Homily 380 – 20th after Pentecost
Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Church, Ames, Iowa
November 3, 2019
Epistle: (200) Galatians 1:11-19
Gospel: (39) Luke 8:41-56
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, One God.
I have to imagine that the woman with the flow of blood was lonely. Being a Jewish woman, with a flow of blood, she was ritually impure.
Today, that doesn’t resonate with most of us, because we don’t understand the concept of ritual impurity. But in the Jewish world, the implication of being ritually impure was that no one could have contact with you.
If they had contact with you, you made them ritually impure. This was more than an inconvenience – they couldn’t enter the synagogue, nor the temple – they could not participate in the life of the people of Israel.
Even today, the observant Jews offer the Mikveh, or purity bath, to cleanse the ritual impurity. Not just blood – and not just women.
The Christian equivalent may be baptism and confession – baptism being a one-time thing, confession occurring afterward.
But the mikveh would not cleanse this woman, as the blood was continuous, from what we are told. For twelve years, this woman had been essentially a leper to other people. No physical contact.
And it was up to her to avoid contact with others, such contact making them impure.
She had seen doctors, to no benefit. She was, by other accounts of the same occurrence, destitute, having spent her money on those doctors.
So: here is a woman, ritually impure, charged with keeping herself from contact with others.
And she is in a crowd of people – likely for the first time in over a decade – people who were heading for the synagogue. Jesus, the object of her quest, was there. The ruler of the synagogue, a very high-ranking and powerful man named Jairus, was there.
And she was there.
Unlike others – blind, crippled, leprous – she didn’t call out to Christ. That would be unthinkable for her, since then all those around would know of her impurity, and would themselves become impure.
She didn’t wish to cause trouble. She tried and was largely successful at remaining hidden from the throng. When she was called out by Jesus, she trembled. In fear, I imagine.
Her faith healed her – seemingly hidden even from our Lord. He felt the power leave Him. He apparently didn’t feel the touch of the woman.
He felt her faith.
The compassion of Christ is evident here. But there is more.
The ruler – Jairus – saw that even the unclean were healed by faith. Jairus witnessed the cooperation – the synergy – between faith and actions.
I’m sure on some level Jairus was a bit dumbfounded. Particularly since he was in the midst of asking Christ for his own miracle – the healing of his young daughter.
I cannot imagine the grief and fear that Jairus must have felt. To know that your daughter lay dying. The only source of hope was this miracle worker who happened to be in your town.
And he was interrupted by this unclean woman. It wasn’t the woman who interrupted, though. It was the healer.
The daughter died – but was raised again. The woman was told not to fear, and to be of good cheer and go in peace. Jairus and his wife were dumbfounded by the joy of the return of their daughter but told to keep quiet.
What do these events say to us? Several things, but I’ll focus on a couple.
To start – place no limits on God. God does not demand anything for His mercy. His mercy for us comes not from obedience, but from love. It doesn’t demand compliance, only acceptance.
Never assume what God will or won’t do. The only thing that God won’t allow is the prayer which causes us to move in the wrong direction, away from Him.
God wants to be a Father for us. As we know, children are completely dependent on their parents, particularly from birth until maturity. We have to learn to be dependent on God in a similar way, as children.
Children do not concern themselves with tomorrow. I was blessed to spend this past week with my grandchildren and see that lesson demonstrated over and over.
It is difficult, if not impossible, to get a child to understand delayed gratification. Yet, they don’t worry about the food for tomorrow, or clothes for tomorrow, or anything about tomorrow.
They live in the moment of their parent’s love.
Where God wants us to live also. We can be carefree – we can love without boundary or expectation – because our concern is not for tomorrow, but only today. The message of Scripture both old and new testament is consistent in that.
Finally, like Jairus, the message Christ has for us is to not be afraid. Only believe.
Believe what? A doctrinal test of some sort? The baptismal creed and symbol of faith? The Torah?
No – believe that God loves. That He loves us more than we know how to love. If we begin there, we will find healing, and we will find peace.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, One God. Glory to Jesus Christ!