Sunday, July 1, 2018
Lectionary 13

Prayer of the Day
Almighty and merciful God, we implore you to hear the prayers of your people. Be our strong defense against all harm and danger, that we may live and grow in faith and hope, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Readings and Psalm
Lamentations 3:22-33 Great is the Lord’s faithfulness
Psalm 30
2 Corinthians 8:7-15 Excel in generosity, following the Lord Jesus
Mark 5:21-43 Christ healing a woman and Jairus’s daughter

Sermon
Title:  Powerless, Hopeless, Defeated

These two women, featured in our gospel reading this morning, are the epitome of powerlessness, they are symbols of hopelessness, they are the embodiment of defeat.  Might we be connecting with them in new ways these days with our own experiences of powerlessness, hopelessness, and defeat?

As women in their society, these two had little to no power.  The young girl on her death bed that should be her approaching wedding bed, prepared to be given away in marriage, she had even less power than the adult women she was learning from.  For the hemorrhaging woman, perhaps, because of her condition, she had no husband, no children, none of these that would have given her at least a little standing in her community.  Instead she was ritually unclean, and therefore unwanted. Most would have viewed her illness as a sign that she was cursed or being punished by God for some unknown reason, but fully known to the All-knowing judge.  Condemned and ostracized, she was excluded, untouchable because of her condition, unwelcome by all who were concerned with their own well-being.  “Don’t let her touch you, or you will be unclean yourself.”  She was a refugee from her own community.

The girl, sick in her bed, was her father’s joy, her father’s hope.  On the threshold of adulthood, she would soon be a wife and then, with God’s blessing, a mother.  As her father, he was probably already scouting out the eligible young men that he might consider giving her away to.  Perhaps young men were already making attempts to win his favor.  After all, he was a leader in the local synagogue; therefore respected, perhaps even wealthy, perceived by all as blessed by God.  Yet, now seemed all was lost, all was meaningless, without hope, all seemed empty and futile.  He would not be giving her to a fine young man, now he must prepare to give her up to that great thief, death.

On the other hand, the woman was used to hopelessness.  She had been living in its darkness for quite some time.  She had tried for cures from the quack doctors around her.  But they just took her money and sunk her deeper into hopelessness.  Was she faithless for even trying the doctors in the first place instead of relying on God?  Perhaps she even started to believe what people were saying – that her ailment was punishment from God.  That God had turned an uncaring, cold shoulder.  That God’s face was certainly not shining on her.  And daily the community was reminding her of this.  Robbing her of any hope she might be able to muster in her suffering.

The man’s servants came to him while he was in route with Jesus.  They were waving the white flag.  They were telling him to give up.  “Don’t trouble the teacher any further.  The girl is dead.  All is lost.  It’s no use.  All hope is gone.”  However you want to say it, it was over.  Death had had the final word yet again.  How bitter is the taste of defeat.

You’d think the woman would have given up by now.  Called it quits.  Realized all was lost and that she would never be healed of her condition.  Any wise person would advisor her not to waste any more money on doctors, accept defeat, live out her days as one of the walking dead.  Sure, the teacher is coming to town, but the crowds are thick, his attention is limited.  No point in her even trying to make contact.  No point in her trying to seek asylum in the one who reportedly saves. She should just embrace defeat.

Powerless, hopeless, defeated.

A dead young girl. A sick and ostracized woman.  Us?

Last week at the Pride march, as we started our trek up 5th Avenue, I noticed a young woman holding a sign that read:  You are valid.  And I thought, valid?  Is that the best you can do?  I’m sure she meant well.  I’m sure she made and held up her sign with the best of intentions and with a spirit of support and encouragement.  But I’m looking for more than just being declared valid.  Tolerance and acceptance ring hollow as well.

As Jesus marches into this lakeside town, he does not merely validate these two women in their powerlessness, he does not tolerate their hopelessness, and he certainly does not accept the defeat that is seeking to crush them.

To the woman who will not let barriers stand in her way.  Who will not let purity laws keep her separated.  Who will not let the past rob her of a present and future.  Jesus shares his power that heals.  Jesus renews her hope in God’s mercy.  And he gives her victory over that that would defeat her.

To the young girl who appears to those around her lifeless and lost, Jesus shares his power of death-defeating life.  He brings new hope to a life not yet lived.  And he foreshadows his victory over death that he will win, and share will all creation.

So, let us join the story of healing and salvation.  Let us, invite Jesus to come and lay his hands on us that we may be made well and live.

For the Holy Spirit that encouraged that woman forward, stirring up a faith that could trust in the life changing power of the smallest of connections – merely a hem touch – that same Spirit stirs in us and invites us to come into the healing presence of Jesus.

The Anointed Son, our friend and savior, who showed compassion to the heart-broken father, whose last bit of hope vanished with the news from his home, that same friend and savior, says to us now “Do not fear, only believe.”

And the loving Creator who restores and recreates through the gift of Christ, calls to each of us with mercy, grace, and love to get up, that our hunger might be satisfied and our new life in Christ be lived.

The Rev. Mark Erson,
Pastor

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