June 27, 2021 The 5th Sunday after Pentecost

June 27, 2021, The 5th Sunday After Pentecost
The Rev. R. Allan McCaslin 

Readings:  2 Samuel 1:1, 17-27; Psalm 130; II Corinthians 8:7-15; Mark 5: 21-43

Please pray with me, ”May the words of my mouth, and meditations of all our hearts, be acceptable in your sight, O God, our Strength and our Redeemer.” Amen. (Please be seated.)

    I find the Psalms to be a gift because through the words of the Psalmist, words that at times express utter bewilderment, anger, joy, confidence, you name it, run the whole gamut of human emotion. The Psalms affirm that it is okay to be honest with God at all times and to feel free to express our anger, joy, grief, disappointment, and hopes to the God who has been revealed to us as not only our Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer, but the God who desires to be in community with everything and everyone God has created.

    But there is something about today’s Psalm that really touched my heart this week. Perhaps it is from my sense that neighbors, friends, and surviving family members of those killed in the horrific collapse of a condominium complex in Miami, Florida, truly know what it is like to not just call out for comfort and strength in the midst of grief, but cry out to God from the very depths of their soul, “Lord hear my voice!”  And like the Psalmist and like David who, in today’s reading from Samuel, was heartbroken at the death of his beloved friend Jonathan – a heartbreak that scarred him with a depth of grief that lasted his entire life, I know that many of you, many of us, have faced times of overwhelming bewilderment and loss. We, too, have cried out, “Lord, hear my voice” and then waited (and waited) for God to respond.

    I believe the women described in today’s gospel lesson truly understood such times. No doubt, they had called out to God from the very depths of their souls and waited. Waited for God to respond.

    Mark tells us about a little girl who, at twelve years of age – on the verge of puberty and the ability to bring forth new life – is dying. Her father, as leader of the local synagogue, is the most important and influential man in the community. His name is Jairus and he is a gentile convert to the Jewish faith. He intercedes on his daughter’s behalf, falls at Jesus’ feet and begs him to come and “lay hands” on his daughter so that she might be healed. Jesus agrees to go with him. As Jesus moves through the crowd to go to this child, a woman – a menstruating gentile woman who is slowly bleeding to death – bleeding for twelve years: dares to reach out and touch this holy man.

We need to understand how shocking this whole episode appeared to those present. See, in 1st Century Palestine, women were excluded from holding any position of authority outside the home simply because of their gender. And women did not speak to Rabbis unless spoken to and a woman would never touch a Rabbi unless invited to do so because in touching him she would make him unclean. In addition, menstruating women were never allowed to venture out in public. Menstruation was associated with death and disease, and uncleanliness. Children were even more restricted and little girls were considered to be absolutely worthless. And above all else, it was believed that Gentiles had no hope of ever experiencing the promises of God. Nevertheless, this woman persists and touches Jesus.

     Mark says that feeling her touch and his healing power go forth, Jesus turned and asked, “Who touched me?” This poor woman who has, do doubt, called out for God’s help from the depths of her very soul; this poor woman whom, Mark says, has been exploited by all her physicians who promised a cure and took her money instead; this woman who, according to the all the rules of society and religion is considered dirty and unwelcome, this woman who has nothing to give kneels before Jesus and confesses that it is she who touched him. Jesus responds, “My daughter, your faith has made you well.” In those simple words, God has responded. Jesus chooses to break through all those rules that seek to exclude people from any sense of community, any sense of dignity and worth, and instead of chastising her which would have been the norm, Jesus puts God’s love and how true people of God should treat each other into action: he raises her up as a child of God. Her gender and place in society, religion, politics, whatever separates us - mean nothing to him. It is her faith that unites her to Christ and welcomes her into God’s community as an equaldaughter and child of God.

     The story goes on and the little girl has died. Jesus enters her room and restores her to life. And, in true southern fashion, tells her family to give her something to eat. I think that is one of the more telling parts of this story. Not only does Jesus restore life, but regardless of who or what we are, our Lord invites us to God’s table. Jesus welcomes all to God’s banquet because in God’s Kingdom all who call upon the name of the Lord, all those who called from the very depths of their soul, will be saved; all are welcome, and all means all.

      This fascinating story from the Gospel according to Mark is a reminder, a timely reminder, of how easy it is to exclude or outright ignore others – especially those who are different from us. The community described in today’s gospel lesson believed that the Kingdom of God was for them and them alone! How often the church has said the same thing. “Only people like us are welcome in God’s Kingdom. Only people like me are allowed in this church.” I know there was a time in my life I not only said those words, but demonstrated them, and I wonder what hell I created by saying such things. Yet, this Jesus – this Lord over storms, demons, illness and health, this Lord over life and death -  conferred on these Gentiles – these unwelcome and despised outsiders - the incredible miracle of God’s welcoming grace.

     In today’s reading from II Corinthians Paul speaks about God’s grace. In verses 13 and 14, he uses the image of wealth saying that each of us should have enough to satisfy our own needs and at the same time, share any excess with others who, in turn are obliged to do the same. He is speaking of the fairness and equity that is a part of, a hallmark of, God’s Kingdom, of God’s people. He reminds the church of Exodus 16 – the story of manna in the desert, the bread from heaven where God provided enough so that, as our text says, “One who had much did not have toomuch and one who had little did not have too little.” And that is Paul’s point. God provides enough for all and to all, and all must share what they have received. This Exodus story occurred just after the people of Israel received the Ten Commandments - those tenets that speak of our duty to God and to our neighbor. Those words echoed in our baptismal covenant, which says all are loved by God and deserving of dignity and our respect. St. Paul says, “There’s enough to go around for all to be filled. God’s grace is not ours alone.” Jesus offers life and health to both Jew and Gentile. Male, female, adult, child, it doesn’t matter who or what you are. God reaches out to all. God offers life to all. St. Paul says that we who have received God’s grace have received more than we need, and we must let others share in it because it is not ours to keep or withhold. It is not ours alone.

     And that brings us back to the heartfelt felt despair heard in the voice of our Psalmist. See. there are those in this community this morning – neighbors – who are crying out “Lord, hear my voice” and waiting for God to respond. Many have been waiting for a very long time. That neighbor could be someone who passes by this church each day but doesn’t know who we are and what believe and because of being excluded from their family’s church are afraid to ask, afraid to come in. That neighbor may be the person in the next pew, the next street, the next town, the next state. Our lessons this morning urge us to grasp that no one need wait any longer. God’s grace is available to all who will ask for it and take it. God’s grace is waiting to be poured out on all who seek God, all who have cried from the depths of their souls, all who feel that they are unwelcome. God’s grace, beloved, is waiting for you and me to share it, to live it, to be that answer from God so many have ached to hear, to say to our neighbor, “My daughter”, my son, my child, my friend, my stranger, “your faith has made you” not only well, but welcome. Now, Come and be filled”.

   You know, our Psalm which began “Out of the depths have I called to you, O lord. Lord hear my voice” ends with the affirmation, “in the Lord there is mercy; in the Lord there is plenteous redemption.” By God’s grace may each of us through our choices in how we live and speak demonstrate not only that welcoming mercy and redemption of God, that welcoming grace of God, but be living proof that God has, indeed, heard their voice. Amen.