Thursday, August 23, 2018

I See You

Sermon - Lectionary 13 B, SAP 5, Sunday, July 1, 2018- V2
No way out. No way forward.
Crushing despair.

Two people found themselves in this condition in the Gospel today. Two people who, despite the risks, decided to take a chance on the mysterious healer from Galilee and in doing so found healing and redemption.

The most interesting part of the miracles in today's Gospel however are not in the miracles themselves but in lives of those who sought them and the way they were changed by them.  It’s so easy to simply stop at, “Jesus was filled with Godly power and healed the sick. Therefore he is God. Therefore he is legitimate. There for believe in Him. Amen.” But I think this Gospel story is so much more powerful than that.

As these event’s begin, Jesus has just come from exorcising the Gerasene demoniac we often know as “Legion.”  You remember the story, when Jesus cast out all the man’s demons into pigs who then promptly said, “No way, this isn’t going to work,” and through themselves over the cliff?  

No good deed goes unpunished though, because the townsfolk there, while amazed at the deed, were then pretty sore about losing all of their swine and promptly ran Jesus out of town.  This is why he was on his way back over to the other side of the sea of Galilee.

A deed of that magnitude, no doubt created quite a buzz and word spreads fast.  The great healer had done it again and into that buzz our two individuals found themselves in desperate need, having exhausted all of their options.

The woman, whose station is so lowly that we never even know her name, had come to the end of her rope. Most of us remember the part where she had been hemorrhaging, bleeding for 12 years.  A reproductive issue that made her first miserable, and secondly ritually unclean. But what we less often consider is that this had the effect of essentially destroying her personhood, because she was not allowed to take part in daily life with other people for fear that her uncleanliness would taint those around her. This made her life nearly impossible.  It disqualified her from so many opportunities that others surely took for granted. No doubt, her life experience was one of being the loneliest person in the world, even while standing in a crowded room. Life all around her, yet passing her by.

But that’s not the worst of it.  People took advantage of her unredeemed position.  They sold her pathways to normalcy, pathways to restoration, but a false ones.  Much as today we cling to fad diets, snake oil salesman, and the latest gadget on TV to lose weight, or grow more hair, or look more beautiful; or as the terminally ill patient seeks the help of a charlatan who is only so willing to help as long as their fee is paid in full  before their, “cure” is administered, people took advantage of her. They took what little she had with promises of deliverance and ended up making her worse. It is at this moment. This lowest of lows, when she had hit rock bottom that we join her story and she embarks on a risky, desperate attempt to encounter Jesus, a holy man, who by the morĂ©s of her day she should not be contacting. She should not even be near, him.  To do so would be a heinous act of disrespect, insult, and religious assault, one that would have consequences for anyone who she touched, one that might get her killed if she were caught.
There was also Jairus.  Jairus could not be more different  than the woman. He was an important man.  A leader in the Synagogue. He was a man of means.  He was no doubt pious and proper. He had it pulled together.  We don’t know that he was “wealthy” per se, but he was surely like that person that we all know that has everything put together, who has enough in the bank that they never really worry about money. His 401(k) was surely well balanced and he checked the stocks in the paper every morning. People looked up to him.  People sought him out for wisdom and advice. He was doing everything by the book. Doing everything right. He could afford the doctors that ministered to his daughter. Everything would be fine. No worries.

And then, things took a quick turn for the worse and it looked as if his daughter was going to die.  How could that be though? He had done everything he was supposed to and yet it wasn’t working. There was nothing left to do, nothing more that anyone could do. But what is a father to do when his child faces certain death.  The playbook was failing him at this point.

In Star Trek III, (You knew I was going to get that in, right?).  In Star Trek III, when Spock’s newly reanimated body is brought back to Vulcan, his mind still trapped in Dr. McCoys head, T’Pal, the high priestess, asks what is to be done. His father, Sarek, asks for, “the refusion,” where they will use their telepathic abilities to put Spock’s mind back into his body. T’Pal looks confused and says such has not been done for millennia and is then even a legend, and that Sarek’s request is not logical.  Sarek pauses and says, “Forgive me, T’Pal. My logic is uncertain where my son is concerned.” He was asking for the crazy, impractical, and uncertain, in order to save his son’s life, much like Jairus was about to seek out the whacko healer from Galilee, who was always stepping on the proper religious rectitudes of the time. This was not behavior befitting a man of station. But, “where his daughter was concerned, his logic also was not certain. “

Both Jairus and the woman were embarking on crazy desperate quests.

Jairus is the first to reach Jesus as he arrives on the shore and tells of his emergency.  Sure enough they go at best speed and the looky-loos are quick to follow. Another miracle is going to happen and the spectacle is something no one wants to miss. There is noise and pushing and shoving.  Everyone wants a glimpse of what is about to happen, after all. Into this melee pushes the “hemorrhaging woman.” Covered and hiding in plain sight. She works her way through the crowd trying to get to Jesus, knowing full well if she is discovered, the crowd could turn on her and kill her.  Just in reach she falls to the ground and touches “the hem of his garment” and is healed.

Then Jesus stops.  But, remember, they are on “an emergency call.”  Jairus’ daughter is in the last throes of death and yet Jesus stops and demands to know who touched him.  She tries to hide and slip away, but Jesus persists. Heavy with guilt, knowing that she had broken every rule there was to get to him,  she then pleads his forgiveness. Rather than rebuke her he says, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”
Often times, this is where the sermon stops. It’s a miracle. Yeah! But there is so much more to what just took place.  Jesus claimed her as his daughter, in front of everyone in the crowd. Not only was she healed of her infirmity, she was raised out of her squalor. She was made a whole person again.  Life had been given back to her. There was a future where before there was nothing. Now there was promise for a way through to the other side of all her troubles. Jesus saw in her the humanity that had been denied her of no fault of her own and gave it back to her.

I love, when in the movie Avatar, (see, another movie reference) the Na’vii greet one another, “Oel ngait kameie,” “I see you.”  That is to say not only do I physically see you, but I see the whole of you. I see your being. I see your personhood. By acknowledging her in public, Jesus had “seen her” when others refused to.  He had made an invisible woman visible, demanding that the onlookers see her as well. Her body was healed and her soul and her personhood restored.

After taking all of this time to lift up this dirty, “nobody” woman, sure enough,  messengers arrive and tell the crowd that Jesus is too late and Jairus’ daughter is dead.  One could easily conclude that the woman had interrupted Jesus and condemned the girl to death, that Jesus didn’t take the emergency seriously enough, that he couldn’t prioritize.  Surely he could have come back for this woman. She was disgusting and unimportant but she was not in imminent danger. Surely the daughter of a community leader on the very edge of death was more important.  But no. Jesus calmly says, “Do not fear, only believe,” and continues on his way to Jairus’s house.

Funerals are a big deal in semitic culture.  They are as over the top about it as Lutherans are reserved about everything else.  Often there are professional mourners that are paid to make a scene, wailing and ripping their garments and when they arrive at his house, this was already getting underway, and Jesus in essence says, “What’s all the fuss for? The girl is just asleep.” People are so shocked that they laugh about it as if to say, “then why are we going to all of this trouble.  You are crazy. And you are too late. Thanks for nothing.” Still, Jesus takes Jairus and his wife inside and tells the girl to get up. And she does. And then just as if she was waking up as normal, he tells them to get her something to eat, as if nothing was ever amiss.

We always get into trouble when we try to time God. God works in crazy and impractical ways we cannot see.  It is not ours to know the ways of God nor how God ultimately moves in our lives to make us whole. Lamentations, today, teaches us how to cling to God, because, God will not let us linger in desolation forever. And the psalm shouts for joy for the same, that we cried out to God to deliver us.  We were afraid. We were wailing and just as God did for Jairus, he turned our mourning into dancing. Our duty is not to figure out how or why God works, but just to believe and trust that God is with us through our journeys.

Jairus clung to Jesus from the moment he arrived, despite the humiliation of going to find the wandering healer, despite Jesus taking time out of his emergency to help someone else, despite the news that his daughter was already dead.  He believed in nothing but Jesus and his faith was rewarded just the same as the hemorrhaging woman.

The most powerful reality here is in Jesus and the difference in these two people:
The woman: the outcast, the defeated, the unworthy, the oppressed and
Jairus: the upstanding, respectable, society man, and one might even say the oppressor since he was a proponent of the very laws and traditions that put the woman in her place.

When everything had been stripped away, when all was lost, In their most desperate moments, Jesus saw them.  He saw their humanity. Nothing else mattered. Not position, not politics, not wealth, not poverty, not holy, not unholy, just the beautiful fragile spark of their humanity.  In that moment, the oppressor was just as vulnerable as the oppressed, and the oppressed just as powerful as the oppressor. Jesus found them both in need and renewed and restored them in that crazy impractical and miraculous way that only Jesus could  and in the way we still find so hard with each other to this day.

The next time someone behaves badly.  The next time someone doesn’t live up to your standards.  The next time someone is awkward to a fault, or disappoints you, can you look at them and “see them?” Or the next time you find yourself wronged, oppressed, made to feel less worthy by someone else, can you look across the hurt, across the chasm of distrust and and see them? See them for the flawed beautiful creatures that they are, hurt and scared in their own way, just like you? That moment of sameness,  that moment where both oppressor and oppressed, where victim and vengeful can lay that all aside and see the humanity of each other is when healing begins. Miracles are born there and from there God can both restore us to wholeness and make a way when there seems to be no way.

Oel ngait kameie.  Amen.

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