Such a lovely room

Such a lovely room

Sunday, June 27, 2021

YEAR B 2021 pentecost 5

Pentecost 5, 2021
Wisdom of Solomon 1:13-15; 2:23-24
Psalm 130
2 Corinthians 8:7-15
Mark 5:21-43

In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

So, the first thing we have to deal with this morning is that reading from the Wisdom of Solomon.  The book of the Wisdom of Solomon comes from what we call the “Apocrypha,” a word which means “hidden.”  Different denominations place different value on these books of the Apocrypha, and—as usual—the Episcopal Church splits the difference and takes a middle-of-the-road approach.  As we read in our catechism,

Q.     What is the Apocrypha?
A.    The Apocrypha is a collection of additional books written by people of the Old Covenant, and used in the Christian Church.

Which tells us . . . just about nothing.  However, in general, the books of the Apocrypha can be thought of as maybe, optional.  Interesting, possibly helpful, but not authoritative.

And the reason that’s important is because this reading today starts out with something that’s not really true.  As we heard, “God did not make death.”  Taken as a statement of fact, well, it’s not true.  Since the plants in Genesis have seeds, death is sort of baked in at the start.  Otherwise, these seeds would mean that all of creation would be smothered in plants, if none of them ever died.  But that’s all just an aside.  Because what I really want us to do is back up a verse from that reading, because it helps the passage make sense.

Starting at verse 12, that passage would read: Do not invite death by the error of your life, or bring on destruction by the works of your hands; because God did not make death, and he does not delight in the death of the living.  Which is an entirely different point, right?  Now the passage is telling us something about ourselves, which is, don’t live your life in such a way that you bring destruction on yourself and others.  Because God does not want you to die before your time.  

I just wanted to clear that up, because I personally found it jarring that the reading starts right off with the declarative statement, “God did not make death,” which as I said, is simply not true.  Right.  And speaking of death, let’s move on to today’s Gospel reading from Mark.

There is so much happening in this story!  Really, you could write a whole book on just this little section of Mark.  By way of reminder, Mark’s gospel is thought to have been told by word of mouth before it was written down.  So, Mark is all action, and immediately this and immediately that.  Matthew’s gospel, by contrast, begins with an extensive genealogy, which is fine for a book.  But nobody would have stuck around to hear the story if Mark’s gospel started that way.  Mark is all action, all the time.  And typical of Mark’s gospel, today we have a story within another story.  Jesus is heading off to do one thing and is interrupted by another thing.

The interruption is helpful for a book that is being passed on by word of mouth, since people will want to stick around through the second story to hear how the first story ends.  But the story within a story is also a sign that the two stories are linked together.  And those connections are strengthened by things like the fact that the woman has been suffering for twelve years, and the little girl is twelve years old.  In verse 34 the woman is called “daughter,” and in verse 35 the little girl is called “daughter.”  It’s almost as if you can’t have one story without the other.  You need them both to get the whole picture.  What looks like two stories is actually one story.

So, let’s take a look.  Jairus, a leader of the synagogue comes to Jesus and begs him to heal his daughter.  This is a VIP asking for help from Jesus.  So, Jesus starts to walk with him and a huge crowd comes along, including a woman who has been suffering from hemorrhages for 12 long years.  It’s important to note that in that culture at that time, women were uniformly looked down upon, and any person bleeding like that would be an outcast.  So this woman is the very opposite of a VIP.  No one wants her around.

But she has faith that if she can just touch Jesus’ robe she will be healed.  Which is some serious level faith, right?  Also kind of bordering on superstition to our ears.  But she sneaks up, touches his robe, and immediately her bleeding stops!  At which point, she could have just slinked away all healed up with no one the wiser.  But immediately, Jesus stops and asks, “Who touched my clothes?”

Now, I think it’s important to ask ourselves how we hear this question from Jesus.  Is he saying, “What thief has dared to steal some of my precious power?!?”  Or is he saying, “Who is this person who has such beautiful faith and trust?”  I think it’s the latter—even though we might tend to think of it as the former.  Jesus senses that some of the healing power has gone out of him, which means that someone has been healed, and Jesus wants to meet her.

Now, again, she could have just kept on walking, all healed up, and ready for a new start on life.  I think that’s what I would have done, to be honest.  Just take the healing and go home and hide in my house.  But for some reason, her faith in Jesus is so strong that she trusts him enough to come back and confess.  She falls to her knees, confesses the whole thing.  Jesus tells her that her faith has made her well, and calls her daughter.  And in doing this—in referring to her as daughter—Jesus is welcoming her back into the community.  No longer an outcast, but part of the community.  Her faith has made her well and welcome.

And immediately, some people from Jairus’ house come to him and say that his daughter has died, and there is no need “to trouble the teacher any more.”  And if the story ended here, we might take the lesson that Jesus has come to save the outcasts, and will send the VIPs empty away.  That would still be a good story, because it would show us God’s concern for those we would rather reject and turn away.  It would remind us that God does not value status the way that we do.  But Jesus is not done yet.  Far from it!

Jesus says to Jairus, “Do not fear, only believe.”  Though the girl is lying in death, Jesus has not given up.  He takes just a few disciples inside the house, he tells the girl to get up, and she does!  And then comes my favorite part of the story.  It’s a little detail that gets missed among all the drama.  But after Jesus brings her back to life, he tells them to give her something to eat.  Give her something to eat.

It’s not some spiritual misty miracle that he has done.  He has brought a real person back to life in the real world and he immediately addresses her real needs.  Give her something to eat.

In this story within a story, we see Jesus doing what God has been doing since the creation of the world.  Welcoming the outcasts.  Feeding the hungry.  And bringing the dead back to life.  Loving the “unloveable,” caring for our physical needs, and bringing life out of death.

But there’s more!  Jairus, the leader of the synagogue, he knows who Jesus is.  That’s why he comes and begs Jesus to heal his daughter.  He has faith that Jesus can do it.  And the woman with the hemorrhages, the absolute outcast, she believes that just touching the robe of Jesus will heal her.  She has the faith that it will happen.  But the little girl?  She doesn’t even know who Jesus is.  She does not come to Jesus in faith and belief.  She doesn’t come to Jesus at all.  She’s . . . dead.  She can’t believe in anything.

And Jesus comes to her all the same.  She is beyond believing, and Jesus comes to her anyway.

You’ve probably had times in your own life when you were beyond believing.  When you were emptied out of faith and dead inside.  And if you haven’t, well, you probably will.  It happens to all of us.  The pressures and problems of life, the minefield of personal relationships, the struggle to make ends meet and care for our families.  These things can wear us down and put us beyond the reach of faith.  To a place where we doubt that God cares, and we ask ourselves, “Why trouble the teacher any further?”

And in those moments, the times when we swear we cannot believe in anything, Jesus comes to us and says, “Little girl, get up.”  And over and over we find that God still brings healing, still brings restoration to community, still brings concern for our physical needs, and still brings life out of death.  May God give us the strength to hear what Jesus says:  “Do not fear, only believe.”  And in those times when we can’t even do that, Jesus comes to us anyway and says, “Get up.  Have something to eat,” the body of Christ, the bread of heaven. 


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