Faith and the Vulnerability of Children
In the Gospel reading for this Sunday, we are faced with the agonizing vulnerability of a 12-year old girl who has fallen ill. The father of the girl begs for Jesus to lay hands on her, but while en route to the family’s house, Jesus is delayed by the healing of a woman who had been hemorrhaging blood for 12 years. At first, this delay appears costly. Jesus is informed that the girl has died. When he arrives, the house is in full commotion, weeping, and loud wailing. The finality of death seems to define the moment until Jesus announces that all is not lost for the girl is asleep and not dead. Upon Jesus’s instruction, she rises.
The theme running throughout this narrative is that of faith: faith in God despite the circumstances. Scholars have suggested that the repeated use of the number twelve for the age of the girl and the duration of the woman’s hemorrhaging suggests that this story is ultimately a metaphor for the faith of Israel with its twelve tribes.
Faith can be a tricky matter to evoke. One does not want to offer false hopes amid tragedy. Yet, this is partially a matter of how one defines both faith and God. If faith is about trust and fidelity in relationship to God, and if God is ultimately defined by love, then the matter of faith is about counting on the unfailing tenacity of love even in the valley. While this faith does not always come easy, I have never found it to be false.
Whether it is the vulnerability of children due to immigration policies, climate change, or environmental racism, our nation faces a time that calls for faith, faith in what God’s love can do even in the face of suffering and evil. May we be vessels and vehicles of that love wherever we might be. In the process, may we not only find hope but give hope to others along the way.
The Rev. Dr. Brooks Berndt is the Minister for Environmental Justice for the United Church of Christ. He writes a column called “For the Love of Children” that recently launched with The Letter Manifesto: Children and Climate.