A sermon preached by Retired Priest Rev Peter Coley on 1 July 2018 Trinity 5
2 Corinthians 8:7-end, Mark 5:21-end
AIM: to see how we carry on God’s Healing
NHS 70 years
Two desperate people
The 72 called
We as healers by words and deeds
NHS at 70
Well the NHS at 70? What a marvellous servant of the people it has been. Each of us will have a story to tell about our relationship with it. Until I was 67 I had never used it, except once when as a child ill in bed the horrible doctor came and gave me injections in the back side – you’d think he’d sawn my leg off for the fuss I made. But since arriving at 67 I have been in all the local hospitals for one thing or another and almost certainly wouldn’t be alive today but for the care and treatment I have received. I imagine others of you would have a similar story. If we were to pool all our treatments what a massive collection of healing stories there would be! What a lot of thanks to God for such provision.
Two people in our gospel reading today experience healing
‘Do not fear only believe’ says Jesus to Jairus, easier said than done you might think, with his daughter dead and the house full of the sound of wailing mourners.
Both of the people Jesus encounters in today’s gospel reading are driven by a kind of fear so strong that it overcomes all other fears that they might be expected to feel.
Jairus’s overwhelming fear is that his daughter would die, surely one of the greatest fears we could imagine. Mark doesn’t waste words in his gospel but he doesn’t need to describe how much Jairus loves his daughter. His actions make it clear. He is risking the disapproval of his community, in which he is a leading figure, he is pushing aside his own doubts and uncertainties about who Jesus is and by what power he performs healings! He is prepared to risk everything for the faint hope of life for his daughter. So we can imagine him elbowing his way through the whispering, nudging crowd, and makes his request to Jesus. And Jesus goes with him – no words said no questions asked.
The nameless woman, too, has one abiding fear that puts all the others in the shade. Her fear is that she will never be well again, she will always be bone-tired, pale, thin listless and in pain. But also she will be alone, never fully part of the community, with no one to help her bear her condition more cheerfully. So she braves the fear of discovery and rejection by the crowd, the fear of painful embarrassing exposure, the fear that she will not reach Jesus through the crowds, or that if she does it will be useless. You can tell that her driving fear is long-term, that she has lived with it so long that it has changed her character and lot in life completely. Once, presumably she was reasonably well off – comfortable enough anyway to afford doctors, and confident enough to go on spending her money in expectation of a cure. But now she is poor and cowed and tired. She is not like Jairus who even in the extremity of his fear, as a man of authority expects to be heard and get his own way. No this woman is not intending to ask for what she needs because she is sure the answer would be no. But she has just enough desperation left to try to steal it!
Her chance comes as the crowd begins to move. Jesus and Jairus are walking fast to get to the sick child, and the crowd is streaming around them, thinner in some places where people are not hurrying to be at the front. The woman seizes her chance, while the important men are concentrating on important things. She reaches out her hand and brushes Jesus clothes as they blow out behind him with the speed of his walking. She had meant to turn away at once and hobble off home and wait and hope, but she is shocked into stillness by her bodies reaction. How long is it since she felt well? So long that she can hardly recognise the feeling. And in that one awed moment, the crowd stops moving and she hears the dreadful question, ‘Who touched me?’
She could have stayed silent, but part of her needs the crowd to see what has happened to her, to make it real, to assure her that she isn’t imagining it, even if she gets into terrible trouble. It is strange to have all those eyes on her, when she has spent years with eyes that have avoided her or slid away from her fast. Most of the eyes are not friendly. She is just a distraction, kneeling there, abject and shaking.
The crowd are anxious to get on to Jairus’s house to see the real drama unfold.
They expect Jesus to push her away, perhaps even to make her ill again. Instead he tells her that she has done right, and that her health is what she deserves and has won for herself through her faith in him.
Poor old Jairus must have been in an agony of impatience while all this was going on. He knows that every second counts and , sure enough, when at last they get home it is too late! Even in the midst of his terrible grief he can spare a little hatred for the insignificant woman whose healing has cost him his daughter.
Don’t be afraid, says Jesus. God’s love is not that small. There is enough for the woman and your daughter. In fact there is enough for all.
72 called to heal
Shortly after this incident Jesus reaches a turning point in his ministry as he sends first the twelve out to heal and preach the Good News and a little later the 72.
The twelve disciples of cause represent the twelve tribes of Israel, the nation chosen by God through Abraham to be a people to receive God’s blessing and to share that blessing with all the people of the world. Now Christ as the New Israel is handing over the task to his church and that remains the task of every disciple up to the present.
I often wonder how those disciples must have felt as Jesus gave them authority to go out and do what he was doing. You remember how often they had got things wrong, how they seem to show so little understanding, yet here was Jesus entrusting them with his mission. In fact his very last words to his disciples was to give them authority to go into all the world and carry on his work.
You and me
Nearly 50 of us attended the Lent Course this year and spent 6 weeks listening to John Mark Comer on becoming disciples of Jesus or apprentices as he preferred to call them. Many of us if not all of us found it a very helpful and challenging series of talks.
The catch phrase that has stayed with me and many others was, be with Jesus, become like Jesus, do what Jesus did.
Certainly one of the major things that Jesus did was to bring healing to the lives of the desperate and broken as we have seen in the passage today – healing of body, mind and spirit.
So how are we as disciples of Jesus to bring healing to others in our everyday lives Monday to Saturday? Well our NHS is certainly a great source of God’s healing for most of us today and we thank God for it and all those who facilitate his work of healing whether nurses, doctors, surgeons, porters, cleaners chaplains and the many more working in the team NHS.
I want to say that before we can bring healing to others we must be healed ourselves.
Like the woman desperately reaching out to Jesus we have a desperate need to reach out each day to our source of healing for all that prevents the work of the holy spirit in our lives, so repentance and forgiveness and faith will always be at the heart of being a disciple.
Like the little girl being brought back from the dead, we must welcome the life giving work of the Holy Spirit to empower us and use us in bringing healing to others. This may be by prayer for others, listening to others, serving others, sharing our life with others, allowing others to flourish no matter what the cost to ourselves.
As God’s church as God’s people, blessed to be a blessing we can do no other, for a healthy Church is a healing church Amen.