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Sermons are preached within the context of a particular worship service, and are most meaningful when experienced in that way. We encourage you to view or listen to the entire worship service; click on the video camera icon.
June 27, 2021
Fifth Sunday after Pentecost
Grace to you and peace from God, our Creator, and from our Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
When the Reopening Task Force set the date for us to open the building for in-person worship, I smiled. Not just because the process of our coming together would be under way, but because of the readings.
I didn’t pick these. They are the assigned readings in the lectionary for today. And I think they speak to us well on this particular day and at this time in our lives.
The two main people in the Gospel reading don’t seem to have a lot in common, at least not on the surface. The man is Jairus; the leader of the local synagogue and, as such, people knew who he was.
But we don’t know who the woman is. We aren’t told her name or whether she had any special social standing. For much of the story she’s hidden, staying almost literally in the background.
But there are similarities in both of their stories: for Jairus, his 12-year-old daughter was gravely ill, to the point of death, and all conventional methods for her healing had been exhausted. And the unnamed woman had been hemorrhaging for twelve years. All conventional methods for her healing had been exhausted as well.
Both of them were desperate for healing and actively seeking a miracle because they both knew nothing else would save them.
Jairus boldly makes a formal request of Jesus and outright asks for his daughter’s healing. But the unnamed woman has to push her way into the crowd just to sneak a touch of Jesus’ cloak.
Jairus had probably had encounters with Jesus before – although maybe not all positive ones because of who they each were. As a religious leader, he had to maintain a degree of control within the synagogue. And with Jesus preaching the immanence of God’s realm and turning society upside down, it’s possible that they butted heads on more than one occasion. But at that moment Jairus didn’t care.
As Jesus walked with Jairus to his house, a large crowd followed him and pressed in on him. With all those other people around – in all honesty, the woman probably thought that Jesus would never notice her touch, because it really would have been that insignificant.
Everyone was in motion. She probably had to work her way into the crowd and her hand probably no more than brushed up against Jesus’ clothes when she was pushed back out again. The whole encounter probably didn’t last more than a couple of seconds.
But what a couple of seconds it was because Jesus did notice – and it scared her to the point that it made her tremble. And when she fell at his feet and told him the whole truth of who she was and of what she’d just done, instead of chastising her or berating her, Jesus called her “daughter.” He made her his own; he commended her for her faith and told her to go in peace and be healed.
And then he went on to Jairus’ house, even though the crowd was saying that the little girl had already died. He kept his attention on Jairus – “do not fear, only believe” and raised up his daughter.
In both of these situations, restoration happened on two levels. Physical healing is what was sought – and it was accomplished. What also happened, though, is that relationships were restored. By calling the woman “daughter,” Jesus established the same kind of relationship with her as Jairus had with his daughter. And Jairus would have done anything to save his daughter.
For Jesus, in any situation, the relationship is always the most important thing. And in an encounter between Jesus and someone in need of healing, whatever is broken is healed and relationship is restored. And it’s in that encounter that we experience grace.
Over the last sixteen months we’ve each experienced brokenness on many levels. The pandemic made life as we knew it come to a screeching halt and we were isolated in our homes.
Technology allowed us to stay in contact with each other, but we were discouraged from hugging or physically getting too close to people that don’t live with us. We had to be careful when we went to the grocery store; restaurants and non-essential businesses were closed.
It kept us from coming to church, from worshiping in the same space, from gathering for funerals, and from celebrating baptisms.
And now with the vaccines’ availability in our area, we can begin the process of doing many of the things we used to do – like come to church and start to consider the events that happen here. But the healing from the pandemic is really just beginning, because we’re realizing that we need to learn how to be together again. Our relationships with each other have changed.
The last few social interactions I’ve had, my friends and I joked because when we first saw each other we stood six feet apart even though we’re all vaccinated. I don’t go anywhere without hand sanitizer anymore, and I will probably carry a mask with me for the next several months. And that’s just “surface stuff.” But I know I’m not the only one whose life has changed in that way.
And we all know there are people who live in genuine fear of contracting Covid or another virus even with the vaccine. The reasons for their fear are their own, and they’re legitimate.
Taking all of that together, it isn’t a stretch to say that with everything that has changed, we’re all in need of healing – and that doesn’t come with the vaccine. Because healing from what we’ve experienced doesn’t just happen, it takes time – so much time – and it doesn’t always look the way we think or hope it will.
Some of us are bold enough to throw ourselves at Jesus’ feet and ask for that healing, either for ourselves or on behalf of someone we love. Some of us push our way through the crowd around him hoping to just brush against his cloak for a second or two. Either way, and whatever the healing ends up being, we experience his grace.
The grace Jesus gives us heals us in ways we may not even know we need. It opens our hearts and allows us to be honest with God and one another about how all of this has affected us. It allows us to notice the people who are around us – to make room for someone who might need a little extra space in order to feel comfortable; and it allows us to acknowledge that, as we transition out of this, some days will be easier than others.
Jesus’ grace empowers us to keep moving forward, and to admit that the process of healing from the pandemic might take longer than we want it to. His grace frees us to be angry and frustrated about that, and also to be grateful that it’s okay for it to take as long as it takes.
Jesus’ grace gives us compassion and love and the strength to walk alongside each other as we transition into what comes next. To recognize that our healing brings possibilities we may not have considered.
And in all of this, whether we’re excited or frustrated or grateful or all of the above, we recognize that in grace Jesus walks alongside us, too – reaching out to us, working through us – reminding us that our relationship with him is for all time.
As we learn how to be together again, Jesus’ grace transcends whatever boundaries there are between us, whatever fears we may be experiencing, whatever may have changed. And however long it takes, through Jesus’ grace we, and our relationships with one another, will be healed and restored. Thanks be to God! Amen.