|The following is Rev. Meeter's sermon for June 29, 2003|
Jesus and the Two Daughters |
|Proper 08, Mark 5:21-43|
Frame, twelve years, daughter, daughter
According to Leviticus 15:25-27, the woman's sickness makes her unclean. Anyone she touches gets contaminated, and may not go to the synagogue for eight full days, and only after the rituals of purification. So the woman is an untouchable. Imagine the crowd's reaction if they knew that this woman, just bumping into them, was making them all unclean. Not that they were in any real danger; but we are the same in our own day. No wonder the woman doesn't want to make her healing public, she had touched them before her healing.
According to Numbers 19:11-13, the corpse of Jairus' daughter is unclean. Whoever touches her corpse becomes unclean. Jesus gets unclean by touching her. But already he's unclean, from the woman having touched his clothing. He hasn't changed his clothes, he hasn't washed, so Jesus makes himself the connection of their uncleanness. He accepts it, he takes it on himself. The two of them are connected by his touch. He gets touched by the woman, and he touches the little girl. The two of them are connected by feeling; I am sure that the woman felt like she had just been raised up from the dead, and she felt herself a girl again, with a future again.
Some of their connections are opposites. The father is named, Jairus, the woman is nameless. The father is the ruler of a synagogue, the woman was outcast from the synagogue. The one is an insider, the other an outsider. The one is very kosher, a model of purity, the other is unclean, she is forced to bind her legs in rags beneath her skirts. The one has been blessed for twelve years, the other has been cursed for twelve years. The one comes to Jesus very publicly, without shame. The other comes shamefully, in secret, hiding in the crowd. Both of them are fearful, but their fear is different. What Jairus fears is the death of a child. It is the fear of the loss of something that you love, the loss of something good and sweet. He's afraid of losing something good. You can be public with this kind of fear, it is a fear that you can share with other people, and sharing it can comfort you.
But the woman's fear, by definition, is a fear she cannot share, it is the fear of shame and guilt, of loneliness and rejection. "I did not ask to be this way." "So what, get out." The only strategy you have is to hide, even when you're out in public you hide the truth about yourself, and you feel that you are living a lie, but what choice do you have? It is the fear of discovery and humiliation. This is a fear that is worse than fear of death. In fact, you often think that death would be much easier. Jairus doesn't know the half of it.
The woman's fear is deep inside her body. Here is the wonder of what Mark tells us, that as soon as she touched the robe of Jesus, "she felt in her body that she was healed of the disease." She felt it in her body. And Jesus also felt it in his body. Both of them felt it in their bodies. This was something very special. I can't imagine how it felt to her, but after all these years, these years of desperation, it must have been like rising from the dead to her. Her healing may have been less amazing than the raising of Jairus' daughter, but maybe it was sweeter.
Jesus said to her, "Your faith has saved you, go in peace." I'll bet that surprised her. She didn't know that it was faith she had. It felt to her like desperation. If she had thought that she had faith, she would have approached him openly, as Jairus did. In desperation she touched his garment. Yet Jesus says, "Your faith has saved you." And there is gospel in that for us. Because the point of faith is not that it is strong, the point of faith is that you have no other place to go to but to God. That is often what my faith is. Many times my faith in God is something like this: "I believe in you because there's no alternative; if it's not you, then there is nothing." That is the faith the woman had, the faith of desperation, and that's acceptable to Jesus, he says, "Your faith has saved you."
These stories are a call to faith. Jesus does the healing, that's Jesus' part in the exchange. We do the believing. That's our part in the exchange. God does the saving, we do the believing. God uses our believing as the conduit for God's action. Our faith is the extension cord, and God is the one that gives the energy. Our faith is how we touch God, so that God's energy can flow into us. That's why Jesus says, "Your faith has saved you." Don't misunderstand him here. Don't believe it when you hear that if you don't get healed, it's your fault, you didn't have enough faith. Jairus' daughter got resurrected, and what her faith was like has nothing to do with it. Who gets healed and who doesn't has nothing to do with how much faith you have. If God does a healing, it has to do with what God wants to show the world.
And in these miracles Jesus us shows us God's attitude toward sickness and death. Our death and our suffering are not God's will for us. But hold it, won't these two get sick again? Won't they both die anyway? And what about all the other women who suffer and daughters who die that Jesus didn't get around to. So what's the point of Jesus' miracles? What good does it do us, if we still get sick, and each of us must die?
There is deep wisdom in this story. The best thing Jesus does for this woman was not the healing of her sickness. The best thing he does for her is to call her out of her shame and hiding. Yes, her body is healed, she can feel it, but she runs off, she's still afraid. She fears his face. She fears further contact with him. The power of her shame is still upon her. That's the real thing Jesus has to deal with. He is calling the hidden into sight. He is calling for her to reveal herself, to make it public. He calls it out, "Who touched me?" Now her guilt overwhelms her, she comes to him and falls at his feet.
Erbarme dich, mein Gott, schaue hier, Herz und Auge weint vor dir. She begs for mercy. She dare not hide from him, she gives him the whole truth. He gives her peace. Shalom. Wholeness. Completeness. Openness. Acceptance. No more hiding anything.
Shame is what defeats us. Shame is what accuses us. Shame makes us hide from God and removes us from the congregation. It is a vicious circle. Shame is what tells us that we need salvation. And yet it keeps us back from the very God that wants to save us. Shame is a great weapon of the enemy. Shame has terrible power over us. Jesus has the power to call you out of shame, and this kind of a resurrection is the greatest gift of all, and it will last forever.
He has restored her to the community of Israel. He has restored her to the synagogue. At long last she can go back to worship, openly, publically, in the midst of the congregation. He has made her a human being again, she is now able to glorify God and enjoy God forever.
If our mission is to be a community of Jesus, then we have good reason to offer communion so often. It's for mission as well as for praise and thanksgiving. The bread and wine, they are like the hem of Jesus' robe. Touch these, touch these to your mouth, and God's power comes surging through.