Proper 8, 2015

Lord Jesus,

Dying you destroyed our death

And rising you restored our life.

And we need that mystery

to interrupt our world

Now more than ever.

So, come quickly, Lord.



Our lives are riddled with interruptions. I would imagine that many of us are annoyed by such interruptions. Trying to get something done, and you get a phone call that you know is going to last for a while.

You are trying to get home after a long day at work, and you remember you have to go to the store. Plans to go away for the weekend are interrupted by a “strong suggestion” from your boss. For some of us, like me, praying may be difficult because we are interrupted by our own distracting thoughts.

Perhaps we are the one’s who do the interrupting. I know that I am the kind of person who cannot keep his mouth shut long enough to let someone finish speaking. I usually jump in the middle of someone speaking to me with the thing I was thinking about the whole time they were talking to me.

Or perhaps it is something more serious that interrupts, something we cannot control.

In the Gospel of Mark, we get all kinds of “interruptions” – stories placed within stories that seem to disrupt and interrupt the flow of what is happening. And this story today is perhaps the quintessential example.

Jesus is presented with an urgent circumstance – the daughter of a community leader is sick, and she is dying. We get the urgency in the situation because Jairus – a well-respected man – “fell at his feet and begged him repeatedly.”

Can you imagine this? Can you imagine his face – the dark circles under his eyes from the sleepless, watchful nights?

This is a man of social influence in his community. This is a man, I suspect, who has not been unsure about much in his life. That is, I suspect he has not had to worry about not having enough social capital, or about being turned away. I imagine his day-to-day routine – his “liturgy,” if you will – is one that has afforded him a higher level of certainty and comfortability. And so he is confident in approaching Jesus himself to ask for what he needs.

Don’t get me wrong, though – this man is on his knees in front of Jesus, knowing Jesus is the only option he has left. His desperation leads him to Jesus: “My little daughter is at the point of death.”

But he does approach Jesus directly.

So it is here – in the face of Jairus’ desperation – it is here that Jairus’ request is interrupted by this woman.

Who is she? We do not have a name for her. Jairus is remembered by name. Of all the people Jesus has healed so far, Jairus is the one who is mentioned by name. He is known, important even. And this unnamed woman causes such a pause in this story that we almost forget Jairus is there.

She interrupts this urgent house call, and Jesus allows for it – indeed, Jesus extends the interruption by his questions and conversation. And so, once again, Jairus’ “liturgy” is interrupted by this unnamed woman, and by Jesus.

Why does Jesus allow so much time for this detour? Does he not get the urgency? Imagine what Jairus was thinking while this is happening. He sought Jesus out, so he may not want to annoy Jesus and lose his chance at saving his daughter. He may have pressed the disciples to keep Jesus moving.

In any case, we see some of the impatience in the reaction from the disciples. You can imagine them speaking to Jesus with an incredulous sense of urgency.

“What do you mean ‘who touched you?!’ We’ve got to go!”

But Jesus does not rush. He does not seem to even hear. He only sees this woman who, with fear and trembling, approaches him.

She has just been healed. She knew it would happen. She had the faith, and she followed Jesus in the crowd.

She is no Jairus. She is unnamed. She’s just the woman who has been sick for twelve years. So long she has been defined by that illness, so much so that we get her medical history but not her name.

And, Jesus interrupts this urgent medical mission to have a conversation about her faith that has already made her well.

But I want to remain focused here on the interruption, the stall in this urgent mission. It seems entirely unnecessary! She is healed. It’s done. Yet Jesus turns to find this woman approaching him in fear and trembling, and this unnamed woman is given more than a name – she is called Daughter.

Jairus is named by the story, and this woman is named by Jesus.

Many who read this are interested in what Jesus says about her faith, and I think her faith – her trust – that Jesus could heal her is incredibly important. Not because faith is something we “do” that makes something happen. It’s not a formula. It’s not a magic spell. But her faith – if nothing else – brought her to the Body of Jesus. She was saved – her faith saved her – because it brought her in an arm’s reach of God in the flesh.

But there is also significance to the physical healing itself – the healing that sparked this ill-timed interruption. The woman is suffering from a long-term battle with internal hemorrhaging.

This battle – the doctors, the remedies, the failed attempts, and the disappointment – this is her routine.

This is her liturgy.

And it keeps her from a flourishing and whole life.

Leviticus 17 tells us that the life of every creature is in the blood, so I want to suggest that Jesus is not merely healing this woman of a sickness. That, by itself, is miraculous.

But Leviticus would suggest that this healing is a restoration of her life. The life is in the blood, and Jesus heals her loss of that blood, of her very life.

So this interruption – an interruption that is more the will of Jesus than of this woman – has become a restorative, healing moment. Life has come back to this woman because of her encounter with God in the flesh.

And if the bible scholars are right about her, Jesus has restored her to the community as well. The physical healing is connected to her spiritual and social healing. She is wholly restored to wholeness. The liturgy of disappointment and sickness, is interrupted by this declaration of physical, spiritual, and social restoration to wholeness:

“Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”

This interruption is interrupted by a return to Jairus’ desperate situation. A messenger comes to tell Jairus that his daughter has died. But Jesus, who has at this point established himself as one who has no trouble interrupting, eavesdrops on the conversation and interjects: “Do not fear, only have faith.”

This is an odd suggestion.

The situation is hopeless.

Death has claimed yet another life.

Jesus was too late.

The woman’s interruption was too long.

Jesus interrupts this devastating news with an almost insensitive request.

Didn’t you hear, Jesus?

She has died.

It is over.

But Jesus goes to the house anyway.

I wonder if Jairus was annoyed at this. I wonder if he let Jesus have it. Or I wonder if he was just too broken and exhausted to say anything. We have to remember that walk to the house and each painful step Jairus is taking. He is walking home to his child who has, by all accounts, passed away.

And when they get to the house, the liturgy for death has already begun. The mourners outside the house are most likely hired to mourn. They are hired for a funeral to publicly mourn for the dead. This was a liturgical tradition.

This was the liturgy for death.

But Jesus the Great Interrupter arrives and interrupts this liturgy of death. He will not hear that the power of death has taken hold. She is only sleeping.

The Lord has no time for the mocking laughter of those who would wish to continue this liturgy of death. So he casts them out of the house and keeps only those who would trust that God does not willingly afflict grief, but has compassion according to the abundance of God’s steadfast love.

Jesus knows that “God did not make death, and God does not delight in the death of the living,” as he had undoubtedly heard from the Wisdom of Solomon. Indeed, “God created us for incorruption,” and Jesus intends to perform this restorative, life-giving work of the Loving Creator.

And when Jesus takes this little girl by the hand and says, “Little girl, get up!” Jesus is interrupting death itself in order to bring life. Jesus interrupts death as the status quo, it’s cycle, it’s habit, and it’s position as the unwelcome officiant over Creation’s liturgy. He interrupts it with words and a touch that bring life – the life of incorruptibility that God created us for.

It is often difficult for us to see the reality, the truth, that God has interrupted this liturgy of death with life eternal.

This little girl is raised from the dead as a foretaste, as a sign. And though she will grow old and pass away, she has seen and experienced the truth that God has given life the last word in Jesus Christ.

We have to recognize this as an interruption – an absurdity, even – in order to grasp the weight of this miracle.

The status quo of death is so ingrained into the liturgy of our world that these interruptions are sometimes laughable. We are up to our necks with the liturgies of death and violence.

Those martyred in Charleston are being mourned and buried. And in the wake of this tragedy and hate, it is compounded by the burning of 6 African-American churches just this week. The evil of racism and white supremacy have reminded us all too recently of death’s profane liturgy.

So, when life breaks through and interrupts that liturgy, it may be difficult to accept or even see.

I suspect many of us celebrated the Supreme Court ruling this past week. But I know there are those of us who see this as an interruption – a break from what we have come to expect and know as true.

Is it possible that this interruption in our status quo is an opportunity for the God of Love to bring wholeness and healing into our midst? You may not be willing to go there with me, but I believe and hope it is.

Or perhaps we look to the celebration of the election of a new Presiding Bishop in the Episcopal Church. The election of the Rt. Rev. Michael Curry is a hopeful and life-giving event because I know Bishop Curry to be one who loves Jesus very much, and he is a bishop who will challenge us to be better disciples of this Lord who interrupts our world with life.

And we are gathered here this morning at this liturgy, the liturgy that leads us to the table where we find the bread of life and the cup of salvation, the holy food and drink of new and unending life in the one who interrupted death for our sake.

We perform this liturgy as an alternative to the liturgy of the world. We participate in this liturgy, where Christ is the Celebrant who offers life eternal in the bread of life and the cup of salvation.

Come, all children of God who have been raised by Christ, with Christ, and in Christ – come and he will give you something to eat. Amen.


Comments are closed.