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Pentecost 5B Sermon
Mark 5: 21-43

June 27, 2021


Sermon Archives
 

 

Mark 5:21-43

21When Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a great crowd gathered around him; and he was by the sea. 22Then one of the leaders of the synagogue named Jairus came and, when he saw him, fell at his feet 23and begged him repeatedly, “My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well, and live.”
24So he went with him. And a large crowd followed him and pressed in on him. 25Now there was a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years. 26She had endured much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had; and she was no better, but rather grew worse. 27She had heard about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, 28for she said, “If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well.” 29Immediately her hemorrhage stopped; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. 30Immediately aware that power had gone forth from him, Jesus turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my clothes?” 31And his disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing in on you; how can you say, ‘Who touched me?’” 32He looked all around to see who had done it. 33But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling, fell down before him, and told him the whole truth. 34He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”
35While he was still speaking, some people came from the leader’s house to say, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the teacher any further?” 36But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the leader of the synagogue, “Do not fear, only believe.” 37He allowed no one to follow him except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James. 38When they came to the house of the leader of the synagogue, he saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. 39When he had entered, he said to them, “Why do you make a commotion and weep? The child is not dead but sleeping.” 40And they laughed at him. Then he put them all outside, and took the child’s father and mother and those who were with him, and went in where the child was. 41He took her by the hand and said to her, “Talitha cum,” which means, “Little girl, get up!” 42And immediately the girl got up and began to walk about (she was twelve years of age). At this they were overcome with amazement. 43He strictly ordered them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat.

May the grace, mercy and peace of God be with us in the name of our risen Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ; Amen.

“Jesus took the damsel by the hand and said unto her, ‘Talitha cum,’ which means, ‘Little girl, get up!’ And immediately the damsel got up and began to walk.” Yes, you heard me right - many older translations call this twelve-year old girl a damsel. The official definition of a damsel is a young unmarried woman. Some give damsels the nuance of being in training for something, or of noble birth. Maybe you have read or watched tales of knights in the middle age on quests to rescue the proverbial “damsel in distress.” I picture a helpless, innocent victim who depends upon the kindness and power of someone else to provide new life and joy where they cannot. In this way, a damsel doesn’t have to be a female. I have found myself in the role of the damsel in distress on a few occasions.

Lucy and I just returned from a wonderful 11-day vacation to the state of Colorado. We explored the city of Denver and the architecture of the state capitol and Denver Mint. We marveled at the Red Rocks area - the amphitheater built into the side of a mountain with outcroppings of glowing red rocks jutting up all around, and Lookout Mountain, where in one direction you can see the cities of Golden and Denver, and in the other direction the beautiful Rocky Mountains. We spent ten hours driving through the Rocky Mountain National Park, encountering a mother moose and her calf on the road, seeing a herd of elk wander by, seeing dozens of marmots scurrying for food, as well as deer, rabbits and chipmunks … but of course we can see those things in our own neighborhood. We visited with friends we have not seen in a while, explored the cities of Boulder, Longmont, Ft. Collins and even drove up to Cheyenne and Laramie, Wyoming one day. We explored the Garden of the Gods and Manitou Springs, checked out the US Olympic Training Facility, the US Air Force Academy, and even drove up Pike’s Peak. Along the way we enjoyed good food and drink, fellowship and the hospitality of friends and strangers alike.

But, just like in all of life, it was not perfect. After checking into a hotel in Longmont and rearranging some things, I closed the trunk and reached into my pocket for the rental car keys. They were not there and immediately I knew where they were - inside the trunk. I checked all of the doors - they were locked. No problem, call AAA. An hour later we were into the car, but because this is a 2020 Toyota with an excellent security system, the trunk button would not allow us access. And with this model one cannot go through the back seat to get to the trunk. So, after hours of phone calls to the rental car roadside assistance, a Toyota Dealership and two locksmiths, we were able to get someone to help us. You can imagine that my stress level was through the roof, mostly because I was in a situation that was totally out of my own control! I felt helpless and could not see a way to get into that trunk to retrieve those keys. It took a professional, and when that the trunk button finally worked and it popped open, I was so grateful!
Then there was the adventure of getting home. I will spare you all of the details, but it included two canceled flights to Columbus, an unplanned hotel stay Thursday night, heeding advice of someone at the airport to “just get out of Denver” even if we couldn’t get to Columbus, flying into Cincinnati with Lucy’s family picking us up at the airport and taking us to meet our son, Colin, halfway in Jeffersonville. I feel fortunate that we got home a little less than 24 hours later than we were supposed to, but again it was out of my control, and only thanks to kind and generous people in airports, hotels and cars. There was a point at which we felt like Steve Martin & John Candy in the movie Planes, Trains and Automobiles!!

Now, our adventure pales in comparison to the two damsels healed in this passage. These are folks whose very lives are in danger because of the presence of evil around them. The daughter of Jairus, a leader of the temple, begins out on her death bed and her father and mother are so desperate that they beg Jesus to come and heal her. He has already gained a reputation for this, so he is their only hope. On the way, Jesus is encountered by another damsel - a grown woman who has been suffering from some kind of bleeding - a hemorrhage that has lasted for twelve years. On top of dealing with the consequences of these illnesses, they had to deal with the stigma of the community as they assign blame for why these things happened to them. They are unaware of genetic conditions or of viruses or bacteria that cause illnesses. These happen because of evil spirits, and usually the victim did something to bring it upon him or herself. It was a cause and effect culture, shame and honor culture, and the shame would be too much to bear.

In reality, these are helpless victims of the presence of evil in life which can cause us to experience anything from inconvenience to death. Why do they happen? Did the little girl not practice good hygiene or wash her hands? Did she get too close to someone who was sick and contract an illness that threatened her life? Did the woman know something down deep that she could have done to bring on this mysterious bleeding, or is she totally in the dark? Because of my absentmindedness, did we not deserve to receive assistance to get into our vehicle? What canceled flights: storms, computer errors or hacking, or some other reason that was either caused by humans or out of our hands?
Regardless of any of this, Jesus enters into our times of distress or conflicts and heals us so that we might live on in faith to serve him however we are able.

Sometimes people are inclined to blame God for dilemmas of life. Our first reading closes with the line, “for the Lord does not willingly afflict or grieve anyone.” To be sure, we all contribute to our own distress, but many times it is increased because of the presence of evil around us. I know personally that when you google, “How to get keys out of a locked trunk,” some people will reply, “Don’t be an idiot and lock them in there in the first place!” That is not helpful. But prayer is, and in our own experiences over the last week or so, I have received the blessing of patience and peace through my own prayers and yours. And Jesus’ presence for the damsels of our story in Mark 5 today is balm for their distress - and for their families as well.

Recently a friend shared the story of attending an Orthodox Easter Mass - the highest, most symbolic time of the year. During the liturgy the priest lifted the cup of wine - the blood of Christ - above his head and made his way through the congregation. As he did this, men, women and children took turns tugging on the priest’s robe as he walked by. This is a reference to the healing power of Jesus from today’s gospel reading and a re-experiencing of the story of the woman whose hemorrhage is healed when she merely touches Jesus’ robe. I know that our experience of communion right now is different with the pre-filled kits, and I hope those will be gone by the end of summer and we can return to a more meaningful way to experience Jesus’ body and blood! But it is the healing presence of Christ here and now for all of us damsels, in whatever distress that we may experience because of our own doing or made worse by the presence of evil in the world. The real blessing of getting through our traveling ordeal was being restored to the community that we love so dearly - our families, friends, and especially our church! Today I give thanks for the many ways that Jesus heals and restores all of us when things are out of our control, or when the world just seems bent on keeping us from the joy of our community. It is into those times that Jesus heals and restores, and brings joy and peace. Amen.