Sermon: Courage or Fear?
St. Paul’s – Brookings
Fr. Larry V. Ort
2 Samuel 1.1, 17-27; Psalm 130; 2 Corinthians 8.7-15; Mark 5.21-43
“Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord; Lord, hear my voice! Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications! . . . I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope” (Psalm 130.1-2, 5; NRSV). As I read and studied today’s scriptures, I wondered if the woman who had been hemorrhaging for twelve years might have prayed this psalm. She saw numerous physicians, spent all she had, but to no avail. Her life was hard. Not only was she afflicted and poor, she was also unclean. The purity code of Leviticus 15 pertaining to the flow of blood made this abundantly clear. Everything she touched or slept on was unclean. Imagine the shame of living with this stigma for twelve years. In her society, she would have been an outcast. “Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord; Lord, hear my voice.” Nothing but silence – twelve long years of silence. Then she heard this itinerant rabbi named Jesus was healing people and casting out demons. Might she receive healing through him?
Jairus, a leader in the synagogue, had approached Jesus, had humbled himself by falling at Jesus’ feet and begging him to come and lay his hands on his daughter who was close to death. Jesus and Jairus were on the way to Jairus’ house, along with the crowd, including the woman with the hemorrhage. She thought, “If I can but touch his clothes, I will be made well.” She touched his clothes, felt the power of Jesus, and knew she had been healed. Likewise, Jesus knew power had gone forth from him. He stopped and asked “Who touched me?” Even his disciples objected to his asking this question: “You see the crowd pressing in on you; how can you say, ‘Who touched me?’” (Mark 5.31; NRSV). The woman came in fear and trembling – imagine the degree of her shame! She fell before him, and told him the whole truth. She must have relayed her years of suffering, what it felt to be an outcast, how she had spent everything she had on her condition, and how she thought she might be healed if she could but touch his clothes. Meanwhile, Jairus must have been thinking, “Come on Jesus; we have to keep moving.” Then Jesus did something interesting – he said, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace and be healed of your disease” (Mark 5.34; NRSV).
When Jesus called her “daughter,” he restored her social position. She should never have touched him, for not only was she deemed unclean, but women simply did not touch a stranger. She crossed all the lines of social propriety, yet Jesus reached out to and called her “daughter.” Imagine the gratitude and joy she must have felt!
Jesus had not yet finished speaking when some people from Jairus’ house came to tell him his daughter had already died, to trouble the master no longer. Jesus told Jairus, “Do not fear, only believe.” Jairus had just witnessed an amazing example of belief. Upon arriving at the house, Jesus told the mourners the child was not dead but only sleeping. He dismissed everyone but her parents, Peter, James, and John, then said, “Talitha cum,” “Little girl, get up.” She arose and began to walk about. Jesus commanded them to tell no one, and to give her something to eat.
Commentators believe this event foreshadows Jesus own resurrection and his eating with the disciples. Perhaps so. At any rate, these two miracles contain some insights and application for our own lives. Insights about telling the whole truth, crossing lines of social propriety, reaching out to others, continuing to believe when everything seems lost, and awaking from the dead.
Those working in the detention centers where 2400 children are being held have been ordered to extend no comfort and to have no physical contact with these children. A former teacher who recently quit her job at a detention center leaked some film from a center in New York and told MSNBC: "We're not allowed to ask any of the kids questions . . . If the child is not okay, the only thing we're allowed to ask is do you want to speak to your case manager? Do you want to speak to your clinician?" That is about as calloused as one can become! I imagine that works very well with young children! This former teacher went on to say, "I am here today because I feel like it's important to make a difference . . . I feel that it's time to stand up and to stop being afraid and actually help these children that are being separated from their parents" (https://www.salon.com/2018/06/26/first-images-of-migrant-children-in-detention-facilities-leaked-to-rachel-maddow-michael-avenatti/ ). I applaud her actions! She did not hesitate to cross the lines of social propriety to do what is right. She reached out to a child who was suffering. I see her following in the footsteps of Jesus. She would restore these children to their parents; she would elevate them, as did Jesus, to the status of daughters and sons. Might she have heard Jesus say, “Little girl, get up.” Doesn’t Jesus call us to wake up, to stand up, to do what is right?
Last Tuesday Jeff Sessions visited Los Angelos. In concert with his visit, twenty-five clergy were arrested during a peaceful but civilly disobedient demonstration in response to the separation of families. An Episcopal stole was clearly visible in the video. Their actions are also prophetic! Last Thursday hundreds of women staged a sit-in in the Senate’s Hart Office Building. Over 575 were arrested as they protested the separation of families and current detention practices (https://www.vox.com/2018/6/28/17515160/womens-march-protests-family-separation-600-arrested). They stood up, crossed the lines of social propriety, and spoke truth to power.
We need to boldly tell the whole truth – to prophetically speak the truth to power. So often we think of prophecy in terms of foretelling the future. Yes, that was part of the function of the Old Testament prophets, but closer reading reveals their primary function and message was to call the people back into right relationship with God. Bishop Curry has recently been serving this prophetic function. Leading up to Convention, Bishop Curry is offering a free course on love. It begins July 2nd and it contains four videos with related discussion: The Royal Wedding; The Way of Love; International Exposure; and The Jesus Movement. If you have not done so, I encourage you to view some videos related to Bishop Curry and the Jesus Movement. He is boldly speaking truth to power. Groups can sign up for this free course – let’s form a group at St. Paul’s. Better yet – let’s reach out and invite others to join us. Let’s begin to get serious about sharing Jesus’ message of radical love.