SERMON TITLE: “Gospel of Freedom: Freedom for Life”
SERMON TEXT: Matthew 9:18-26
PREACHER: Rev. Kim James
OCCASION: July 16, 2017, at First UMC
Did you read the news this week about the young woman in Nepal who died from a snakebite? Instead of sleeping in her family’s house where she would have been safe, 18-year old Tulasi had been sleeping in forced seclusion in a cowshed. Even though Nepal’s Supreme Court spoke against this practice in 2005, and the government has issued guidelines against it, the tradition of forcing menstruating women into seclusion has persisted in some parts of the country. Unfortunately, Tulasi’s sad situation isn’t unique in Nepal. Less than two months ago, another girl died in the same way, and two Nepali women met the same fate last year.
This tradition, which “has its roots in Hindu taboos,” not only exiles women and girls to snake-prone huts with “poor sanitation and ventilation.” The tradition also forbids menstruating “women and girls . . . from touching other people, cattle, . . . vegetables, . . . and fruits.” They are prohibited from drinking milk, “and their access to water . . . is limited.” In some areas, women and girls are also prohibited from “reading, writing, or touching books during” that time of the month. These prohibitions stem from traditional fears of angering the gods and that crops and cattle will die as a result.
Following the recent deaths of young women, some Nepalese are calling for laws against these practices. “Our girls and women are dying, and the state is turning a blind eye,” said one prominent Nepali writer and activist. A Women’s Development Officer has said that, in addition to an “education program, strict laws are required to tackle this grave problem.”1
This situation in Nepal sounds a lot like the stories in Matthew 9:18-26. There, Jesus encountered a woman with a bleeding problem and a girl who had died. For 12 years, the woman had suffered, probably in silence, just as she stayed silent in this story. The girl, less isolated because she had an important father, nevertheless would have come to a premature end had not Jesus taken a strong interest. In this July series on the Gospel of Freedom, we’ve already talked about freedom from paralysis and freedom for mercy. Today, as we move further into Matthew chapter nine, let’s see how Jesus provided a woman and a girl freedom for life.