My colleague from the
Red Rock Church in Boise has read the gospel for today:
When Jesus had crossed
again in the boat to the other side, a great crowd gathered round him;
and he was by the lake. 22Then one of the
leaders of the synagogue named Jairus came and, when he saw him, 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
he 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?” ’ 32He
looked all round 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.’
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, he 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. 41He
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. 43He
strictly ordered them that no one should know this, and told them to
give her something to eat.
Karl Barth, the famed theologian of the
20th century, said you should always read the gospel in one hand and the
newspaper in the other. So I brought with me this morning
yesterday's newspaper to share with you this reflection. We read
on the front page yesterday:
"Congress provided no exceptions
to a new law, which takes effect today, July 1st, requiring all Medicaid
recipients to prove they are citizens or legal aliens, using documents
such as birth certificates and passports. The law, which aims to
screen illegal immigrants from anti-poverty programs, applies even to
people with Alzheimer's disease (are we safe here?), seniors who can't
rise unassisted from their nursing home beds, and foster-care
children. All must produce official papers or risk losing federal
medical help and in some cases, housing. Health providers envision
paperwork gridlock, hard cases with no answers, scared and undocumented
parents denying their U.S.-born children important medicine such as
immunizations, and finally a strain on the health system as officials
attempt to collect newly required documents. About 70,000
Oregonians won't be able to readily offer proof of citizenship, Oregon
officials estimate. Some are homeless, transient, mentally ill,
developmentally disabled, frail, and alone. Others survived
disasters such as fires or hurricanes, but their paperwork didn't.
About 11 million undocumented immigrants live in the United States,
according to a Pew Hispanic Center. About 5 million of them are
children, 3 million of those children are U.S. citizens by virtue of
birth, although in their homes, one or both parents are in the country
illegally. The Congressional Budget Office estimated that cutting
them from the rolls could save government $220 million dollars over 5
So, what do we make of this? What
does the gospel say to us when 11 million people, yes, perhaps
undocumented in this country, are denied access to healthcare in order
to save $220 million over 5 years? If my math is correct, that's
$44 million dollars per year. Can someone tell me how much is that
per undocumented person? $4.00 per undocumented person. 11
million people who won't be treated for communicable diseases. Who
won't receive birth control. Who's children likely will not be
immunized, to save that $4 dollars, or 25 cents per U.S. taxpayer.
Does that make sense?
I know something of what it's like to
be in a foreign country when you are in need of healthcare. In
1979, Judy and I were in Holland, biking through Holland, wonderful
country for bicyclists, and it was a Sunday afternoon, gorgeous day, and
I managed to ride my bicycle into a ditch. How I managed to do
that is another story, but I flew into this ditch, and went tumbling
over a barbed-wire fence. A very rusty barbed-wire fence. I
ripped up my back. I hadn't been in for a tetanus shot for I don't
know how long, so we decided we needed to get to a hospital. We
rode our bikes into town, followed the signs to the hospital, went in --
and would you believe it -- there was not a single person there who
spoke English? I mean, what is this world coming to when you can't
go to the hospital and find someone who speaks English?!
I go in and show them my back, lots of
sign language, they figured it out, they're smart people, and they took
me into a little room, a nurse comes in, looks at me, cleans it up a
little bit, brings in a doctor who looks at it, talk to each other,
etc. A little while later someone brings in a needle -- I don't
know, it could have been sugar-water, but I said "give it to
me". So they injected me with something, and afterwards I
pulled out the universal sign for payment, and they waved me off.
"No problem", go, get out of here. And I was on my
way. Never spoke a word of English, never paid a cent.
In 2003 I was in Turkey on a pilgrimage,
and ate something there that didn't sit well with me, and spent the next
day in my hotel room just violently ill. Unbeknownst to me,
another member of our tour group also was very ill, evidently ate the
same thing I did, and for some unknown reason, the tour leaders decided
to take her to the hospital! Not sure why the left me out, but at
any rate, they took her to the hospital. And the taxi driver takes
them, stays with them the entire time -- about 4 hours they spent there
in the emergency room to get I.V. fluids, some medication, all the
attention there. When it was all done, they sent her to the
billing department, they served her tea and made her comfortable.
She gets the bill, and she was absolutely shocked -- she said the bill
amounted to no more than it would cost for a nice dinner out for two
people in this country. And then the taxi driver took her back
home to the hotel room and wouldn't accept a cent from her.
I ask you: if a Turk visiting
this country had the same thing happen, would that person get the same
Imagine Jesus asking the hemorrhaging
woman "Do you have a green card?" Or Jairus:
"Can I see your passport?".
So let's look a little closer at these
two passages to see what it might reveal to us that might be relevant in
today's world. The first thing that I have to note, and I hope
folks who took our Lenten Study on The
Last Week by Marcus Borg and Dominic Crossan, will recognize
this. For those who were in church one of those Sundays before
Lent (I'm sure you remember all my sermons, right?), so you will
remember the Markan pattern, the typical pattern of Mark's gospel.
Remember that pattern? A-B-A. Mark uses it six or seven
times, in which one story is "framed" by another story.
The story of Jairus' daughter frames the story of the hemorrhaging
woman. Or to put it conversely, the story of the hemorrhaging
woman interrupts the story of Jairus' daughter.
And this is very typical in the gospel
of Mark -- it's a literary device the author used by which he wants us,
the reader, to interpret one story in light of the second story.
Borg and Crossan say it's the author's way of saying to us 'Think hard
about this. And then think some more'. In other words, the
interruption in the story is very intentional.
Henri Nouwen, the famed contemplative
author, said that "My whole life, I have been complaining that my
work was constantly interrupted until I discovered that my interruptions
are my work".
So you see, the key to understanding
this story of these twin healings is to realize the essence of Jesus'
mission is revealed through the interruption. So let's compare and
contrast the two stories.
I note 7 striking similarities -- you
may want to pull out your pew Bibles and follow along with me to see if
you see anything else. But if you look at it, you'll see that both
the daughter of Jairus and the hemorrhaging woman are at the end of
their rope. Jairus says to Jesus that his daughter is at the point
of death. The hemorrhaging woman, we are told, she has suffered
much under many physicians (can anyone relate to that?!), and is only
getting worse. She has spent all that she has. She is now
broke, bankrupt. No options are left for either.
Secondly, both Jairus and the woman
show great confidence in the healing power of Jesus and seek him out.
Third, both approach Jesus at
considerable risk. Now if you scan through the previous 5 chapters
[of Mark], you will see that Jesus is questioned 5 times, quite
unfavorably, by the religious leaders. And already, we are told in
chapter 3, they have started their plans to destroy him. And
Jairus is one of those religious leaders! So for him to seek help
from Jesus is a risky career move, right? You don't move up in the
clerical hierarchy by making friends with the enemies of your
colleagues. And likewise, this woman is very afraid to approach
Jesus directly. Why? That was a big taboo for woman, in that
era, to approach a male. Furthermore, she's been bleeding which
makes her 'unclean'. A woman going through her menstrual cycle was
considered unclean, could not go into the synagogue or the temple until
she had been ritually purified. This woman has been bleeding for
12 years. She has not set foot into a synagogue for 12
years. And so she is afraid, likewise, to touch Jesus.
Fourth, both stories emphasize the
importance of touch. Jairus says 'if you would lay your hands on
my daughter', and this woman says 'if I could just but touch' -- not
Jesus, because she can't do that -- 'if I could touch his clothes, the
hem of his garment', it would be sufficient.
Fifth, both Jairus and the woman fall
at the feet of Jesus.
Sixth, the woman has been bleeding for
12 years. How old is the daughter? Mark goes out of his way
to tell us that, a footnote that he adds at the end of the story to make
sure we don't miss this fact. She's 12. It's almost as if,
on the day she was born, this woman started bleeding.
And seventh, what does Jesus call the
woman? He doesn't say to her "Hey you". He calls
her daughter. It is the only time in the entire New
Testament that 'daughter' is used as a direct address, as a name.
In other words, we have here the
daughter of Jairus, and the 'daughter' of Jesus. Forget the
DaVinci code, the secret is revealed right here -- here's the daughter
of Jesus J.
She is probably older than Jesus, one would suspect, going through
menopause or something like that.
Now, these are not coincidences.
They are intentional clues the author gives us to make sure we get the
point. One story is a comment on the other. An
interpretation of the other. So what is that comment, what is that
It is most obvious in the one big
difference that differentiates these two, besides their age. What
is that difference? Not just the condition, but what did that
condition make them? The young girl is a P.K. -- a Preacher's
Kid. She's the daughter of a leader, she has grown up in the
church, like my own kids. She's a part of it, part of the
furniture, she's been there all her life. The hemorrhaging
daughter can't set foot in the synagogue. They are world's apart,
in other words. And Mark wants us to see that difference, and to
get the significance of that.
Jesus treats them both equally.
He shows no special regard for the daughter of Jairus, and no disregard
for this hemorrhaging, unclean woman. The same healing power of
God is available to both. In fact, it is only after the unclean,
impoverished woman, the interruption is healed, that Jesus can
move on to the home of Jairus.
Now I doubt that anyone remembers the
sermon I gave on the beatitudes in Luke's gospel -- it was about 10
years ago, but I know anyone who was here will remember the interruption
of that sermon. At the time, our New Celebration (first) service
was worshiping in the Chapel, so this was the only service in the
sanctuary. There used to be a stage over here to the right.
The order of the service had the Pastoral Prayer immediately before the
sermon. So I was standing here and praying when all of a sudden I
hear this 'clunk, clunk, thud . . . . clunk, clunk, thud'. Over
here on my left -- God helped me, I looked up in the middle of my
prayer! I kept praying, but I looked up to see what on earth. . .
. . .and here I see this elderly man, very weather-beaten, obviously off
the street, carrying a knapsack and a big walking stick. Do some
of you remember that? Coming across the stage. And we had a
couple pews up there for some reason, don't remember why (we never
intended anyone to actually sit in them), but he sits right in the first
pew in front of God and everybody!
Well, I finished my prayer, launched
into my sermon, and was really getting into the spirit, getting into the
rhythm, the spirit is moving, and I come right to the climax of the
sermon where I say "blessed are the poor", and Mr.
Thud-clunker suddenly decides he wants Jesus and jumps up and says
"I want Jesus!". And I, filled with the holy spirit, say
to him: "Right now?!"
What are you going to do? So I
interrupted the sermon, accept him into the fellowship, hear his
confession of faith and welcome him as a part of the body of Christ, and
we greeted Michael, and we welcomed Michael, and one of our elders came
down to sit on, I mean with J,
him for the rest of the service. And I picked up where I left off.
For years after that, Francis Hyland
accused me of staging the whole thing, hiring this guy off the street
and offering him $5 bucks to come in. As if I would ever do
anything like that. . . . . .
My point is this: you see, it
doesn't matter if you're a preacher's kid, or a street kid. If
you're a resident of the CEO's office of some large corporation, or if
you're a resident of a mental hospital. If you're a struggling
farmer or a struggling farm worker. If you're a documented worker
or citizen of this country or you're undocumented.
If we are to be followers of the
Christ, to heal the clean and unclean alike, the rich and the poor, the
privileged and the destitute, then we are called to stop the bleeding of
this society. To heal the injuries that wound, and the wounds that
divide. This is the gospel of the Lord and this [holding up the
newspaper] is not.
Thanks be to God.