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Below, you’ll find Steve’s reflection for this week.
Scripture: Mark 5: 26-43
Music: Great Sorrow Prodded Jairus, The Daughter of Jairus
As I record this, I am just learning about the discovery of another mass grave at the site of a former residential school in Saskatchewan. This is one of the realities of recording early, things change, new information comes forward. I suspect what I say on Sunday morning may be different from here.
This has been a difficult year. I think about the people we have lost as St. Paul’s and my heart is heavy. Then I think about what has happened around the world with the pandemic and the many ways we have recognized the horror of systemic racism and especially about the total lack of respect and regard for the sanctity of life by those running residential schools and my heart grows even heavier.
I suspect we all realize that we are not out of the woods yet with the pandemic and how we respond to the intergenerational trauma caused by residential schools (I can assure you, we will respond) – but there is a light on the horizon and that light is a beacon of hope for you and for me. Many of us have had our second vaccines and we give thanks. Some of us are going to be able to see family and friends who we haven’t had contact with in months and there is a sense of anticipation. The Montreal Canadians have surprised us. I even know a couple of Leaf fans who are hoping they might bring the Stanley Cup back to Canada.
Besides all of that, it is summer, the flowers are in bloom. The beaches are beaconing and it is a time to relax and take life at a different pace.
I am really intrigued by the two stories in the reading today. Both are layered with meaning and nuance that most of us would never realize because we live in such a different time and with radically different beliefs. But, the people who heard these stories originally would have seen them at a depth that we cannot fathom.
At the start, we hear that Jesus has just crossed the Galilee and a huge crowd had gathered. At the head is Jairus, the leader of a local synagogue; a religious authority, a highly respected man. People would have been shocked by this because Jesus was hated by the religious leaders and for Jairus to even be there would have been a problem for most of his peers. Then throwing himself at Jesus’ feet and begging him to heal his dying daughter would have been scandalous; to the religious authorities because of bowing down to Jesus but also to the crowd because this was a 12 year old girl and girls were seen as basically worthless – just as they still are in many parts of the world. Why would Jairus be so emotional, why would Jesus bother to respond? She was at the bottom of the ladder.
As Jesus, Jairus and the crowd are moving along a woman who has been hemorrhaging for 12 years and who is desperate for healing shows up. Everyone in the community would have known her and her problem. Because of the blood she was unclean, like the Dailit caste in India she was an untouchable. Another female who would have been at the bottom of society.
Coming in contact with her, an untouchable, especially for a holy man like Jesus, would have been a problem. He would immediately have to self isolate and perform ritual baths to cleanse himself before he could do anything else. That was the tradition, that was the law and it still is in many places.
This audacious woman was desperate. Imagine being an outcast for 12 long years with no human touch. She believed that if she merely touched the hem of his garment she would be healed and if she was healed her life might become normal again. Besides, she thought, Jesus wouldn’t even know it had happened. He wouldn’t have to go through all of the rituals, it would have been her secret.
As soon as she touched him he realized something happened. He stopped and looked around and asked who in the crowd touched him. She confessed; out of relief that her blood had stopped, she confessed, out of joy, she confessed.
Did Jesus rebuke her? No. Instead, he said to her with affection and respect, “Daughter your faith has made you well; go in peace and be healed.”
“Daughter”, someone who is part of the family, part of the community, she was restored and in a sense the community was too by being able to welcome her into their arms.
What shocked the crowd and those listeners next was what Jesus did next or perhaps better said, what he did not do, he did not go off to self isolate and go through the required religious cleansings. Instead, he just kept going with Jairus toward his home.
He did not see her as unclean or a barrier to his ministry. He did not have to do anything special because they had touched; for he saw her as a beloved and blessed child of God and nothing about a person should separate her from the love of God.
Then the news arrived, the girl had died. The adoring crowd fell away for hope was lost. But, Jesus just continued on for he knew the power of God, the power of love could not be contained nor could it be overwhelmed – not even by death.
He arrives and goes to her bedroom. He takes her by the hand, again he trespasses against the law because he touched someone who was unclean, she was dead. He ignored all of the religious requirements and then in Aramaic he calls her, “Talitha Cum.” “Little girl, get up.” From death to life he called her.
From death to life he called the woman with the hemorrhage, “Beloved daughter, beloved child, get up, be restored to your community, to your family.
For over a year we have stood back for the most part, we have watched and waited for the time to move forward. As I said much earlier, there is a light breaking forth on the horizon; a light for all of us signalling to get up, to reengage with each other and with the community of the church.
From death to life we are being called, “Talitha Cum”; “Beloved church, get up.” It may not be fully time yet, but the time is at hand.
We have an exciting and challenging time ahead. It is a time to discern not just how to get up today but also as we look to the future. As we move back to into the building we are called to ask ourselves, what do we need to learn from this time? What do we let go of from the past? What do we hold onto that we have learned from this time? What drags us down? Alternatively, what offers us renewed life or new life?
Where do we think God is calling us as individuals and as we move together toward that new light that is continually beaconing us to move from death to life?
That light is the light that comes to us from God. It is the light that calls us to do things that are sometimes shocking and sometimes amazing. It is the light that calls us to reach out in love and in compassion and to embrace life.
For we are not alone, we live in God’s world. Thanks be to God.