Ps. 30; Lamentations 3:[19-21], 22-33; 2 Corinthians 8:1-9, 13-15; Mark 5:21-43.
Wormwood, Remember my affliction and my wanderings, the wormwood and the gall! My soul continually remembers it and is bowed down within me. But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases … “The LORD is my portion.” (vv. 19-22a, 24a).
Jeremiah’s book titled “Lamentations” is the vocable of Israel’s repentant suffering and hope for release from the Babylonian captivity.
Ancient Israel was of two lamentable minds; being ripped from hearth and home in the Land for their infidelity to God; and remembering the former glory of Solomon’s destroyed temple; nevertheless, hoping for return and restoration.
Today Jesus is approached by two sisters in lamentation seeking restoration and return to former conditions. Jesus calls the elder woman, “daughter” and the dying girl, “child” (Mk. 5:34, 39, 41), united in their loss of femininity.
The girl age was of her menarche, the passage into womanhood for the promise of life; yet she was at death’s door. For the twelve years of the girl’s life, the elder woman’s femininity had gone awry, an unstaunched flow of blood made her womb dead to new life.
Life is in the blood (Gen. 9:4; Lev. 17:10-14; Deut. 12:23). The elder sister’s discharge rendered her she ritually unclean, excommunicate from the OT church; as well, her vitality and fortune were wasting away.
Jesus comes to these sisters in their extemis, each sharing the specter of death and lament. In faith, the girl’s father, sought-out Jesus to touch his daughter; but the elder woman inserted, secretly touching Jesus, to violate his entry into the congregation.
The life of Jairus’ daughter hung by a thread; time was of the essence if she were to be healed; still Jesus took time-out to search for and question the hemorrhagic woman. It appeared Jesus possessed a flawed sense of triage, diverting his attention from the dying child, in favor of the bleeding woman whose condition was less immediate.
This is the way of the world, isn’t it; often the gain of one person is another’s loss. A zero-sum calculus seems unavoidable; on Jesus attending the elder woman, the girl died, seeming to vindicate the mourners’ derision, “Why trouble the Teacher any further?” (Mk. 5:35).
But the sisters’ communion in the touch of Jesus provides understanding in these end times (cf. Mk. 4:41). The church’s baptismal flow of blooded-water from Jesus’ crucified flesh brings the exchange of our lament over death’s loss for the joy of life’s gain in Christ (cf. Gen. 3:20).
Jesus recently calmed the sea threatening his fledgling church; released a demoniac of 5,000 devils; today he assaults the grave for restoration and return from its captivity. Jesus held court over the deceased girl’s body and moving Jairus to renewed faith and hope (cf. Lam. 3:22a, 24a).
Taking the girl’s hand, Jesus compounded ritual uncleanness, commanding the girl to resurrection; in obedience the girl joined herself Jesus’ coming death and resurrection. Jairus’ faith had become the girl’s faith in waiting “sleep”.
Jesus stands between lamentation and joy; the joy of a woman restored to femininity and the crowd’s lament for their synagogue leader’s daughter. Jesus is our remembrance of “the wormwood and the gall”; exchange of his blood from the cross for our life, ushering-in hope for return to God. Unlike the world’s calculus, in heaven’s reign there is no lack in Christ.
Lamentation is part and parcel of repentance over sin to which God responds with greater faith. The hemorrhagic woman confessed “in fear and trembling”; we too enter God’s witness box for “the whole truth” of our condition (Mk. 5:33) in hope of God’s merciful love.
In Christ, God’s love never benefits some at the expense of others. God’s abundance for faith, forgiveness, healing, and Life in the new creation is now, always, and everywhere available in the inner sanctum of his Presence by word and Sacrament.
In the new creation, the returned girl, and the restored elder sister re-entered the fullness of womanhood and holiness of life. Jesus directed the girl be fed; today he commands our feeding with the holy things of the church’ life, word and Sacrament.
St. Paul teaches a gospel of sister congregations. Early on, the Jerusalem church was denied support from the synagogue; necessitating Christians hold property in common for saints in need (Acts 4:32 ff.).
Later Greek and Judean congregations experienced famine; in charity St. Paul united the sisters. The younger Macedonians raised money in support of the more beleaguered Jerusalem sister, so neither suffered a lack.
The Macedonian’s magnified Christ’s self-donation, “though he was rich, yet for [our] sake became poor, so that by his poverty [we] might become rich” (2 Cor. 8:9). These spiritual sisters proved their churchly character, not acting at the expense of the other; rather reflecting the Lord’s unceasing love. With Jeremiah we boast, “The Lord is my portion”. Amen.