Sermon for 5th Sunday after Pentecost
Parish of All Saints by the Sea
June 27th-28th, 2015
In the late 1960s there was a scientific study done in the maternity ward of a hospital involving over 20 very new mothers and over 20 very new infants.
The study was called, “Maternal Recognition of Infant’s Cry,” and what the researchers wanted to learn was how well mothers—especially new mothers—could recognize the cry of their own baby, a cry that was new to them and as we all know sounds a lot like the cry of every other new-born baby.
Now any of you here who have children or who take care of children maybe have a sense of what the study found. How many of you have ever experienced that moment when the cry of your child or the child you are caring for rings out almost deafeningly above the hum and buzz of a crowd of other children? How many of you have heard that and instantly felt that moment where your heart leaps to your throat and adrenaline begins to pump through your blood because somehow—even through all the noise, and yelling, and laughter of a playground full of a children—you know that the cry came from your own.
The study found that up to 48 hours after giving birth over half of the mothers recognized the cry of their own baby. After 48 hours all the mothers recognized the cry of their own baby.
The study also looked at a multi-bed room in which 10 new mothers were staying with their babies. The babies woke and cried 23 times through the night, and 22 of those 23 times the mother of the crying baby woke at the sound of her own child.
There is something impossible not to respond to in the cry of an infant. Perhaps because it is the voice of a being so helpless and unable to care for itself, so deeply in need of care that something born right into us, something we are created with, is triggered to respond to that need.
In today’s Gospel lesson something similar takes place.
Jesus had taken a boat across the Sea of Galilee and as soon as he lands on the other side he is swarmed by people pressing up against him and all around him on every side. Jesus’ fame went before him and word of his miracles had spread far and wide—the crowds that followed him were desperate to be a part of those miracles, desperate to receive some shred of Jesus’ power.
And when he lands on that shore and as he begins to push his way through the crowd he is approached by a man in need, a man by the name of Jairus who was an important man, a leader, within the synagogue. Jairus tells Jesus that his daughter is dying and he wants Jesus to come and to heal her, to save her from death.
Jesus agrees and starts off through the crowd once more until something happens that causes him to stop.
Jesus stops and asks the crowd, “Who touched my clothes?”
What a silly question that must have seemed to his disciples and others in a crowd where many people were probably brushing up against or touching Jesus as he walked. But yet amidst all of that contact, all of those people, and all of that commotion Jesus, just like the mothers in the maternity ward and their babies, could feel the touch of the woman looking for healing.
He could feel that a person in need, a person of faith reached out and touched him and was healed.
And at first the woman hid in the crowd, her sickness—the issue of blood, hemorrhaging—was something to be ashamed of, something which made her unclean in the eyes of many, but when Jesus looked around and asked who had done it she came forward and threw herself at his feet.
Jesus simply responded to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease,” and with that moved on to Jairus’ house and to his dying daughter.
When he gets to Jairus’ house the crowd gathered at the house mock him and laugh at the impossible task of healing a girl who is now dead. Jesus only calls them to a similar act of faith to the woman who touched his robe when he says, “Do not fear, only believe.” Jesus visits the daughter, the young girl, tells her to rise and she is healed, just like the woman with the hemorrhage.
What binds both Jairus and the woman together is that Jesus addressed their need in the midst of a crowd pressing on him for attention.
There are many moments throughout the gospels when Jesus is faced with demanding crowds. Sometimes he flees from them to be alone in prayer in the desert, only to find them following him. Sometimes he turns to speak to the crowds and teach them, and other times he does not and simply pushes through them.
People came to Jesus because of his fame and because of his power; people were in need, people needed healing just like Jairus and the woman with the issue of blood, but what makes them different? Why them and not someone else in the crowd who was in need?
The crowds that followed Jesus swarmed him and demanded his touch, demanded his attention and demanded his healing. There was something frenzied about it, like the way people crowd around a celebrity just to touch them, shake hands with them, or get an autograph.
People’s pain, sickness, wounds, and their need drove them to seek out the man who had healed others, but their fear made the meeting into an idol.
They pushed and shoved others, squeezed through the crowds, yelled and hollered to get close to Jesus, but it wasn’t any of their touches that Jesus felt. It was the touch of a woman too ashamed of her own sickness to ask Jesus directly. The touch of a woman with so much humility and such great faith that when Jesus asked the crowd who had touched him she threw herself down at his feet in front of everybody, risking shame and embarrassment.
Jairus came to Jesus having faced the mocking crowds at home who laughed at him, knowing that his daughter was dying and then dead, but yet he came to Jesus and like the woman with the hemorrhage, threw himself at Jesus’ feet and begged his healing.
In the crowds there is always a frenzy and a demand, a fear for ourselves and a yell…more than a cry…for God to help us.
In Jairus and in the Woman there was a cry. The cry of helplessness, the cry of someone powerless to help themselves and who could be helped by nobody else than Jesus, the one who is Lord of all, even their suffering.
Like in the maternity ward that cry of true need pierces through all the other demands and falls on the ear of Jesus who hears the need, the helplessness, and the faithfulness.
Our healing comes when we recognize that God is the Lord of our joys and our suffering and it is to him that we must turn over all of our faith.
It is at his feet we must throw ourselves without any demand but with trust that He is the one who will give us rest and heal our suffering.
Just like in that maternity ward, when our cry is one that recognizes that we are helpless without Christ he will hear and he will respond to us.