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Sermon for the Fourth Sunday after Trinity

27th Jun 2021


Sermon for the Fourth Sunday of Trinity

 

The Healing of Jairus’ Daughter

 

He took her by the hand and said to her “Talitha cum” which means ‘Little girl, get up!’ and immediately the girl got up and began to walk about (she was about twelve years of age).

 

This morning’s gospel tells us of two of Jesus’ miracles, the raising of the daughter of Jairus, the synagogue leader, and the curing of the woman with the haemorrhage – the one who touched the hem of Jesus’ garments. Both miracles tell us about Jesus approach to the taboos of his day : the ones to do with the routine treatment of women as ‘unclean’, the ones to do with touch, and the ones to do with death or dead bodies. In certain parts of the world women are still regarded as at certain times unclean. In this part of the world there are less resources for the average citizen to cope with a death. It does not occupy the place it once had in relation to past observances and customs regarding the death and funeral rites. There is less common knowledge and less reliable custom. Many people no longer have a Christian faith through which death can be mediated. It is more unusual than it was in the life of families and particularly of communities. My grandparents on my father’s side had nine children of which five survived, four having died either in childbirth or in infancy. This was not uncommon a hundred years ago. My mother at the age of 6 was brought into the small parlour to see the body of her grandfather laid out in his coffin on a large dining table. In Hoxton as recently as the early 1980s a small group of local women attended every local funeral as professional mourners. They were always expected and always given an invitation to the wake afterwards. Their present helped to emphasize the closeness of the community. In the Caribbean community it is still customary to have an open coffin and in many cases to have a single woman come and sing over the coffin as it is lowered into the ground. Hence the phrase ‘it ain’t all over ‘til the fat lady sings’. But the final song, and the men and women of family and friends who fill in the grave rather than employed and anonymous grave diggers, give the burial a significance which would otherwise be missed or forgotten…of a real oneness of intention and a passionate commitment to the honouring of the dead person.

 

Jesus is a breaker of the existing social and religious taboos of his day and especially the ones governing the segregation of women and girls. In these two enfolding miracles of healing Jesus establishes new practices and new understandings. He breaks the taboos concerning their ritual impurity and establishes what would have been for the day a radical closeness and compassion toward those around him , and especially those in need, and he commends those who dare to step forward and ask for healing; commends them for the strength of their faith. The healing of the little girl is important in that her age is mentioned. She is twelve and therefore considered in those days to be of marriageable age. That a man, and especially a rabbi should hold her hand was considered taboo, and also that he held the hand of someone they believed to be dead. 

 

These writings secure a distinctively Christian Gospel which challenges and then transforms the existing Jewish tradition and its mores. It is important that the Gospels tell us not just about what Jesus did but about the essential character of the Christian message which emerged out of his life. For Jesus the existence of faith is not something seen to be commendable in the life of the individual, though it is that. Faith exists closely alongside the healing of those who are imprisoned and trapped as the customs of their society impede their lives and stigmatise them. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is for the healing of the whole person and of the giving of that freedom which is seen to be come from the Father as that life which is truly liberated and experience as eternal in the present. There is a ready relationship which is drawn out by Jesus’ healing acts which is the indivisibility of the soul with the body. No wonder then that Christian witness is always for life and for the living, while we are in this world. The Christian ministry from the very beginning was one which ‘held all things (including money) in common’ for the relief of widows and orphans, and St Paul writes today in his letter to the Corinthians on the delicate matter of raising the funds. Likewise  the founding of monasteries and hospitals for the sick and dying was a Christian staple in the early centuries, to be developed by Christian pioneers in more recent times in the forms of the Hospice Movement for the care of the Dying and the L’Arche Community in the care of the severely handicapped. Theirs is not just a work but also as for Christ in today’s parables a proclamation. It is the proclamation of the need to see the care and the healing of the sick and dying as the breaking of the age old taboos which would have such conditions swept under the carpet and placed out of town, like the old asylums.

 

In raising the little girl from the dead, Jesus puts a cap on those familiar words ‘old habits die heard’. This healing and the healing of the woman with the haemorrhage are ‘breakthrough’ events which take h our understanding of the need for healing into new levels of understanding. In the breaking of ancient taboos, Jesus is the One who makes it possible for all Christians, in all times and in all places, to understand the human condition as it is found, and of the abiding need for the receiving of his grace for the healing of our minds and bodies and souls. But this is something, as the poet says, which must emerge out of a life of faith ‘in the laboratory of the spirit’, but in the meantime we may be called to love that which the world rejects, as the hymn says “love to the loveless shown that they might lovely be”…

 

 

 

Emerging

 

Not as in the old days I pray,

God. My life is not what it was...

Once I would have asked 

healing. I go now to be doctored...

to lend my flesh as manuscript of the great poem

Of the scalpel. I would have knelt

long, wrestling with you, wearing

you down. Hear my prayer Lord, hear my prayer. 

As though you were deaf, myriads of mortals

have kept up their shrill

cry, explaining your silence by their unfitness.

 

It begins to appear

this is not what prayer is about.

It is the annihilation of difference,

the consciousness of myself in you,

of you in me...I begin to recognize

you anew, God of form and number.

There are questions we are the solution 

to, others whose echoes we must expand

to contain. Circular as our way

is, it leads not back to the snake-haunted

garden, but onward to the tall city

of glass that is the laboratory of the spirit.

 

 

R S Thomas

Sermon for the Fourth Sunday of Trinity

 

The Healing of Jairus’ Daughter

 

He took her by the hand and said to her “Talitha cum” which means ‘Little girl, get up!’ and immediately the girl got up and began to walk about (she was about twelve years of age).

 

This morning’s gospel tells us of two of Jesus’ miracles, the raising of the daughter of Jairus, the synagogue leader, and the curing of the woman with the haemorrhage – the one who touched the hem of Jesus’ garments. Both miracles tell us about Jesus approach to the taboos of his day : the ones to do with the routine treatment of women as ‘unclean’, the ones to do with touch, and the ones to do with death or dead bodies. In certain parts of the world women are still regarded as at certain times unclean. In this part of the world there are less resources for the average citizen to cope with a death. It does not occupy the place it once had in relation to past observances and customs regarding the death and funeral rites. There is less common knowledge and less reliable custom. Many people no longer have a Christian faith through which death can be mediated. It is more unusual than it was in the life of families and particularly of communities. My grandparents on my father’s side had nine children of which five survived, four having died either in childbirth or in infancy. This was not uncommon a hundred years ago. My mother at the age of 6 was brought into the small parlour to see the body of her grandfather laid out in his coffin on a large dining table. In Hoxton as recently as the early 1980s a small group of local women attended every local funeral as professional mourners. They were always expected and always given an invitation to the wake afterwards. Their present helped to emphasize the closeness of the community. In the Caribbean community it is still customary to have an open coffin and in many cases to have a single woman come and sing over the coffin as it is lowered into the ground. Hence the phrase ‘it ain’t all over ‘til the fat lady sings’. But the final song, and the men and women of family and friends who fill in the grave rather than employed and anonymous grave diggers, give the burial a significance which would otherwise be missed or forgotten…of a real oneness of intention and a passionate commitment to the honouring of the dead person.

 

Jesus is a breaker of the existing social and religious taboos of his day and especially the ones governing the segregation of women and girls. In these two enfolding miracles of healing Jesus establishes new practices and new understandings. He breaks the taboos concerning their ritual impurity and establishes what would have been for the day a radical closeness and compassion toward those around him , and especially those in need, and he commends those who dare to step forward and ask for healing; commends them for the strength of their faith. The healing of the little girl is important in that her age is mentioned. She is twelve and therefore considered in those days to be of marriageable age. That a man, and especially a rabbi should hold her hand was considered taboo, and also that he held the hand of someone they believed to be dead. 

 

These writings secure a distinctively Christian Gospel which challenges and then transforms the existing Jewish tradition and its mores. It is important that the Gospels tell us not just about what Jesus did but about the essential character of the Christian message which emerged out of his life. For Jesus the existence of faith is not something seen to be commendable in the life of the individual, though it is that. Faith exists closely alongside the healing of those who are imprisoned and trapped as the customs of their society impede their lives and stigmatise them. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is for the healing of the whole person and of the giving of that freedom which is seen to be come from the Father as that life which is truly liberated and experience as eternal in the present. There is a ready relationship which is drawn out by Jesus’ healing acts which is the indivisibility of the soul with the body. No wonder then that Christian witness is always for life and for the living, while we are in this world. The Christian ministry from the very beginning was one which ‘held all things (including money) in common’ for the relief of widows and orphans, and St Paul writes today in his letter to the Corinthians on the delicate matter of raising the funds. Likewise  the founding of monasteries and hospitals for the sick and dying was a Christian staple in the early centuries, to be developed by Christian pioneers in more recent times in the forms of the Hospice Movement for the care of the Dying and the L’Arche Community in the care of the severely handicapped. Theirs is not just a work but also as for Christ in today’s parables a proclamation. It is the proclamation of the need to see the care and the healing of the sick and dying as the breaking of the age old taboos which would have such conditions swept under the carpet and placed out of town, like the old asylums.

 

In raising the little girl from the dead, Jesus puts a cap on those familiar words ‘old habits die heard’. This healing and the healing of the woman with the haemorrhage are ‘breakthrough’ events which take h our understanding of the need for healing into new levels of understanding. In the breaking of ancient taboos, Jesus is the One who makes it possible for all Christians, in all times and in all places, to understand the human condition as it is found, and of the abiding need for the receiving of his grace for the healing of our minds and bodies and souls. But this is something, as the poet says, which must emerge out of a life of faith ‘in the laboratory of the spirit’, but in the meantime we may be called to love that which the world rejects, as the hymn says “love to the loveless shown that they might lovely be”…

 

 

 

Emerging

 

Not as in the old days I pray,

God. My life is not what it was...

Once I would have asked 

healing. I go now to be doctored...

to lend my flesh as manuscript of the great poem

Of the scalpel. I would have knelt

long, wrestling with you, wearing

you down. Hear my prayer Lord, hear my prayer. 

As though you were deaf, myriads of mortals

have kept up their shrill

cry, explaining your silence by their unfitness.

 

It begins to appear

this is not what prayer is about.

It is the annihilation of difference,

the consciousness of myself in you,

of you in me...I begin to recognize

you anew, God of form and number.

There are questions we are the solution 

to, others whose echoes we must expand

to contain. Circular as our way

is, it leads not back to the snake-haunted

garden, but onward to the tall city

of glass that is the laboratory of the spirit.

 

 

R S Thomas

Sermon for the Fourth Sunday of Trinity

 

The Healing of Jairus’ Daughter

 

He took her by the hand and said to her “Talitha cum” which means ‘Little girl, get up!’ and immediately the girl got up and began to walk about (she was about twelve years of age).

 

This morning’s gospel tells us of two of Jesus’ miracles, the raising of the daughter of Jairus, the synagogue leader, and the curing of the woman with the haemorrhage – the one who touched the hem of Jesus’ garments. Both miracles tell us about Jesus approach to the taboos of his day : the ones to do with the routine treatment of women as ‘unclean’, the ones to do with touch, and the ones to do with death or dead bodies. In certain parts of the world women are still regarded as at certain times unclean. In this part of the world there are less resources for the average citizen to cope with a death. It does not occupy the place it once had in relation to past observances and customs regarding the death and funeral rites. There is less common knowledge and less reliable custom. Many people no longer have a Christian faith through which death can be mediated. It is more unusual than it was in the life of families and particularly of communities. My grandparents on my father’s side had nine children of which five survived, four having died either in childbirth or in infancy. This was not uncommon a hundred years ago. My mother at the age of 6 was brought into the small parlour to see the body of her grandfather laid out in his coffin on a large dining table. In Hoxton as recently as the early 1980s a small group of local women attended every local funeral as professional mourners. They were always expected and always given an invitation to the wake afterwards. Their present helped to emphasize the closeness of the community. In the Caribbean community it is still customary to have an open coffin and in many cases to have a single woman come and sing over the coffin as it is lowered into the ground. Hence the phrase ‘it ain’t all over ‘til the fat lady sings’. But the final song, and the men and women of family and friends who fill in the grave rather than employed and anonymous grave diggers, give the burial a significance which would otherwise be missed or forgotten…of a real oneness of intention and a passionate commitment to the honouring of the dead person.

 

Jesus is a breaker of the existing social and religious taboos of his day and especially the ones governing the segregation of women and girls. In these two enfolding miracles of healing Jesus establishes new practices and new understandings. He breaks the taboos concerning their ritual impurity and establishes what would have been for the day a radical closeness and compassion toward those around him , and especially those in need, and he commends those who dare to step forward and ask for healing; commends them for the strength of their faith. The healing of the little girl is important in that her age is mentioned. She is twelve and therefore considered in those days to be of marriageable age. That a man, and especially a rabbi should hold her hand was considered taboo, and also that he held the hand of someone they believed to be dead. 

 

These writings secure a distinctively Christian Gospel which challenges and then transforms the existing Jewish tradition and its mores. It is important that the Gospels tell us not just about what Jesus did but about the essential character of the Christian message which emerged out of his life. For Jesus the existence of faith is not something seen to be commendable in the life of the individual, though it is that. Faith exists closely alongside the healing of those who are imprisoned and trapped as the customs of their society impede their lives and stigmatise them. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is for the healing of the whole person and of the giving of that freedom which is seen to be come from the Father as that life which is truly liberated and experience as eternal in the present. There is a ready relationship which is drawn out by Jesus’ healing acts which is the indivisibility of the soul with the body. No wonder then that Christian witness is always for life and for the living, while we are in this world. The Christian ministry from the very beginning was one which ‘held all things (including money) in common’ for the relief of widows and orphans, and St Paul writes today in his letter to the Corinthians on the delicate matter of raising the funds. Likewise  the founding of monasteries and hospitals for the sick and dying was a Christian staple in the early centuries, to be developed by Christian pioneers in more recent times in the forms of the Hospice Movement for the care of the Dying and the L’Arche Community in the care of the severely handicapped. Theirs is not just a work but also as for Christ in today’s parables a proclamation. It is the proclamation of the need to see the care and the healing of the sick and dying as the breaking of the age old taboos which would have such conditions swept under the carpet and placed out of town, like the old asylums.

 

In raising the little girl from the dead, Jesus puts a cap on those familiar words ‘old habits die heard’. This healing and the healing of the woman with the haemorrhage are ‘breakthrough’ events which take h our understanding of the need for healing into new levels of understanding. In the breaking of ancient taboos, Jesus is the One who makes it possible for all Christians, in all times and in all places, to understand the human condition as it is found, and of the abiding need for the receiving of his grace for the healing of our minds and bodies and souls. But this is something, as the poet says, which must emerge out of a life of faith ‘in the laboratory of the spirit’, but in the meantime we may be called to love that which the world rejects, as the hymn says “love to the loveless shown that they might lovely be”…

 

 

 

Emerging

 

Not as in the old days I pray,

God. My life is not what it was...

Once I would have asked 

healing. I go now to be doctored...

to lend my flesh as manuscript of the great poem

Of the scalpel. I would have knelt

long, wrestling with you, wearing

you down. Hear my prayer Lord, hear my prayer. 

As though you were deaf, myriads of mortals

have kept up their shrill

cry, explaining your silence by their unfitness.

 

It begins to appear

this is not what prayer is about.

It is the annihilation of difference,

the consciousness of myself in you,

of you in me...I begin to recognize

you anew, God of form and number.

There are questions we are the solution 

to, others whose echoes we must expand

to contain. Circular as our way

is, it leads not back to the snake-haunted

garden, but onward to the tall city

of glass that is the laboratory of the spirit.

 

 

R S Thomas