Sermon for 27th June 2021 from Nikki Firth

Mark 5: 21-43 2 Corinthians 8:7-24


How easy do you find it to stay on task? Can you remain completely focussed and see a project through to the end? Do you find yourself stuck, having ideas and visions but not quite knowing where to start? Are you a planner, rigid in your thinking as you know that is how you get the job done? I wonder how many of you have put this time aside to worship today, yet have already found yourself planning what you will eat later, thinking about the pile of ironing you must tackle or anything else that randomly pops into your head?
This last week has been a week full of interruptions for me, almost every plan I put in place changed. A forgotten school bag and a puncture saw Monday’s plans scuppered barely before the day started, a positive covid test for a friend saw plans change once again later in the week. A chance encounter with a family whom I know from church but had not seen for some time, meant that day was changed too. Now some of these interruptions seem like nothing more than inconveniences I could have done without, yet others like that chance encounter changed the day in a positive way and made a difference.

Our Gospel reading today starts just after Jesus has healed a demon possessed man, got in the boat with his disciples and crossed to the other side of the river. I wonder what Jesus had planned next. Well, whatever it was that He had planned didn’t happen! He is greeted by crowds of people and Jairus one of the synagogue leaders comes to Him in utter desperation. His 12-year-old daughter is dyeing, he falls at the feet of Jesus and begs for Him to go and lay hands on her so that she might be healed. The next part simply reads ‘so He went with him’ Wow, Jesus hears Jairus and simply goes with him, if He were thinking about all the other things, He could have been getting on with, we see no hint of that here.
I wonder what Jairus was feeling? This person at whose feet he had fallen, had listened, noticed and responded, Jesus was on His way to lay hands and heal his daughter – the sense of urgency for him must have been so great, I imagine he probably had a sense of fear and impending doom in the pit of his stomach, he was about to lose his precious child, yet that as mixed up with this sense of hope and relief, Jesus was on His way to heal her – what a rollercoaster of emotions! Jairus had stepped out in faith, grabbing at what he probably saw as the last chance for his daughter to be saved and begged Jesus to help him.

Picture the scene, Jairus a well-known respected man of importance is taking Jesus to his daughter, the streets are bustling, and crowds are building, some have heard about Jesus and are following along to see what is going on, others may have just seen the crowds and decided to follow, not really knowing why, but wanting a front row position to see whatever was brewing. I picture it like the scenes we saw last week of the approach to Wembley stadium, if you had a cat there would certainly not be room to swing it (not that I endorse anyone swinging cats, or any other animals under any circumstances!)
Everyone is bustling around, and Suddenly Jesus stops and asks who touched him, the crowds are all looking around in confusion and nobody steps forward. The disciples at this
point probably think Jesus is going a bit crazy, they say to him “look at all of these crowds, how can you say who touched me?” but this is the amazing thing, Jesus knows the difference from someone casually brushing past him and someone reaching out in need. Jesus knows someone has been healed and wanted them to identify themselves.
A woman steps forward, she is suffering from bleeding and has had this issue for 12 years. Before the bleeding started, she probably would have had a good life and status. We read how she had spent all that she had on doctors trying to get well, yet still she suffered. 12
years since the illness begun, here she is, not only still suffering from this acute gynaecological issue, that would have probably been painful and exhausting but due to the laws she also finds herself ostracised, an outcast in her own town.

In Leviticus 15:19-33 we read about the laws around bleeding, when a woman was bleeding, they were deemed unclean, everything and everyone they touched would also be seen as unclean, during menstruation women had to hide away so as not to dirty others, with everything they touched needing to be cleaned. Once the bleeding finished, they had to wait 7 days before going back to their day to day lives. If the bleeding was like what this woman had, irregular and not normal menstruation on the rare occasion, if ever the bleeding stopped, she would have to wait 7 days, then on the 8 th day, she was required to take a pair of turtle doves or pigeons to the priest, he would use one as a sin offering and the other as a burnt offering to make atonement for this unclean discharge. It was believed that this awful suffering would have been brought on herself through sin. The requirement was for the bleeding to stop and to be able to afford the birds that were needed, and we have already heard how she had spent all that she had on doctors trying to get well – this atonement was not something that was accessible to her. Following those laws and the fact she had been bleeding for 12 years it is highly likely she lived alone and in isolation, shunned by those around her who she used to call her friends, on the occasions she ventured out she would have been required to shout UNCLEAN to warn people of her presence, I imagine people would have stopped looking at her or noticing her and instead would shuffle off to look after themselves whenever she was around.

I wonder what all those people thought as this woman stepped forward, were they thinking about the cleaning rituals they would need to do, just because they were in the same place as she was, how they would be affected? Were they thinking about Jesus, did they think that he had noticed someone touching Him because of what the law meant He would now need to do? How about Jairus? Jesus was on His way to see his daughter, the last hope to save her and now this woman, someone he would have turned his back on and had shunned away from the temple where he led had got in the way. Did Jairus see his last hope slipping away knowing that Jesus would have to turn back, wash himself, his clothes and still be unclean until evening – in which case it would be too late, his child would be dead?

Jesus was on His way to fulfil a culturally appropriate request, healing a sick child yet when distraction comes along, an interruption by a woman, something that would be deemed an undesirable interaction Jesus stops and he sees her.
As the woman steps forward she is trembling, I think this is quite understandable. She has
gone 12 years being shunned and not noticed, to suddenly being seen and is at the centre of what could turn out to be quite a scandal. The woman falls at the feet of Jesus, as she does so, she pours out her heart, tells Him her story and Jesus stands there, with the crowds watching on and He listens. Jesus sees a woman who is in despair, who has tried everything to help herself, yet the suffering continues. Some might say this woman acted selfishly, putting others at risk of breaking the law, coming between others and God, but Jesus sees her, he sees the bravery, courage and faith it took for her to reach out and touch Him, He does not just heal her physically he restores her spiritually and socially too, He calls her daughter. Jesus affirms her identity publicly, not an identity that is found in law, but an
identity that can only be found in trust, she was a woman of great faith, and he declares
that she brought her own healing into place, not through the money spent on doctors, or
through following the law, but through her trust in Him. He redefined her to who she really
was before God, she had known this in her own heart and had found the courage to move
into action and claim it, by reaching out and touching the cloak of this man, Jesus, the same
man who Jairus, a man of power had also knelt before.
Whilst all of this is going on some other people come rushing up, they were from the house
of Jairus. They declare “Your daughter is dead, why trouble the teacher any further” can you
imagine the silence that would have fallen upon the crowds, the 12-year-old daughter of the
synagogue leader had died – they had hoped Jesus would heal her, yet the distraction and
subsequent healing of this woman meant that a child had died. When Jesus hears what has
happened, he says to Jairus “do not fear, only believe” I cannot even begin to imagine what
Jairus must have been feeling, he had just seen with his own eyes this miraculous healing,
did this help him to believe and have hope that there may still be a chance for his own
daughter, or did he simply slip into a state of despair?
Although Jesus had stopped when the woman reached out and touched Him, it did not
distract Him from what He had set out to do, he continued on His way allowing no one but
Peter, James and John (the brother of James) to follow Him. When they arrived at the house
there was a real commotion going on, the grief in the air was tangible, sobbing and wailing
all around. Then along comes Jesus and declares that the child is not dead and is in fact
sleeping, they all laughed at Him, who could blame them? Jesus sent everyone outside apart
from the child’s parents, he took her hand and said get up, and just as He had commanded
the little girl rose and began walking around. Everyone was absolutely astonished and
amazed, but in a stark contrast to the way Jesus had called the woman with the bleeding
out so that her miraculous healing would be seen publicly, with this little girl He insisted
they tell no one and simply instructed them to give her something to eat.
I am hoping you are all still with me, and have not become distracted yet?

We all have times that we become distracted, sometimes those distractions work for the
best, other times we take our eye off the end goal. There is an art to recognising the things
we should allow ourselves to be distracted by. We start things and don’t see them through
to completion. How many times do you go into a room to do one thing, notice something
else, do that instead and realise later that you have not achieved the first thing you set out
to do, or worse still forget completely about your original goal?
Jesus had His vision – He was going to heal Jairus’s daughter, but still He made time to stop
when the woman touched Him – once He acknowledged and affirmed her healing He
continued on His way, to do what He had set out to do originally.
In the message version of the reading from Corinthians that we heard today Paul has this to
Here is what I think, the best thing you can do right now is to finish what you started last
year, and not let those good intentions grow stale. Your heart has been in the right place all
along. You have got what it takes to finish up, so go on.
We have so much to learn from these two readings –
How many follow Jesus, yet fail to reach out and touch Him?
Dare we step forward, again and again, to reach out and touch the cloak of Jesus, so just like
that woman we too can claim our identity not through the world, the law or anything we
bring upon ourselves, but through the one who bled for the redemption of all?
As Jesus saw the marginalised woman and the dead girl, even the important man, so He
see’s you and me. He see’s where we are weak and where we are strong. Sometimes it feels
like we can’t do anything to make the world a better place, but actually, we can, often all we
need to do so that the presence of God can be felt by those that that need it, is simply
allowing ourselves to become distracted, stopping, seeing, listening and affirming – then
heeding the advice of Paul and following the example of Christ, make time for what needs
to be done and then continue on your way to finish whatever it is that God has placed on
your heart to see through to completion.

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