The readings on which this sermon is based can be found at:

s125g15   Sunday 13  28/6/2015

‘get up!’  Mark 5:41

I love the New Zealand Prayer Book, but one bit grates me every Sunday.    The Opening Sentence for morning prayer is: ‘Awake sleeper; rise from the dead, and Christ will shine upon you.’ (1)  It implies that only those that get up and go to church are really alive.      
Those who know the order of events in Mark’s gospel will know that this follows the journey to the country of the Gerasenes, where the disciples, caught in the storm feared for their lives, where the man with the legion of unclean spirits is healed and consequently the herd of pigs rushes off the cliff into the sea and Jesus and his disciples are told unceremoniously to leave.   The return journey is calm.   For some reason the order of our gospel readings on Sundays leaves out the story of the healing of the tormented Gerasene.

When they return to orthodoxy in our gospel portion for this morning, Jesus is swamped by the crowd with all their various needs.   The fear and rejection of the Gerasenes is replaced by the plethora of needy people amongst the ancient people of God.   It happens that Jesus’ attention is unwittingly directed towards the daughter of the leader of the synagogue and the woman with the haemorrhages.   The leader of the synagogue falls at his feet and begs Jesus; the woman under the cloak of the anonymity of the crowds touches his garment.   ‘Clandestine’ is the word that comes to mind.   While Jesus is in charge of the voyage away from orthodoxy, here he is given no option.

Both these suppliants are appropriately humble and yet in each case Jesus exceeds their expectations.   The leader of the synagogue asks for healing for his daughter, not that she be raised from the dead.   The woman desires personal healing, not a public affirmation of her personal faith.   The little girl is, beyond all expectation, raised to life.

I read that: ‘In the Greece of 200 B.C.E. .. the murder of female infants was so common that among 6,000 families living in Delphi no more than 1 percent had two daughters.   Among 79 families, nearly as many had one child as two.   Among all there were only 28 daughters to 118 sons ..’  (2)

Perhaps the leader of the synagogue can understand and want the suffering of a family member to be ended, but if that was by death, well he would be satisfied.   There was no particular point in a female child being raised to life.   He would have agreed with the sentiments of the messengers: ‘Why trouble the teacher any further?’

‘Get up’ could be addressed to us as well.   Get up off our knees; raise our expectations.

Far more frequently these days I find myself sitting in the pew rather than up front and it will be noticed that I do sometimes kneel during the prayer of consecration, contrary to what everyone else does.   I am not making a virtue of my personal practice, but sometimes standing can make me feel that worship is a spectator sport.   Kneeling internalises worship for me.

Christ lifts people up; all people up.   In fact he lifts up precisely those who have been marginalised and alienated by religion, into life.   He lifts up those for whom the devout and pseudo-orthodox don’t matter, entirely able to be disregarded.   Christ lifts the tormented man from his exile, the unclean untouchable woman, the expendable young girl.   So if we are called to follow Jesus, we too are called to lift people up out of the less than fully included space religion has put them, the less than completely affirmed, those the pseudo-orthodox deem not worth the trouble.

I note that Jesus called none of these to repent - the almost universal proclamation of the conservative evangelical - to others.   Indeed none of these are called to make any changes in their lives.   Jesus refused permission for the cured demoniac to join his retinue, he didn’t ask the leader of the synagogue to change his religion, the woman cured of her haemorrhages was told: ‘go in peace', and the young girl presumably resumed normal life and activities.   None of them were called to follow Jesus.   Four lost evangelical opportunities!    It is the same message as the surprising trip to ‘the other side’ - to those the orthodox considered not worth worrying about.   It is another way of saying to them ‘get up!’   Forget the dismissal, marginalisation and alienation of the pseudo-orthodox and .. live!

‘Repent’ is ever a call to the religious - the church - to stop marginalising and alienating others, to join Jesus in re-incarnation into the real world, to forgo separateness.   ‘Repent’ is the call to the religious to stop putting others down and rather to say to others: ‘get up’.

The risen Jesus calls the church to ‘get up’, to raise her expectations.   We are not just to offer personal forgiveness and love, but to join with secular humanism in their efforts to establish a divine egalitarianism.   Anything less is selfish devotion and pseudo-orthodoxy.

The risen Jesus calls the church to ‘get up’, to forget about preserving the institution, making people into little replicas of ourselves, and rather be a society for acceptance and inclusion by sending people out into the world, accepting and including others.

In the 'Guidelines for Ethical Ministry’ in our diocese it states: 'We will not abuse our position by taking advantage of those we minister to for purposes of personal, institutional, political or financial gain’ (3) - so our task as church cannot be institutional gain for the church - this is plainly unethical.

For ‘orthodoxy’ of any form still results in needy people.   Jesus’ task is not just acceding to all these needs but to build a society of affirmation and inclusion, where the possibility is that the needs of others are already met - within society.   Indeed an exclusive pseudo-orthodoxy excuses herself from society’s attempts to institute a divine egalitarianism.   The exclusive pseudo-orthodoxy implicitly denies full dignity to others - and this is actually evil.

The message of ‘get up’ is get out of your holy huddle and be a part of society.   It is the eternal message of God and the reason the religious had Jesus killed.

1.  Ephesians 5:14
3.  E32.1.4