Sermon for June 27, 2021

Fifth Sunday after Pentecost, June 27, 2021
Mark 5:21-43

The holy gospel according to Mark. Glory to you, O Lord.

21When Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a great crowd gathered around him; and he was by the sea. 22Then one of the leaders of the synagogue named Jairus came and, when he saw Jesus, fell at his feet 23and begged him repeatedly, “My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well, and live.” 24So Jesus went with him.
    And a large crowd followed him and pressed in on him. 25Now there was a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years. 26She had endured much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had; and she was no better, but rather grew worse. 27She had heard about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, 28for she said, “If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well.” 29Immediately her hemorrhage stopped; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. 30Immediately aware that power had gone forth from him, Jesus turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my clothes?” 31And his disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing in on you; how can you say, ‘Who touched me?’ ” 32Jesus looked all around to see who had done it. 33But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling, fell down before him, and told him the whole truth. 34He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”
    35While he was still speaking, some people came from the leader’s house to say, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the teacher any further?” 36But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the leader of the synagogue, “Do not fear, only believe.” 37He allowed no one to follow him except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James. 38When they came to the house of the leader of the synagogue, Jesus saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. 39When he had entered, he said to them, “Why do you make a commotion and weep? The child is not dead but sleeping.” 40And they laughed at him. Then he put them all outside, and took the child’s father and mother and those who were with him, and went in where the child was. 41Jesus took her by the hand and said to her, “Talitha cum,” which means, “Little girl, get up!” 42And immediately the girl got up and began to walk about (she was twelve years of age). At this they were overcome with amazement. 43Jesus strictly ordered them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat.

The gospel of the Lord. Praise to you, O Christ.

We all have our varied experiences of crowds – at sporting events, festivals, political rallies, marches, clogged freeways in our cars, sometimes even church events.

And we all have our particular reactions and responses to crowds. Some find them exhilarating. Others can feel claustrophobic when confronted by so many people. And many points in between on a continuum.

After sixteen months of physical distancing because of the pandemic, being in a crowd, especially one where people are not wearing face masks, would probably feel very disorienting to many of us, myself included.

I invite you to recall an experience of your being in a crowd of people. Get in touch with your memories of the physical sensation of being there, perhaps especially the sensate overstimulation of it all.

Now let’s place ourselves in our mind’s eye in the story from today’s gospel reading from Mark. As you hear the highlights of the story again, feel the energy of the throngs of people and goings on.

A great crowd gathered around [Jesus]. Then Jairus, a religious leader, appeared in fraught anguish, falling at Jesus’ feet, begging Jesus to come with him to intervene in the life of his little daughter who was at the point of death.

The large crowd followed Jesus and pressed in on him. Then the woman suffering from hemorrhages appeared in her distress, having had no help from medical professionals despite the expenditure of all of her resources. She sought out Jesus to touch his cloak that she might be healed.

When she touched his clothing, Jesus became aware that power had gone out from him. Crowds can indeed be draining of our energies.

Next, amidst all of the chaos, as Jesus and the crowd moved on toward Jairus’ house, the report came that his daughter had died – too little, too late was the conclusion. But Jesus pressed on amidst the crowd pressing in.

Then there was the commotion and the loud weeping and wailing, the cries of grief. And the mocking laughter when Jesus said that Jairus’ daughter was only asleep.

Do you have a palpable sense of the energy of the story? Can you feel it? The chaotic energy? The fraught-ness? And there is more to consider.

Think about it, the crowds gathered around Jesus with their intersecting and competing crises, motivated by the extent and depth of their human need for healing, for wholeness. The broken, sinful, mortal nature of our circumstances is what caused people to flock to Jesus that maybe he could offer a cure.

Think of what has drawn crowds in our own day: the nationwide wide protests at the killing of George Floyd, an anguished response to racial injustice; the mob of a crowd at the Capitol on January 6 pressed on by their sense of outraged grievance; desperate people who throng to stadiums to see and hear faith healers; online crowds of millions of people seeking self-help in formats like Ted talks; best-selling books that attract crowds of readers; our minds crowded with our worries and woes; and on and on. Crowds can take on all sorts of shapes and sizes and can be literal and metaphorical – but urgent, anxious crowds are all motivated in one way or another in response to the great weight of human need.

This is the bad news: our crowded lives, crowded routines and crowded minds press in on us, can overwhelm us.

The good news is that just as Jesus entered the crowds on the way to Jairus’ house, Jesus continues to enter into the fullness of our lives crowded out by human need, allowing power to go out from himself, allowing himself to be drained, in response to our need. Jesus enters into all the anxious energy without any hesitation.

In the case of the woman with the hemorrhage, it seems that Jesus’ very incarnate presence made for the healing, a presence which evoked the faith in her to reach out and touch his clothing.

In the case of Jairus’ daughter, it was Jesus’ word of command in the vernacular of the Aramaic language, as he took the little girl by the hand, “Talitha cum!” “Little girl, get up!”

Jesus continues to enter into our crowded lives in many and various ways with his healing presence:

  • through his word of scripture and proclamation of it and our studied devotion with it, that we may discover the word we need to ease our burdens.
  • through the bath of baptism which washes us in healing water, incorporating us into himself, his body, the church, a community of peace in contrast to an anxious crowd.
  • through the meal at the table where Jesus feeds us with his very self, which satisfies our existential and spiritual hungers.
  • Through our holy conversations with each other, where two or three are gathered in peace in contrast to angry throngs and mobs.

Through these means, Jesus allows power again and again to go forth from himself, a draining, but never a draining dry. Through these means we find some relief from the need that provokes the pressing crowds to assemble.

All of it a way of saying Jesus saying to us in our vernacular – little child, get up – all in the divine power which raised Jesus himself from the dead.

With the raising of Jairus’ daughter, those gathered around Jesus were overcome with amazement. Faith provoking, faith inspiring, faith renewing awe. Just as we are filled with awe when Jesus raises us up through gracious means in the proclamation of the gospel.

It’s as if the first reading from Lamentations serves as the song of praise for such wonders that Jesus did: “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. ‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘therefore I will hope in him.’” (Lamentations 3:22-24)

Here’s a final word: Our faith-filled awe thrusts us also into the crowded throngs of human need. In thanksgiving to God, we cannot help ourselves but to get into the thick of things with some good news, with the power of Christ in the Spirit which continues to go out from the divine presence, God’s work, our hands.

So it is that the church in its social ministries enters into the throngs, the crowds in response to human need – after natural disasters of all kinds, in response to drought and famine to feed the hungry, in advocacy for justice when people crowd the streets in protest. And more.

Thanks be to God for the myriad ways that Christ continues to enter urgent, needy human crowds through the church’s ministries. Amen.

And now for your reflection and holy conversation at home:

  • Recall occasions when Christ has found you in healing ways when the crowded circumstances of our minds and lives press in on us.
  • In what ways does the gospel compel you to enter the crowds with a healing word of good news?