Unclean!

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Revd Linda Anchell
Sunday 2nd July 2006, Pentecost 4

2 Samuel 1:1, 17-27; Psalm 130; 2Corinthians 8.7-15; Mark 5:21-43

First; allow me to acknowledge and celebrate the Coming of the Light to the Torres Strait on July 1st 1871, the arrival of the London Missionary Society's Melanesian brothers on Darnley island. Anglican Islander congregations around Australia will be having wonderful celebrations today.

I think this is the most difficult sermon I have had to prepare! (Maybe they all are!) Perhaps because I have been following too much the news of the wider Anglican Communion!

The readings are a source of special blessings though, so let me at least start with them…

David's lament over Saul and …Jonathan; his special friend Jonathan.

a generous lament over his king who had turned against him…

that story (about David and Saul) is finished with Saul's death and it does not need to be told in this lament.

The depths that are exposed in the psalm, a wondrous psalm with ancient language. Going back to our earliest cultural memories,

This is what it is to be human.

The agony of the two people in the gospel reading.

The woman with menstrual flow for twelve long, agonising years;

Jairus, his twelve year old daughter dying.

This is what it is to be human.

A synagogue ruler, beside himself with grief and despair; as his daughter lies dying he calls on his last slim hope. the teacher and healer who is in town. Jesus goes with him to the house … but on the way the crowd stops, the healer asks "who touched me?" In that crowd?!

Touch… with the crowd pressing upon him? But he knew, and the woman came forward.

And already she knew…She had felt the healing; he had felt the power go from him.

She had been in the crowd; how many other people had she made unclean?

Twelve years she had suffered from this bleeding. Twelve long years of doctor's bills and violations with no effect. Twelve long years of social isolation because the bleeding would not stop. So now weakened by the illness, impoverished and rejected by the society… whipped, scourged by her own body…

This was the day that she acted. Came out, into the crowd, … worked out his clothes might hold the magic, the power … perhaps this might be the day.

The shock, "Who touched my clothes?" …she is exposed, uncovered!

But then the words: "daughter, your faith has made you well, be healed of your scourge."

Daughter: belonging to the family; belonging, not the outcast, unclean … a healing of the condition, but also healing of the consequent ritual exclusion.

In the meantime the little girl in Jairus' house has died. No need to trouble the teacher any more…

Jesus asks Jairus to believe, only believe … parents and three disciples come into the room with him … he takes her hand. touching a corpse he is again ritually unclean … little girl, rise up … and, give her something to eat.

A touch, a phrase, then a resurrection and eating food … no ghost … whispers of another story yet to come … a death, a resurrection, some fish on the beach … no ghost; just a hungry little girl.

Paul in the letter to the Corinthians … damning with faint praise? encouraging them to give yet again, even more … you "excel in everything"… now do this one thing more …

Jesus Christ was generous … now it behoves you to also be generous …

you started last year; now finish the job … it's a question of a fair balance.

15 As it is written, (about collecting manna in the wilderness)

"The one who had much did not have too much, and the one who had little did not have too little."

God's generous gift is not to give equal shares, but to give enough.

This planet is enough for all. In all of its diversity and wonder it is enough.

sufficient. … In the need of the moment Paul asks for more. He asks for generosity, and it is all based on how he understands Christ.

"9 For you know the generous act of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich."

It is about being rich; not about being affluent.

The richness of this planet, of life on earth, is the diversity that is here. The myriad teemings of things…

A richness to treasure and protect.

And in our richness to be generous!

It isn't about giving away your millions; which I know you would do! It's about how to live:

A new book, thanks to Chris' generosity!

Salley Vickers puts it:

"The question is, not how to cure or be cured, but how to live…"

[in the book (Salley Vickers' The other side of You.)] the character who says this, goes on later to wave vaguely across the street at a church, and says:

"See there, he said, stabbing with a burly finger in the direction of the old church, as if he were about to accuse it of some serious misdemeanour, 'that's what places like that should be for. To help us to live.…'

Friday night's Marriage of Figaro was such a task well done! (many thanks and congratulations to those responsible!)

Allow me to say boldly that issues of ritual uncleanness do stop us from proclaiming that message of living life…

We need healing; not curing; healing; not purification!

The Anglican Communion.

The divisions that are in our church are in parishes, in dioceses and provinces around Australia. This is a perfect place to have the conversations, and to know our differences.

On Friday Bishop George sent around a message to calm the waters. (Copies with Archbishop Rowan Williams' press release are available.)

The gospel story, and the richness of Christ, have a message for us.

Since Rob left, none of the preachers in this pulpit would be welcome to preach in some places.

It feels a bit like being ritually unclean.

But we are still in communion with each other.

We need to have the conversations. Maybe Australia, with its great diversity of Anglicanism is a place where it can be said: "I know we disagree, but don't turn your back on me!"

If we are in intercommunion, we are bound also to be in conversation.

Today, neither side feels heard, but for some that means exclusion, and even death.

I take today's little snippets of gospel and epistle, and I hear a generous god who reaches out to people who find it hard to live. Corinthians whose behaviour made them a byword for promiscuity in their time; unclean women, grieving parents… I hear a god who knows the great riches of time and space, and yet is prepared to be limited in a single body at a particular time….

O Christ for whom we search, our help when help has failed: give us courage to expose our need and ask to be made whole, that, being touched by you, we may be raised up to new life in the power of your name.

Amen


St Philip's Anglican Church, corner Moorhouse and Macpherson Streets, O'Connor, ACT 2602
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