It is tempting, as many have observed, to link this Sunday’s readings to this Thursday’s Supreme Court decision upholding the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare.
Politics from the pulpit are tricky. The need to be prophetic and the need to be pastoral at the same time means that we are concerned to know how afflicted the comfortable will be, and how comforted those with a pre-existing affliction, if we do go there. I’m not preaching this Sunday, but still …
Both of the characters seeking healing in this gospel story are desperate. Jairus comes seeking help for his dying daughter; Jesus’ response is interrupted by the stealth healing of the woman with the flow of blood. One is close to the loss of a child; one is close to the loss of her last dollar, her last hope. It is not costless to Jesus to help them. He feels the healing energy that the woman draws from him (without permission, without prescription, without proper paperwork). Once again, yet again, I hear that word from Isaiah quoted by Matthew: “He took up our infirmities, and carried our diseases,” or, “he hath borne our griefs and carried our sorrows,” – and envision the weight, the sickness that Jesus must fight in body and soul on behalf of everyone he heals. No, it is not effortless, or without cost or consequence.
How is his question – “Who touched me?” – voiced? Is he angry at this stealth helping of herself to healing? Frightened at the leak? Curious, or delighted by her audacity? At any rate, he lets her go with her free gift gotten by any means she could find.
By which time the girl is, at least as good as, dead. It will take so much more now (as so often when conditions are neglected, treatment postponed for lack of resource), and Jesus has already given so much. Will he draw the line? After all, how much can he hope to give before the well runs dry?
We never find out how much. Jesus never tells how much it costs him to heal. He comes close, in a few weeks’ time, when he snaps out of his exhaustion at another woman, another parent with another sick little girl. But for now, he will not sacrifice the child to the woman. He does not hold back. He does what it takes to extend his healing as far as he can.
Yes, it is tempting to link our prayers, our preaching to our politics. What will you preach or pray this Sunday?