Notes from the Sermon by Jan Betts 20th May 2018 (this was a baptism service)
It was in September 2016 that we baptised Edie and Thor and it is very good to welcome all of you either back to All Hallows back or here for the first time, for the baptism of Edie and Thor’s siblings, Fraser Nye and Maeve Beatrice.
Last time I talked about Jesus wanting us to love God more than family, a tough text. I wiped the sweat off my brow when I read todays much kinder reading!
We are reading through Luke’s gospel at the moment. Luke was a doctor, a physician, who cared deeply about people being well and ill, about healing and wholeness, and he recognises and highlights Jesus’ longing for such healing and wholeness in people. Maybe that was what drew him to be a disciple in the first place, because we do respond to the invitation of Jesus from our own needs and passions. So in the last two weeks we have heard how Jesus can come into the stony places of our lives and make them fruitful, and how he cared for despised people who were outcasts. .. Jesus cares about people being healed physically and more importantly spiritually and emotionally. Jesus wants us to be totally alive.
Today in what could be called the tale of two daughters, we focus of two people who thought Jesus could do some healing for them. Jesus thought so too, but as always what Jesus does as well as what he says has more than one layer to it.
Both situations involve emotions which instantly speak to us. We have a father who was desperate for his really poorly daughter to be well again, and a woman equally unhappy, with a physical disability. Both were willing to do anything to get what they wanted but they needed courage and what must have felt like some extremely risky trust. And this risk was shared, in his total generosity and love, by Jesus.
Jairus was a ruler of the synagogue, a respected Jew. Jesus wasn’t yet the really troublesome figure he was going to become to the Jewish authorities, but he certainly wasn’t part of the Jewish hierarchy and he was a slightly maverick teacher who was a bit suspect. By coming to this maverick Jesus, Jairus the respected Jew is risking ridicule and his reputation, but he doesn’t care. As parents we will dare so much for our children! There was no other option left but the one of risky trust. Please will Jesus come and lay hands on his daughter, he asks. Jesus, who adored children, willingly went with him.
In the gospels we often find accounts of men and women running in parallel, underlining the way that men and women are equal before God. That’s the case here. There’s an interruption. The woman who interrupts Jesus and Jairus as they go to his house is as desperate as Jairus. She is permanently bleeding, perhaps from fibroids. Now bleeding women, – if you’ll pardon the phrase – were totally unclean in Jesus’ time, as they are in many countries today. They should keep themselves apart while menstruating, and were certainly not to be touched, or they made a man unclean. So here is a woman who is permanently outcast, always to be hidden, always feeling that she is unacceptable in public, in pain, and probably terrified. She can’t ask publicly that Jesus break the purity codes of the Jews and touch her. But there is no other option left. So she thinks that if she can only touch the tassels on Jesus’ outer garment, she might, just might, be healed, because Jesus was a healer and the tassels of his garment, the sign of his being an observant Jewish man, could be powerful. But she risked being rejected, and even physically abused if people recognised that she was touching a man while bleeding.
The woman was healed as Jesus was on his way to Jairus’ house. Helping and healing takes effort, on both sides. When our little ones are demanding and unable to access their emotions we need to listen carefully to find out what’s going on and it can be knackering to patiently listen and help in the way they want. So Jesus was aware of what had been asked of him, by being alert and sensitive to what was going on around him. Why does he not let the woman go away and go on his way with important Jairus?? He risks too: he acknowledges that he has been touched, and he very probably knows it was someone unacceptable because why else would it be secretive, but he still stops.
Because healing is about more than the body. Miracles are miracles of healed relationships probably more than of healed bodies. Jesus knew that anyone who touched him in need was probably unhappy as well as ill. He wanted the woman to be affirmed. He wanted her social isolation to be healed as much as her body. So Jesus shows immense courage himself, turning and acknowledging that he had been touched- and it turns out by an unclean woman, who he welcomes, and treats with dignity and calls daughter. And he probably looks at the crowd and dares them to molest the woman now he has said she is welcome to touch him, and dares them to say he has done something wrong in extending his love to her.
Then Jairus. He must have been so impatient, so longing to say to Jesus don’t stop, my child is ill and this is only an unclean woman and I am an important man. What are you bothering about? Jesus says effectively, ‘this daughter is as important as your daughter and I have time and love and courage enough for both’.. And then to underline Jairus’ point they hear the child is dead. ‘Hang in there’ says Jesus. I love you too.
Jesus is also willing to look like a fool, being mocked because the child is dead and what can be done for her? But he goes into the child and she is restored to her parents.
Jairus came and asked boldly, the woman had to be secretive. We can ask for healing up front so to speak, maybe even a bit defiantly, or we can creep to God and say maybe, if I just ask, just whisper, just go into a church and acknowledge God as God and say I’m desperate, or I’m stuck, or I’m really unhappy something might happen. God hears them both, hears the trust, the courage and the risk. Such prayer happens when we start unclenching our fists and reaching out, in vulnerability and need. Then God risks in return and trusts us to accept what is offered.
Life is iffy. It’s full of what if’s, especially at times of crisis. What if I did this or stopped doing that? What if I faced up to something? God is somewhere to go with the iffiness. What if I touched that hem and asked for God’s power to help over something? What would I lose? God asks us for the courage to trust and to open up to our what if’s. We need courage and trust to live life fully. Isn’t that the sort of life we would want our children to lead, to be absolutely willing to open themselves up to all that life has to offer, trusting in parents and friends and God.
These are two reflections of how Jesus is about life, and courage, and trust and vulnerability. We lay ourselves open to God and in return God can affirm us as people who have meaning, as people who matter. And God risks for us, risks our rejection.
Finally to underline the sense of life giving and changing that we have today it’s Pentecost. Jesus came as a baby at Christmas, God squashed down to live and experience as we do, God died at Easter, and was brought back to life – then left again. At Pentecost the spirit came, the new form of God with us, bringing courage and trust to frightened disciples cowering away in a little room not knowing what to with themselves. Life burst out in flames and then in the courage to preach about Jesus the risen God. Peter, the big blustering man who denied Jesus at his trial and crucifixion, had no trust or risk at all, rushed out and preached a totally fearless and absolutely cracking sermon on the risen Jesus.
What God did for Jairus and the unnamed woman changed their lives, as baptism today will change these children. There is no magic in the cross that they are signed with or in the water they are washed in but there is great symbolism. God has received these children through love, through the faith which brings you here and the acceptance into the family of God. The cross on their forehead will never disappear. It’s the mark of God’s love for them, of Jesus saying yes of course I’ll be there in your life, you are my loved children, trust me. It’s an act of God and we recognise that in our welcome of Maeve and Nye into our community.
What I said last time I say again
Nye and Maeve, our new brother and sister, we want to make you welcome. We want to say welcome to our Christian community here as well as to the enormous community of baptised people of God. We want to tell you that like your godparents who will make formal promises, we all want to support you and your parents as they bring you up in the way of Jesus, of truth and love, of life and trust and courage, knowing their – and our own – true place as children of God.
We know they will be hurt, through their own desires and through the desires of others. We can’t always protect them. They don’t always know what is best for them. But we want them to learn to steer a course though life which is full of loving life, of trust ad of courage to reach out to others. God has blessed them with his love. Let’s bless them with our love now.