak through the crowd that surrounded him. If she could only just touch him, just touch the very edge of his clothes, she knew in her heart of hearts that she’d be well again.
And as soon as she does, she is well. She felt her body restored to wholeness. Imagine all that was going through her mind! I can return to being an active member of my community! I can work and provide for myself and return to caring for my family! And as she began to fade back to the edge of the crowd, a voice speaks over the noise: “who touched my clothes?”
Before she could even decide if she was going to make herself known, Jesus’ disciples try to keep him moving along toward Jairus’ house and tell Jesus there is no way of knowing who touched him.
Jesus isn’t deterred and he looks around the crowd, searching the faces. He wants to know who had such faith that only touching his clothes would restore them. And she steps forward, unsure if she’d get in trouble because she was in the crowd. She could claim she was healed but they’d known her as the outcast for so long, would those around her accept her as she was now? Could they see her in a new way? Could they see her with the same eyes of Jesus that were looking deep into her heart right now?
And to assure her and all who witnessed this, he spoke out loud what had occurred within: you have taken a risk of faith, you are restored. Live well and live blessed. And then he says, “be healed of your plague.” But she was already physically healed, so why would Jesus state it this way? Because he wanted this secret healing made public so that she could be fully restored in all ways so that she could live well – in community as God intends for all of us.
And now we have to turn our attention with Jesus back to Jairus: some folks arrive with the tragic news that it’s taken too long and Jairus’ daughter has died. It’s done, no need to bother the teacher any longer.
Imagine Jairus’ reaction. Imagine how you’d react. He’d come to Jesus face to face and asked him to come and touch his daughter so she’d be healed. And Jesus was distracted by some outcast who snuck through a crowd she was’t even supposed to be near and took Jesus’ attention away from this synagogue leader’s urgent request. How could Jesus let this happen?!?
Jesus looks right at Jairus and says, “don’t let them distract you, listen to me, trust me.” And continued on toward Jairus’ home, dismissing the crowds and leaving even some of the disciples behind, we can assume as crowd control.
When they arrive, Jesus walks past the crowd gathered around the house, I’m sure to bring their casseroles because that’s what we do when people are near death. Jesus speaks directly to the little girl and she is restored to wholeness as well as her family. And then he says, “grab one of those funeral casseroles as feed her!”
Both Jairus and this woman took risks.
Jairus was a synagogue leader, one of the groups that Jesus spoke out against, warning them about their outward, showy religious acts while living in a way that casts out this woman because of an illness out of her control. To come to Jesus, meant Jairus risking his respect and status in the community.
The woman risked her life because she had nothing left to lose.
And there was enough of Jesus’ love and compassion for both of them. To Jesus they are both beloved children of God.
One of them didn’t deserve what Jesus could do for them any more or less than the other because love in God’s kingdom isn’t about deserving, it is about belonging.
Jairus, a man of status and power and this woman who ranked among the lowest in their society both knelt before Jesus.
We are most fully human when we are in community with God and each other. It’s how God designed us to be. We are created in the image of God, the Trinitarian God who is the ultimate community. We are most fully human when we live in the knowledge and faith that we are the body of Christ incarnate. Each and every one of us, infinitely valuable to God. Each and every one of us needed and necessary and wanted.
We are “joined together in unity of spirit,” “made a holy temple acceptable.”
Who are you in this story? The one who comes to Jesus boldly or the one who tries to sneak in unnoticed? Or perhaps one of the crowd who says it’s taken too long, don’t bother the teacher any longer?
Are you willing to risk everything that the world has to offer for what Jesus gives us, the gift of whole and holy life in God’s Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven? Do we listen to the crowd that says “don’t bother the teacher, it isn’t worth it” or do we listen to Jesus when he says, “don’t be afraid, trust in me?”
God wants all of us to come to him, however we are able and just as we are. In our relationship with Jesus we are restored to the wholeness and holiness of God’s Kingdom, as God’s beloved children.
Your faith has healed you. Get up. Together we will eat from God’s table and be made whole. Amen.