Sunday, June 27, 2021

Fifth Sunday after Pentecost/Pride Sunday

Lectionary 13 B

2 Samuel 1:1, 17-27
Psalm 130
2 Corinthians 8:7-15
Mark 5:21-43


Title:  Come, Interrupt God

Grace and peace to you beloveds from God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.


And happy Pride!

Pride is a time to celebrate with the LGBTQIA+ community – celebrating our beautiful diversity, the legislative and social progress that’s been made, and queer joy. There are rainbows and flags and parties. This celebration can feel as refreshing as a glass of ice water on a hot summer day, especially as we know that there is still very real oppression and violence faced by the LGBTQIA+ community, and not everyone can or wants to celebrate publicly. 

Pride is a time to remember LGBTQIA+ history – how unjust policing of gender and sexuality sparked the Stonewall and Compton Cafeteria riots, which in turn sparked the modern gay rights movement in the US, the contributions queer folks have made to society through art, science, politics, and education, and to remember the long history of our community – how gender and sexuality have always been more complex than a binary. Connecting to LGBTQIA+ history and ancestors can feel as centering as a tree sinking down roots into the dark, earthy dirt, forming a web of connection with other people in a way that strengthens the whole community.

Pride is also a time of lament. Every year, during this month especially, I am so aware how we have lost a generation of elders due to lack of healthcare and support, due to hostility and violence, and due to the HIV/AIDs epidemic. These are collective losses, and require collective lament. But for many in the LGBTQIA+ community, there are also individual losses and griefs that are particularly present during Pride. Folks who are feeling the loss of family and friends after coming out, who are living the pain of being in a context where it is unsafe to be vulnerable with others, when others in your life can fly a rainbow flag, and who are noticing the absence of friends and lovers who have died.

I think of David and Jonathan’s love, and David’s lament after Jonathan, who was greatly beloved to him, died. How that moment of queer love and queer grief spans across centuries, echoing our own laments back to us. I’m using the term queer specifically in this instance – how we think about identity is a constantly transforming idea, specific to our cultural contexts, and so I want to pull David and Jonathan’s love into queer history, into queer tradition, without labeling it in a specific way. Just as we cannot erase the passage of time and the inherent unknowability of personal aspects of history, we cannot erase the ways that colonization and Empire have erased nuances in identity and embodiment, but we can recognize our ancestors in faith and in love.

Pride is holding together this joy and this grief. Pride is attending this healing service while a celebration and protest prepares to march in the streets. An element of Pride, of queerness, is also found through vulnerability. Part of this is because our identities are not singular – many in the LGBTQIA+ community also experience disability, illness, or discrimination based on race or class – and these intersections increase vulnerability. And part of it is because being ourselves, our full selves, in this world requires vulnerability from all of us – no matter our identities.

And our Gospel reading for today is a story of vulnerability and healing, which makes it apt for Pride Sunday this year. It’s not a story just of the vulnerability of Jairus’ daughter and the hemorrhaging woman, but also the vulnerability of Jairus, and even Jesus.

Jairus’ daughter is young and actively dying. That reality can’t be changed by Jairus’ position of local and religious authority, and it can’t be changed by any wealth or social status he has. He is desperate enough to seek out assistance and healing from Jesus, who is out of favor with the temple authorities, and who is working to uproot the positions of power like Jairus holds in favor of God’s Kin-dom. It is a vulnerable ask, as Jairus has no reason to believe that Jesus will help him, outside of hope that the rumors are true – rumors that Jesus brings good news and restoration to all who seek him out.

Jairus is in an extreme place of vulnerability. His daughter’s life is on the line, his position in the temple is on the line – and Jesus responds with compassion, and goes with Jairus towards his house, to heal his daughter, through the crowds. The frame shifts in this moment, towards the unnamed hemorrhaging woman. From the text, we know that she has been bleeding for twelve years, and no one knows the cause. She has spent everything she has on doctors who can’t give clear answers or care, exhausting her time and resources, without anything to show for it. She is outside of community, impoverished from her medical condition, and is living with a long-suffering, stigmatized illness. She is in a vulnerable place in society, without the familial support Jairus’ daughter has.

The hemorrhaging woman echoes our own embodied experience back to us. She is living with a stigmatized illness, her body porous, vulnerable. Uncontrolled bodily fluids are mostly signs of being unwell – blood, snot, tears, cold sweats – and a definition of wellness could be said as “the ability to hold your body in boundary”. To have walls up, to be protected, to have a shield.

Yet there are many instances where these boundaries are porous, due to illness, vulnerability, or choice. Porous bodies, like the woman’s, in ancient views of disability, are connected with femininity and illness. Since disease was thought to come from imbalances or invasion, a body that that wasn’t sealed off to external ills was more susceptible to disability and disease. Even now, local knowledge around wellness includes keeping wounds clean and covering sneezes and coughs. Her body is considered disabled because of her hemorrhages and gender.

But Jesus’ body is also porous, vulnerable, connected to disability and femininity, and that isn’t how we are necessarily used to describing him. Jesus doesn’t notice the woman until the healing is literally pulled out of him. He doesn’t initiate the healing. She knows what her body needs and she seeks it out. It’s an osmosis of energy between their two bodies. And their porosity is beautiful.

Jesus is not in control of the healing energy, in the same way the woman is not in control of her bleeding. She acts with such faith, and such desperation, such trust, transgressing social boundaries, that she is healed. In this moment, the Divine is overflowing and being called forth by need and faith, and is much more than fleshy boundaries can hold. It isn’t just Christ’s purpose or interest to heal – it is a deep need. In this moment, Mark’s Gospel gives us a mystical glimpse into the Kin-dom of God. Healing isn’t something to be paid for; if you seek out healing, if you name what you need, it is freely exchanged and accessible so that all can flourish.

This moment of vulnerability and porosity startles Jesus. The energy transfer between their bodies is so profound, such an equalizing moment, that Jesus is compelled to seek her out, and name her as family. He doesn’t rebuke her, or scorn her, or ignore her, or speak over her. He pauses in his journey to Jairus’ house to find the woman. Jesus cares as much about this unnamed, poor, chronically ill woman as he does the daughter of an important local leader. She is not below his notice, or his care. He perhaps learns something from her about the nature of the healing that comes through God’s grace and love – it is so overflowing and outpouring that our bodies can’t contain it, it is poured out on all who seek out God for restoration and new life.

And during this interruption, during this startling revelation, Jarius’ daughter dies.   And she is resurrected by Jesus. He calls her to get up. To awaken. This is another glimpse of the Kin-dom of God, where death isn’t the final word, but radical restoration is. The resurrection of Jairus’ daughter and the healing of the hemorrhaging woman, their reintegration into community and relationship, paints an essential, vital picture of the Kin-dom. In the Kin-dom of God, wealth and social status don’t determine your access to care. Illness is not a barrier to community. God is never too late, and rejoices in our interruptions. Rejoices when we seek God out.

So today, on Pride Sunday, where you might be feeling vulnerable, or in need of celebration, or in need of care, remember that God’s healing love cannot be contained. Our bodies are porous and vulnerable, and Christ’s body is too. Our identities are porous and vulnerable, and our collective identity as the Body of Christ is too. As we turn to the healing portion of our liturgy, and as we turn to God’s table, trust that if you seek out God, you will be restored. That restoration might not look like you expect. There might still be moments of pain and death and waiting. But remember and trust that God draws all things to Godself.

Come to the font. Be surprised and delighted by the promises of baptism. Come to the table. Be nourished and restored by the gift of communion. By taking Christ’s body into your own body. By taking Christ’s love and vulnerability into your own body. What do you need to seek out healing today? To seek God out today? In the midst of a pandemic, in the midst of Pride, in the midst of grief. That might mean joining the crowds. It might mean staying home in prayer. It might mean seeking out a service opportunity, or further learning about justice issues. It might mean seeking out mental or physical healthcare. Trust your body. Trust your experience. Trust your vulnerability. And trust that God delights in our interruptions, and God’s love is never too late. Amen.

Vicar Reed Fowler,

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