Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Infected with healing grace...

Sermon preached for Pentecost 5 on Sunday, July 1, 2012.

    Boy does Mark give us some strange stories of the Gospel.  I am not sure if you were listening but the Gospel lesson for today was striking.  Jesus steps out of the boat, having traveled from one side of the Sea of Galilee to the other and there was Jairus waiting for Him.  Jairus was no ordinary Jew – a ruler or leader of the synagogue, he might have been seen as an enemy of Jesus and the coming kingdom.  Instead he comes not as a ruler of the synagogue but as a sorrowful father pouring out his heart to Jesus.  "You have got to come.  You just have daughter is sick, she is dying."  Here is the heartbreaking news of a 12 year old girl whose life is almost over and of the love of her father that moves him to seek out the very man every religious leader was suspect of – Jesus of Nazareth.
    Before Jesus can even begin to deal with the little girl who lay dying, another surprise appears.  A woman who has bled for 12 years reaches out her hand and touches Jesus' garment and suddenly she is healed.  What a shock!  She was unclean for the flow of blood meant she had to live apart from everyone but she sneaks a hand in and touches Jesus's hem and the Lord feels the healing grace flow to her.  "Who was that?  Who are you?"  She expected to be judged and condemned but instead Jesus commended her and let her keep her healing.  A 12 year girl and a 12 year flow of blood – Jesus has a busy day indeed!
    The woman with the flow of blood had learned to hide from people.  She had learned to sneak around so that she would not be singled out as a pariah for her illness also made her ceremonially unclean.  She heard of Jesus and she knew that her only hope was in Jesus.  She acted in secret, sticking out a hand in the crowd touch Jesus' clothing.  She acts in faith – believing that merely touching Jesus would benefit her bad situation.   This woman had long ago stopped believing in miracles or hoping for a better future until she heard of Jesus.  Then she had such confidence in Jesus' power that she did not address Him in words but touched His clothing.
    She had every reason to fear but Jesus does not condemn her.  Jesus should have pushed the unclean woman away but He does not.  He notices her and He addresses her with the voice of grace.  He bridges every formality to call her "daughter" and He bids her go in peace.  Kneeling in fear, she had the faith to tell the truth and it was the truth she met in Jesus – truth with power to heal, restore, and renew.  Jesus tells her to go, “her faith has made her well.”  The very people we run from, Jesus runs toward.  The sick, the infected, the dying, the dead, the unclean – Jesus has come for them... and for us.
    Jairus had come for his daughter and this woman interrupted everything.  Now as they all stood in shock over what had happened to the women with a 12 year flow of blood, the worst news a parent can hear comes calling.  "Your daughter is dead.  She is gone.  It is over.  Leave Jesus alone. There is nothing He can do now..."  But Jesus is not finished.  Even in death the daughter waits for Jesus.  The woman had delayed Jesus and seems to have taken all hope away but Jesus is undeterred – not by illness or uncleanness or even death.
    Jesus enters the house of the synagogue ruler, seeks out the child, and informs that He will awaken her sleep in death.  "Little girl... wake up!"  But surely it is too late.  And then she rises and walks.  She comes back from death to dance upon death the dance of life.  They were in shock for one miracle and now they were in shock for the second miracle.  You would expect Jesus to encourage them to tell what they saw but He tells them instead to keep quiet.  In love He tells them to feed her but to keep quiet.        
    We are like the people in this story who learn to keep our distance from illness and death.  Don't get too close or you will get infected!  We understand distance.  You have to protect yourself.  But not Jesus.  He is drawn to illness, uncleanness, and death.  Far from repelling Him, these move Jesus to come and intervene.  To those worried about becoming infected with illness, Jesus comes infecting them with grace – with forgiveness, life and salvation.  We are the same way.  We are used to keeping our distance from people who hack away with cough, with sneeze, with open sores, with death.  But Jesus has come for this and has power to address illness, sin, and death.  His grace is more powerful than sin, than illness, and than death.  He risks all for us.
    There is no playing it safe for Jesus.  Illness, sinfulness, bad reputation, corruption, death – Jesus is like a magnet to our weakness and ills.  He cannot avoid them or ignore them.  Funny how we worry about becoming infected with everything but healing.  We keep our distance even from Jesus but Jesus has what we need and is not afraid to give it to us.  I liken it to the fear of using the chalice – ooooh, think what we might catch.  I'll tell you what you catch there!  Grace!  Healing!  Forgiveness!  Life!
    We come today unclean, touching the hem of Jesus' garment in the Word and Sacrament.  We come today as people worried for our loved ones sick unto death to meet Jesus who has the power of life.  We come today with all our secret sins and dark pasts to find in Jesus new life and a new beginning.  We come today walking in this body of death seeking Him who have life stronger than death.  We find it all in Jesus.  He infects us with grace, infects us with life, infects us with heaven.  It is the holy infection to undo sin's curse, to reverse its terminal destiny, and to heal what is too far gone to life.  For this we come.  We want this holy infection.  We risk all to come near it, to meet it, to receive it.  Would that we were as drawn to Christ in the hope of receiving His healing grace as we are repelled by our fears of catching something!  Would that we had the faith to reach out beyond the stations and circumstances of life which keep us apart and touch Jesus garment as we hear His Word and receive His holy Supper!  May God give us this faith and trust.  Amen!

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