What kind of things do you “fall for”? I don’t mean literally fall necessarily, although as a naturally clumsy person known to trip over nothing, I do fall more than my fair share in the actual sense. But we use the term “fall” in all kinds of positive and negative ways. We “fall in love,” we “fall for a prank,” we “fall for a sales pitch,” we “fall for a lie.” We use this term to describe about how we as human beings can get tripped up by situations in life, good and bad, situations that we don’t have control over, don’t have all of the information about or are events that mystify us. I fall for all kinds of things, such as sometimes I’m not sure if I’m being teased or not and I’m fairly certain that the first used car Mike and I bought we “fell” for the sales pitch. I have, of course, fallen in love with my spouse and our three children and would do anything for them. Falling in this sense has to do with a reorientation of priorities and elevating the needs or place of others in your life before yourself. This can be a tricky step, but if you are in relationship with someone who has “fallen” for you too, then there is a mutual respect and dignity for each other. This falling is the acceptance of your life being so deeply connected to someone else that you don’t care if you are made the fool as long as the other person knows your devotion and love for them.
There is a lot of falling down in our gospel story this morning. First Jairus, a leader in the synagogue, a man of some standing in the community, is desperate. He is desperately grieved that his beloved daughter is dying and despite his religious knowledge, education and status, he doesn’t know what to do. He is out of options for his daughter, so he runs to Jesus. Jairus sees Jesus and immediately fell at his feet. He gave up his status and his dignity for the sake of the life of his daughter. His love for his daughter drove him to fall at the feet of someone who could offer hope in this hopeless situation.
Then we have the woman who has been suffering from bleeding for twelve years and she is also desperate. She is desperate to not suffer any longer, to not be an unclean outcast and to not be all alone, that she decides to see if this Jesus about whom she had heard so much, could heal her. She has nothing to lose as she is out of money, out of doctors to try, out of the community by being unclean and mostly out of hope. This woman also fell at Jesus’ feet, for she had been healed by merely touching his clothes and when Jesus realized this had occurred, he demanded to know who had done this. I like to think that Jesus knew exactly who had touched him but wanted this desperate, isolated and excluded woman to be seen by her God who loved her very much. When she realized that she couldn’t hide her healing, she fell in front of the one who had restored and reoriented her whole life in a split second. Jesus had not just offered her physical healing but healed her status and returned her to community. Jesus called her daughter, publically claimed her as God’s own and proclaimed her true identity.
These two people in our story fall in front of Jesus, they fall to his love, fall to his power of healing, fall to the mystery of God in their midst and they fall to the idea that they could control their lives all by themselves without God. Falling to these realities is very powerful and yet is also an admittance of being powerless. So much in our lives make us feel powerless, desperate to the point that we will try or do anything, and terrified of what might happen if we do nothing. We can’t control whether or not we will get cancer, or if the housing market will crash, if we will be in an accident, if people do what we want them to do, what people say about us, what pastor we will have next, who will hate us based on how we look or act, who will deny us basic dignity or human rights and the list goes on and on. We fall everyday to the illusion that we can control those things and we “fall” for those lies that the world tells about what life should be like.
It can seem like we have nowhere to turn and we don’t know what to do so we fall for the wrong things: we fall for our own wants, preferences, desires and fears. We fall for worry over having enough money, power, control or friends. In our congregation we fall for worrying about the future, who will lead us, are we making enough changes right now so that we have enough people in the pews, are we sustainable.
But Jesus says: Do not fear, only believe. Why do you make a commotion and weep? Fall for loving your neighbor, fall for comforting all who grieve, fall for caring for the sick, fall for ensuring that all people are treated with dignity, equality and equal rights, fall for feeding the hungry, fall to loving God and fall for pointing out Jesus in our midst, in every place and time.
These healing stories can be hard because we don’t always get the concrete physical healing that we hope and pray for in our own lives and we don’t always know why. I can’t tell you why Jairus’ daughter lived and not other children. I can’t tell you why this woman was healed after 12 years and someone else will suffer for 30 years. Healing is not always what we expect it to be, it’s not always the answer we want or in the time frame that we want it in. Life on this side of the kingdom is broken, unpredictable and there is suffering. But here is what I do know: Jesus is in our midst. Jesus didn’t hang out in the synagogue, he was in the streets with the crowds where he could be seen, heard and touched. Jesus was where there was any need and any suffering. Jesus went to the desperate Jairus’ house, went to his daughter, took her hand and said “Get up.”
Jesus is in our midst right here, right now. Jesus is in the midst of the grief in Charleston as the nine beloved children of God lives were celebrated and mourned this. Jesus is in the midst of our nation being more just and grace filled by declaring equal rights for all. Jesus is in the midst the excitement, anxiety, weariness and anticipation of the LOTH call process. Jesus promises to always be in our midst and when we fall, whether we fall for the what the world tells us about our lives or we fall to Jesus, the one who reorients our lives with love, mercy, grace and hope, Jesus will take us by the hand and say, “Get up. I am with you and you are mine.” Thanks be to God.