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2 Samuel 1:1,17-24; 2 Corinthians 8:7-15; Mark 5:21-43

Healing God, bind us together so that in our brokenness we feel your presence. Amen.   

Good morning again everyone. For those that I haven’t had a chance to chat with or meet formally, my name is Ben Lukenchuk. I am a life-long member of the ELCIC and originally from Calgary (on Treaty 7 territory). I first became a member of Church of the Cross when I moved to Victoria for my undergraduate degree. During my time here, I was a member of the choir, did some lay preaching, served as youth ministry coordinator for a time, taking a group of youth to CLAY in 2018, and served on the Call Committee that would eventually call Pastor Lyndon. I then moved to Hamilton and Ottawa (on Haudenosaunee and Algonquin territories) where I would pursue graduate studies in economics, join the federal public service, and later return to university to earn my teaching degree. During my time in Ontario, I remained involved in the church and would serve as the Coordinator of Youth and Young Adult’s ministry at St. Peter’s, St. John, and Resurrection Lutheran Churches in Ottawa. I’ll add that my starting date for that role was January 2020 and pretty much nothing could have prepared me for the subsequent two years of youth ministry. It was here in Ottawa where I met my wife, Rebecca. In 2022, we returned to Victoria for Rebecca to attend law school. It has been good to be back. I feel in many ways that I have picked up right where I left off, serving on council, as assisting minister, and on our joint project committee with Luther Court on intergenerational housing. What’s more, after many years discerning God’s call, I am pleased to be preaching today, officially, as a seminary student. This September I will be starting my MDiv – as a distance learner – at the Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary in Berkely California. It is my hope that you see a lot more of me in new ways in the years to come. Enough about me, let’s talk about the Gospel.

Today’s Gospel story immediately follows two miracles. In the preceding chapters, Jesus calms a storm, casts out a demon, and now, Jesus heals and seemingly resurrects two unnamed women. Mark’s account is really a story within a story – or if you want to impress your friends at your next pub trivia evening - what commentators point out is called an intercalation. The contrast between the two stories is intended to reveal a deeper meaning to the reader.

What is important for us to keep in mind reading this account in 2024, is that for both reasons of ritual and public health, those who are bleeding or recently deceased are not to be touched or embraced by their community. Indeed, Jesus’s actions in this story would have rendered himself unclean by the standards of the time. With this context, it’s relatively unsurprising that many commentaries hew to the narrative that Jesus’s interactions with those at the margins brought them back into their community and thus we should do the same in our work as a church. This is, of course, an important message and bears repeating until it is almost a reflex.

I will admit that this is not where my mind first went when I read Mark’s Gospel account. It became clear to me that I had maybe been to Theatre Calgary’s Production of A Christmas Carol a few too many times as all I could think of is the Ghost of Christmas Present telling Scrooge, portrayed by Stephen Hair for an impressive 27 seasons, to “Touch my robe,” and for the two of them to be whisked off into a vision of the coming Victorian-era Christmas morning. It could just be me, but when it comes to a discussion of Jesus’s miracles, it can be easy to get caught up in the this-is-scientifically-impossible and to think about it in the same way as Scrooge seeing three ghosts on Christmas eve.

Given this, my thoughts returned to a nugget from my confirmation class with Pastor Stewart Miller. He always said that “just because something didn’t necessarily happen, it doesn’t mean that it isn’t true.” So, in the context of these miracles what is the truism that we can hang our hat on?

For those who heard the short reflection I offered during Lent, it has recently been my observation that we focus on the disciples or Jesus in our reading of the Bible and think a little too little about the crowd or other characters, named or unnamed. Speaking for myself, in my heart of hearts, I often struggle to fully connect with the actions of Jesus and almost invariably come up short when trying to follow his example. And I’ve concluded that as mere mortal and not the Son of God, that is okay. I find it much easier to see myself in the crowd or, in this case, poor Jairus.

If you will indulge me, let’s consider the story again from Jairus’s perspective. Almost certainly someone is running up and down the beach, amongst the fishing boats, and down to the inn and stables that some guy named Jesus has just calmed the sea and then miraculously healed someone. It’s so improbable that everyone heads back to their work except for Jairus, a leader of the synagogue known to many, who heads down to the beach in desperation that I am sure any parent can relate to. The collective pity of the community is probably palpable as they see the desperation in Jairus.

Jairus and Jesus start walking from the beach and the whispers of “Is that Jesus?” “I think that’s Jesus?” begin and a crowd forms. The bleeding woman approaches Jesus through the crowd and Jesus asks, “Who touched my clothes?” Now, it could be just me, but if I’m Jairus, and my daughter is at the point of death, I’m losing it right now. Seriously Jesus? My daughter is dying, and you want to know who touched your clothes? Can we address this another time?!

Once the woman is healed and Jairus and Jesus continue their walk to Jairus’s house, we can only imagine the hopelessness and the anguish from Jairus who almost certainly knows it is too late. But we know that it isn’t. God, made known to Jairus through Jesus, arrives and not only heals but resurrects Jairus’s daughter as casually as if they were waking someone up from a nap. Is this not worthy of being overcome with amazement? After feeling like it was too late, and that Jesus had put off Jairus’s miracle to heal the woman in the street, all was made in new in the end.

It is in this aspect of the story where I find that truism that I can hold onto. I think at one time or another we have all been Jairus. Regardless of whether the healing we desire is social or medical or relational and, perhaps, regardless of how hard we pray, have we all not, at some point or another, felt like it was too late for a miracle, that we didn’t feel God’s presence in our anguish and hopelessness, or maybe that an outcome was far from what we felt we needed?

Today at Communion we will have the opportunity to experience prayers and anointing for healing. Public Theologian and pastor in our sister-church the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Nadia Bolz-Weber, reminds us that prayer is not the quarter we put into God’s vending machine so they can release the gumball we want. It’s not about providing a wish list to God. Rather, as we pray for one another and the broader brokenness in this world, though the “how” it works isn’t clear, it matters in some way. Through prayer, we bind ourselves together and hold each other in the presence of God. She concludes that this connection through prayer is the way in which God is sewing our broken humanity back together.

When we are in need of prayer and healing, it can be so easy to feel like Jairus. To not feel God’s presence or perhaps that an outcome is so final and so much the opposite of what we prayed for that it is too late for God’s presence. In the end, I think Jairus learns that God arrives in their own time and in their own way. What’s more, though it may not be clear to us, nothing is beyond God. As we bind ourselves together in prayer, let us trust that the same is true for each of us. Amen.