Preached via Zoom to All Saints, King City, Anglican Diocese of Toronto, Sunday, 27 June, 2021, the Fifth Sunday After Pentecost.
Readings for this Sunday (Proper 13B): 2 Sam 1.1,17-27; Ps 130; 2 Cor 8.7-15; Mk. 5.21-43.
your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease”. (Mk 5.34).
Today I want
to talk about Jesus’ miracles of healing, how we receive them in our own time
and place, and how they invite us to see something of the kingdom of God.
gospel reading offers two stories of Jesus’ healing powers that are “sandwiched”
together, a favourite technique of Mark’s, so that the first story of Jairus’
daughter is interrupted by the second story of the healing of the woman. This pairing of stories, like the stories of
Jesus feeding the crowds, seems to point to the abundance of God’s power and
healing. The overall impression is of great
grace, power, and mercy.
Let’s take a
moment at the outset to acknowledge that some of us may have difficulty in
accepting these miracles, as some preachers I know have acknowledged. Likewise, I heard a seminary professor, a
man who had lost his legs to cancer as a boy, say that there is a reason why
the handicapped are not well represented in church. Besides the obvious barriers to access and mobility,
there was, he implied, a gap between the hope and promise of these stories and
the reality of lives that are constrained and limited.
we’re being honest, if you’ve lived to a certain age, as most of us have, then
you’ve seen disease and death first hand, as people we’ve loved have wasted
away and passed on, taken from our grasp.
That can live a psychic and emotional mark, to be sure, that may well
lead us to keep these healing stories at arm’s length.
All of which
makes me immensely respectful of prayer groups, like the one we have at All
Saints, people who regularly take up the challenge of praying for those in all
sorts of dire situations. Often they don’t
see their prayers answered in ways that look like the gospel stories. And yet these prayer warriors persist, with
patience and faith.
I’ve also known people, like a devout and
pious Anglican church musician, say without a scrap of doubt that God cured him
of a serious and debilitating disease. What
can we say about these differences in belief?
Do we simply say that they represent gradations of faith?
Faith – such
a simple and yet elusive word. Is it as
simple as Jesus says to the women with the haemorrhage – “your faith has made
you well”? Would we see more healings
if we were more faithful?
there’s a fine line between faith and desperation? Mark doesn’t tell us about Jairus’ faith,
but we know that his father’s love overcomes his pride, so he’s quite willing
to beg and lie at Jesus’ feet. Surely
our most powerful and earnest prayers come from our places of our greatest
need, so that despite all the evidence we have to the contrary, we are still
willing to plead with God. As the
psalmist says, from “Out of the depths have I called you, O Lord” (Ps 130:1).
begins in a place of urgent need, and throws itself on the mercy and love of God. The tone of the psalm is as much patient as
it is hopeful – the verb “wait” is repeated three times. There is no expectation of a rapid response
to the prayer, yet the waiting is justified because of the psalmist’s faith in
God’s goodness – “With him there is plenteous redemption”. The psalm has no where else to go except to
the goodness and love of God, represented ion Mark’s gospel in the very person
of Jesus, before whom Jairus throws himself and whose robe the woman clutches.
Jesus in the
gospels is not a doctor. His ministry
is not a kind of “Medicine Without Frontiers”.
In the gospels, especially John, his miracles are called “signs” – they point
to something greater than medicine. Those in the know, as in Mark’s gospel,
understand what the signs are telling us.
The healing miracles point to, the power of God shown in Jesus, and,
just as importantly, to the love of God shown in Jesus.
miracles are about Jesus noticing our suffering. Jesus follows Jairus and on the way, he sees
the woman in the crowd when no one else does.
What other reason does Jesus have to heal this woman? Why would he go out of his way to heal a sick
child, and why would he not want credit for not just healing her, but for raising
her from the dead?
miracles tell us simply this – that in our moments of greatest need, when we
cry from the depths of our desperate situations – Jesus will hear us and notice
us. To be sure, we live in an age of marvels,
like the Covid vaccines that didn’t exist a year ago, and we are grateful for
them. But beyond what science and
medicine can do for us, to whom can we turn except this God of love and compassion,
and yes, this God of power, though God’s power does not always work in ways
that we can understand.
What we can
understand, I think, is that these miracles are signs of the values of kingdom
of God. We as disciples, as subjects of
this kingdom should care about these values, we should care for them, broadcast
them, strive for them when possible. I
spoke of vaccines a moment ago – are there vaccines for all? Should we care about the gap between the
vaccination rates in the first world and in the third? Is there medicine for all? Is thre healing for all? Should we not want these things for all?
God’s signs of healing should likewise inspire
us to believe that healing is always possible.
Since healing is a core value of the kingdom of God, then we need to believe
it, pray for it, bring it before God, whether we pray for a sick friend, or pray
that God heal our communities and even our nation. We need to pray that God heals our race
relations, brings healing reconciliation with our First Nations. We need to pray for healing in all its forms –
even for food and shelter and addiction treatment and dignity for those on the
the girl from the dead – a promise of Easter, a promise of things to come, a
promise of God’s boundless hostility to death and decay and the sin that
corrodes our souls and pulls us from God. The miracles are signs of God’s determination
to fight and vanquish these things. As our days close down, we can only commend
our spirits into God’s hands, trusting that God will not let us go.