2 Samuel 1:1, 17-27: In spite of Saul’s persecution of him, David sings a song of grief for Saul’s death, and that of Jonathan. David’s respect and praise for Saul, and his love for Jonathan, are expressed in the beauty of the poetry, and no anger or hatred of Saul is present in David’s grief at all.
Psalm 130: A cry to God for redemption and rescue, in which hope in God’s faithful love is expressed.
2 Corinthians 8:7-15: Paul encourages the Corinthian Christians to share their abundance with others who are less fortunate. He explains that he doesn’t want them to go without for the sake of others, but rather that their surplus can help others who have lack. In time the situation may be reversed and this ensures that all have enough and are equal.
Mark 5:21-43: Jesus is asked by a synagogue leader, Jairus, to go with him to heal his daughter. On his way, a woman who has been bleeding for twelve years touches him and is healed. After insisting that she make herself known, and speaking words of grace to her, he goes on to Jairus’ house, where his daughter has now died. Then Jesus raises her from the dead to the amazement of all.
(Summary of Bible readings by John van de Laar, Sacredise)
Opening prayer (based on Psalm 130)
Healing God, we come together in our brokenness,
to call to you in your mercy, to make us whole again.
Wholeness–giving God, listen to our prayers, we pray.
Restoring God, we gather to worship you, even as
we hopefully seek to be renewed and restored again.
God, our Quiet-Centre, listen to our prayers this day.
Foundational God, we come to praise and thank you!
In the depths of your Holy Being we find peace and rest.
God – our Beginning and our End, we hope always in you. Amen.
(Source: Rev Joan Stott. Please provide an acknowledgement: © 2012 Joan Stott – “The Timeless Psalms” RCL Psalm Year B, used with permission).
Call to Worship
Come among us, Healing God; we wait for you.
We come, hungry for your Word to bless us.
Come among us, Compassionate Christ; we hope in you.
We come, hungry to be filled with the Bread of Heaven.
Come among us, Restoring Spirit; we wait and hope in you.
We come, eager to rest in your peace.
(Source: Thom Shuman, Lectionary Liturgies)
Opening Prayer (inspired by Psalm 130)
O Lord our God, we come to you, seeking to
rise up from the depths and agony of despair.
Please listen, our Saving God –
we need your help and blessing.
Lord, through the tenderness
of your mercy towards us
we have learned to worship you –
and to revere your Holy Name;
therefore, we place our entire trust
and hope in you, our Trustworthy God.
We gather to offer you our thanks,
for we know that you offer us
your unfailing love and mercy
that is beyond our understanding.
You know our longing for forgiveness,
and you offer us your presence – which
blesses us from God’s overflowing store
of mercy, hope, freedom and joy. Amen.
(Source: Rev Joan Stott, Timeless Psalms). Please acknowledgement: © 2011 Joan Stott – ‘The Timeless Psalms’ RCL Psalms Year A. Used with permission.
Prayer of approach and confession
Lord God of a new morning, and of all our days and nights,
we gather here to praise you in sound and silence,
in story and song
with voices and hearts
eager to know you and to move a little closer to you.
Life giving God,
You have called us from many places, along many roads
and through many histories
to this moment and place,
that we might be reminded
of your faithfulness.
You have heard the song of our souls,
mingled with tears and laughter,
burning with anger and shouting with joy
as we navigate life’s pathways
with you as our constant companion.
You have shared flesh with us,
known blood pulsing through your veins
and flowing from your wounds;
experienced death and isolation
so that you might know for yourself
our struggles and our sorrows.
You came back to us;
threw off the weight of dirt and stone,
to unearth a promise made before time,
and hand it to us, fresh and clean,
and full of life.
And you have stayed with us, Lord,
even as our song has fallen silent,
our minds have become closed and our words have become sharp,
like a sword in your side.
How can we help but seek forgiveness
when we have failed to recognise you?
How can we begin to understand grace
when it comes into even the hardest of hearts?
How can we not go from here,
amazed all over again,
at the mystery of a God
who sees potential in our reluctance and has the patience to pursue it?
Lord God, you have blessed us and freed us from all our failures.
You have put your trust in us
that we might bring blessing and freedom to others
through your word.
May our voices always be praising you,
may our actions always be sharing you,
may our hearts always be open to you,
and may our lives be a living sacrifice to you
so that all may see and hear your glory.
Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
(Source: Tina Kemp, Church of Scotland)
Prayer of Confession (inspired by Psalm 130, Ephesians 4)
O God of compassion,
if you kept a record of our sins,
who could stand?
We come before you with our brokenness
and our wounds for all to see.
We bring our anger, our bitterness,
our unwholesome talk,
and our deceitfulness.
We try to do good,
but sometimes fail.
We choose to do evil,
and sometimes succeed.
Keep your promise to forgive us
when we confess to you completely.
Without you, we have no hope.
A silence is kept
Words of Assurance
If we confess our sins, God is faithful and will forgive us.
God provides freely, in the bread of heaven,
all the mercy we need for life everlasting.
The good news is forgiveness in the name of Christ Jesus.
(Source: adapted, Abingdon Worship Annual 2009, © 2008 Abingdon Press. Posted on the Ministry Matters website)
Prayer of Confession (inspired by Psalm 130)
Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord.
Lord, hear my voice!
Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my pleading!
If you, O Lord, if you took our faults and wrong actions into account,
Lord, who could stand before you?
But in you there is a deep well of forgiveness,
so that you may be held in holy awe.
I wait for you, O Lord, I wait with deep longing,
and in your word I stand, waiting in hope.
My deep longing for the Lord
is more than those who watch for the morning,
more than those who wait for an end to the night.
Assurance of Pardon (from Psalm 130)
Our hope is in you, O Lord!
For with you there is steadfast love,
and great power to save.
It is the Lord God who will save us from all our wrongdoing.
Thanks be to God.
(Source: Jeff Shrowder, The Billabong)
Prayer of Confession (inspired by Mark 5: 21-43)
Call to Confession
God calls us in our lives to take a risk,
to be like the woman in the gospel
who reaches out to Jesus for healing for herself;
or the father who risks the scorn of others
to bring Jesus to his dying daughter.
Let us ponder for a moment the places in our lives
where we may resist turning to God for healing and change. (silence)
Litany of Confession
When we resist your call to open our hearts to allow
the freshness of your grace to enter: God have mercy.
When we close our eyes to your new and unexpected possibilities
of healing and reconciliation: Christ have mercy.
When we let fear overwhelm us,
and cling to the security of what we know instead of
risking new steps toward your freedom and justice: God have mercy.
Assurance of Grace
God’s mercies are fresh every morning.
In Christ God offers forgiving grace
and welcome into a community of trust, abundance, and hope.
Let us give thanks for the mercy of God,
and pass the peace of Christ in community among us.
(Source: Rev. Susan A. Blain, Worship Ways website).
Prayer of confession/prayers of who we are and Words of Assurance
Prayer of Petition (based closely on Psalm 130)
Out of the depths, LORD, I call to you;
let me feel you even in this darkness.
Take away my hardship
or give me the strength to endure.
If all our mistakes were permanent,
without hope for repair,
which of us could survive?
But you have forgiven us,
even when we cannot forgive ourselves.
I listen for you;
my soul listens like a deer in the forest.
My soul waits more intently
than a soldier watching for the dawn.
Answer me; open my heart
so that I can wholly receive you.
Teach me, remind me, that you are my hope.
You are the steadfast love in my life, like no other.
(Source: Rachel Hackenberg website)
Readings and reflections
In 2018 the exclusion of the woman in the Gospel passage as a ‘non-person’ because of her bleeding invites the denigration and assignment of ‘non-person’ to people in our time in our global village. Should we discuss ‘politics’ in the pulpit. Absolutely, if it’s about the dignity and value of human persons, if it’s about systems that denigrate and keep people impoverished, if it’s about speaking ‘truth to power’. For such are the values of the Kingdom of God and the example of Jesus. These words from Elie Wiesel seem appropriate too: ‘Always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented’.
Often one hears ‘either-or’ arguments eg we need to look after our own people before looking after refugees, as if it needs to be one or the other, rather than both/and. Could be something worthwhile pursuing in a sermon/reflection. Jeff Shrowder’s reflection below picks up this both/and idea as well.
Compassion is life-giving (Mark 5:21-43)
aching to save his daughter
pleaded with Jesus.
physicked by many, touched him:
faith seeking healing.
Jesus treats these two
with an equal compassion,
present to each need.
(Source: Jeff Shrowder, 2018, The Billabong)
Reflection on the Gospel Reading: Mark 5:21-43
In this passage we find a woman who has been subject to bleeding for 12 years (the age of Jairus’ daughter). For her, this is not merely a physical impairment – she is also a social outcast. Apparently God’s commands to protect the disabled (Lev 19.14) have been completely abandoned by the time of Jesus. That this woman has accepted the definition of social pariah, placed on her by others, is demonstrated by her fear of facing Jesus when he calls her from the crowd in verse 8:47. She is ‘the other’. What must life have been like for this woman? Why did she touch Jesus’ hem (as opposed to a direct request?). What does it say about how she saw herself? Why is her self-image a problem? Who today might be like this woman?
What is striking is Jesus’ way of addressing the situation. Knowing that she was socially outcast because of her ailment, Jesus calls her out of the crowd. He allows her to tell her story publicly, and in that act her reinstates her into the social sphere. For Jesus, social inclusion is equally as important as physical healing. In the reign of God, inclusion is the right of all people regardless of who they are or what ailment they might have. This is what is might mean to destroy the ‘tyranny of normality’ as defined by Stanley Hauerwas in Suffering Presence, the idea that normality is dangerous for people with disabilities because the most stringent power we have over another is not physical coercion but the ability to have another accept our definition of them.
(Source: Matt Anslow in TEAR Magazine, Issue 1, 2011)
Here is Frederick Buechner’s sermon called “Jairus’s Daughter” which is based on this passage, from Secrets in the Dark:
The story Mark tells takes place on the western shores of the Sea of Galilee, which isn’t a sea at all, of course, but a large freshwater lake some thirteen miles long and eight miles across surrounded by high mountains and apparently roughly in the shape of a heart, which is rather wonderful if you stop to think about it – a heart-shaped lake at the heart of where it all happened. After leaving Nazareth Jesus seems to have spent most of what was left of his short life in the city of Capernaum, which was on the northern shore of the lake and the center of its fishing industry. A number of his best friends lived there including Zebedee’s two sons, James and John, together with Peter and his brother Andrew, who were all of them partners in some sort of fishing enterprise that employed other people whose names we don’t know and that seems to have owned at least two boats.
When Mark gives his account of what happened by the lake on this particular day, he puts in so many details that Matthew’s parallel account leaves out that it seems possible he was actually there at the time or at least had talked to somebody who was. It has the ring of an eyewitness account, in other words, and that makes it a little easier for us all these centuries later to see it with our eyes too, which is what I think we should always try to do with all these stories about Jesus. Hearing them preached on in church year after year and reading them in the dreary double columns of some Bible, we tend to think of them as dreary themselves – as little stained-glass stories suitable for theologizing about and moralizing about but without much life in them or much relevance to the reality of our own lives and to us.
But that is not at all the kind of story that Mark is telling us here if you think about it, or maybe if you don’t so much think about it as just listen to it, let it take you wherever it is going. It is a quiet, low-key little story and in some ways so unclear and ambiguous that it’s hard to know just why Mark is telling it or just what he expects us to make out of it or made out of it himself. It’s a story not about stained-glass people at all but about people who lived and breathed and sweated and made love and used bad language when they tripped over furniture in the dark and sometimes had more troubles than they knew what to do with and sometimes laughed themselves silly over nothing in particular and were thus in many ways very much like the rest of us.
Jesus had just crossed over in a boat from the other side of the lake, Mark writes, when he found himself surrounded by some of them right there at the water’s edge where there were nets hanging up to dry and fish being gutted and scaled and stray cats looking around for anything they could get their paws on. He doesn’t say there was any particular reason for the crowd, so it’s probably just that they had heard about Jesus – probably even knew him, some of them – and were there to gawk at him because there were a lot of wild stories about who some people said he was and what he was going around the countryside doing and saying, and they were there to see what wild things he might take it into his head to say or do next.
There are so many people around him it’s hard to pick out which one Jesus is, but it’s worth giving it a try. Is he the one with his hand in the air signaling to somebody he can’t get to on the far edge of the crowd? Is he the thin, sad-eyed one who looks a little like Osama bin Laden, of all people? Is he the one leaning down and reaching out to take something a child is trying to hand him? What did it feel like to be near enough to touch him if you dared? If his eyes happened to meet yours for a moment, what would you say if you could find the right words for saying it, and how would he answer you if he could so much as hear you in the midst of all the babbling and jostling? What if just for a moment as he tried to shoulder his way out of the crowd he brushed against you so that for a second or two you actually felt the solid flesh and bone of him, smelled the smell of him?
I think that is part of what all these stories about Jesus in the Gospels are trying to tell us if we keep our ears open. They’re trying to tell us who he was and what it was it like to be with him. They’re trying to tell us what there was about him that made at least some of the people there by the lake that day decide to give up everything they had or ever hoped to have, in some cases even their own lives, maybe just for the sake of being near him.
Matthew’s account doesn’t give us the name Jairus, but Mark’s does. There was a man named Jairus there, he says, who somehow made his way to Jesus and threw himself at his feet, as Mark describes it, fell to his knees perhaps, or touched his forehead to the ground in front of him. He was a synagogue official of some kind, Mark says, whatever exactly that means, but an important man anyway, which is possibly why the crowd gave way enough to let him through. But he doesn’t behave like an important man, though. He behaves like a desperate man, a man close to hysteria with fear, grief, horror, God knows what.
The reason is that his daughter is on the point of death, Jairus says, only he doesn’t say “my daughter,” he says “my little daughter.” She is twelve years old, going on thirteen, we’re told, so she wasn’t all that little really, but to Jairus she would presumably always be his little daughter the way even when they’ve grown up and moved away long since, we keep on speaking of our sons and daughters as children because that is what they were when we knew them first and loved them first.
His child is dying is what Jairus is there to get through somehow to this man some say is like no other man. She is dying – he says it repeatedly, Mark tells us, dying, dying – and then he says, “Come and lay your hands on her,” because he’s seen it done that way before and has possibly even tried doing it that way himself, except that it did absolutely no good at all when he tried it, as for all he knows it will do absolutely no good now either. But this is the only card he has left to play, and he plays it. “Lay your hands on her, so she may be made well, and live,” he says – live, he says, live, not die, before she’s hardly had more than a glimpse of what living is. It’s a wonder Jesus even hears him what with all the other things people are clamoring to him for, but somehow he does, and so does a lot of the crowd that follows along as Jairus leads the way to where his house stands.
They follow presumably because for the moment Jesus is the hottest ticket in town and because they don’t have anything better to do and because they’re eager to see if the man is all he’s been cracked up to be. But before they get very far, they run into some people coming the other way who with the devastating tactlessness of the simple souls they are come right out and say it. “Your daughter is dead,” they tell Jairus. They have just come from his house, where she died. They saw it with their own eyes. There is nothing anybody can do about it now. They have come too late. “Why trouble the teacher any further?” they ask her father, and it is Jesus who finally breaks the silence by speaking, only it’s just Jairus he speaks to.
“Do not fear,” he says. Don’t be afraid. Don’t be afraid. And then, “Only believe.”
The question is what is a man to believe when his whole life has blown up in his face? Believe that somehow life makes sense even in the face of a twelve-year-old’s death? Believe that in some unimaginable way all will be well no matter what? Believe in God? Believe in Jesus? Jairus doesn’t ask what he is to believe or how he is to believe and Jesus doesn’t tell him as they stand there in the road. “Only believe” is all he says, meaning maybe only “Believe there’s nothing you have to be afraid of,” and then he tells everybody to go home except for his three particular friends, who Mark tells us were Peter and James and John. And everybody goes home.
When the five of them finally get to Jairus’s house, they find it full of people “weeping and wailing loudly,” as Mark describes it because this is not the twenty-first century but the first century and people apparently hadn’t started yet saying things like “It’s really a blessing” or “She is in a better world now” because for the most part they didn’t believe in any better world but just some sort of limbo world under the earth where the ghosts of the dead drift like dead leaves. Instead, they wept and wailed because they didn’t have it in them to pretend that the death of a child is anything but the tragic and unspeakable thing that it is, and Jesus didn’t say anything to make them change their minds, didn’t tell them that it was God’s will or anything like that. What he did instead was to say something that it’s hard to know how to understand.
“The child is not dead,” he said, “but sleeping.”
Was he speaking literally? Did he mean she had lapsed into some kind of coma? Or was he only trying to comfort her father with the thought that death is only a kind of eternal sleep? Who knows what he meant, but the people in the house seemed to think he was either a fool or a madman. They had been there when it happened. They knew death when they saw it, and because the line between weeping and laughing is sometimes a very tenuous one, they stopped their weeping and wailing and of all things laughed at him, Mark said, laughed because they didn’t know what else to do, until Jesus finally “put them all outside,” the way Mark tells it, so that only the three fisherman friends along with Jairus and the child’s mother were left there with him, and together they went on to the room where the child lay.
It is the deafening stillness of it, I think, that you can imagine best – the mother with her face in her hands, Jairus on his knees at the bedside, the child like the waxwork of a child, hair brushed, face washed, hands folded one on top of the other on her chest.
Then the moment of magic, if magic is what it was. It’s the child herself that Jesus speaks to. He reaches down and picks up one of her hands in his hand, and Mark reports the words he used not in Greek, which is what the rest of his Gospel is written in, but in Aramaic, which was the language Jesus actually spoke, so somebody who was there at the time must have heard them and remembered them – the actual words he used as he reached out and lifted up the child’s hand in his.
“Talitha cum,” Jesus says. “Talitha cum,” and you hardly need the translation to understand him. “Little girl” – Talitha – “get up,” is what he said, and then according to Mark “immediately the girl got up and started to walk about …. At this they were overcome with amazement.”
It was not just the child’s life that had been given back, of course, but the lives of the mother and father, who stood there with no words they knew how to say. The worst thing that had ever happened to them had suddenly become the best thing that had ever happened to them, and you can imagine their hardly daring so much as to breathe for fear of breaking the spell. You can imagine her walking around the room touching familiar things – a chair, a comb, a flower somebody had left, a chipped plate – trying to get the world back, trying to get her self back.
For whatever the reason, Jesus asked them never to tell a soul what had happened – maybe because he wasn’t ready for the secret of who he was to be known yet, maybe because he wasn’t sure he knew the secret of who he was yet himself Who can say? Then he told them to go get the child something to eat, something for the child to eat, and that is where Mark’s story ends.
The question is what kind of a story is it? If the little girl had actually died the way the people who were there in the house believed she had, then it is the story of a miracle as dazzling as the raising of Lazarus and bears witness to the power Jesus had over even the last and darkest power of all. If she was only sleeping as Jesus said – in a coma or whatever he may have meant – then it is a story about a healing, about the power of Jesus’s touch to make the blind see and the deaf hear and the lame walk. Either way it is a story about a miracle, but about a miracle that doesn’t end with an exclamation point the way you would expect, but with a question mark or at most with the little row of dots that means unresolved, to be continued, to figure out somehow for ourselves.
Who can say for sure exactly what it is that Jesus did in that house where Jairus lived or how far down into the darkness he had to reach to do it, but in a way who cares any more than her mother and father can have cared. They had their child back. She was alive again. She was well again. That was all that mattered. I picture her looking something like the photographs we have of Anne Frank – a wry, narrow little Jewish face full of irony and wit and a kind of bright-eyed exhilaration; I picture how it would be to have the child that was Anne Frank back again somehow, the way she was before the gates of the concentration camp closed behind her. I picture how one way or another, if such a thing were to happen, we would all of us fall to our knees. The whole world would fall to its knees.
Who knows what kind of story Mark is telling here, but the enormously moving part of it, I think, is the part where Jesus takes the little girl’s hand and says, “Talitha cum” – “Little girl, get up” – and suddenly we ourselves are the little girl.
Little girl. Old girl. Old boy. Old boys and girls with high blood pressure and arthritis, and young boys and girls with tattoos and body piercing. You who believe, and you who sometimes believe and sometimes don’t believe much of anything, and you who would give almost anything to believe if only you could. You happy ones and you who can hardly remember what it was like once to be happy. You who know where you’re going and how to get there and you who much of the time aren’t sure you’re getting anywhere. “Get up,” he says, all of you – all of you! – and the power that is in him is the power to give life not just to the dead like the child, but to those who are only partly alive, which is to say to people like you and me who much of the time live with our lives closed to the wild beauty and miracle of things, including the wild beauty and miracle of every day we live and even of ourselves.
It is that life-giving power that is at the heart of this shadowy story about Jairus and the daughter he loved, and that I believe is at the heart of all our stories – the power of new life, new hope, new being, that whether we know it or not, I think, keeps us coming to places like this year after year in search of it. It is the power to get up even when getting up isn’t all that easy for us anymore and to keep getting up and going on and on toward whatever it is, whoever he is, that all our lives long reaches out to take us by the hand.
Gospel Reflection by Kate Huey
Our text this week sits on the point between faith and fear as it tells two stories in one, both taking place on the Jewish side of the sea, after Jesus has returned from Gentile territory where he was (perhaps politely but definitely with fear) asked to leave. Fear, not rejoicing, was the response of the people who witnessed the spectacular and very public healing of a man who had unclean spirits; surprisingly, they didn’t open themselves to the possibility of more miracles. This week’s stories are woven into one, a story of healing and restoration of life that’s full of contrasts and connections. They both involve women in crisis – in fact, we don’t know them by their names but by their needs – both “daughters” of Abraham, not outsiders to begin with but both now subject to the taboos around the mysterious power of life (blood) and the even more mysterious (and seemingly unconquerable) power of death. Neither a bleeding woman nor a dead girl should be touched, at the risk of contracting their uncleanness. And yet Jesus touches them both with the compassion of God and the gift of new life. In one short passage, we get a glimpse of faith and unfaith, in the father, the woman who bleeds, the crowds that watch these wonders unfold, and the disciples, who undoubtedly continue to struggle to understand what is going on right before their eyes. Barbara Brown Taylor considers these miracles a “preview of the kingdom” for all of us living our lives in “the human condition” of not being in full control of our lives. “God is God, and we are not,” she reminds us.
(a full sermon is here – scroll down to find the sermon)
Questions for further thought and discussion:
1. What miracles have you seen in your own life?
2. what miracles have you missed, only to perceive them as such much later?
3. Do we participate in miracles? If so, how?
4. How might this story apply to the life of a community today? For example, are there churches that appear to be dying or even dead, that might yet “rise up and live”?
5. How do you respond to John Pilch’s definition of healing as the “restoration of meaning to people’s lives no matter what their physical condition might be”?
Quotes for further reflection
C.S. Lewis, 20th century
Miracles are a retelling in small letters of the very same story which is written across the whole world in letters too large for some of us to see.
Sue Monk Kidd, The Secret Life of Bees, 21st century
“I realized it for the first time in my life: there is nothing but mystery in the world, how it hides behind the fabric of our poor, browbeat days, shining brightly, and we don’t even know it.”
Cecelia Ahern, The Gift, 21st century
“‘What is it with science these days? Everyone is so quick to believe in it, in all these new scientific discoveries, new pills for this, new pills for that. Get thinner, grow hair, yada, yada, yada, but when it requires a little faith in something you all go crazy.’ He shook his head, ‘If miracles had chemical equations then everyone would believe.'”
Noah Benshea, Jacob the Baker: Gentle Wisdom For a Complicated World, 21st century
A miracle is often the willingness to see the common in an uncommon way.
David Kinnaman, Unchristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks about Christianity…and Why It Matters, 21st century
Surprisingly, the Christian faith today is perceived as disconnected from the supernatural world – a dimension that the vast majority of outsiders believe can be accessed and influenced.
Gary Rudz, 21st century
No one ever sees or hears a miracle when they are talking over it.
Gospel reflection (Mark 5:25-34)
it was only
people averting their eyes,
gossip trickling out
the sides of their mouths
about her ‘problem’;
then came the years
laughter, ridicule, rebuke.
telling stories to his friends,
trading jokes with lawyers,
asking riddles of preachers:
she heard the
of his robe’s hem
as it brushed
the streets of the kingdom.
if i could only touch it, she
in the silence,
no one heard the
flowing through her soul,
making her whole.
in the silence,
Jesus tenderly lifted her
to her feet;
‘you are well,
daughter of faith,
go in peace’
was the benediction
(Source: Thom Shuman, Prayers4Today)
There are experiences that seem to come as interruptions, stories that shoulder their way into the story we think we are living. Intent upon my individual tale, face turned toward the destination I am bent upon, I can resent the intrusions, the ways that other stories sometimes press upon, break through, waylay my own.
A woman is bleeding. Exhausted. Spent. For years her life has been draining from her. Twelve years, if we’ll be precise: the exact span of time that the child—the girl, the daughter of Jairus—has been alive. The daughter who now hovers near death, her father pleading with Jesus to come and make her well.
Jesus goes to the girl, and is halted midway by the woman. With one gesture, one desperate reaching out of her hand toward the hem of Jesus’ robe, the bleeding woman breaks into the narrative. She interrupts the tale of healing that the gospel is seeking to tell. With her aching gesture, the woman compels us to see that our stories do not come to us unbroken and discrete, spinning out in tidy and autonomous arcs. The story of the healing of the woman becomes bound with the story of the healing of the girl, their individual stories becoming one story. An interruption becomes an intertwining: a story made more whole by the joining of its parts. A story that is still being pieced together in the living of our own tales, and in the telling of them.
What stories will we allow to break through, to interrupt, to intertwine with our own? What stories are bound with ours, their fragments joining to create a tale more complete than the one we could tell alone? What story do you need to receive or to tell in order to become more whole: to be made well?
The Healing That Comes: A Blessing
I know how long
you have been waiting
for your story to take
a different turn,
you have gone in search
of what will mend you
and make you whole.
I bear no remedy,
for the easing
of your pain.
But I know
that lives in a story
that has been
the healing that comes
to hide ourselves away
with fingers clutched
around the fragments
we think are
none but ours.
See how they fit together,
we have been carrying—
how in their meeting
they make a way
we could not
(Source: Jan Richardson, The Cure for Sorrow and also Painted Prayerbook)
“Risks in hope of wholeness” “And there was a woman … who had suffered much …”
The story of the woman haemorrhaging is more than a nice episode of an easy display of faith. This is about return to life from death. The haemorrhaging woman has been more thank sick: she is socially dead, “unclean” and unable to go to synagogue because she is not allowed contact with men. The irony of it is that those men she’s been forced into contact with, the doctors, have bled her purse dry and left the flood flowing from her stronger than ever. She’s a woman, she’s poor, and she’s constantly impure. So what is someone like that risking when she pushes her way into the crowd waiting for Jesus? She must have feared this would be just one more experience of rejection and disappointment. She
knows the risk she has taken. But it is worth it. By her faith, the woman has been healed, the bleeding dries up and her life is restored.
Gracious God, even when we are broken and sacred,
we can come to you. Even when we are rejected
and oppressed, you can make us whole. Even when
everything seems hopeless, life can be
restored. And for the broken and rejected ones,
the scared and oppressed who have risked all to
come to you, we offer our thanks. Their hopes
help us to risk, to keep believing in
wholeness. Through the love of Jesus we pray. AMEN.
(Source: John Maynard worship resources)
Prayer for Others (inspired by Psalm 130)
Breath of life,
We think of those who cry out to you today,
of those who long for the morning,
of those who are waiting for the long Lent to end.
(Prayers are offered….)
We pray that our ears will be attentive
to the cry of those we have prayed for,
that we will stand with them,
steadfast together in your love,
bringing life before death. Amen.
(Source: adapted, Monthly Prayers page of the Christian Aid website)
Companion in life and death, your love is steadfast and never ends; our weeping may linger with the night, but you give joy in the morning. Touch us with your healing grace that, restored to wholeness, we may live out our calling as your resurrection people. Amen.
(Source: Kate Huey)
Prayers of thanksgiving and intercession
We will never know, Lord God,
what makes us so worthy of Your attention.
Whether we are like Jairus
who threw himself at your feet
in full view of the crowd;
or whether we are like the woman
who dared to brush against you
only because she was hidden from view, you notice us.
You see our need.
You acknowledge our hope.
You glimpse the little bit of faith
that keeps us hanging on
in the hope of a miracle.
Thank You, Lord,
for recognising us in the noisiness of life and the confusion of our souls.
As we pray now for our world,
as we pray now for your people
in all their needfulness and searching,
notice us, Lord.
See our need for ourselves and for others,
recognise the hope we have for creation and accept our faith,
whether it is rich in its abundance
or modest in its poverty.
We lay the world at your feet now, Lord God,
the many places and situations
which seek your loving influence
and liberating intervention;
the many people who yearn for the certainty of your presence.
Turn to face them, Lord,
That they might recognise you
and know comfort and consolation.
All this we ask in the name and for the sake of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
(Source: Tina Kemp, Church of Scotland)
A focus for prayers for others – and women suffering with fistula
Today’s Gospel might offer an opportunity to reflect on a modern day equivalent of the woman’s predicament, and perhaps be a subject of prayers for others. Fistula is a huge issue in many countries, and particularly on the continent of Africa (with an estimated 2 million women affected by fistula). Women in childbirth sometimes suffer an obstetric fistula, an internal injury caused by an obstructed childbirth, which leaves them incontinent, humiliated and cut off from their communities. These women are marginalised in their communities. Organisations like the Catherine Hamlin Fistula Foundation do a wonderful job for these women. Founded almost 60 years ago by pioneering Australian surgeons Catherine and Reg Hamlin, their extraordinary journey started with an initial three year posting to Ethiopia. The aim is to eradicate fistula entirely with the proper health care and medical intervention. Dr Andrew Browning is a hero to many African women for his corrective work on fistula. He is an Australian trained obstetrician and gynaecologist who has worked in Ethiopia and Tanzania for more than 13 years as a senior fistula surgeon, now based with the Barbara Browning Foundation. Perhaps you and/or your congregation might consider donating to an organisation that supports the women with fistula (standard fistula surgery is $AU600 – click on the links for more information).
PRAY For restoration of dignity for these women who have suffered with obstetric fistula. Pray for healthy deliveries of babies. Pray for compassion within families and communities. Pray for the nurses and surgeons who serve these women.
Singing from the Lectionary blog
All are welcome by Marty Haugen
Could consider singing the Gospel reading with this hymn by Carolyn Gillette Winfrey that tells the story well.
She Suffered Twelve Long Years
LEONI 188.8.131.52 (“The God of Abraham Praise”)
She’d suffered twelve long years! She longed to be made whole.
The pain to body, mind and spirit tore her soul.
She felt the weight of shame, the lonely days of doubt.
Till one day she heard Jesus’ name and she reached out.
As Jesus walked along, a crowd was gathering fast.
The people jostled close to him as he walked past.
She would not call his name; perhaps a touch would do.
She brushed against his clothing’s hem as he passed through.
As soon as she reached out, she felt her body healed.
She knew the kingdom blessing of God’s love revealed.
And Jesus sensed it, too. “Who touched me?” Jesus said.
The woman came and told the truth with fear and dread.
Yet Jesus’ words were kind: “Now daughter, go in peace.
Your faith has made you well and healed you from disease.”
He sent her on her way, her health and hope restored.
Her life was changed from her encounter with the Lord.
We’ve suffered many years from things that should not be;
We’re ill in our own lives and in society.
Lord Jesus, now we pray that you will heal us, too.
Give us the faith to reach out, fully trusting you.
O God, We Rage at Hurtful Things
ST. ANNE 184.108.40.206 (“Our God, Our Help in Ages Past”)
O God, we rage at hurtful things
Beyond our own control,
Like all the pain that illness brings
To body, mind and soul.
There’s much we cannot understand;
O Lord, we ask you, “Why?”
And yet in Christ you know firsthand
The tears your people cry.
O Christ, your loving, saving touch
Heals children, women, men.
We pray for ones we love so much;
Lord, make them whole again.
Now work through those your Spirit sends
To heal, restore and care.
May doctors, nurses, neighbors, friends
Be answers to our prayer.
And when the journey seems too rough
And you seem far away,
Remind us, Lord: You are enough
To bring us through each day.
(Words: Carolyn Gillette Winfrey on her hymn website)
O God of Life, Your Healing Touch
ST. COLUMBA 220.127.116.11 (“The King of Love My Shepherd Is”)
O God of life, your healing touch brings wholeness and salvation!
In you, this world you love so much becomes a new creation.
Through Jesus Christ you blessed the poor, unleashed your gifts of healing.
You gave new sight, new strength, new life — to all, your love revealing.
O Christ, the loving healer still, you gather us for mission
To serve your people who are ill, whatever their condition.
You send us to the suffering with medicine and caring;
Now make our lives an offering to those who are despairing.
Lord, by your Spirit, may we hear the truth of others’ stories.
May we respect their doubts and fears, their hopes and dreams, their worries.
And when their ways are not our own, Lord, give us understanding:
Our faith cannot be fully grown when we are too unbending.
How long, Lord, shall we serve the poor — a week, a month, a season?
We ask the question, hoping for a limit to our mission.
But open wide our hearts anew and show us, as we’re giving,
Your life-long call to serving you in daily, generous living.
(Words: Carolyn Gillette Winfrey on her hymn website)