Jairus, about whom we have just heard in today’s Gospel, is a right and proper gentleman, and he makes his request of Jesus in the manner appropriate to the culture of his time and place when he prostrates himself at Jesus’ feet; it’s what one is supposed to do when asking an equal or better for a special favor. And Jairus “begs Jesus repeatedly” – which would be better translated to say that Jairus is being extremely humble in his request to Jesus. And Jesus shows himself absolutely worthy of Jairus’s respect — for Jesus and his disciples immediately set out with Jairus to heal this leader’s daughter.
Unfortunately, for Jairus and his daughter, a crowd seems to have attached itself to Jesus – and the word for crowd in Greek is anything but neutral in its connotation – it would be better to say in English that Jesus was being followed by the riff-raff — the impolite, the improper, and the down-right uncouth. And sure enough, amidst this rabble is a woman – need one say more? A woman’s place is not out in public – unless she’s doing her chores. On top of that, this woman is unclean – women with even a monthly discharge don’t belong out in public – let alone a woman with a twelve-year hemorrhagic condition. And this woman, likely once prosperous, has been reduced to the level of a pauper. Twelve years of health care bills have wiped out her savings and likely left her, not only with an unmentionable illness, but also homeless and bankrupt; and you know that in polite and proper society, bankruptcy then as now is more often than not the one truly unpardonable sin. This woman, however, does have some shred of decency left – she knows better than to stop Jesus, address him, make a request of him. For all that, she is, however, a bit delusional: she thinks that if she even just barely touches the hem of Jesus’ garment she’ll be made well and will no longer be shunned, no longer be an outcast. And sure enough, upon touching the fringe of Jesus’ garment, immediately the woman feels herself healed. Then, Jesus, in a wonderful and wonderfully funny exchange with a couple smart-ass disciples, Jesus demands to know who has touched him. And so the woman approaches Jesus with the same sort of fear and trembling that Mark tells us the women had when they found Jesus’ tomb empty. This woman falls at Jesus’ feet, not to ask anything of him as Jairus had done – but falls at Jesus’ feet as a woman would who expects to be beaten for not being mindful of her gender’s place in the world, for not being submissive to men.
The real scandal, however, the real upsets to good order are yet to come. First – so shameful it hurts to tell – first, Jesus calls this upstart, brazen, unclean outcast – daughter. Gasp, horror, abomination. The One who is God-in-the-body has called this harridan daughter. It’s just not done. But Jesus does it just the same. Then – not only does Jesus not tell her to now go and behave herself – rather, Jesus praises her – praises her trust in that great mystery beyond logic: namely, that where Jesus is, everything is new, everything is different, and nothing shall ever, ever separate anyone from God’s love. But alas, Jesus’ attention to this uppity outcast has come with a price. Word arrives that the daughter of Jairus has died. Jesus has blown it. If Jesus had given priority to a dues-paying church member – like he should have – Jairus’s daughter would still be alive. And overhearing all this blaming talk, Jesus points to the homeless woman and implies that Jairus and crew might take a lesson from her. And that remark is truly beneath contempt. How could Jesus even suggest that someone of Jairus’s rank, of Jairus’s status – a religious leader – be more like an unclean, female outcast who doesn’t know her place??
…no matter what anyone else believes, thinks, or says, you are, this very day, restored, healed, and risen in unity with all God’s daughters and sons of every station and condition…
And then the coup de grace for all sensible, sane, rational folk: Jesus announces that in his presence, the dead are merely asleep – the dead are not separated from God nor from the community – the dead are living daughters and sons of God – after all, it is only the dead who can rise – the laughter of some prominent 21st Century penny-ante theologians not withstanding.
And so today I come to tell you that this story is not a narrative of something past; it is not history. It is rather a description of present truth. Here today, in this very room – we are gathered, the good and polite, Jairus and his family – and we, the riff-raff rabble, the unruly and uncouth mob who will never do anything even approximately right and correct. And gathered here too, we, the outcast and the unclean – all of us gathered together in the presence of Jesus. Here the proper and the improper; the successful and those whom worldly success will always elude; the well-to-do, and those without, along with those whose too-many credit cards are forever maxed out; gathered here, the lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender and queer along with those whose gender identity and sexual orientation have been more customarily and religiously acceptable. Here, the hurtful and the hurting; the meek and the brazen; those who are fully alive and those who feel more dead than living. And so by God’s creative Word and as a steward of the Holy Mysteries, I declare to you that all of you are God’s very own daughters and sons – and all of you at the hand of Christ are being lifted up. And it doesn’t matter one whit whether you feel it or not – everything that separates you from the love of God is healed. And with you too, all your beloved, those gone from earthly sight – they are not dead – they are wakened from sleep – as you shall be one day, fully alive in the presence of God.
You’re not sure you believe it all? You don’t have to be sure – for here in your presence in the Great Mystery of the Eucharist, here is the One whose belief, faith, trust is perfect, complete, and unwavering even in the midst of separation and death: Jesus of Nazareth, crucified and risen – the same one who calls each and every one of you God’s daughters, God’s sons – Christ’s very own sisters and brothers. Jesus is here – to give you of his own essence – his body, his blood, his perfect faith and trust – Jesus’ own self now to become one with your selves – so that in the reality of God beyond the realm of mere feelings, by the presence of Christ within you, you do believe, your faith is perfect, and already in God you do have complete trust. And no matter what anyone else believes, thinks, or says, you are, this very day, restored, healed, and risen in unity with all God’s daughters and sons of every station and condition, past, present, and yet to come – whether you believe it right now or not, for it is God who saves and not we ourselves. And God this day has saved you. AMEN.