Sunday, June 28, 2009

Fourth after Pentecost, 2009

Femme Touchant Jesus,
Corinne Vonaesch, 2001

June 21, 2009 Fourth Sunday after Pentecost
(RCL Proper 8B)
Mark 5: 21-43

Two miraculous healings in the gospel reading this morning.

The President of the local synagogue comes to Jesus in deep distress. Whatever ordinary medical or healing practices they had available have failed. Now there’s nothing left to do but seek out the famous rabbi who is rumored to have these extraordinary powers. “Please come, Jesus. Touch her, so that she may live.”

They rush off to the place where the girl is, and along the way this second story, a story within a story. The hemorrhaging woman, she with this illness that renders her ritually unclean in perpetuity, unable to interact with her husband or her children or her neighbors. She sees Jesus coming down the street, and as he passes by she steps into the crowd, reaches out, touches his garments. And immediately she healed.

Jesus stops to speak with her, and then, as they get moving again, messengers come to report that the effort is too late, the little girl has died. Despite this news, Jesus continues to the home, goes up into the room, says these words, “Talitha cumi,” little girl, get up. And from her deathbed the little girl is healed also, revived, restored to life. And this nice detail here: the family and others are lost in amazement. Jesus says, “Get her something to eat.”

Interesting here, we notice that both of those who receive the gracious gift of healing in these stories are women, who would not ordinarily be the concern of a rabbi like Jesus. And one was unclean through her hemorrhage. The other, the little girl, in her time of death , is now also unclean--as to touch a dead body was also a violation of the rules of ritual purity.

Those around Jesus are concerned about these things in both parts of the story. The woman herself trembles in fear when she is found out, afraid that she will be punished for having put the famous teacher in such an awkward and even scandalous situation. Now he will need to go through the rituals of ceremonial cleansing before he can continue his ministry. The family and friends of the little girl seem even to try to talk Jesus out of going into the house after the word of the girl’s death comes to them.

There is something bold and overwhelmingly powerful about Jesus here, not in the drama of his crossing these lines, as though he were making some big point. He doesn’t lecture his disciples or the crowds. There are no trumpets. No loud political challenges to the system of the purity laws. But there is this effortless quality of his action. He seems not to notice at all. His generosity, his gracious presence, his tenderness, his kindness all that we see. It just flows freely, genuinely, personally, and in abundance.

We would be invited to step into that abundant love this morning. One by one, person by person. No matter what brokenness may be within us. No matter how great the healing is that we may require. It is here for us. And free. The woman could hardly believe it, that after all her years of suffering it would be enough just to touch the hem of his robe. The little girl was all the way gone, and nothing could bring her back. But in his presence, there was life. All goodness, all gentleness, all blessing, all grace, all mercy. An ocean of his compassion rolls over the desert of human life, and for them and for us nothing is the same again.

A free gift. The mystery and miracle of the Cross made present and real, the free gift of unexpected and unearned love. Jesus present. For us. A taste of bread and wine. Wherever he was, wherever he is, wherever he will be. Jesus with us. Jesus in us. Jesus among us, and working through us, making our lives his life. A word of blessing. And we are healed. It can be so in Christ. And our lives are made new.

Bruce Robison

1 comment:

David Sanger said...

Sally really enjoyed this one. thanks for posting your sermons.