May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be evermore acceptable unto thee Oh Christ our strength and our Redeemer. Amen
Happy Canada Day everyone. I am sure we will all be celebrating in the best possible way we know how, including being here at the church today. Each of you have made the commitment to turn up for the purpose of hearing God’s word spoken and interpreted and that is what we will do together. But even on this Canada Day we should all leave here feeling just a little challenged by what has been said here and by what we have done here.
Mark gives us pause today to think about the healing miracles performed by Jesus. As it was in his day, healing miracles were rare and like many skeptics in his day, he was perceived as a charlatan, a man coming among the people to separate them from their money.
You don’t have to be very long in this life before you begin to realize that when it comes to illness, miracles such as raising someone from near death or healing someone of chronic hemorrhages are indeed a rarity. Some of us here know full well what it is like to struggle with a life-threatening illness and to make peace with the treatment outcomes, even when the cure sometimes causes as much suffering as it solves and a cure, despite the best efforts of science, remains unlikely. We have all found ourselves praying for a miracle when we have had to stand by and watch a loved one struggle with a debilitating disease or illness.
Fortunately for us, we no longer live is first century Palestine and we can avail ourselves of the science of this twenty-first century with all its latest and greatest of advances. Medical research is to be highly valued, treatments protocols are to be followed… and still we need the healing touch of Jesus.
Let’s be honest: it is dreadfully difficult for any of us to successfully get our heads around the idea of miracles. Today is not the day I will try to convince you to believe in miracles; I would like instead to ask you to spend some time thinking about the need for us to believe that God’s healing powers were manifested in Jesus of Nazareth. I would like you think about the idea that those people whose lives he touched were made whole again. He was the salve who healed their infirmities.
I would like you to think about the idea that in witnessing those healing miracles, many people came to believe in Him as the one for whom they had been waiting and that through the Spirit of God which is present in us all, we have been given the abilities, each in our own way, to offer up words of comfort healing and wholeness as part of who we are as Christians. In other words, we all have the capacity to act as healers, being just the right sort of salve for those who struggle, at just the right time.
We find our Lord down by the Galilean Lake, moving about from place to place, this time by boat, preaching and healing in the local villages and towns amongst his own people; people whom he loved. Whilst teaching in the local synagogue, there is a desperate call from amongst the elders, to heal Jairus’s daughter, one of their own.
Why would a man like Jairus, a man of great distinction, and a follower of the law, an elder of the synagogue, a leader of the community approach an itinerant teacher, Jesus? Even before he arrived the word had gotten out that this Jesus of Nazareth had the ability to heal many of their infirmities and the simple answer is, as a parent of a critically ill child, wouldn’t you be frightened and desperate enough to beg for God’s healing touch no matter the source? I think everyone of us in a similar situation would seek assistance from whichever ways and means possible. Illness falls on young and old alike and does not show preferential treatment to those with higher social standing.
As a leader of the community Jairus learns what he has suspected all along, the authority of Jesus is greater than his own and his own faith in Jesus to heal has raised his daughter.
Our Lord’s attitude to women and children was not typical of his day and age. I guess you might say he was a first century Palestinian equal opportunity kind of guy. He saw the face of God in all people, even those who were ill.
The woman who dares to touch the hem of his garment is ritually impure and shouldn’t even be present in the synagogue, let along touch him in any way. Her illness renders her powerless within her own society, an outsider unworthy of his attention. Despite this, she relentlessly sought contact with him.
Her safety and her place within the community was dependent on Jesus healing her of her disorder. She reaches beyond the purity boundaries and audaciously, in a genuinely deep faith, to come into relationship with God, by touching the hem of his garment.
It seems to me that our Lord provided preferential care for those who were marginalized, those who were outcast and those whom society had silenced. It seems to me women were as much loved by our master as the men.
If we look to the right and to the left of us here in this congregation this day, I wonder, can we see in one another, the healing capacities which God has given all of us through our baptisms?
Some of you are professionally trained in a discipline where you have helped many people throughout the course of your career to heal and find a path forward to a better life. You have been their salve so to speak.
I am going to go out on a limb and say that at some point in time, all of us have been God’s agents here in this place and through our actions and care, we have been the salve for someone’s wound. I am sure you can remember a time in your life when you were wounded or ill and someone here in this place gave you their listening ear, guided your footsteps, supported you in prayer, helped you forward in your path to healing.
We are reminded that the great tradition of church communities over all these many centuries has been to provided care to the sick and marginalized. We can recall the order of St. Joseph, the nursing sisters who went into Hamilton, to set up sheds along the docks to treat typhoid fever victims. Some of the sisters lost their own lives to typhus while treating the sick. The sisters of Misericordia established the Scarborough General Hospital and the Grey Nuns, the hospital in Penetanguishene long before the province was able to respond to the medical needs of the people of the province, especially amongst the poor.
We all need to remind ourselves as a community of faith that healing sometimes involves the laying on of hands, a hug, a prayer or an unlikely quiet presence which allows for the shared absorption of loss and grief. All of these tasks are the work of the whole community here today and I am certain you are capable healers.
In the end we are reminded that healing takes many forms and as we gather to receive prayer and the laying on of hands, we know this is but one of many ways in which we receive the salve that we need to find wholeness in our lives.
Come unto me all that labour and are heavy laden and I will refresh you. God so loved world that all who believe in him should not perish but have eternal life. Words of comfort and healing. Words that our Lord might have spoken that day out there in Galilea. Amen.