27 June, 2021- Fifth Sunday in Pentecost, Proper 8B
Rev. Tammy Hobbs Miracky
Sermon preached by The Rev. Tammy Hobbs Miracky
Below is a DRAFT text of the homily. It may vary considerably from the recorded version. Please excuse typos and grammatical errors, and do not cite without permission.
“A Movie Worth Watching”
Year B, Proper 8, Mark 5:21-43
All Saints Parish, Brookline MA
June 27, 2021
The Rev. Tammy Hobbs Miracky
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Do you ever watch a television program or a series with someone? Years ago, I guess, I would have asked whether you follow a TV series. Today, though, the movie or show could be coming from any number of sources. More to the point for us here today, now you can also watch it whenever you want. And this can present a dilemma. If you are watching along with a friend or family member, sometimes you can get out of sync.
Among other things, my husband and I are avid followers of British mystery shows. When I happen to miss part of a program, he will thoroughly catch me up. I will hear everything about every character, and their actions, and their motivation, with some speculation about what might happen next. Sometimes it seems like we could catch up faster by just re-watching the whole thing from the beginning.
Fair warning: today’s sermon is a little bit like that. In fact, we’re still in the middle of the story that Richard began telling us last Sunday. As an aside, if you weren’t able to hear last week’s sermon, I do recommend it. I can’t do it justice here and allow us enough time to move on to what comes next. You can find it on our website in written or video form. Take a look if you missed it.
But now, back to our story. Last week we learned that Jesus and his disciples were criss-crossing the Sea of Galilee, usually not without incident, and not always making it to “the other side.”
Crossing #1: Last week’s lectionary walked us through the first of these sea voyages: the disciples struggling through a storm while Jesus slept on a cushion. They were passing from what was a Jewish location on the west side of the Sea of Galilee to a Gentile population on the eastern side (Mark 4:35-41). While there, Jesus healed a man “of unclean spirit” who lived “among the tombs.” You may remember the part when he cast the evil spirits out of the man into a herd of swine and sent the swine headlong over the cliffs into the sea (Mark 5:1-13). That healing enabled this man to re-enter society from the tombs, the “realm of the dead and of social outcasts” as one source describes it. (Harper Collins Study Bible, 1732). There is language in this story to suggest that the healing could be read on this individual as well a theological level: Jesus is staking out a territory – a “kingdom” in the language of Mark – that was free from the oppression of empire. That would offer the individual and community the wholeness that God desires for humanity. So, crossing #1: movement from Jews to Gentiles; a story of spiritual, physical, and social healing; a pointer toward God’s justice and peace.
Crossing #2: Jesus and the disciples cross back “to the other side,” the Jewish side. Here Jesus performs a double healing – today’s passage (Mark 5:21-43). (We’ll come back to that.). He feeds the 5000 with 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish, and even has some left over.
Crossing #3: After the miraculous feeding on the Jewish side, Jesus instructs his disciples immediately to “cross over to the other side” again. This time they run into “an adverse wind,” which is stopping them in their tracks. You’ll recall that Jesus comes walking across the water to save the disciples, calms the wind, but they don’t make it all the way to Gentile territory (Mark 6:45-53). Not to be deterred, they set out walking – in a different direction – towards the Gentile region of Tyre, where Jesus miraculously feeds a crowd of 4,000, and again, has an abundance of food.
In this larger arc, our attention is drawn to the movement between Gentiles / Jews. As Richard pointed out, scholars describe the Jew / Gentile relationship as an archetype of irreconcilable difference. Yet, we see Jesus moving back and forth in the region, weaving together a new community in ways that people thought impossible, irreconcilable. Jesus is pointing to a new way of being. A way that encourages relationship across difference. A way that somehow offers health and well-being to all.
So, there you have it. You’re all caught up. We can move on to today’s installment of our story.
As you heard in the Gospel, Jesus and the disciples have arrived back on the Jewish side of the Sea of Galilee, and immediately, a great crowd gathers around.
- A man named Jairus, a member of the Jewish ruling class, approaches Jesus and, surprisingly, falls at his feet and begs him to heal his daughter, who is “at the point of death” (5:21-23).
- Jesus, beginning to follow Jairus to his home, is surrounded by the crowd when he feels power leave from his body – he can tell that someone in the crowd has touched his clothing. Obviously, the way this crowd is described, many people are likely to be touching Jesus’ clothing, but this is a touch with intention. A touch prompted by a woman’s desire to be free from the long-term affliction that isolated her socially and rendered her destitute.
- Over the objections of his disciples – a young girl is at the point of death, after all, and speed is of the essence – but Jesus stops anyway to find out what just happened.
- The woman steps forward, despite her fear. Jesus sees her, acknowledges her, confirms that her faith had made her well, and bids her to go in peace.
- Even while they were speaking, people arrive from Jairus’s home to inform them that his daughter has died. They give up and begin to return home, but Jesus follows them, saying, “Do not fear, only believe” (5:36).
- Jesus arrives at the home of Jairus, sends the mourners away, and tells the little girl to rise up. Immediately, she rises and begins to walk, at which point Jesus instructs them to feed her: “give her something to eat” (6:43).
What do we notice here? Why is this passage inserted into the comings and goings on the sea? What does it have to do with bridging irreconcilable differences? With forming a new way of being across difference that promises wholeness and well-being for all? Why is the story of Jairus and his sick daughter interrupted by the story of the hemorrhaging woman? What additional light does this shed?
Well, we started by noticing that the larger frame for today’s portion of the gospel – the coming and going from Gentile to Jew – highlights a healing across difference, calls for a new kind of community. Given its placement and its construction, I wonder if todays’ passage is pointing us toward another element of God’s justice and peace:
- A wealthy man who holds power and prestige in the community is asked to wait.
- A woman who is described with specific signifiers is attended to first. The description leaves no doubt that she is destitute (Myer, 200).
- She has been sick for twelve years,
- Given the nature of her illness, she would likely have been a social outcast (Yarbro Collins, Mark, 284).
- All of her money is gone, and
- Her condition has not improved, but has deteriorated further.
- The detail of this description points our attention directly to her social and economic standing: Jesus postpones the needs of the wealthy and powerful to tend to the needs of the destitute and outcast. None of us can be whole until all of us are cared for.
Jew and Gentile; woman and man; rich and poor; destitute and resourced. Jesus crosses back and forth healing, feeding. In the midst of chaos (that water thing again), Jesus weaves new community, pointing toward the reign of God in contrast to life under Empire, noticing and welcoming the outcast, caring for the poor and destitute. Jesus is pointing us toward a new creation. God’s reign. From the chaos, new beginnings, hope.
Now that’s a story worth sharing. That’s a world worth building. Amen.