21 When Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a great crowd gathered around him; and he was by the sea. 22 Then one of the leaders of the synagogue named Jairus came and, when he saw him, fell at his feet 23 and begged him repeatedly, “My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well, and live.” 24 So he went with him. And a large crowd followed him and pressed in on him. 25 Now there was a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years. 26 She had endured much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had; and she was no better, but rather grew worse. 27 She had heard about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, 28 for she said, “If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well.” 29 Immediately her hemorrhage stopped; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. 30 Immediately aware that power had gone forth from him, Jesus turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my clothes?” 31 And his disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing in on you; how can you say, “Who touched me?’ “ 32 He looked all around to see who had done it. 33 But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling, fell down before him, and told him the whole truth.34 He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.” 35 While he was still speaking, some people came from the leader’s house to say, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the teacher any further?” 36 But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the leader of the synagogue, “Do not fear, only believe.” 37 He allowed no one to follow him except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James. 38 When they came to the house of the leader of the synagogue, he saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. 39 When he had entered, he said to them, “Why do you make a commotion and weep? The child is not dead but sleeping.” 40 And they laughed at him. Then he put them all outside, and took the child’s father and mother and those who were with him, and went in where the child was. 41 He took her by the hand and said to her, “Talitha cum,” which means, “Little girl, get up!” 42 And immediately the girl got up and began to walk about (she was twelve years of age). At this they were overcome with amazement. 43 He strictly ordered them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat.
Beloved people of God, grace, peace and mercy are your from Jesus the Christ. Amen.
Throughout our High School mission trip in Houston, as we were driving around town, we saw many, many billboards that said in BIG LETTERS, “Where are you going? Heaven or Hell.” Of course, with a beautiful clear cloud-dusted sky for heaven and a big dark fire for Hell. And then at the bottom it said, “Call 1-855-FOR-TRUTH.”
I called the number this week, just to see what it was like. It was nice. It gave you options depending on what billboard you’re calling about. For “Proof that God exist”, press 1. For “Jesus, your only way to God”, press 2. For “Where are you going, heaven or hell?” press 3.
I pressed 3. It talked a lot about how heaven is the salvation that God offers us as a free gift, as long as…we obey God. Give our life to God. So, not exactly free, according to their theology. There is just a little bit of work you have to do.
When we hear the word salvation, I think for many of us think of this – as going to Heaven instead of going to Hell. This is how most people associate Christianity, I think, as a community that separates people into those two categories – those who are going to Heaven and those who are going to Hell.
You see we like to put things and people in categories – so that we think we can understand them.
But I am also going to guess that for many of us, that word salvation, carries a lot of baggage.
Biblical scholar Marcus Borg tells the story about getting together with an intergenerational discussion group, where half were in their 20s and 30s and half in their 60s and 70s. “Most were committed Christian involved in their churches. The rest were earnest seekers – no longer or not yet part of a church, but seriously considering whether there might be something real and important in Christianity.”
And the interesting thing about this group is that for 80% of them, the word salvation only had a negative connotation. Salvation was all about going to heaven, or…..not. Many recalled as children wondering if they had believed or behaved good enough in order to be saved.
For so many of us, salvation has this narrow and highly negative meaning to it. But in the Bible the word for salvation has this wide breadth of meaning to it. And here is the most interesting part: in the Bible, salvation is rarely about an afterlife.
Now, just to be real clear – the promise of eternal life, of life with God beyond this life, because of the grace and unconditional love of God, in the company of all the saints is part of our faith. It is good news.
But salvation in the bible means so much more than that too. As Borg says, in the Bible to be saved can mean being set free from bondage (sometimes religious bondage). To be saved can mean being restored to a community. It can mean being rescued from danger. It can mean life coming out of death. Sickness to wellness. From fear to trust. Injustice to justice. From violence to peace.
All of this is said to be salvation – experienced in this life.
So, you see, in the Bible, salvation has a much broader understanding of what it means to be saved than we tend to think.
I bring this up because this gospel reading for today is about salvation – though it might be hard to catch at first.
Jesus and his disciples are coming back from their across the sea, and there is a crowd gathered around. And immediately we meet a man named Jairus. He just cuts through the crowd like a hot knife through butter. A powerful leader in the community and synagogue, who goes right up to Jesus, because he is used to getting time and space and attention from people…and Jairus has a 12-year-old daughter. And he says to Jesus, “My daughter is at the point of death. Come and put your hands on her and she will be made well.“
So Jesus goes with him. But remember, there is this whole crowd there. Pressing in on Jesus. And in the crowd is a woman. And she, unlike Jairus, doesn’t have a name.
She’s just one among a crowd.
In fact Mark tells us a lot about her.
She’s been bleeding for 12 years old. Remember Jairus’ daughter is 12 years old and this woman has been bleeding for 12 years. Put a pin in that – we will come back to it.
But she has been bleeding for 12 years, which means not only has she been ritually impure for 12 years and kept away from the temple, it also means she hasn’t been welcome in public for a very long time.
You see, people who are chronically sick know that not only do you have to battle the sickness, but you have to battle isolation too.
Mark also says that she’s suffered under the care of many physicians and she’s spent all her money. She’s broke. She’s got nothing left.
Which is part of the cycle of poverty, right? We learned a lot about the cycle of poverty in Houston. We get sick because we don’t have enough money to heat our house in the winter, but then because we are sick we can’t go to work and won’t have enough money to heat the house for the winter. And so we get sick again.
And Mark says she hasn’t benefited from anything…she’s only gotten worse.
She’s like this double outcast – she’s been bleeding for 12 years and she’s been exploited out of her money from bad medical treatment.
Do you see how Mark is making these characters polar opposites? Named – nameless. Powerful – powerless. Rich-poor. Proper-improper. Jairus’ daughter has someone to advocate for her – this woman has no one to advocate for her.
And remember how Jairus just walked right up to Jesus to ask him to place his hands on his daughter? This unnamed woman doesn’t assume anyone will make room or time for her. This woman belongs to the crowd. To the faceless and the nameless, just bundled together. With no one to defend her. So she just desperately, bravely puts her hands on Jesus. Just his clothes even – so that she can be…saved. Professor Matt Skinner says she steals a healing…because who would ever give her one? So she reaches far out and get just the hem of his robe.
And Jesus noticed.
Jesus noticed her touch. Jesus is surrounded by a crowd, surely bumping into people. Others reaching out for a quick pat on the back of Jesus. But he notices her touch. In fact, it says Jesus felt power leave him. It affected him. This woman hasn’t had an affect on anyone in years. But she had an affect on Jesus.
So, then unnamed woman touches Jesus’ cloak and immediately her bleeding stops. And Jesus calls out to her, “Who touched me?” And she steps out from the crowd in fear and trembling – you see, her bleeding may have stopped but she isn’t fully healed yet. Not healed of her fear or her isolation. And the text she kneels before Jesus and she tells him her whole truth.
When we were serving in a homeless shelter, our guide said, “You will be the first person some of these folks have talked to in days.”
I can only imagine what how long it has been since someone has listened to this woman’s story. And not just her story, but the whole story. I can only imagine what she shared – about years on the fringes of society, years of dashed hopes, years of isolation.
And when she is done, Jesus speaks to her, and his very first word to her is…
He calls her daughter. He adopts her in that moment. Jesus is a dad! Did you know? Jesus claims her as family. Jesus becomes her advocate. “Jesus says, ‘If you have no family, you can be part of mine.’”
Daughter, your faith has made you well, Jesus says. But that word for “made well”, it is the same word for salvation.
Daughter, your faith has saved you. This is a story about salvation.
Because in that one word – daughter – Jesus restores her back to a community. And now her healing is complete. That for her is real salvation. That not only has she stopped bleeding – but there is a place for her again.
Daughter, Jesus says, your faith, your persistence, your hope, your courage…it has saved you.
You see, Jesus won’t let the family-less, face-less, unknown forgotten children on the fringes remain there. If the kingdom of God is for all, then Jesus will not sleep until all are restored into community. That is salvation. Here and now.
But that isn’t the end of the story. Watch what happens. While Jesus is claiming this unnamed, ritually excluded woman as part of the family, word comes that Jairus’ daughter has died.
Now, remember that she was 12-years old. And then woman had been bleeding for 12 years. The number 12 is a very symbolic number in the Bible. And it often represents the community of God’s people, Israel, because there were 12 tribes in Israel.
So, some scholars think that this little 12-year old girl represents the whole community of Israel. The nation. And so perhaps the beginning of this story is about a whole community of people, a nation that is sick. Not well. And on the way to heal her, Jesus is confronted by woman who has suffered from and been isolated from that nation. From that community. And not only is it making her sick, but it is making the nation sick.
Jesus as Jesus has called this woman daughter, trying to bring her back into the community, the community start to fear that Israel is dead. But Jesus tells Jairus, “Do not be afraid. Keep believing. Your daughter, Israel, is not dead. She is only sleeping.” And then Jesus goes to her house, takes her by the hand, and lifts her up to new life. A saved life.
In calling this outcast woman “daughter”, it becomes not only her salvation, but also the salvation of the nation!
You see, if we fail to see one another as family, if we isolate one another and keep some out on the fringes, it will slowly make us sick. My daughter, Israel, is sick, Jairus says. Our daughter, America, is sick, we fear.
When we see each other as categories: homeless, poor, conservative, liberal, undocumented invader, worthy citizen. Heck, even early service, late service, or St. Olaf side of town and Carleton side of town. If we see each other as categories it will make us sick and lead to our death as a nation. I mean, c’mon, if liberals and conservatives cannot stop talking about the blue or red wave that’s coming at us this November – such a violent image for our politics – there will be no healing of the nations.
This is not who we are.
But if we can stop and look at each other – especially the most vulnerable – and begin with “Daughter….Son….Sister…..Brother….”– we will experience our own salvation. We are made alive again when we begin to see that the other is a child of God too.
In a text that is all about the sick and the dying and the bleeding and impurity, everyone is likely afraid of what is contagious. But the only thing contagious in this text is the love of God. Wherever Jesus goes, whomever he touches the love of God, the kingdom of God, much like the mustard seed, invades and spreads belovedness where belovedness doesn’t belong.
To tweak a quote from Sam Wells, Jesus has so much love, so much healing power, so much compassion, that when the unclean woman gets anywhere near him she’s infected with (belovedness). That’s surely what we long to be as Christians. Not frightened shadows who fear relationship because it might make us dirty, but people so full of compassion and truth and longing for justice and gentle understanding that (belovedness) infects everyone who comes anywhere near us.
And you can do that. Because this belovedness is yours and it is your to give.
There is no number to call. There is no belovedness to earn. It is yours and it is your salvation. Not to be saved for later. But to be use for now. Thanks be to God. Amen.
 Marcus Borg, Speaking Christian, pg. 35.
 Sam Wells, ibid.