"Batteries Not Included": Sermon for the Sixth Sunday After Pentecost, Year B

"Batteries Not Included": Sermon for the Sixth Sunday After Pentecost, Year B

Jul 01, 2018

Passage:Mark 5:21-43

Preacher: The Rev. Dr. Robert Pace

Series: Pentecost

Category: Faith, Forgiveness, Healing

Keywords: faith, healing, shame, wholeness


Mark's Gospel tells the story of two healings: Jairus's daughter and the "hemorrhaging woman." From this story, we can learn that Jesus has the power of "kingship." But we also see that we all have need for healing--physical, spiritual, psychological, emotional. How do we approach Jesus?


In the name of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, Amen.

 In the 1990s I traveled to Cuba on a mission trip. We stayed for three weeks in a small village in the middle of the island. One of my duties for the team was that I was the videographer. One of the great highlights of the trip was to be the wedding of a young couple from the village at the church camp we were building. The bride’s parents came to me and asked if I would be willing to videotape the wedding for posterity. I boldly pronounced that I would be happy to provide this important service. It would be my gift to the couple.

 On the day of the wedding, villagers approached me throughout the preparations to thank me in advance for this great thing I was doing for the couple. When the time arrived, I took my spot at the back, turned on the power button to my camera . . .  and nothing happened!

I had not charged the batteries!

And of course, we were under a canopy in the Cuban countryside. There was no electricity at the campsite. I could not plug in the camera. There was NOTHING I could do. I had failed to perform the one thing I said I would do for this community.

To make matters even worse, when the wedding ended, blissfully ignorant of my negligence, the father of the bride invited the entire village to his house the next night to watch my video!

We have all been in situations where we feel shame and anger with ourselves. We want to turn back the clock and “redo” something in the past.  But the past is always there. THERE WILL NEVER BE A VIDEO OF THE WEDDING OF ALEJO and CHRISTINA and IT WAS ALL MY FAULT!

In today's Gospel, we have two intertwined stories of people approaching Jesus with requests for healing.

Mark seems to include these stories as an illustration of Jesus' power and kingship.

For us, the audience, we can see right away that Jesus is special. Jesus changes lives.

Jairus is a man of power and position. He represents the authorities of the society. He's a leader in the community.

Yet, despite his power... despite his influence... regardless of his position in the society... he is broken. He is in desperate need of help. His daughter has fallen ill and may be dead.

He turns to Jesus as his only hope. Falling at Jesus' feet, Jairus begs him: "Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well, and live."

As Jesus makes his way through the massive crowd toward Jairus's house, another person in need approaches him.

We are told that this person is almost completely the opposite of Jairus.

Where he is a man of great authority and power in the society...

A woman who has been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years now makes her way toward Jesus.

This woman is an outcast in the Judean society. Because she has been hemorrhaging for twelve years, she has been ritually unclean for that entire time.  No one is supposed to touch her without immediately going to the temple and performing the ritual purity actions. According to the text, the woman is also poor. She has spent everything she has on physicians, trying to find a cure for her affliction.

In short, this woman has come to a place where her life is desperate.  She is an outcast in society. She lives on the fringes. She has little hope of ever being made whole.

Then she sees Jesus walking through the crowd. She makes up her mind that she is going to seek his help. She believes in his power and authority. She believes in the stories she has heard about him. All she needs to do is touch his cloak, she thinks. So she does. The hemorrhages stop.

But Jesus somehow feels this touch. He asks who touched him. The disciples are befuddled. There’s an entire crowd touching him! What does he mean, “Who touched him?” But the woman comes forward and falls before Jesus in fear and trembling. Then she tells him the whole truth. She lays out for him all that she is. He needs to know that someone who is ritually unclean has touched him.

But this doesn’t seem to faze Jesus. His response to her is to call her “Daughter.” He says: “Daughter, your faith has made you well, go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”

Jesus then goes on to Jairus's house, where the paid mourners say he's too late--the little girl has died. Jesus tells them to get out of the way, for she's only asleep. They laugh at him. Jesus enters with only a few, close loved ones. He takes the girl by the hand. He tells her to get up. She arises... healed... whole.. at peace.  

I think what’s so powerful about these stories is that there are multiple healings. The woman comes seeking an end to her hemorrhaging.  Jairus's daughter's life is in the balance.  And, as we’ve seen elsewhere in the Gospel of Mark, Jesus’ touch provides that physical healing. This is about showing the audience and all who hear this story the power of God in Jesus.

But in both cases, there was also further healing. Jairus had come forward in fear and trembling, and Jesus calmed those fears. The anonymous woman was also healed in ways beyond the physical. That's because wholeness in Jesus is not dependent on physical perfection. Both of them stepped out in faith, and Christ knew their deepest needs.

So where are we in the midst of this story?

I think that often, we can be like Jairus or the woman. We store up our hurts and fears and baggage and shame. We let immediate crises get the better of us. Or we allow places from our past weigh us down until we feel distant and ostracized from those we love. We have difficulty moving forward, but we don’t know how anyone could accept who we are. We feel “cut off from the temple.” We wonder if God can accept us for what we don’t actually tell everyone about.

Sometimes our pain and affliction can be life-threatening. Sometimes, it can be the weight of shame for our own actions.

Back in Cuba, I didn't know what to do that night after the wedding. The whole village was joyously celebrating the marriage of this young couple. And they kept thanking me ahead of time for my "wonderful" gift of the video we would all watch tomorrow night.

Finally, I pulled up the courage to go to the father of the bride. He was one the lay leaders of the church there as well.

I admitted to the him that I had no video. Of course, he was terribly disappointed.

Many of the villagers did not get the message that I had screwed up, so they showed up the next night at his house anyway. I continued to feel horrible. But then something pretty amazing happened. Because they were there already, they decided to have a party—a celebration.

The father of the bride asked if I would just show some of the videos I had been shooting from our trip so far. It was basically raw footage, but it was all about the village and life among them. The people gathered around. We all laughed and sang and cried out at the screen.

When it was over, each one of them hugged me and thanked me for having shared my video with them.

The last person I saw that night was the father of the bride. I told him I still felt guilty that I had failed to tape his daughter’s wedding.

He hugged me tight and said: “Robert, do not hold on to those feelings. I will always have the ‘video in my mind’ of my daughter’s wedding. But now I also have the memory of tonight's beautiful ‘video-watching fiesta’ that never would have happened if you had remembered to charge those batteries.”

As part of the Body of Christ, his forgiveness healed my shame.

Like Jairus and the woman, we reach out in the midst of our brokenness. And, through us as the Body of Christ, God extends healing and wholeness.

May we leave here today emboldened to be that healing presence for all of creation.