Fifth after Pentecost

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Mark 5.41: Jesus took her by the hand and said to her, “Talitha koum!” (which means “Little girl, I say to you, get up!”). Photo by nsawyer (Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Gathered through the power of the Holy Spirit, we worship God with gladness. We encourage you to pray over the words that follow, and follow the links within the liturgy. Prayers in this service are adapted from Celebrate God’s Presence (UCPH). Thanks this week to Cor and Heather!

PRELUDE: “Shooting Stars in Summer” (Ikeda)

OPENING PRAYER:

Wondrous God:
you touch our lives with healing and mercy;
new life is your gift.
We praise you for the Good News
which is ours through Jesus Christ.
May this time of worship nourish us
with your promise of meaning and purpose.
May this time be a balm for the hurting
and a rest for the weary.
May we be strengthen to carry your message
of new life in Christ to the streets that surround us.
And may we be empowered to carry your grace
into the coming week.
We pray in Jesus’ name, our Source and Saviour.

HYMN OF PRAISE: “Come and find the quiet centre”

Come and find the quiet centre
in the crowded life we lead,
find the room for hope to enter,
find the frame where we are freed:
clear the chaos and the clutter,
clear our eyes, that we can see
all the things that really matter,
be at peace, and simply be.

Silence is a friend who claims us,
cools the heat and slows the pace,
God it is who speaks and names us,
knows our being, face to face,
making space within our thinking,
lifting shades to show the sun,
raising courage when we’re shrinking,
finding scope for faith begun.

In the Spirit let us travel,
open to each other’s pain,
let our loves and fears unravel,
celebrate the space we gain:
there’s a place for deepest dreaming,
there’s a time for heart to care,
in the Spirit’s lively scheming
there is always room to spare!

PRAYER OF CONFESSION

Gracious God,
You are the author of love
and source of forgiveness.
We are all too human,
quick to judge,
and slow to understand.
Send your Spirit, O God.
Remind us the last word,
spoken on a hill far away,
was “forgive.”
Amen.

ASSURANCE OF PARDON

God will give us what we need:
strength for today,
hope for tomorrow,
and forgiveness
for all that is past.
Amen.

SPECIAL MUSIC: “In Suffering Love/There is a Balm in Gilead”

FIRST READING: Psalm 130

Out of the depths I cry to you, Lord;
Lord, hear my voice.
Let your ears be attentive
to my cry for mercy.

If you, Lord, kept a record of sins,
Lord, who could stand?
But with you there is forgiveness,
so that we can, with reverence, serve you.

I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits,
and in his word I put my hope.
I wait for the Lord
more than watchmen wait for the morning,
more than watchmen wait for the morning.

Israel, put your hope in the Lord,
for with the Lord is unfailing love
and with him is full redemption.

He himself will redeem Israel
from all their sins.

SECOND READING: Mark 5.21-43

21 When Jesus had again crossed over by boat to the other side of the lake, a large crowd gathered around him while he was by the lake. 22 Then one of the synagogue leaders, named Jairus, came, and when he saw Jesus, he fell at his feet. 23 He pleaded earnestly with him, “My little daughter is dying. Please come and put your hands on her so that she will be healed and live.” 24 So Jesus went with him.

A large crowd followed and pressed around him. 25 And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. 26 She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse. 27 When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, 28 because she thought, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.” 29 Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering.

30 At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched my clothes?”

31 “You see the people crowding against you,” his disciples answered, “and yet you can ask, ‘Who touched me?’ ”

32 But Jesus kept looking around to see who had done it. 33 Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet and, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth. 34 He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.”

35 While Jesus was still speaking, some people came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue leader. “Your daughter is dead,” they said. “Why bother the teacher anymore?”

36 Overhearing what they said, Jesus told him, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.”

37 He did not let anyone follow him except Peter, James and John the brother of James. 38 When they came to the home of the synagogue leader, Jesus saw a commotion, with people crying and wailing loudly. 39 He went in and said to them, “Why all this commotion and wailing? The child is not dead but asleep.” 40 But they laughed at him.

After he put them all out, he took the child’s father and mother and the disciples who were with him, and went in where the child was. 41 He took her by the hand and said to her, “Talitha koum!” (which means “Little girl, I say to you, get up!”). 42 Immediately the girl stood up and began to walk around (she was twelve years old). At this they were completely astonished. 43 He gave strict orders not to let anyone know about this, and told them to give her something to eat.

HYMN: “Healer of our every ill”

Healer of our every ill,
light of each tomorrow,
give us peace beyond our fear,
and hope beyond our sorrow.

You who know our fears and sadness,
grace us with your peace and gladness.
Spirit of all comfort, fill our hearts. R

In the pain and joy beholding,
how your grace is still unfolding.
Give us all your vision, God of love. R

Give us strength to love each other,
every sister, every brother.
Spirit of all kindness, be our guide. R

You who know each thought and feeling,
teach us all your way of healing.
Spirit of compassion, fill each heart. R

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Fresco from Catacombs of Rome, c. 300 CE. Photo in the public domain.

REFLECTION

My wee laddie turned 30 this week, and suddenly I’m out of touch.

Not so much with the usual music, clothing, slang, social media platform, or recreational choices, but children’s books— something I haven’t thought about for many years. I had an inkling, and my inkling relates to the lesson of the day, so I decided to check out bestselling books for preschoolers.

Sure enough, there are many best-selling books about bodies, learning about your body, and self-esteem related to what you find. And they seem to follow a few broad themes, the first being a general kind of body positivity: Bodies Are Cool (Tyler Feder); Me and My Amazing Body (Joan Sweeney); and
I Love Being Me! (Mechal Renee Roe).

And then there is the inevitable and wildly popular book Everyone Poops (Taro Gomi), and what seems like an unintentional sequel, We Poop on the Potty (Jim Harbison). Some things need to be said.

I’m particularly partial to the rhyming titles, such as Oliver West! It’s Time to Get Dressed! (Kelly Louise); Whose Toes Are Those? (Jabari Asim), and (of course) Whose Knees are These? (Jabari Asim). And this then leads us to books for kids who are self-conscious, such as Big Hair, Don’t Care (Crystal Swain-Bates) or a new personal favourite: Your Nose! A Wild Little Love Story (Sandra Boynton).

The link to our passage is bodies, physicality, and the extent to which we can imagine the scene. I’m going to reread a summary version, with a focus on the physical. (Remember this is a story within a story, so we begin and end with the healing of Jairus’ daughter)

Jairus fell at Jesus’ feet.
He pleaded, “Please come and put your hands on her so that she will be healed.”

A large crowd followed and pressed around him.
A woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years.
She came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak.
She thought, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.”
Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering.
At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him.
“Who touched my clothes?” he asked.
“You see the people crowding against you,” his disciples answered, “and yet you can ask, ‘Who touched me?’”
The woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet.

Jesus then went in where the child was.
He took her by the hand and said to her, “Talitha koum!” (which means “Little girl, I say to you, get up!”). Immediately the girl stood up and began to walk around (she was twelve years old).
He gave strict orders not to let anyone know about this, and told them to give her something to eat.

A few things to note here: first, there is an obvious connection between healing and touch. The dialogue between “If I could only touch him” and “Who touched me?” tells us all we need to know about the immediacy of touch and the need to be present, both to touch and to be touched. In almost every healing, there is an element of the physical.

And this also tells us all we need to know about this incarnational God we worship. We follow the Way: an intentional decision to walk the way we walk, to enter the pain and suffering of life, and to visit God’s healing on the people he met. I’m going to assume all the people he met. This is the moment we remember John’s coda, the last words of his Gospel: “Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.”

Imagine the power of God emanating for everyone he met—a gentle touch, a kind word, a gentle challenge—and forgiveness for all that is past. We tend to see these a series of “healing episodes,” passages that we preach (or avoid) as individual units of healing. My sense, based on this passage and others, is that Jesus healed everyone he met: whether they knew it or not, whether they wanted it or not. Meeting Jesus meant transformation, and meeting Jesus means transformation, because the power of God is infinite.

And that brings me to another point, one born of the remarkable line: “At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him.” Remember this is Mark’s Gospel. Generally it’s John’s Gospel that gives us the self-aware Jesus, the Jesus that knows (and tells people) that he is the way, the truth and the life. Mark’s Jesus is the “tell no one” Jesus, which is the way our reading ends today. Yet he knows that power has left him, and Mark knows too. Jesus doesn’t heal by accident, it’s always his intention to heal.

And then the remarkable end to our passage, when we finally meet Jairus’ daughter after what seems a false start. Even in their grief, the people around the girl think it’s absurd that she is merely sleeping. In a time well acquainted with death, they know she is gone, and they think they know the limit of God’s power. “You are dust,” God said, “and to the dust you shall return.” Yet even this bit of divine legislation does not bind the Son of the Most High, who understands the mysteries of death and can raise the dead. This, and the raising of Lazarus, remain the most confounding of Jesus’ miracles, but we are invited to open ourselves to this mystery nonetheless.

The past few weeks, and the discovery of countless graves around residential schools, reminds us of the power of the physical. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s final report dedicated a chapter to missing children and unmarked burials, but the physical discovery of graves, and the innocents within, has moved us more than many expected. And so we heed the moderator’s words, who in a letter to clergy this week offered these reflections:

This is a time for The United Church of Canada to listen rather than prescribe. The pain in Indigenous communities and churches is immense. I ask you to continue to hold Indigenous members of the United Church and their families and communities in prayer and ask members of your community of faith to do the same.

Again, back to the physical. We use our ears rather than our tongues, and listen to the pain that is shared, the anguish and the anger. I expect it will be a long summer of listening, and reflecting on the past. And prayer is an excellent place to start, knowing that we will be called upon to act, and will need God’s help when that moment comes.

God’s desire to heal is infinite, and God’s desire to walk with those in pain is never-ending. God entered our world precisely to heal everyone who God met through Jesus. This tells us all we need to know about the heavenly healing mandate. As God’s agents, or ambassadors, we share the same mandate, and strive (first of all) to do no harm, and then share the same gentle touch, and kind word, and wish for healing that we know. May God give us the strength we need, now and always, Amen.

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Sarcophagus with various scenes, 325-350 CE, Vatican Museum. The episodes tend to run together, with the raising of Lazarus, a woman touching Jesus’ garment, arrest of Peter, and Peter denying Christ.

PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE

Blessed are you, gracious God:
you have given us life and freedom
to be your people in the world.
Blessed are you, gracious God:
you have called us into the church,
and into this community of faith,
pilgrims together on the journey into new creation.
Blessed are you, gracious God:
you have touched our hearts with hope,
so that we long to see the day of your salvation.

Blessed are you, gracious God:
you challenge us to grow in understanding
about our history and the implications of the past.
Blessed are you, gracious God:
you help us face hard truths,
and see the ways we collectively failed individuals
and individually failed others.
Blessed are you, gracious God:
For sending us latter-day prophets,
to speak the truth in love, even if we find it hard to hear.

Blessed are you, gracious God:
you have give us meaningful work
and the ability to work together for the common good.
Blessed are you, gracious God:
you heal the sick, comfort the troubled,
and encourage those without hope.
Blessed are you, gracious God:
you challenge us to work together
for a world transformed in your image.

THE LORD’S PRAYER

Our Father who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come,
Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread;
and forgive us our trespasses
as we forgive those who trespass against us;
and lead us not into temptation
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
and the power, and the glory,
for ever and ever. Amen.

HYMN: “I danced in the morning”

I danced in the morning when the world was begun,
and I danced in the moon and the stars and the sun,
and I came from heaven and I danced on the earth;
at Bethlehem I had my birth.

Dance, then, wherever you may be;
I am the Lord of the dance, said he,
and I’ll lead you all, wherever you may be,
and I’ll lead you all in the dance, said he.

I danced for the scribe and the pharisee,
but they would not dance and they would not follow me;
I danced for the fishermen, for James and John;
they came with me and the dance went on. R

I danced on the Sabbath and I cured the lame;
the holy people said it was a shame;
they whipped and they stripped and they hung me high,
and left me there on a cross to die. R

I danced on a Friday when the sky turned black;
it’s hard to dance with the devil on your back;
they buried my body and they thought I’d gone,
but I am the dance and I still go on. R

They cut me down and I leap up high;
I am the life that will never, never die;
I’ll live in you if you’ll live in me;
I am the Lord of the dance, said he. R

BLESSING

Now may the God of peace make you holy in every way,
and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless
until our Lord Jesus Christ comes again. Amen.
—1 Thessalonians 5:23

God be with you till we meet again;
loving counsels guide, uphold you,
with a shepherd’s care enfold you;
God be with you till we meet again.

One thought on “Fifth after Pentecost

  1. Michael, as we struggle through this pandemic, it is so wonderful to realize how profound the power of God can be. Thank you for this inspiration.
    Loved the music Cor and Heather!
    God bless you all.❤❤❤

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