healing–scattered thoughts.

So, next Monday I’m preaching in chapel. This is a sort of high pressure situation, as most of the people who preach in chapel are truly awesome preachers.  I used to do it every year, but due to a variety of circumstances, I haven’t done it for 4 years now. So I’m feeling a bit more pressure. And, of course, there’s the whole congregation of brilliant scholars thing. 

And the text for the day is one that I hate. 

I could have chosen to go off the lectionary, but I just ended up not having the energy to come up with something else. In part, also, I think the fact that I really hate this passage is a sign that I might need to grapple with it some more.  

It’s a healing story. A miracle.  Barbara Brown Taylor says that the problem with miracle stories is that we all want one.  

I know I do. 

Because it’s a paired story of a little girl who is healed from death and an older woman who is healed from long term suffering, it seems like pretty much everyone in the room wants some of that. So I’m left with a bunch of trajectories, and no clear angle.  On the one hand, I’m fascinated by the fact that on the way to responding to Jairus’ need, Jesus stops for someone else.  Jairus is not mentioned in this exchange, but speaking as a mom, I would have been losing it with anxiety, and especially losing it when my child died during Jesus’ interaction with the other person. I wouldn’t have been proud of that reaction, but I can guarantee you, I would have been a wreck.  I wonder if there is a trajectory there. 

I also wonder if there is a trajectory about being a daughter. 

Or a trajectory about healing in general, and what was the real healing that took place. Was it the physical healing? Or the fact that the two people were desperate enough to let go of everything else and beg?

Once I find a way in, I think I’ll be fine.  I know my way in is going to be a back road. The main road is not for me, I don’t think.  If you’ve preached this text and don’t mind sharing your manuscript with me, I’d love to read it.  I’m not a copier at all. But I often get my best ideas by jumping off of other peoples’ ideas, and the ones posted on textweek just aren’t doing it for me.  I would look back and see what I had preached on the text in the past but I’ve never preached it. Never. have I mentioned how much I hate this text?

I do. Perhaps it’s because I so clearly feel like Jairus.  I have a daughter. I have power via my education and class. And yet, if that little duck gets sick, I would do anything, anything, anything for a cure.  And the fact that this story made it into the Bible means it’s unusual. Most parents of dying 12 year olds didn’t get cures. 

So what does healing mean then? 

Thoughts?

 

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5 thoughts on “healing–scattered thoughts.

  1. When I’ve preached this, it was specifically geared for a young audience (so a bit expanded children’s sermon and with props), but my focus was touch–how important touch is, that the touch of Jesus is what both the woman and the child needed. But what does that mean for us as our deepest desire is to reach out to touch Jesus? I went on to say that Jesus has promised to be with us and given us other ways of knowing his presence. I’m Lutheran, so Word and Sacrament fit there. But I also used Teresa of Avila — “Christ has no body but yours.”

    My conclusion, “Touch matters. The people in our gospel reading today knew that. We know that. God knows it. And so God does reach out to us AND God invites us to be God’s hands so that others may know this promise. God touches us with love to empower us to share this love too. We become the hands by which God touches the world. May our hands always show the loving work of God. Amen.”

    If you want, I can likely send the whole manuscript. (I had a computer crash and I can’t guarantee I still have the electronic version–but I still have paper!)

  2. I have a sermon much along the lines that Silent describes, addressing the power of touch. (Maybe I wanted to avoid the healing issue, too!). Context was *much* different from yours, but it was well received. I’d be happy to send it but can’t find an email address. Mine is texassesperanza at hotmail dot com

  3. This is a really tough one. The touch approach is nice and it serves the need to find some way to connect our experience to this story, but it seems to me to fall short of real exegesis. I, too, have avoided the text for the same reasons. Life doesn’t work like this. My 33 year-old step-daughter didn’t have such luck in spite of immense courage and prayer support from all over the world. She died. And no one raised her up. She’s dead. But for those of us who live on through the grief, there has been a kind of healing, a re-discovery of the preciousness of each breath, the preciousness of love and relationship, and a new awareness of our own mortality as a good thing. Immortality isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. We are creatures who experience eternity in the midst of time and within the limits of embodied existence in a particular time and place, not every time every place. For me the real miracle, if we dare to call it that, is reaching into the depths of death and darkness to see the light that can not be extinguished. That light is not me or you. It is the Light of God, the Eternal. I don’t know that that is useful in any way, but the story that so vexes you also vexed every other reader who longs for resolution to the ambiguities inherent in finite life. I wish you well on Monday morning.
    – Gordon (a friend of Steve Shoemaker)

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