Healthcare, Pastor Kinsey
In April of last year (2017), Jimmy Kimmel’s son almost died a few hours after his wife gave birth to their second child. An attentive nurse noticed the infant’s color was purplish, and when they did some tests, found out that his heart’s tiny little pulmonary artery was blocked, plus there was a hole between the chambers of his heart. Very serious, but totally correctable! And, transferred to the Children’s Hospital, they did immediate surgery on the blockage, and would have a 2nd surgery in 3 to 6 months.
That week, Jimmy Kimmel Live, was all reruns while he attended to his family. But when he returned the next week, he used his whole monologue to tell the story of what happened: choking up, shedding a few tears, his voice cracking, as he recounted it, because the emergency was still so close and raw.
After more than 10 minutes on this personal story, Mr. Kimmel ended with this observation: That despite the Administration trying to cut health care, at the time, don’t we all agree, he asked, that when a newborn child has a life threatening condition, and it can be fixed medically, it shouldn’t matter if you’re rich or poor? Everyone should have access to the same medical care!?! And then they showed a shot of the audience and band – all clapping and cheering.
Our gospel is a series of two healings stories, sandwiched together. First, Jesus is called to an elite leader’s house to heal the man’s daughter, when Jesus is then interrupted by a 2nd desperately poor woman, reaching out to him.
It starts the minute Jesus has arrived back from the other side of the Sea of Galilee, returning to the Jewish side, probably at Capernaum, the home-base of the disciples, where Peter and Andrew lived. One of the leaders of the synagogue in town, Jairus, came to him, and fell down at Jesus’ feet, a sign of respect, and show of supplication, when approaching a holy man. And Jairus begged Jesus repeatedly to come and lay his hands on his daughter, who he feared, was so sick, she was lying on her death-bed. Come! You can make her well again!
So, off they go, with a ‘large crowd following.’ And ‘the following’ pressed in on them all. And, as they went, suddenly Jesus ‘was aware,’ could feel, ‘that power had gone forth from him.’ And Jesus stops and looks, twirling around: “who touched my clothes?” he calls out.
And the first derisive laugh, in our gospel story, comes from Jesus’ own disciples! “You see how great the crowd is, pressing in on us. How can you say, ‘who touched me?” ‘How are we supposed to know,’ the disciples seem to say, snorting at what they considered a ridiculous question.
But the woman comes forward, on her own. The woman, ‘who suffered from hemorrhages for 12 years,’ who is considered ritually unclean by the laws of the time. She should not even be in crowds, in public – which explains why she basically decided to sneak-up on Jesus. We also know that she endured much going to many doctors for those 12 years – if you can imagine, continually doctoring that long – and maybe you have, or, know someone else who does, or did. And she has spent all the money she had trying to find a cure. But in fact, all her life-savings, and all her doctoring, didn’t help. Instead she actually “grew worse!” Her story is unusually detailed and well developed.
And, hearing about Jesus the physician, is almost like a last resort, much like Jairus’ request. So, she is going to risk it, go out in public, forget the taboo! She thinks, What do I have to lose? I’ve spent my last dime; but I’m only getting weaker, and I’m going to die if I keep hemorrhaging. She wants to be healed so badly, she breaks through all these barriers and fears. She goes for it. “If I but touch fringe of his cloak, I will be made well,” she prays!
And, at the same time that Jesus feels power going forth from him – the woman “felt in her body that she was healed of her disease.”
Then, as he stops to search for her, I’m not sure if Jesus is angry, or what. It’s so improper what she has done, or, the way she’s gone about it, that to me, it seems as if he might scold her.
And when she steps up of her own accord, not wanting to hide the truth from Jesus, she too falls down before him, openly confessing what she did, and why.
Jesus, however, gives her the high compliment: “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace…” Instead of chastising this un-named woman of low estate, Jesus names her as a daughter of Israel, gives her status, and confirms her courage and faith against such great odds, to reach out, for the gift of God, as she did.
What would it be like, if the lowest, were lifted up, and afforded the same medical care in our society today? In the richest country in the world, where so many have to beg for proper health care, when will we offer the same healing hand to the poor and the disenfranchised, like Jesus did for the woman with the curable disease for 12 years?
Which is why our Mental Health Justice Team is part of a national campaign to bring, Improved Medicare for All, led by, National Nurses United! We are at the beginning of a process to push for universal health care for all people, regardless of their income level, which will make our country stronger and healthier.
But after Jesus’ first amazing healing, we now hear news that the delay has resulted in the death of Jairus’ daughter. Jesus spent time with the un-named woman, and now, it seems, he missed his chance to help the town leader’s family!
But Jesus is undeterred. He doubles his pace now, taking only a skeleton crew with him from his inner circle of disciples – Peter, James and John. At Jairus’ house, the funeral mourners are already wailing. And going inside, Jesus claims the girl is only sleeping, why are you acting like she’s dead already?! Which prompts – for the second time – derisive laughter, directed at Jesus, by the crowd! But Jesus has no time for their un-belief. He puts them all out of the girl’s room, and only invites in the father and mother, along with his 3 disciples, takes the little girls hand and says (in Aramaic), Talitha cum – Little girl, get up! ‘And immediately she got up and began to walk about. At this they were overcome with amazement.’ And Mark adds: she was 12 years of age.
For 12 years, the girl had lived a comparably privileged life – while the un-named woman had been suffering those 12 long years, her health exploited, sending her into poverty. But Jesus brings the two together! Each are healed on the same day. They are both resurrected to new life, united by the power of their faith in God, who desires health and wholeness, for all.
In their time, these healings were totally scandalous! Yet Jesus engaged, and overcame the taboos of his time, in touching two unclean persons. And he restored them, not only to health, but to full status in the community, a community which had condemned them to being, untouchable, and to death, itself.
What are the taboos we still live with, that Jesus is calling us to reach out in faith and overcome? What or who are the ones that our society laughs at derisively?
I think of the women, who have created and who are participating in the ME TOO movement, who were in the shadows, but now, in reaching out to tell their stories, are being believed.
And, the teenagers from Margaret Stoneman Douglas H.S., who are leading the way to saner gun control laws, and pleading, that no more students become victims.
And more and more are speaking up for health care as human right for all, like Jimmy Kimmel did!
Jesus took time, to name the woman’s faith, who so bravely touched just the fringe of his cloak, who risked so much, in just reaching out, to be healed. He didn’t discount her, but lifted her up as an example to us all.
Until, and unless, we include everyone under the tent of healing and wholeness that God intends for all of creation, starting with the poor and excluded, as Jesus does, we cannot rejoice in the raising of the daughter’s of Jairus either, or be true followers of Jesus, who took such a risk against established taboos, and set us such an example.
Let us find the courage, to reach out, across every human-made barrier, to be the faithful disciples Jesus calls us to be.