ordinary miracles – a sermon for the 5th Sunday after Pentecost

preachinga sermon, based on Mark 5.21-43, preached with the people of St. Margaret’s Episcopal Church, Boiling Springs, SC, on Sunday, June 28, 2015

Ordinary Time. An ordinary title for this Season after Pentecost that runs nearly half the calendar year, offering us the opportunity to reflect at length and depth, seeking renewed meaning in our Christian sacred story that we, from Advent to the Day of Pentecost, annually retell.

To wit: Advent announces the coming of Jesus whose birth we celebrate at Christmas, which Epiphany declares is a joy not only to Israel, but to the whole world, which leads to Lent’s proclamation of the reason for that birth (that Jesus was born to die to redeem and reconcile us to God), a death overcome by Jesus’ Easter-resurrection, not only his, but ours, for, in fulfillment of Jesus’ promise, by the coming of the Holy Spirit in power on the Day of Pentecost, we, the church, are born and bound together, strengthened for service in the world, proclaiming with our lips and through our lives the gospel, the good news.

This is our Christian sacred story, which I summarize in one word: Love. The love of God in Jesus. Not an emotion, even kindly affection. Rather active benevolence that wills and does the best for another, that is unconditional, unconstrained by time of day or place, mood or temperament, preference or prejudice, judgment of merit or deserving, and therefore, bestowed, lavished upon all, always and in all ways.

This I behold in this morning’s gospel passage of the raising of Jairus’ daughter from the dead

Jesus raising Jairus's daughter from the dead, Ilya Repin (1871)

and the healing of the woman with the issue of blood.

Christ healing a bleeding woman, Catacombs of Rome

For what in common, other than being Jewish, did Jesus, an itinerant preacher, have with Jairus, an archisynagogos, a leader of the synagogue and community? What, in a patriarchal society, did Jesus have in common with a woman? What, in a hyper-religious culture, did Jesus, a rabbi, a teacher with a following, have in common with one whose hemorrhaging made her and anything, anyone she touched ritually unclean?[1]

They, Jairus, by class, and the unnamed woman, by gender, were “the other” to Jesus and Jesus “the other” to them. And there’s more “otherness”! Jairus, by virtue of his role and responsibilities, was a member of the religious authorities some of whom would become Jesus’ greatest adversaries. And the woman, having only heard about Jesus, did not know who he was, did not call out to him in proper recognition of his identity, as did blind Bartimaeus seeking to have his sight restored, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”[2] No, she, in her desperation, driven more by myth and magic, delusion and superstition, believed, “If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well.”

Yet it was their stark, naked human need, their insatiable hunger for healing that overrode the difference of otherness, the distance of strangeness, that tore down the barriers of their fear of rejection, that compelled Jairus to come to Jesus, fall at his feet, and plead incessantly for his daughter’s life, that compelled a woman, infirmed and impoverished, ostracized and isolated by her illness, to move stealthily from the periphery of the crowd, to draw near to Jesus, to reach out and touch his cloak. And it was Jesus’ love that honored no boundaries, that recognized the courage of their need, that compelled him to minister unto their needs. To Jairus’ anguished plea, “Come lay your hands on my daughter that she may be made well and live,” saying “Yes” and, drawing near, refusing to remain at a distance, going with Jairus to his home. To the woman who would not take “No” for an answer, allowing himself to be touched, calling that woman into conversation, provoking her confession of “the whole truth” (What? Of her condition, her contagion, and that in touching him she had to have believed, in accordance with the law of God, that she had made him unclean!), prompting him, who came to fulfill God’s law, to proclaim her superstition faith.

In this I behold the miracle. Not that a little girl was brought back from the brink of death. Though miraculous that is. Not that a woman was cured of the disease of her body and her exile from her community. Though that, too, is miraculous. Rather the miracle, something seemingly ordinary, is that Jesus comes to us as we are, who we are, where we are. There is no distance too grand, no need too great, no sin too grievous that can keep Jesus from coming to us.

No matter who we are, no matter where we’ve been or where we’re are going, no matter what we’ve said and done or not said and done, no matter how we think and feel about ourselves, today, as we might sing, “Just as I am without one plea…O Lamb of God, I come,” can we hear Jesus singing to us, “Just as you are without one plea, I, the Lamb of God, come to you!”? And can we can say with Paul, “neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation…separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord”?[3]

If so, then we know that it is our faith in Jesus, our faith in the love of Jesus, our faith in Jesus’ love for us that makes us well.

Illustrations: Jesus Raising Jairus’ Daughter from the Dead, Ilya Repin (1871) and Christ healing the bleeding woman, Catacombs of Rome

[1] See Leviticus 15.25-27

[2] Mark 10.46-52

[3] Romans 8.38-39

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2 thoughts on “ordinary miracles – a sermon for the 5th Sunday after Pentecost

  1. Thank you Paul for the sermon of Love. Who doesn’t love that word? Especially of the kind you described – unconditional and unconstrained – always and in all ways! WOW!!

    Jesus’ love – I believe we all want that AND that miracle too!! I read this sermon twice because I think I’ve always wondered if you can have more than ONE miracle in your life. As you’re well aware, I believe I’ve already benefited from a miracle in my life recovering from my long illness. If anything else befalls me, I wonder if there are others more worthy than I for a miracle or if I have a second shot at the miracle of life. In any case, I think my faith in and love of Jesus could likely make me well enough to continue to do good things in this life. I’m going to hold on to this sermon, and I hope you don’t see my comments as too self-serving. I always process your sermons in a variety of ways, especially on different days during the week.

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  2. Loretta, I surely understand how you can read a post differently on different days and at different times. I’m the same way in my reading and reflecting. As for the miraculous, yes, I’ve heard you speak of your recovery from your long illness(es) as a miracle. I certainly agree. As for worthiness, I think from a divine point of view, none of us is worthy or deserving or meriting of a miracle. Perhaps, in a real way, if, when the miracle comes, it is the healing itself that makes us worthy – and the worthiness is manifested in the breadth and depth of our sharing this good news with others so to gladden their hearts and lives. This is most definitely what you live to be and to do!

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