Sunday, July 1, 2018

"Two Healing Stories" The Sermon for SUNDAY, July 1, 2018 - Sixth Sunday after Pentecost

Ole and Sven

"Two Healing Stories"
by Rev. Garth Wehrfritz-Hanson
Camrose, Alberta, Canada

The Holy Gospel comes to us this morning from Mark the 5th chapter, beginning at the 21st verse.

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

Here ends the gospel of our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ!
Grace and Peace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus who is the Christ. Amen
Ole went to Sven limping badly. ’Sven’ says Ole, ’do yiew know of a good doctor? M’leg hurts.’

’Ya’ says Sven, ’Go see my cousin Hilding, I give you da number.’ Finally getting an appointment, Ole explained to Dr. Hilding in his office, ’M’leg is hurting me, bad!’

’Let’s take a look’ said Hilding.

’Yust vun minute’ said Ole, ’I tell you someting about me. I am vun of dos special Norwegians dat is gifted. I tell you I haf the gift of a TALKING LEG!’

’Another crazy Norwegian,’ thought Hilding. But, he decided to humor Ole, ’OK, Ole, explain.’

’Vell, I haf no stetoscope so I can’t hear m’leg. Yust put yur stetoscope on m’leg... on m’tigh an listen.’ Hilding placed the stethoscope in his ears, then put the other end on Ole’s thigh. His hair [what little he had] stood on end as he heard, ’I need forty dollars!’ Stunned, Hilding jumped back, but Ole said, ’Now put it on m’knee!’ This time, Hilding heard ’I need tirty dollars!’ ’Now on m’ankle!’ said Ole. From the ankle, Hilding heard ’I need tventy dollars!’

"Well, I’ve never heard of such a thing’ said Dr. Hilding. ’I must go check m’books!’ Hilding went into his inside office and Ole could hear him shuffling and muttering to himself. After about 5 minutes Dr. Hilding came out with his glasses perched on the end of his nose, saying ’I found what’s wrong Ole, hear it is right in my book. The problem with your leg is, is that it’s BROKE!’

Unlike Sven, Ole, and Dr. Hilding in this joke, which leaves it up to us to conclude whether or not Ole’s leg got healed; our gospel today is a remarkable one in that it tells of Jesus definitely healing two people. It unfolds in a most interesting way in that the story of Jesus healing the woman with the 12-year hemorrhages is sandwiched in the middle of the story of Jesus healing Jairus’ daughter. By being sandwiched together, these two healing stories display at least three similarities. Let us take a closer look at these similarities to help us develop a clearer picture of these two incredible healings of Jesus.

One common thread in both of these healings is the appeals to Jesus directly for healing. Notice that in both of the healings Jairus and the woman suffering from hemorrhages APPEAL TO JESUS IN DESPERATION. It is as if Jesus were their ONLY LAST HOPE. No doubt Jairus, described here as “one of the leaders of the synagogue,” WAS A MAN HIGHLY RESPECTED IN THE COMMUNITY AND A MAN OF MEANS. Most likely he had already sought out EVERY OTHER RESOURCE WITHIN HIS JEWISH COMMUNITY BEFORE HE HAD COME TO JESUS. Quite likely he and his family, along with others in his synagogue had poured out their prayers and had done all of the prescribed rituals of their faith in order to heal the daughter from her death-threatening illness. Yet, nothing had happened. So now, in a last desperate effort, respectable Jairus, who had obviously heard of Jesus comes directly to him, and Mark tells us Jairus “FELL ON HIS FEET AND BEGGED HIM REPEATEDLY.” This is truly a sign of despair and humility on the part of a synagogue leader such as Jairus. In a similar manner, notice the details that Mark provides us with concerning the woman suffering from 12 years of hemorrhages. “SHE HAD ENDURED MANY PHYSICIANS, AND HAD SPENT ALL THAT SHE HAD; AND SHE WAS NO BETTER, BUT RATHER GREW WORSE.” She, like Jairus, had exhausted all of her possibilities and resources. Now she was in desperation. So she, like Jairus comes directly to Jesus in despair and humility because she too had heard of Jesus’ reputation. Twelve years of hemorrhages was long enough; after all, according to Leviticus 15:2-27, she was classified as an unclean and impure person. She was to be avoided by others in the community. She was forbidden to attend worship services at the synagogue. Her life would have been a very lonely one, and filled with one rejection after another. So she comes to Jesus out of humility and desperation. And later, when the healing occurs, she, like Jairus goes to Jesus “IN FEAR AND TREMBLING, FELL DOWN BEFORE HIM.” Is it also not true that even today Jesus still continues to welcome and heal those who come directly to him often out of desperation and with humility, like Jairus and the woman in today’s gospel? We do not have to be perfect to seek Jesus’ healing. Rather, we are invited TO COME AS WE ARE. For as Jesus reminds us elsewhere at Mark 2:17: “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.” SO WE ARE INVITED TO COME AS WE ARE TO JESUS DIRECTLY FOR HEALING BECAUSE WE ARE ALL SINNERS IN NEED OF JESUS OUR GREAT PHYSICIAN.

Another similarity in both of these healing stories is the connection of touching Jesus and believing, having the faith and confidence that such a touch is able to heal. Notice the words of appeal to Jesus by Jairus: “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.” And afterwards, when Jesus walks into the little girl’s room and heals her, Mark tells us that the first thing he did was: “He took her by the hand and said to her, “Talitha cum,” which means, “Little girl, get up!” A similar thing happens when Jesus heals the woman suffering from hemorrhages. This time however notice that it is the woman herself who takes the initiative to get close enough to Jesus, saying: “If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well.” Is this not also the case today as well? This is not some kind of magic or superstition happening here. No! Rather, it is by now an established fact that when humans are appropriately touched the body releases healing endorphins by the pituitary gland. That is why some say we need at least ten hugs every day for our health and well-being.

The church at its best is called to continue Jesus’ work as a healing community. That is why more congregations offer healing services on a regular basis. It is also why some are attracted to the church due to the love and acceptance they experience in the congregational setting. One church has developed the tradition of asking new members what the church means to them.

Recently, one new member wrote: “I feel an inner strength here at church, a strength I need to get me through the week. The touch of tenderness and caring from this congregation gives me such a warm feeling. Someone really cares through a smile and a handshake.”

As a congregation, we too may wish to consider and be more intentional about the ongoing healing ministry perhaps by more frequent healing services—not as an abandonment or condemnation of traditional medical treatment, but as a complementary practice along with it. One way in which we are involved in Christ’s healing ministry is through our prayers for the suffering and sick. And I know that that makes a big difference for a lot of people—giving them comfort, peace, hope and contentment. So I encourage you to continue with your prayers and am grateful to all of you who are faithful in this ministry.

A third similarity in both of these healing stories is that Jesus speaks directly to those who are healed. In the case of Jairus’ daughter, he says: “Talitha cum,” which means, “Little girl, get up!” And Mark tells us that is exactly what she did. In the case of the woman with the hemorrhages, after Jesus realised that someone in the crowd had touched him and power had gone forth from him, he wants to know who did touch him. So the woman comes to him in fear and trembling and fell down before him, and told him the whole truth. Then Jesus speaks, saying: “DAUGHTER, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.” This is a loaded sentence! Now, after 12 years of not belonging and being rejected this woman BECOMES A DAUGHTER OF JESUS’ FAMILY. Such a term certainly underscores the love and acceptance Jesus has for her. She is no longer unclean, impure; she is no longer only an anonymous woman; she is a DAUGHTER. She is restored and renewed and re-created in and by Jesus as a rightful member of his community. Notice too that he praises her for her strong faith in Jesus, which motivated her to take the initiative in the first place to seek out and find Jesus for healing. Then Jesus concludes his sentence by blessing her with peace, which in the biblical sense, means complete health and wholeness, confirming to this new daughter and to the crowd as well that her disease had been healed completely.

Are you feeling dead like Jairus’ daughter? Or perhaps you’re feeling ostracized, avoided, treated as if you no longer belong to the community, like the woman with the hemorrhages.

Death (and ostracism) meets us, not only in the grim face of our doctor, informing us of the onset of some dreaded illness, but also in the faces of the one who told us that we were not needed anymore at this job, the one who asked out of a marriage, a friend who turns her (or his) back upon us, the family member who would not forgive.

YET JESUS IS WITH US EVEN IN DEATH AND IN THE FACE OF OTHERS LEAVING US ALL ALONE. JESUS IS CALLING TO US STRONGLY, CLEARLY, LOUDLY, YET EVER SO LOVINGLY—HE IS GIVING US LIFE, TELLING US TO “GET UP!” WE TOO, LIKE JAIRUS’ DAUGHTER ARE OFFERED NEW LIFE IN HIM. HE IS RESTORING US, RENEWING US, RE-CREATING US LIKE HE DID WITH HIS DAUGHTER WHO SUFFERED FROM HEMORRHAGES. HE IS TELLING US THAT “OUR FAITH HAS MADE US WELL; WE CAN GO IN PEACE, WE TOO ARE HEALED OF OUR DISEASE.” Listen carefully now and take his words to heart; in them there is healing for us all!

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The Bible texts of the Old Testament, Epistle and Gospel lessons are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Church of Christ in the USA, and used by permission. Sermon contributed by Pastor Garth Wehrfritz-Hanson on Jun 21, 2003.
Ole went to Sven limping badly. ’Sven’ says Ole, ’do yiew know of a good doctor? M’leg hurts.

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