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JOE LAGUARDIA: God works miracles through the most unlikely of people

There once was a guy named Jairus. He was a real faithful churchgoer and leader in his community.

He had a daughter, 12 years old, who was dying. She was the apple of her father's eye. At one time, they played games together, then it was off to school and family vacations to Six Flags.

Now her breathing became more shallow, her skin color pale.

And there was a peasant from Galilee who was said to have the ability to heal. Jairus heard that the peasant was in town, but he also heard that the peasant caused quite a stir at some churches.

There were the conflicts with the deacons and pastors, and there was that healing on the Sabbath.

Jairus was desperate, however, and he had to try something. It was his daughter. He may have to do some explaining at church come Monday -- he may actually have to step down as Sunday School teacher -- but at least there was a chance that his daughter would be healed.

On the day the peasant came to town, Jairus took off work and made his way to the street corner where the peasant was preaching. There the Galilean was, with his dark, deep-set eyes and sandwich-board sign that had something or another about repentance and God's kingdom. A crowd had gathered.

Tears welled up in Jairus' eyes even as he noticed that some of his church members were in the crowd. Yes, he would have some explaining to do. But, before Jairus knew it, he was on his knees begging the peasant to come and heal his daughter.

Can you imagine? A church leader begging at the feet of some street preacher? The peasant only nodded in agreement.

It was at that moment that something strange happened. A woman who had been ill for 12 years pushed her way through the crowd and touched the peasant. People were disgusted that she had come into contact with them. They knew her from around town, kicked her out of some of their churches in fact.

She was one of those people who were so full of sin and sickness that she really didn't belong anywhere. People avoided her; and, when she went to the local diner, families moved to different booths while children pointed, snickered and stared.

Thankfully, the law of the land kept her from going anywhere important. She couldn't get a job either so she lost her healthcare benefits long ago. How convenient.

Like Jairus, she was desperate so it was worth upsetting a few people to get to the peasant. She touched him and was healed; he turned and caught her eye. And, like Jairus, she too fell on her knees before him.

That's when Jairus' employees greeted them: "Jairus," they said, "It's your daughter. She died."

For the first time the peasant spoke to Jairus: "Do not fear, only believe."

How can Jairus believe at a time like this? He believed his whole life. He went to church every weekend and led committees. He taught Sunday school and served as deacon, and his faith just didn't seem to help. He might as well laugh at this peasant, but he wasn't in a laughing mood.

How can Jairus take advice from a man who let a sinner woman touch him, much less talk to him? If this peasant affiliated with the likes of her, then maybe he should rethink his strategy.

Then something miraculous happened. The peasant -- this rabble rouser from the other side of the tracks who got into more fights with pastors than Jairus knew what to do with -- healed Jairus' little girl with four words, "Little girl, get up."

Four words and that was it. No questions asked, no tests taken, no churchgoing required, no doctrines debated. It was just a little girl healed, two desperate and fearful souls humbled at the feet of a Galilean, and another day in the life of God's miraculous, inclusive, and impartial presence.

A miracle if there ever was one.

The Rev. Joe LaGuardia is the senior pastor of Trinity Baptist Church, 301 Honey Creek Road, Conyers. Email him at trinitybc3@bellsouth.net or visit www.trinityconyers.org.