The Episcopal Church of the Holy Innocents
Jesus, Giver of Life Children’s Message and Adult Sermon adapted by the Rev. D W Hinkle
Pentecost 6 Proper 8B July 1, 2018
Scripture: Mark 5:21-43 “21 When Jesus had crossed again in the boat* to the other side, a great crowd gathered round him; and he was by the lake. 22Then one of the leaders of the synagogue named Jairus came and, when he saw him, fell at his feet 23and 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.’ 24So he went with him. And a large crowd followed him and pressed in on him. 25Now there was a woman who had been suffering from haemorrhages for twelve years. 26She had endured much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had; and she was no better, but rather grew worse. 27She had heard about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, 28for she said, ‘If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well.’ 29Immediately her haemorrhage stopped; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. 30Immediately aware that power had gone forth from him, Jesus turned about in the crowd and said, ‘Who touched my clothes?’ 31And his disciples said to him, ‘You see the crowd pressing in on you; how can you say, “Who touched me?” ’ 32He looked all round to see who had done it. 33But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling, fell down before him, and told him the whole truth. 34He said to her, ‘Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.’
35 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?’ 36But overhearing* what they said, Jesus said to the leader of the synagogue, ‘Do not fear, only believe.’ 37He allowed no one to follow him except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James. 38When they came to the house of the leader of the synagogue, he saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. 39When he had entered, he said to them, ‘Why do you make a commotion and weep? The child is not dead but sleeping.’ 40And 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. 41He took her by the hand and said to her, ‘Talitha cum’, which means, ‘Little girl, get up!’ 42And immediately the girl got up and began to walk about (she was twelve years of age). At this they were overcome with amazement. 43He strictly ordered them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat.”
Sermon: “Talitha cum…Little girl, get up!”
Today Mark gives us two stories to think about, one sandwiched within the other. This is a favorite story-telling technique of this evangelist. The bread is the story of Jesus raising the 12 year old daughter of the synagogue leader, Jairus from the dead, and the meat and cheese is the story of the healing of a woman with a 12 year hemorrhage. Both are stories about females. Both are stories about giving life.
In Jesus’ culture, female children are less valued than males and bleeding women are no good for nothin’. As far as I know, to this day, this is still true in every culture of the world except those that’ve been influenced by the message of Jesus. Whether Mark arranged this double narrative to make the point or things actually unfolded like this, we have before us a powerful affirmation of the dignity and worth of all women and girls.
Today, little girls are commodities of the sex trade. As your own church member, Gail South, states in her recent letter to the local Sandpaper, “It would surpass many Americans, although no regular reader of The Sandpaper, to know that slavery still exists. In fact, right now, more than 40 million people are someone else’s property - enslaved in factories, fishing boats, and brothels.” Those are sad statistics for our times.
In certain countries, Jairus’ 12 year old, whom he calls his “thugatrion” or “my darling little daughter,” would already be a seasoned whore with a life expectancy of perhaps 30 years; or she would’ve been aborted from the womb, or sold as a bride to an old man, or widowed into the heart-rending public shame of widowhood, where the choices were to whore or to die.
Today, as in prior times, these crimes against women and girls are not only sanctioned but even commanded... by religions, no less. There is nothing more shameful than the sex ethics of all religions, including our own. They all treat the female gender as dirty, dangerous, and dishonorable, and women as essentially throwaway commodities. The tender love of Jairus, a prominent Jew, for his daughter shows that Judaism was lightyears ahead of the pagan cultures that surrounded it, but it still shuns a bleeding woman as ritually unclean. The readiness of Jesus to touch in public a ritually unclean, twelve year shunned woman, and raise a little girl by touching her dead hand, shows what Christianity should be doing, but seldom does.
Is there something significant about the “twelve years” in these two stories: twelve years bleeding, twelve years old? Yes. Think “twelve tribes of Israel” and “twelve disciples.” If we take our cue from this and read the symbols, we might say that Jesus raised both from the death imposed on women and girls by religion: the women from the death of social ostracism by the laws of their religion, the girls from the general burden of religious humiliation into a new life beyond religion. In our cases their religion brought to the woman a specific kind of death, to the girl a general death under its laws.
12 years old is the age of the bar and bat mitzvah, when a child becomes responsible to obey the law of Moses. Can we read this as saying that at this significant point in her life, Jesus raised the little girl from the death of being a female under Mosaic ritual into a freedom in which she can touch menstruating women, touch corpses and still be in good standing with God? Can we read it as saying that little girls are beloved by God as much as little boys, and that both sexes share the divine image? Absolutely! The Church has always baptized both males and females. This is how they should be read. And this reading gives the lie to male politicians blatant attempts to control women’s bodies in our own day.
I remind you that one of the 14 Benedictions recited as part of the regular liturgy in the synagogue at the time of Jesus said, “I bless you Lord God for making me a man and not a woman.” (I imagine the women were all quietly praying “I bless you Lord God for making me a woman and not a man.” at the same time.) Jesus silences that pernicious lie, that men are favored above women, forever.
By now you see that our Lord rode roughshod over the ritual taboos and purity laws of Moses. He did not shy from publicly touching a bleeding woman, Page 3 of 4 the most disgusting of creatures under the Law, confounding the cultural horror of female pollution. He insisted the gesture be public: she touched him secretly; he called her out of the crowd openly.
She shouldn’t have been in the crowd in the first place. Everyone she bumped into she polluted. Had they known, they would’ve killed her. Jesus virtually proclaims that she and he have touched, and that instead of her polluting him, he has purified her. Jesus the Life giver. Jesus the debunker of Religion.
And he took a corpse by the hand, touching the other great pollutant, the dead body. He goes out of his way for just a little girl, a dowry nuisance at worst, and a sex commodity at best. Jesus declares her divine image, and restores her life, a new life, beyond the humiliation of religion and society.
As we continue to read and see the evils of religion around the world and in our own country, Mark’s two vivid stories sandwiched together will stick in our minds and continue to remind us that Jesus, not religion, loves little girls and struggling women. All the trash that religion throws away or keeps in its ritual garbage bags, Jesus especially loves and gives fullness of life. And of course he does this for all of us who ask him.
Jesus will take us by our dead hand and say, “Talitha cum…Little girl, get up!” “Arise!” And we will get up and walk away from our fears and all those religious do’s and don’ts, all the classifications of people as good or bad, in or out, all the stereotypes and provocations. Get up! Walk away from all that! Walk into the freedom of Jesus’ true life, beyond the violence of religion and the religion of violence!
“For freedom Christ has set us free; stand fast, therefore, and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery.” (to the yoke of... religion.) Galatians 5:1.
“Imagine there’s no religion.” (John Lenin)
Source: Jesus, Giver of Life by Robert Hamerton-Kelly