Sermon for Sunday, June 28th, 2015 || Proper 8B || Wisdom of Solomon 1:13-15, 2:23-24; Psalm 30; 2 Cor 8:7-15; Mark 5: 21-43 || The Rev. Margot D. Critchfield
Healing stories, like those in this morning’s gospel, can be hard to hear. “Your faith has made you well,” Jesus tells the woman plagued by chronic hemorrhaging, and she is spontaneously cured of her disease. “Do not fear, only believe,” he tells the desperate father, and the man’s dead daughter is restored to perfect health. It sounds so deceptively simple.
But for those who have ever prayed for a miracle and not had those prayers answered there’s nothing simple about these stories at all. If loved-ones have died despite our prayers, how do we hear this morning’s gospel as good news? When young people in our community are overdosing on heroin despite the fervent prayers of their parents, how do we make sense of their loss? When we look at the glaring hatred and violence in our world, or the entrenched racism and inequality in our country, how do we hope for a modern day miracle?
“God did not make death, and he does not delight in the death of the living,” our Old Testament reading proclaims, “The generative forces of the world are wholesome, and there is no destructive poison in them…God created us for incorruption and made us in the image of his own eternity…”
Neither the writer of Wisdom, nor of Mark’s gospel, intended to cause his readers to despair. Yet to hear their words in the context of our own lives can present such a study in contrasts that it actually hurts. Each of these readings is meant to guide and inspire. Mark, after all, is a bearer of the Good News of Jesus Christ. He wants us to find freedom and joy in the morning’s gospel, not to come away from it feeling hopeless. So we need to begin by looking at the gospel in proper perspective.
Mark’s gospel is very carefully constructed. This story is a prime example of what’s called a “Markan sandwich.” The story of the hemorrhaging woman is “sandwiched” in the middle of the story about Jairus and his dying daughter. This is a very deliberate technique on Mark’s part. Mark wants us to notice that Jairus is somebody important, someone with a name; while the hemorrhaging woman is a nameless nobody. We’re suppose to notice that Jairus is powerful, and the woman powerless; that Jairus is an “insider” among the Jewish elite, and the woman an outsider, defiled and unclean. Jairus has had the blessing of his daughter for 12 years, while the woman has had the curse of her illness for 12 years. Jairus has to be reminded to believe; while the woman is commended by Jesus for her belief.
They are two completely different people, yet Jesus connects with each, enters into relationship with each, and offers new life to each—totally without judgment.
See, Mark expect us to remember what he’s told us earlier in his gospel about Jesus—that he’s been traveling all over Galilee proclaiming that the Kingdom of God has come near, telling strange parables about this Kingdom, and embodying this Kingdom with his life…
…Embodying the Kingdom by choosing as his first disciples the uneducated and the outcast; by being in relationship with the unclean and the marginalized; by forgiving sins, casting out demons, and healing any number of people. Everywhere Jesus went, people were restored to relationship and made whole.
This, Mark wants us to know, is what the Kingdom of God looks like: relationships healed and people made whole. That’s what Jesus came here to do–to proclaim the message that the Kingdom of God is near, and to show us that the Kingdom of God is here wherever lives are being healed and relationships are being made whole— because this is God’s will for God’s creatures. All of God’s creatures.
And that’s what these miracle stories we read this morning are really about.
That’s the good news that Mark is proclaiming: That the Kingdom of God is near. That every time Jesus performs a miracle, or loves the unlovable, every time He does God’s inclusive work of healing and reconciliation, it’s living proof that the Kingdom of God has broken into this world through Him.
And the Good News for us this morning is that through Christ, and in the power of the Holy Spirit, the miracles continue: the Kingdom of God continues to break into this world through us. We are now empowered to do the miraculous Kingdom work of breathing new life into relationships, and of restoring health and “shalom” to all of God’s people.
So on our first reading of this gospel, we might inwardly compare ourselves to Jairus or to the hemorrhaging woman and find our faith falling short. We might look at the world around us, or inside our very own hearts, and despair that there are no easy miracles. But what these stories are really about is the power of Jesus Christ that comes from God, and about God’s desire for all people—rich and poor, powerful and powerless, insider and outsider, to flourish and be made whole.
In his words and in his actions, Jesus showed us what Kingdom life looks like. He even conquered death to secure it for us. Then he sent the Holy Spirit to empower us to live it. He taught us to pray that God’s Kingdom might come, so that God’s will would i be done on earth as it is in heaven. And while we need only look around to see that God’s will isn’t always done in this broken world, this gospel reminds us that through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Kingdom of God is nearer than ever, and that through Him we have the power–and the responsibility–of bringing it nearer still.
“God did not make death, and he does not delight in the death of the living…the generative forces of the world are wholesome, and there is no destructive poison in them… God created us for incorruption, and made us in the image of his own eternity.”
God’s will is for all of us to be healed and made whole. God’s will is for all of us to have life and have it abundantly. The Kingdom of God is a place where death has no dominion and the dominant power is the power of life and love rather than of fear and division.
That’s the Good News Jesus proclaimed and the Good News He embodied. That’s the Good News we need to proclaim and embody. Because the Kingdom of God is near. Sometimes it’s so close we can feel it. Every time we choose the path of relationship building and connectedness, every time we choose the path of healing and reconciling lives, every time we embody sacrificial love and compassion, we’re living proof that the Kingdom of God is still breaking into this world—through us.
In the fullness of time God’s kingdom will come, and God’s will will be done on earth just as it is in heaven. But in the meantime, we have a lot of work to do. May God grace us always with the courage and the will to do it. Amen.