Evensong continues to be a very well attended service at Martyr Worthy. Not least for the excellent singing by a small choir and the beautiful building. Everyone agrees that music and singing has been a much missed part of services during the pandemic. Ably led by Simon Ffennell and with a sermon from Gerry Stacey. If you would like to attend the next service please contact Beccy as unfortunately booking is still necessary.
The sermon this month was based around the story of Jairus’ daughter from Marks Gospel.
Jairus’ daughter – Mark 5:21-43
This a fascinating reading. It is a story of healing, in fact it is a story of two healings interwoven together in a style that Mark often uses sometimes referred to by theologians as a sandwich story. We have a story of Jesus being called to heal the daughter of one the Synagogue leaders. A man called Jairus, and whilst on his way there the tale is interrupted with the story of another healing before going back to the story of Jairus’s daughter at the end. But we should note here that these stores are not randomly linked together by Mark but are interwoven because they have the same deep truths within them and are being used to provide two different ways of looking at the same thing. I guess it’s a bit like the way a director uses different cameras on a film set to focus on different parts of the whole.
So we have two people who need healing, we have Jairus daughter, the daughter of a high ranking temple official with all the privilege that brings, and we have a poor women from the margins of society and furthermore one who has been bleeding for twelve years and is therefore considered ritually unclean and cannot enter the temple. Now there is a lot here about ritual cleanliness and holiness we need to understand. In Jewish tradition a women with bleeding from menstruation or childbirth etc. was considered unclean and therefore unholy, not allowed in the temple and touching her would make anyone else unclean. She was a carrier , if you like, of the virus of unholiness. However touching a young girl or a dead body ( and we know Jairus’s daughter was on the verge of death) would also make you unholy so Jairus was asking Jesus to do something very risky for the sake of his daughter. These traditions arise from the Mosaic law in Leviticus, where in chapter 12 it says:
If a woman conceives and bears a male child, she shall be ceremonially unclean for seven days; as at the time of her menstruation, she shall be unclean. 4Her time of blood purification shall be thirty-three days; she shall not touch any holy thing, or come into the sanctuary, until the days of her purification are completed.
It goes on to say that if she bears a girl child those periods of uncleanliness and purification are doubled and will last twice as long. But that is a subject for another sermon or three.
So going back to the story. We see the women touching Jesus cloak from behind, not expecting him even to notice what she has done, but Jesus does notice the interruption. And even though he is interrupted on an important journey to an important person he does two things. He acknowledges and accepts the interruption and he calls the woman daughter. Thus both acknowledging her and raising her to an equal status of daughter as the girl he is on his way to visit.
Now for the Jews at that time this is the counter intuitive result, that Jesus says to her ‘your faith has healed you’ The mosaic law would have decreed that touching someone unclean would have made you unclean but instead of this happening the Goodness flows in the opposite direction. From Jesus to the woman and to the amazement of all around she is made clean. So in this brief interruption Mark shows us that both God is never too busy to be interrupted. When we need help we only have to ask, even in the most tentative ways, we only have to just touch his cloak and he will never be too busy to turn to us and listen. And not just to listen but to hear us as equals. To him there is no privilege and marginalised we are all his daughters and sons.
And then we hear that Jairus’ daughter has died and it is too late to save her. But Jesus goes to the house anyway and again does the counter intuitive thing. Again looking at Leviticus Chapter 21 it says No one shall defile himself for a dead person among his relatives, except for his nearest kin.
But Jesus lays his hands on the girl again showing that to him she is nearest kin. She is also a daughter of God. And then he says she is not dead she is only sleeping and this is to show that Jesus brings perfect healing wherever he goes. Death is defeated through the action of Jesus. A pre figuring of what will happen to all of us. In death we are all sleeping and waiting for the Kingdom
So some questions to think about. We know there are marginalised and isolated, rejected or even just ignored in society but are we sure that in the church we set a good example. Is there anyone who is a son or daughter of God who is excluded from church life in any way or even just seen as unwelcome or ignored by the church? And when I say the church I mean the church and all its members I mean you and me. There are no exclusions in the Bible As it says in Matthew 25.40 whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
So let us pray
Open our hearts lord and let us realise that you are here for all of us. We are all sons and daughters in your sight. There is no interrupting God. You are there for each and every one of us when we need you. And in that light may we also remember that we are all each other’s brothers and sisters in God and I pray we all learn and grow as a family united by love not divided by law. Amen