Sermon for the Fifth Sunday after Pentecost, 6/27/2021

Vicar Sergio Rodriguez

“And immediately the girl got up and began to walk about (she was twelve years of age). At this they were overcome with amazement.” Mark 5:42

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Jesus announced to the nameless woman the healing power of her faith. She had been made well because out of her desperation and years of suffering, she reached out and touched his clock. Jesus was to her and is to us a faithful healer, not a faith healer. Now why this distinction? I would say because we know of faith healers. I had to reach back into my memory this past week to a YouTube that I saw of the Televangelist, Benny Hinn, as he waved his Neru Jacket to heal people. They would line up like dominos and suddenly with the wave of his jacket, they fell back. Or I can think of a classmate of mine when I was in the Missouri-Synod who gave me a book of confessional extolling the healing power of “prayer” to pray the gay away. When we are looking for folks to sign up for leading prayer, this is not the kind of prayer we intend. We need a distinction between Jesus as our faithful healer against Jesus as the faith healer because of our misunderstood the idea of healing in the name of Jesus is. He is our faithful healer, not a faith healer because he embraces our struggle in finding a balm in Gilead. He embraces our entire person in our movement for meaning and wholeness; this mind you, is the movement of faith. Jesus is our faithful healer because daily Jesus enlivens us for the struggle of faith.

The crowds that greeted Jesus on the other side of the sea sought Jesus out of their own daily struggle of faith. Hours earlier, Jesus healed a man oppressed by demons in the region of the Gerasenes. He could not participate in daily life because he was moved to defile himself by living in the uncleanliness of graveyard. Jairus, a leader of the Synagogue, falls down before Jesus begging him to heal his daught by, “lay his hands on her, so that she may be made well, and live.” Jairus here does what any of us would do when our loved ones are afflicted by chronic or terminal illnesses. We plead with God. We negotiate with God. We seek a cure because we ultimately want our loved ones to be restored for the daily moments of our life together.

The nameless woman who suffered twelve years with hemorrhages presents for us a tragic case, but not a desperate case. And I would extend this distinction also to Jairus’ daughter. A tragic case but not a desperate case. The nameless woman tried every kind of cure under the sun but in the long run, ended up in a much worse state than possible. Perhaps she went to faith healers, a proto-Benny Hinn running around or Peter Poppoff with his miracle water, but ultimately her condition worsened. One can not help but think of countless families with members who suffer with chronic illnesses such as dementia, or ALS, or HIV. The tragedy of decades long suffering is in the grind of daily life. And yet, the nameless woman suffering with hemorrhaging is not without hope. She pushed through the crowds. She touched his cloak because he believed that, “If I but touch his cloak, I will be made well.” She’s not desperate. She’s seeking a faithful healer and her long-suffering produced her faith-seeking disposition. She sought out the one who cast out demons, who taught in parables, made the storm at sea to cease. A healer for the wounded soul, the oppressed soul, those with chronic illnesses. The faithful healer who restores us for faithful living.

Jesus seeks the nameless woman after she was healed of her disease because he wanted to confirm her in her faith. The disciples reaction to Jesus saying, “Who touched my clothes,” portrays the finite way of thinking of Jesus as faith healer. A sort of Jesus in a mosh pit trying to figure out who pushed him into the next person. Jesus wants to meet this nameless woman and to comprehend the depth of her struggle for daily life. Again, the distinction between Jesus as faithful healer and not a faith healer is imperative. Jesus does not simply ask one of his disciples/ushers to escort the woman off-stage; time for the next healing miracle. So, the nameless woman comes to Jesus and tells him her entire story; twelve years of chronic illness, failures, charlatans, and her faith-persisting reasoning in touching his cloak without his consent.

Jesus does not push her away or capitalizes on her witness to his power. He declares to her, “your faith has made you well; go in peace and be healed of your disease.” He is saying to her, you have found the grace you have sought for. The tragedy in your life has given way to newness and restoration. Through your faith, you have received healing for your soul. Siblings, do not misunderstand me at this point. The gift of faith, the faith-filled disposition we receive and the healing for our souls is not going to automatically remove the years of chronic illness. This alb is not a Neru Jacket nor is healing entirely about alleviating our pain.

Healing consists of Jesus’ embrace of our person for faithful living. Daily we struggle to make sense of our wounds, the chronic illness in our families, the loss of all who died to AIDS or transphobia. Daily we struggle to become whole persons, accept ourselves as emotional people, as people with sexuality or gender expression, as people with dreams denied. In Jesus we find the culmination of our long-suffering because he himself endured the sickness unto death, taking upon himself the long suffering of this world. In so doing, he transforms our daily struggle into faith-filled moments to encounter God’s healing grace in Jesus.

The restoration of our lives through faith occurs when we allow for Jesus to be our faithful healer in the daily grind of life. I have in my life discovered the spiritual practice of surrender to God, a kind of meditative imitation of Jairus’ reaction at the beginning of the gospel text. At the start of my morning, I implore God to restore me to faith-filled living, guided by God’s will. But I also allow myself to hear God’s guiding word anew: “Son, your faith has made you well; go in peace and be healed of your wounds.”