Sermon for June 27
Grace and peace be to you from God the Father and God the Son though the Holy Spirit.
Back when I was practicing architecture, we were doing a lot of work designing laboratories for nano-scientists. One scientist was working on producing bacteria that could produce energy to power automobiles. Needless to say, he was a very interesting per-son. In a conversation one time, he told me he enjoyed watching a program on TV called “Dirty Jobs.”
He said he liked it because that’s where the real work gets done. In today’s gospel reading, there was also some real work that got done. And Jesus got dirty, or unclean—ritually unclean.
Again, Mark writes a story within a story. He begins with a story, then interrupts it by another story, and then returns to the original story to finish. Jesus was back on the Jewish side of the Sea of Galilee. Jairus, a leader of the synagogue came to him about his daughter. Jairus was a powerful man and wealthy; he could have sent someone to get Jesus. But he came himself. His daughter was near death, and he knew that if Jesus would but lay his hands on her, she would be made well. He had faith in Jesus.
But there was a large crowd around Jesus. They were pushing in on him. He was like the pop star at a concert. There was a woman in the crowd, a poor woman, who had spent all she had on doctors to heal her bleeding, but nothing they did worked. She, too, had heard about Jesus and knew that if she could only touch his cloak, that she would be made well. She had faith in Jesus.
Now someone touching Jesus’ cloak, or him laying his hands on someone doesn’t seem like a whole lot of work, does it? But when the woman touched his cloak, she was healed, she could immediately fell it, and Jesus knew power had gone out of him. So it wasn’t the cloak that had magical powers—the energy came from Jesus. It was him that cured her, the energy had gone out of him and he knew it. But the woman was spiritually unclean. She had been that way for twelve years—twelve years of hemorrhaging. And when an unclean person touches another person, it makes the other person unclean. And the woman felt in her body she was healed.
Jesus wanted to know who touched him. Trembling, she admitted it. She fell down at his feet, just as Jairus had previously done. Go. Go in peace; your faith has made you well.
As Jesus was about to leave to go to the home of Jairus, some messengers came and told Jairus that it was no use. Let Jesus alone. Your daughter is dead. There is no hope. Jesus told them that the child was only sleeping and they laughed. But he went in the room with the mother and father and Peter, James and John (the same three as witnessed the Transfiguration); he took her by the hand and commanded her to get up. She got up walked and ate. Jesus had touched the dead girl, making him again ritually unclean. And now Jesus did an amazing thing. He strictly ordered them to let no one know about this.
What? That doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. There was a crowd outside. They were making funeral arrangements. The girl lives! She has been saved!
Jesus was not afraid to get his hands dirty—to become unclean by the religious standards of the time. He cured many of the sick by touching them. Others were cured from a distance. He welcomed the lepers. He allowed himself to be open to all that came to him and went so far as to go to those who needed his help. He got dirty.
You do a good job at getting your hands dirty and that’s a good thing. You provide help to those who need it when they let us know their needs. You folks do a tremendous job at that sort of thing and you are to be commended for it.
But what about the miracles? What about the woman bleeding for twelve years? What about the twelve-year old who was raised from the dead? How do all of those things fit in? We pray for miracles sometimes. When we were younger, doctors seemed to be able to provide cures for what ailed us. We older people seem to have a list that keeps getting longer. As a man in his seventies put it, “After a certain age, you are never really well. Just less sick.”
Stories like the woman and the girl seem to promise a lot, maybe too much. For every family whose child makes a complete recovery from a serious illness, there is another family whose child dies. Where is faith and healing in that situation?
I believe it comes afterwards. It comes when families remember—remember with thanksgiving that family member they have lost. It comes as they themselves comfort those in their loss. It comes in getting their hands dirty in the mess of life. It comes in the sharing of love and consolation and peace. It comes in being there. It comes in knowing we are a community of faith and that we are not by ourselves. It comes in knowing that we will all be reunited in God’s kingdom.
We get our hands dirty because that is what God is calling us to do. Whether it’s baking a cake or a ham for a family in need or helping an addicted woman recover so that she can rejoin her children or mowing someone else’s grass, or visit someone in the hospital or at home, or just sitting with the lonely, we get our hands dirty. And getting our hands dirty is a good thing. It’s a good thing because God has called us for that purpose. God has called us to work his miracles.
Faith has made us well. Faith has saved us!