In our story from the Gospel today I would like us to look at that portion of the story with the 12-year girl. We hear that the father of the girl is a leader at the synagogue and comes to Jesus because his daughter is dying and he wants to have Jesus come and lay hands on her for healing.
Jesus puts it off and as the story unfolds the girl apparently dies and the people see the coming of Jesus as too late to help her. But, he goes anyhow. And we are told that she recovers and lives again including being told to eat something.
I have often wondered about this story as to what learning’s took place and take place for us. The words Jesus uses to address the young girl is “KUMI” which translates to “Rise up” “Rise up”.
This young 12-year girl began life at some point when she was born. Someone, just like you and I, were patted on the rear end and we screamed out with our first breath. We were alive and began breathing regularly. It is the mystery we are all a part of…..life itself. A gift given and received and the other mystery we live with is death. At some point we will breathe our last breath and be beyond this world and we wonder about what the next stage of our being will be. And it becomes the mystery that millions of books have been written about and religious beliefs develop.
But, back to our story. We do not know the story of the 12-year girl. Was she handicapped? Was she able to talk about this experience later? Did she take her last breath and die? That is what the story tells us. “KUMI”, rise up Jesus tells her. Her eyes open. Did she scream like when she was a baby?
What happened to her? We do not know. Did she live another 5, 10, 20, 40 years? Did she have children of her own? Did she repeat this story and give thanks for her new life? Did she forget about it and get lost in the routine of everyday living…all this time breathing life…rising up each morning to face a new day. Living until she died again.
How many times did she rise up over the years? I know in my own experience I have had several near death experiences…car wrecks, accidents, and cramps while swimming, surgery. The mystery of my life continues. And the word “KUMI” came to me, “rise up” as an individual, as a culture, as a people, as a community, we are asked to “rise up” and live again. At in all times and in all places, it is who we are. “Rise Up”.
Some of our learning to “rise up” and live can be transformative. I knew a woman who at one time who had been abandoned on the streets off a country in South America. She was five years old and her parents left her on a city corner and never returned for her. She grew up in an orphanage and later became educated, married, and had a family of her own. She came to visit us and we went to the Lloyd Center shopping. Her six-year-old daughter disappeared, wandered off and was lost and found 20 minutes later. But the mother had flashbacks of being abandoned and later had to receive treatments in the hospital to be able to “rise up” and live again. I am sure many of us have memories of moments of learning the hard lessons of what it means to breathe and live and “rise up”.
One of my earliest memories of being raised in West Texas was the intense heat. When I was very young we had no air-conditioning and the heat was often over 100 degrees. I remember a Latino woman who took care of us as children when my mother worked. She would put me down for a nap on the bare floor in the heat of the day and I can still remember the coolness of the floor that allowed me to go to sleep and “rise up” to play again. As I was put on the floor, I can still remember her words, “pobrecito” “poor little one” in Spanish.
Each of us can turn to moments in time when we grew up. It might have been a decision you made. It might have been a controversy or an argument won or an argument loss.
But something changed because of our learning in a moment of time. The Latino woman that took care of our family when my mother was working had a son in the Korean War on an aircraft carrier. She received word one day of his death when a plane crashed on a return flight. She was grief stricken. I was only 12 and knew little of what to say or do. But, I had received a gift at Christmas of a $20 bill and put it at the bottom of her purse knowing she would find it someday and because she was needy I knew she could use it. I never knew what happened to her in finding my anonymous gift. I do know that I learned about the need to give beyond ones own self.
When I was ordained here at Grace Memorial in 1968, Elaine and I made a commitment to tithe 10% of our income to the Church and organizations we wanted to support. We have continued that for the 53 years of my priesthood. “Rise Up”…life awaits you…what’s next? How do I affect the future yet to unfold? “KUMI” rise up.
This story has some bad history for me in my own time in the priesthood. Forty-five years ago I had a woman in the hospital with a broken hip. She had a group of faith healers come to her bed in the hospital and read this passage of scripture and they asked her to get out of bed and walk. They told her she was healed. She stepped out of bed, fell down and broke her other hip. The saddest part of the story is that the prayer group blamed her for not having enough faith. Four of the five doctors in the county were members of my church and were disturbed that religious people were allowed in the hospital to do such things. Rise up was not the answer for her as the people wanted for her. Healing needed to take time.
The young woman in the story today had a purpose for living. We don’t know beyond this story what that purpose was but we can imagine she joined in a long line of people who were able to assist others in their own journey of life.
We are at a new moment of “KUMI” through out this nation and through out the world. The pandemic is leaving us with many scars that will take time to heal from our isolation, our lack of family ties, our day-to-day routines.
We cannot remember our first breath or the cry we expressed as we came into the world. But our breathing is life itself and to rise to new moments, to hear “KUMI” “rise up” to receive a new lease on life. To look at yourself in the mirror and thank God for being here in God’s creation as a servant to others.