So what do I notice in this miracle story? The crowd, as usual was pressing in on Jesus. He could have done some grand-stand preaching event, but instead, he stops, and takes time to notice and attend to 3 unlikely characters, two of these were considered the world’s weakest and least powerful, a child and a woman, and the child’s father, Jarius, a synagogue leader; how unusual it was that he would recognize Jesus’ authority.
We rarely get to hear the Aramaic that was the common language at the time (the bible, of course was written in Greek for Greek readers), but in this story we hear “Talitha Cum”, the spoken language of Jesus which the writers must have considered important to include. Talitha is a word of endearment related to another Aramaic word that means lamb, or little dear one. “Talitha cum: Little one, get up!”
I notice that Jesus was not put off by the wagging fingers, the jeering laughter, or even the weeping mourners. he took the little girl’s hand, and gently raised her. I notice that the woman felt healing in her whole body, and that she spoke her whole truth to Jesus; maybe it was about more than her illness.
And finally, I notice here and in most all of the healing miracle stories that Jesus heals by invitation: the woman touches the hem of his cloak, and Jarius cries out to Jesus in desperation.
The Pandemic has increased my affinity for checking for invitation in my personal interactions. Now that we are in a kind of grey zone regarding mask wearing, I am careful to check to see what makes the people around me comfortable, even if I am ok with being mask-less.
I also have a new feeling about personal space. I don’t like the term social distancing; I much prefer one I recently heard: social spaciousness. Intimacy is very important in life, but it should be by invitation only. I’ve come to see the space around a person as more sacred than it used to be. I will try to always practice social spaciousness.
The word Parable comes from a Greek word meaning “something cast alongside something else”. They are short stories that convey a truth or religious principle, usually by comparison or analogy. For Jesus these were teaching aids, an earthly story with a heavenly message.
A miracle, of course, is an event that is said to have actually happened that we cannot explain, and we know that miracles do happen; the medical kind, in which a person makes an unexpected recovery in spite of a poor prognosis, or the miracle that happens when an earthquake victim is rescued after many days buried under rubble.
Kate Braestrup, an author and a Unitarian Universalist chaplain to Game Wardens in the forests of Maine, ministers to families and law enforcement officials in the wild. She is often called in on search and rescue missions responding to danger and disaster, a lost child, a snowmobile accident.
She says that she doesn’t look for God’s work in either the miracle or the horrible bad things that happen. These are both mostly unexplainable events in which so many things line up a certain way. Instead, she looks for God in how people love each other through it all; it’s not the disaster or the rescue that’s the work of God, it’s the love and care of the helpers involved.
When I sit with a friend who is dying and I wonder where God is in this, I see God in the gentle manner and the shining eyes of the nursing assistant who came in to give morning care. There was a special light in her eyes and face, even above the mask. I see God in the cooks and servers working up a sweat making soup and supper for our Sunday and Monday Community meals, and I saw God in the gentle touch and manner of the veterinarian who ministered to our beloved dog Rosie on her final earthly day.
Where is God in Mark’s miracle story? God is reaching out to the vulnerable, the ceremoniously unclean and the most exalted alike. Jesus is working up a sweat and remaining calm in the midst of chaos and pandemonium. God is in the confession that tells the “whole truth”; much like our prayers for understanding and healing regarding racism, violence and injustice. And God is in the power of resurrection; Get up, God says,
As we consider what I call the “summer questions” which Heather and Molly have asked us to ponder: we ask ourselves how we might recognize the many ways we’ve grown and changed over the last 16 months, as a parish and as individuals. I am challenging myself to look closely for God in the events of the last year; I grieve the tragedies and marvel at the miracles, but my focus will be on the details of the everyday: the special friendship that blossoms when you get to spend every day with a special 3 year old boy, the heroes who helped along the way, the discovery of new ways to stay connected, and the opportunities to spread God’s love way beyond 8 Church St.
I will conclude by quoting the ending of former presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori‘s sermon on this passage from Mark’s Gospel. She delivered this sermon to the General Convention of the Episcopal Church in 2015. She gives good advice, and it is especially relevant today as we discern what it will mean to be a vibrant member of the Jesus Movement in the future.
She says: “Pay no attention to the finger-wagging. Turn around and look for the hem of Jesus’ robe. Go searching in new territory. Reach out and touch what is clothing the image of God. Give your heart to that search and you will not only find healing but become healing. Share what you find and you will discover the abundant life for which all God’s children have been created. And indeed the Lord will turn weeping into dancing. “Talitha Cum”, get up girl and boy and woman and man, get up! Amen.
Meet our Preachers
Rev. Heather Blais,
Rev. Dr. Molly Scherm, Associate Rector