The Importance of Making Margins in our Lives

The Rev. Robert P. Travis ~ Pentecost 5th Sunday Sermon  ~ 9am Chapel of St. John the Divine, Saunderstown RI Revised Common Lectionary Proper 8 Year B 6/27/2021

Sermon Text:

Do you know why books and other printed materials

have margins?

I had never really thought about it

before I went to a Credo conference for clergy

and a presenter talked about it.

Maybe you thought like I did, that it just was so that you

could have a place to write notes.

But it has more to do with how our eyes need margins,

to make sense of what is on the page.

It gives a sense of peace when the margins are clear,

that allows us to process what we see,

and even to enjoy it.


If you’ve ever tried to read a document with no margins,

you know how confusing and frustrating it can be.

Our lives are like that as well,

we need margins in our lives in order to make sense of

the activities, in order to process what has happened,

and to enjoy the present moment.


In an earlier sermon I talked about living

in the in-between times,

Since those are most of the times of our lives,

The margins are where we gain the spiritual energy,

and strength to enjoy the ups and downs of all the activity, where we gain the perspective to see what is happening,

and to understand our place in it.


As we emerge from a pandemic,

where we were forced into the margins, have we gained perspective to see what was happening before?


I used to not be good at making

and protecting margins in my life.

It takes real self-discipline for me to do that,

it took me a long time to learn,

And the extra work pattern brought on by the pandemic has made me slip into old habits, crowding out all the margins

With all the work that needs to be done.


What do margins have to do with the scriptures for today?


While our attention is immediately drawn to the powerful

acts of healing that Jesus performed in the gospel,

and certainly those are worthy of consideration,

more striking to me,

was what happens in the margins,

in the situation where Jesus found himself,

and the contrast between Jesus and the others around him.


I know if I had been in Jesus’ situation,

and a leader of the church had come to me,

and asked me to come to pray for healing for his daughter,

I would have headed in that direction,

without much concern for what is going on around me.

To make matters worse,

Jesus has a big crowd gathered around him.

If you know anything about how to get through a crowd,

you know it requires a great deal of focus,

to find the way through all the people.

There’s lots of jostling,

and it can be easy to start to see the people around you

as obstacles rather than as people.


But Jesus doesn’t do that,

a woman touches his cloak,

and he has the presence of self,

to notice that something has happened,

that power has gone out from him.

He asks his disciples who touched him,

and they seem incredulous,

“how can you say who touched me,

don’t you see all these people bumping into you?”

But Jesus doesn’t let their ridicule

take him out of the margin he has created.

He finds the woman,

and takes the time to connect with her

over what just happened,

recognizing that for her something very significant

had happened.


While he is still in that margin,

the people come from his original goal,

from the leader’s house,

to give the disappointing news that the girl

is already dead,

they add, “So why bother the teacher any more.”

Jesus takes time to reassure Jairus, her father,

that there is still hope,

and then he goes from the crowd where he was,

to another crowd,

people gathered in mourning at Jairus’ house.


Notice all the crowds in these two scenes,

and the way there is no space to do his work.


But Jesus makes the space he needs,

in order to attend to the needs of those who really need him.

He sends the mourners outside,

not even bothering to comment on their ridicule,

when they laugh at him.

Then he goes to the girl, with her parents,

and his few disciples, and to their amazement,

tells her to get up, which she does.


Now, if I had been in the parents’ position,

I would have been tempted to run out of there

telling everyone what just happened.

But Jesus remains in the margin,

and tells them not to tell anyone,

but to give the girl something to eat.


Do you see how Jesus works with the margins,

even when there are many forces crowding him out?


There are two aspects of the margins

that I see as really significant.

The first is who does Jesus meet in the margins?

And what does God do with the margins that Jesus creates?


Who does Jesus meet in the margins?

The people healed in these stories are both women.

Well, one is a woman, and one is a girl.
I can well imagine that if someone in Jesus’ time

were sharing this story,

it might sound a bit like a stand up comedian.


So Jesus is going through this crowd,

and this woman comes up to him,

can you believe it, a woman comes up and touches him?

And not just that, she was unclean!

That woman had a hemorrage for 12 years!

She had been unclean for 12 years,

and she went up and touched him, a teacher!

She must have been terrified!

Any other teacher would have punished her,

for making him unclean.

But Jesus didn’t, he was actually kind to her.

Then he went to this girl,

He took time out of his busy schedule,

to heal a girl who was only 12 years old!

She wasn’t even a woman yet!

And worse yet, she was already dead!

(well that’s what the people with her said)

But he took time out anyway to go and touch her,

and heal her! Amazing!


The reason a person would talk like this about

these people, is because they were marginalized.

A woman who was unclean,

and a young girl, with even less status than a woman.


But Jesus made space for them, made margins

in his ministry to reach out to them.

Jesus meets the marginalized in the margins of his ministry.


We can meet the marginalized here in South County as well,

On Thursday in Wakefield, the Queer Community, led by my own teenager, Evan, had the first SK Pride Festival to celebrate those who have been marginalized by our society. I heard kids there saying, “I thought I was the only one.” And “I thought everyone would hate me for who I am, but here I feel loved.”


And what does God do with the margins that Jesus creates?


Jesus is guided by the movement of God within him,

to be aware of the needs of both the

girl he is heading toward healing,

and the woman he encounters on the way.


He is guided by that movement

because of the margin he has in his life,

in his self, which allows him to see what God

is directing.


That margin allows him to experience the healing

of the woman with the hemorrhage,

and to witness to the fact that the girl is not dead,

but sleeping.

The margins Jesus creates allow him to pay attention to the people who need his attention,

and to not worry about those who ridicule him.


Paying attention is in itself an act of love.

Jesus is teaching us something here by his actions,

that is more powerful than words could convey.


Our society is terrible these days

about crowding out the margins we need

to live healthy, whole and abundant lives.

One might think that here,

In a beautiful village by the bay,

that there is peace and escape from the busy-ness of life.

In fact, that is probably what a lot of people

come here in the summer to seek.

But I know that even people who live in Saunderstown year-round, struggle to find space in their lives.


Even though we had a huge margin of a pandemic year, when many of us were forced to limit our activities, now that things are opening up again, people seem ready to return to the margin-less, hectic lifestyle we lived in 2019.


The demands of society are crowding in on us again,

and the more time-saving devices we juggle

to try to manage all the demands,

don’t seem to really help us find

the space and peace we all desire.

Sometimes they even add distract us from the real people in front of us who need our attention.


There are pressures all around us,

like the crowd that pressed around Jesus,

for so much of his ministry.


And Jesus shows us, that we need to make our own space,

make our own margins in the midst of the hectic pace of 21st century life.


When we do make margins,

we become more aware of the action of God around us,

through the Holy Spirit dwelling within us,

and we can find that peace of God,

which passes all understanding.

And greater still, we start to see opportunities to participate

in God’s great plans for his people here,

in ways we could never plan or schedule.


There may be someone who comes to us

needing our attention,

whether it is someone in our family, or a friend,

maybe someone who has been marginalized,

and needs to find acceptance and love.

And if we have space in our lives,

a margin that we have created,

we can be there for them in a way we could not,

if we were moving from task to task.


There may be an entirely new calling,

that God is preparing us for,

which we can only come to understand,

when we create a margin, in the midst of

all the other things we need to do.


Or there may be a lesson that we need to learn,

from some event that has happened to us

which can only be reflected on,

when we have made a margin in which to learn it.


The margins in our lives are important,

and God is willing to work with us,

to teach us, and to guide us,

into being a part of his great work of love,

but we must open the margins of our lives,

To allow for God room to work.

And to allow us to see that work

to understand it and participate in it.



The Rev. Robert P. Travis

Father Rob goes by Father so that he remembers his duty to the people of God whom he serves. He’s been ordained since 2006, serving in Florida and Tennessee and before that served as a youth minister in Long Island, NY. More details