Sermon 1st July 2018

ST COLUMBA’S, PONT STREET

SUN 01 JUL 2018

Listen here  https://soundcloud.com/user-942286720/sermon-01-jul-2018

 

But the woman, knowing what had happened to her,

came in fear and trembling, fell down before him,

and told him the whole truth.
Jesus said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well;

go in peace and be healed of your disease.” Mark 5:33-34

 

On a day of two baptised daughters – Ava and Hannah –

the gospel delivers a tale of two daughters.

The story within a story; one healing, bookended by start and finish of another;

seemingly separate, their parallels deepening their meaning.

In a week where governments, on both sides of the Atlantic,

have displayed their attitude towards those beyond their borders –

migrant plight or migrant peril

and in a week where we mark seventy years of the National Health Service,

will the gospel inform, shape or challenge our thinking –

as parents, as people free vote, as people of faith.

 

A Tale of Two Daughters:

Jairus, A leader of the synagogue; powerful, privileged, accepted, male.

Yet suddenly rocked, by his helplessness to save his sick child.

What would he not do to bring her health?

Perhaps he has tried everything –

perhaps the travelling rabbi is his last throw of the dice;

Uncaring now what his religious colleagues would say about

associating with the one with the unconventional,

some would say, dangerous reputation.

So Jairus the father goes and implores.

And his plea is answered. Take me to her.

 

But along the way, someone else’s life gets in the way.

She could not have been more different.

Twelve years sick, haemorrhaging life blood,

her money gone on failed medicines,

shunned into silence by bad religion –

ritually impure, impoverished, female and vulnerable.

Yet, she too, like Jairus, desperate.

And in that pushing, jostling, last chance saloon crowd,

She reaches out to grab, to hold, just to brush –

what she longs, might be the fabric of life,

the garment, that one day soldiers would play dice for, outside Jerusalem’s walls.

 

Jesus senses something has gone out from him;

the healer bears a cost, imposed by the healed.

Amid the throng he halts, asks Who touched me?

The disciples roll their eyes – Boss, we’re packed like sardines here – it could be anyone.

But Jesus seeks something more from the one who sought him.

For the one isolated by illness, he desires not just health, but restoration.

The one comes, aware of her shocking trespass committed –

the rabbi rendered impure by her impulsive action.

In fear and trembling, she falls down before him,

and tells him the whole truth.
perhaps for the first time someone really listens to what she needs to say.

Jesus is the one who finds the time.

 

Let me take a slight detour:

10 Things Girls Need Most…to grow up strong and free:

The catchy title, for a recent book on parenting daughters, by psychologist, Steve Biddulph;

Remedial work for this father of a daughter (?)

Amid the ten Things Most Needed – time and attention.

 

“Hurry is the enemy of love” – our busyness is out of hand.

When people are busy connections are weakened,

children don’t discuss their problems,

parents become tense and lose intimacy.

Children are managed and herded, rather than being nurtured.

School teachers and nurses complain of not being permitted time to care.

 

This week a teacher of primary school age told me

of a female pupil who has started self-harming, by cutting herself –

she cannot be older than eleven.

A committed, evangelical Christian, he asked

What does Jesus look like in that situation?

Perhaps, he partially answered his own question –

by being attentive enough, caring enough,

to pick up early signs of the girl’s distress.

 

Back on the road to the house of Jairus,

the action has halted while Jesus nurtures the return of a lost child.

Instead of condemning her action, he praises her faith;

instead of unclean, he calls her Daughter.

[Reminder: “I need you, in order to be myself.” John McMurray;

We are only fully human in relationship.]

 

At the same time in this upside-down kingdom world,

the need of the least takes precedence

over the celebrated and powerful.

The wealthy man must wait for the healing of a destitute woman

before the healing of his daughter.

 

At the approach of the NHS’ 70th Anniversary,

one closer observer of that battered and bruised institution,

observed that it continues to provide unparalleled access to health care

for the most vulnerable in society,

ensuring, as best it can, that neither the elderly, nor the young,

miss out on medical care because of inability to pay.

 

By now, Jairus is surely beside himself, as delay seems to snuff out his last hope.

The parent who has gone all out for the child,

reputation and dignity, now a small price to pay for the life of his girl.

This week there has been much political talk about migration.

In the USA there has been the furore about separation of children at borders.

The President has recently signed an executive order

to end his own administration’s policy of separating children from their parents

when families enter this country to seek asylum.

This has been a little more on my radar for two reasons;

irstly because of a friend writing to me from the States

about the work of his church,

ministering to a congregation that is largely drawn from newly arrived migrants.

It is not an easy road and their work sits uneasily

with the smooth administration of official Church.

As our youngest elder, Kevin form the Congo,

explained to representatives of the presbytery,

“In Africa when your sister is ill, you don’t ask her to sign a load of papers.

You simply give her what she needs.”

 

And secondly, I am a little haunted by a poem this week from Warsan Shire

a British writer, poet, editor and teacher,

who was born to Somali parents in Kenya, east Africa.

The poem, entitled Home, has been called

“a rallying call for refugees and their advocates.”

In a series of refrains it conveys the desperation of those who flee

because home is no longer safe, for them or their children.

 

no one leaves home unless
home is the mouth of a shark

you have to understand,
that no one puts their children in a boat
unless the water is safer than the land
no one spends days and nights in the stomach of a truck
…unless the miles travelled
means something more than journey.

 

no one leaves home

until home is a voice in your ear
saying-leave,
run away from me now
I don’t know what I’ve become
but I know that anywhere
is safer than here

 

As our own politicians make decisions about the borders of our lands,

I think of the teacher’s question to me this week:

What does Jesus look like in this?

And whether we are considering politics, church, community, school, health, business or family life, I think of a bishop’s recent words:

“If it doesn’t look like love, if it doesn’t look like Jesus,

it cannot be claimed to be Christian.”

 

Final scene of this tale of two daughters.

Jesus declares: Do not pronounce death, where I see life.

The professional mourners, like money-lenders,

are driven from the temple of the child’s room:

To the parents in the midst of the storm: “Do not be afraid.”

To the child, “Little girl, get up.”

And after astonishment, appetite –

porridge for resurrection.

 

In times when too many children in our own country and beyond

face poverty, unequal opportunity, violence,

pressure to succeed or to be social media perfect,

Jesus summons us to lead life

towards those places that seem death-marked.

Compassion above legalism;

restoration to community in many different ways.

 

A Tale of two Daughters; A Twelve-Year Tale:

One who endured a living death, a seeming lifetime;

one whose lifetime was twelve years.

A Tale of two Daughters – Hannah & Ava – just begun;

Each of them, all of them,

united by one Christ,

the Lord not loathe to touch.

Jesus, the maker of home,

our example and call,

our duty of care.