Jesus and his disciples have been criss-crossing the Lake of Tiberias, teaching, healing, and sharing the good news of God’s love. At today’s stop, Jesus gets out of the boat and prepares to teach the crowd that has gathered. As he begins, a “leader of the synagogue named Jairus comes, falls at his feet and begs Jesus repeatedly to heal his daughter who is at the point of death. ‘Come and lay your hands on her,’ he says, ‘So that she may be made well and live.’”
Imagine if that happened here. I’ve started my sermon, someone walks down the aisle, falls on the floor and begs repeatedly for the healing of their child. What could we do but go with the man? That’s what Jesus does. He follows the desperate father to see the ailing child.
I sometimes call Mark the Iron Gospel…Jesus always seems caught in the “press” of the crowd. That happens this time, too. As Jesus follows Jairus, the crowd again presses in on him.
In that pressing crowd is a woman…a woman who shouldn’t have been there. She’d had a flow of blood for 12 years…which meant she was, according to Jewish law, unclean. Those who were unclean were excluded from their community. Mark tells us that “she had endured much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had; and she was no better, but rather grew worse”
But, in defiance of religious law, when she spots Jesus, she makes her way through the crowd and touches Jesus’ cloak, for she said, “If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well.” When she touches the cloak, immediately, her bleeding stops. She feels in her body that she is healed of her disease.
In his body, Jesus feels healing power flowing out. He looks around to see who’s done it. The woman, knowing what had happened to her, comes in fear and trembling, falls down before him, and tells him the whole truth. She tells him the whole truth. She tells him her whole truth. She shows who she is to Jesus and to everyone else. Jesus says to her: “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”
Mark also is the Sandwich Gospel. (With the press and the sandwiches, maybe we should call it the Panini Gospel.) Often, Mark will start telling one story, skip to another story, then go back and finish the first story. It’s a rhetorical device meant to invite reflection on the two stories together.
Which makes you wonder… While he’s still speaking to the woman, some people come from the leader’s house to say, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the teacher any further?” Overhearing them, Jesus says to Jairus, “Do not fear, only believe.” When they get to Jairus’ house, Jesus heals his daughter.
So, here’s what I’m wondering… Did Jesus’ encounter with the woman on the way to Jairus’ house inspire him to act differently than he might have had he not had that encounter? Jairus was the leader of the synagogue, one who was keenly aware of the need to keep religious laws. Did the woman’s determination to be healed–a determination that exceeded the boundaries of the laws of her religion–did the woman’s determination to be healed open Jesus’ mind and heart to more expansive ways of healing?
There’s no way to know for sure…but what if it did? What if that woman–I’m going to call her Miriam…Do you ever get tired of women remaining nameless in the Bible? What if Miriam, who’d been excluded for so many years, who’d been silenced for so many years, what if it was Miriam’s determination to be healed and–finally–speak her whole truth, what if Miriam’s claiming and naming her healing is what paved the way for Jairus’ daughter–let’s call her Leah–to be healed?
Today’s the last Sunday of Pride month. It’s been a good one. Thanks to Ellie Charlton, we’ve had these pretty rainbows adorning the sanctuary. A rainbow meme on our Facebook page got over 2,000 engagements! (Y’all share everything you can from our Facebook page!)
The highlight of Pride month for me was hearing our Coordinator for Youth Ministries Andrew Hoots share his coming out story. There was one thing Andrew said during Children’s Time last week that has stayed with me. He said there were times in the past when he did not feel like he was a part of God’s family. That statement broke my heart.
I’m glad Andrew knows and now feels like he is part of God’s family…. But how many people out there still don’t know it? How many people are afraid to “tell their whole truth” for fear of being excluded…or worse?
Because we’ve been an Open and Affirming congregation for so long, it’s easy to forget the importance of sharing the Good News that God loves every single person. It’s easy to forget that saying God loves everyone, including people in the LGBTQ+ community, isn’t just good news, it’s NEWS–new information–for many people.
Part of the reason I invited Andrew to share his story with us is because sharing our stories of healing, boldly declaring our whole truth…that’s a big part of how we act the world into wellbeing. As we saw in today’s stories from Mark–healing begets healing. When each of us tells our whole truth, not only do we heal a little more ourselves, but telling our stories invites others to tell their stories. That’s already happened since Andrew shared his story with us two weeks ago. (By the way, Andrew isn’t here today. He’s in Augusta celebrating his first Pride with Josh…and doing research for Blue Ridge Pride in September.)
One more story of healing. I first met Rachel Small in a Contextual Education group I co-led at Candler School of Theology. Rachel was in the process of coming out and wondering how she was going to be ordained in the Methodist church. She started asking about the UCC, then Rachel and her now wife, Leslie, began attending the church I pastored.
Living into her whole truth wasn’t a simple or quick process for Rachel. But as I have watched her grow into the amazing pastor, wife, and mother she now is, I have seen in Rachel the same determination to heal that we’ve seen in Jairus, and the woman with the flow of blood, aka Miriam, and Andrew, and Valerie…and so many people in this room and those tuning in online. And now, because of Rachel’s determination to heal, because she has told her story, because she is living her whole truth, others have and will continue to find courage to speak their whole truth.
As congregationalists, we are not a creedal people. Some of our churches include the reading of creeds or statements of faith in their worship services, but there is no rule that we MUST believe in everything we read in those creeds. So…we aren’t a creedal people…but today, I want to invite us to read a creed Rachel wrote this week.
Rachel says she was voice-texting “the Apostle’s creed” to a colleague, and it translated as “The Sparkle Creed.” Rachel decided that’s exactly what we need for Pride Month: a “Sparkle Creed.” So, she (with some help from the Holy Spirit) wrote one.
As Pride month ends, I invite us all to read the “Sparkle Creed.” Not as a test of faith, to be sure. But as a way of celebrating all people who, through their determination to heal, have found a way to tell their whole truth.