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?" 31And 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. 41He 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.
Twelve years is a long time to suffer. It’s a long time to bleed. The unnamed woman had gone to all the doctors, spent all her money, and she was all out of time. She had hurt for too long. Not just the pain of bleeding (women, think of menstrual cramps, only all.the.time), but due to her condition, she experienced the pain of loneliness. For twelve years, this woman could not have slept in the same bed as her husband (if she had one), and she couldn’t touch anyone or be touched. She was shunned from society as unclean, and even worthless because she could not bear children. And she wouldn’t have been allowed at the Temple. She had been excluded based on an illness for which neither she nor her doctors could do anything. And she was all of out of patience and time. It was then she decided to go to the highest of the land, Jesus.
Jesus had just returned after removing a demon from a Gentile across the Galilean Sea, which we heard he calmed last week. Now back in Jewish territory, he is on the move, when he encounters a synagogue leader who is also all out of time. Willing to make a public plea, he falls down on his knees in front of Jesus and begs for him to heal his daughter who is dying. Keeping his family whole is so important to Jairus that he pleads to the highest in the land, Jesus.
Jesus was in the business of healing, and he had the time and ability to make things right. The woman, who so bravely defied cultural rules by coming out into public and touching Jesus, a man, was healed, on the spot. No more waiting. No more bleeding. No more pain and suffering. No more isolation.
Jesus could tell that something important happened, and he asked who? The disciples just laughed because it was crowded. It could have been anybody. And again, the woman risked ridicule by coming forward. Since she had been determined unclean, her touching anyone would make them unclean, as well. But that didn’t happen. It only made her visible to the community, which had deemed her invisible. Jesus called her daughter, welcoming her into full relationship as a child of God. No more waiting. Time was up, and she was accepted as a member of society, with the right to touch and be touched. She was given the right to live, to love and be loved with dignity and grace.
Of course, all the while, the little girl of the synagogue leader had been declared dead. No use in coming, Jesus. Time was up for her, too. But alas, Jesus had more healing to do. There was enough of his power and love to go around, and he was the one who made the decision to continue on to the little girl’s bedside. And he touched her. Again, touching a dead person would make him unclean, but not in this case. He touched her and she was made well. Alive and back into the family as the daughter of her parents and as a child of God. She would have the ability to marry and bear children and be accepted as a member of society. Neither she nor her parents would have to suffer any longer. The time for death had passed. The girl was given the right to live, to love and be loved with dignity and grace.
She was twelve years old. The same amount of time the woman had been bleeding. Twelve years is a long time.
Last week, I mentioned how scripture takes on new meanings in the light of current events. God is still speaking, the Spirit continues to grace us with her presence, reminding us that it is not us who have the last words. Hate will not win, but it is Love who reigns supreme.
And this week is no different.
Twelve years ago on June 26, 2003, the United States Supreme Court ruled that homosexual relationships were not illegal. That year, the first gay couple was legally married in Canada. In many other states, discrimination based on sexual orientation was banned.
In the mean time, however, members of the LGBTQ community have still suffered. In the words of Rev. Dr. Derek Penwell of Douglass Blvd. Christian Church in Louisville:
“If you’ve been bullied or beaten because you’re LGBTQ, if you’ve lost a job because somebody at work found out that your room mate was some[one] more than the person who shared the rent, if your home congregation has told you that “it might be best if you found another church that catered to ‘your kind,’” if you’ve had grown ups perform all kinds of unspeakable acts on you to help you overcome your “gayness,” if you’ve been watched with an eagle eye because, you know, you probably like molesting little kids, if you’ve had everybody you care about turn their back on you because “that’s what God would want,” if you’ve endured the burning looks of disgust just for holding the hand of the person you love, if you’ve been told repeatedly that you don’t deserve the same socio-economic breaks the rest of us enjoy, if you’ve resigned yourself to living your life alone and without children because you couldn’t figure out how that could ever happen for you, if you have children and they no longer want anything to do with you because you’re such a disappointment, if you’ve lived on the street because you had no place else to go after your parents told you you weren’t welcome to live at home anymore, if you’ve woken up in an emergency room after attempting suicide because you just couldn’t take not fitting in anymore, if you’ve had friends and loved ones killed because of how they were born, then (and here’s the really difficult part) it’s a herculean task to work up much sympathy for the anxiety [some of us feel] because…” we don’t understand homosexuality or why it’s a big deal for members of the LGBTQ to be allowed certain rights, like marriage.
Twelve years is a long time to suffer. A lifetime of banishment from being a full member of society is not only lonely, but it is shameful. One can only take so much. And time is up.
After going through the proper judicial channels after being discriminated against and losing not only a loved one but lots of money and putting his life out for public display, Jim Obergefell (Oh-ber-guh-fell) went to the Supreme Court, the highest of the land. And twelve years to the day, June 26, 2015, the Supreme Court voted to make gay marriage legal across the United States.
Like the woman who bled for twelve years never meant to be the face of a miracle story, Obergefell “never wanted to be the face of a movement or a legal groundbreaker.” The woman just wanted to be healed. Obergefell said, “I’m just Jim…I just stood up for our marriage.” He just wanted to be included as a full member of society, able to come of out the closet, so to speak, to be in full relationship with the person he loved, and allowed the right to live and love as a person with dignity.
The little girl whose dad begged on his knees in public for her life to be restored had no idea what was going on, but she, too, was restored to full membership of the family.
“Justice Kennedy rooted the ruling in a fundamental right to marriage. Of special importance to couples, he said, is raising children.
“Without the recognition, stability and predictability marriage offers,” he wrote, “their children suffer the stigma of knowing their families are somehow lesser. They also suffer the significant material costs of being raised by unmarried parents, relegated through no fault of their own to a more difficult and uncertain family life. The marriage laws at issue here thus harm and humiliate the children of same-sex couples.”
By naming all discriminatory laws unconstitutional, children of same-sex parents are restored to dignity and given the opportunity to live lives as full members of family and society.
We here in this church may not all understand homosexuality or the importance of this Supreme Court decision, but like my friend, Lizzie Keith, posted on Facebook, “It's ok if you don't "understand" being gay - I don't understand algebra. But before we judge, know that we are all trying to be accepted by someone - for something. Life is hard. We struggle internally and battle many wars within. Falling in love with myself and accepting all my "LK-ness" hasn't hurt anyone (to my knowledge). Rather than hating, try loving - and begin with you! It's just a better feeling.”
When Jesus healed the bleeding woman, he was not made any lesser for it. His “power” wasn’t removed. By healing the woman and allowing her to make herself visible helped restore the community to wholeness. When Jesus touched the little girl, he was not made unclean, but her family was restored to wholeness. Both were daughters, not just to their parents, but even more importantly, they were called daughters of God, accepted as full children in the family of faith, not in spite of their suffering or cleanliness but because of who they were created to be.
All children of God deserve the dignity to be in full relationship with one another, in the world, and be able to love and live how they are created to be. We may not “get” it because we have taken our “healthy” and “wholesome” lives for granted for too long. But time’s up. Jesus has healed us all, and our fragmented world is made more whole when all are able to be in full relationship with the one who created us to love and be loved, without fear or shame, or life “condemned to loneliness”. Nothing is taken away from those of us who need not beg at the feet of the highest in the land when those who must are given a chance to live and love with dignity. And we rejoice with those who have been restored to relationship. Thanks be to God.
Former international fashion model Rev. Sarah Renfro seeks to boost the body image of young women by educating them on the myths of media and focusing on divine within. She also preaches and teaches about marriage and divorce, motherhood, ministry, and mental illness.