Circle of Trust 6-28-15

This was an amazing week in the US, the ruling to make marriage a right for everyone no matter their sexual orientation, the wave of sentiment to take down the Confederate flag and teach a more complete history of racism in our country, these and other events will shape how our country develops for some time to come. On the surface our passage for this morning may not seem to address these issues. When you dig deeper however, the breadth of Christ’s love for all people, no matter their background; encouraging us to trust in the all-inclusive love of God in Christ is the clear message of this story. Listen for the word of God for you this day:

Mark 5:21-43 When Jesus had crossed again to the other shore in the boat, a large crowd gathered, and he stayed by the lakeside. Then one of the synagogue officials—Jairus by name—came up and, seeing Jesus, fell down, and pleaded earnestly, saying, “My little daughter is desperately sick.  Come and lay your hands on her to make her better and save her life.” Jesus went with him and a large crowd followed, pressing from all sides.

Now there was a woman who had suffered from hemorrhages for twelve years, after long and painful treatment from various doctors, she had spent all she had without getting better—in fact, she was getting worse. She had heard about Jesus, and she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak.  “If I can touch even the hem,” she had told herself, “I will be well again.” Immediately the flow of blood dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed of her affliction. Immediately aware that healing power had gone out from him, Jesus turned to the crowd and said, “Who touched my clothes?” The disciples said, “You see how the crowd is pressing you and yet you say, ‘Who touched me?’ But Jesus continued to look around to see who had done it. then the woman came forward, frightened and trembling because she knew what had happened to her, and she fell at Jesus’ feet and told him the whole truth. “My daughter,” Jesus said, “your faith has saved you, go in peace and be free of your affliction. While Jesus was still speaking, some people arrived from the house of the synagogue official to say, “Your daughter is dead.  Why put the Teacher to any further trouble?” But Jesus overheard the remark and said to the official:  “Don’t be afraid.  Just believe.” Jesus allowed no one to follow him except Peter and James and James’ brother John. They came to the official’s house and Jesus noticed all the commotion, with people weeping and wailing unrestrainedly. Jesus went in and said to them, “Why all this commotion and crying?  The child is not dead, but asleep.” At this, they began to ridicule him, and he told every one to leave. Jesus took the child’s mother and father and his own companions and entered the room where the child lay. Taking her hand, he said to her, Talitha, koum!” which means, “Little girl, get up!” Immediately the girl, who was twelve years old, got jp and began to walk about. At this they were overcome with astonishment. Jesus gave the family strict orders not to let anyone know about it, and told them to give the little something to eat.

June 28, 2015

Circle of Trust

For different reasons that day the faith of a frightened father and the faith of a despondent woman brought them both to Jesus.  The father was a wealthy man by the name of Jairus.  The woman was a nobody without a name, that we know of.  Jairus commanded the respect of the crowd and their concern for his sick daughter.  The woman hid in the crowd, sick herself, but desperate that she not be discovered for fear the crowd would turn on her.  The juxtaposition, the intertwining of these two stories together gives them a meaning beyond either of them separately.

Naturally, Jairus receives first attention in the passage.  The well-respected man, one of the rulers of the synagogue, took a big risk in kneeling at the feet of Jesus.  He  evidently had heard of the wonder worker – heard that he was a trouble maker.  But his daughter was sick and he felt he must take the risk, any risk, to find a way to bring her back to health.  Any parent would do the same. ‘My little daughter is at the point of death.  Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well, and live.’  And Jesus went with him.

The crowd teemed around, moving toward the house of Jairus, excited to see what was going to happen, wanting to be part of the action.  And in the middle of the crowd, this nameless woman hid -as such nameless women hide in many a crowd even today. Oh, maybe it’s not as bad as it once was.  At least a woman is not forbidden to be in worship when she is menstruating.  Still, we don’t talk about it, particularly when something is going wrong…. There’s something secretive when we talk about ‘women’s troubles.’ As we are learning this week, our society still has a long way to go to respect and hear whole groups of people who hide in the crowd.

Well, this woman had been in trouble for 12 years.  Twelve years she had been dealing with a flow of blood.  What do you imagine it was like for someone suffering from a flow of blood in her time?  Why was she hiding in the crowd?  How do you think she felt about her body?  What gives her the courage to reach and touch the hem of Jesus’ garment, when she had tried every physician and every remedy for twelve years?

Immediately upon touching Jesus the hemorrhage ceased, and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease.  Jesus also felt something immediately. He felt power go out from his body, and he turned in the crowd and says ‘Who touched me? Who touched my clothes?’  Right away, the disciples were nervous. Here goes Jesus, off on one of his tangents. We’ve got this powerful leader ready to become a convert and Jesus is worried that somebody in this rabble touched him.  They try to make a joke about it. “You have this crowd pressing you on every side. Whaddya mean, ‘Who touched me?’  C’mon, Jesus.  This guy can’t wait all day. Help him out.”

Jesus doesn’t pay any attention.  He keeps looking.  And the woman kneels at his feet to say she was the one, fearing that she was in for more upbraiding and isolation.  Why is it important that Jesus risk embarrassing her further, by announcing her healing to everyone in the crowd?  Why does her healing have to be public?  When Jesus  announces that it is her faith that has made her well, he empowers her, legitimizes her, restores her to the community. He challenges everything that keeps her separate, isolated or unrecognized.

In the other gospels the story gets changed to make Jesus more active in the whole thing, but in Mark it is clear that her faith, her determination, her chutzpah makes her well.  From the bottom of the honor scale, this woman intrudes on an important mission on behalf of the daughter of someone on the top of the honor scale – but by the story’s conclusion, she herself has become the daughter at the center of the story.  ‘My daughter,’ proclaims Jesus, ‘Your faith has made you well.’ ‘Your trust has made you whole.”

 

Just as Jesus makes this announcement, word comes from down the road.  His delay has resulted in failure of his original mission.  Jairus’ daughter is dead.  Mourning has already begun, and the disciples mourn as well, because they are trying to pay attention to the bottom line. Jesus turns to Jairus and says, ‘Do not fear, only believe.’  Have one-tenth of the faith of this woman in the crowd and everything will turn out fine.

Now many think of this story solely as a story of healing, and it certainly is that.  The healing of the woman and the healing of the daughter who Jesus brings back from being dead.  But there’s something about the juxtaposition, the intertwining of these two stories together that make it even more of a miracle story, bigger than a healing.

The woman had been bleeding for 12 years, a nobody and an outcast among her own people, she had been been dead to the world.  Jesus had healed her world so she could live again.  And now Jesus comes to this girl who was 12 years old herself.  She had never had the chance to bleed. But what is about to happen in her life?  She was soon to get her period. She was about to find out how women are left out of the synagogue when they bleed, about what happens to women when they become women. She was about to be silenced, to be left out, to be excommunicated. She is about to die. And Jesus brings her back from the dead. Challenges her to live, to rise up, to get something to eat.

The first shall be last, and the last shall be first.  Liberation begins from the least, the lost, & the lowest, with women & poor people, with daughters, teenagers, and those who are bleeding, with those who are targeted because of the color of their skin or the fact of who they love. In other words, us. All of us are part of the circle of trust that Jesus is trying to build.  All of us are being called to hear God’s voice and trust God’s power to bring us back from the dead.  Touching the divine, we may yet be freed from our isolation, from social oppression, from our paralyzing fear of death.  God give us the faith, the determination, the daring of a poor woman to touch the hem of the garment, to dare to call on divine power, that we might provide health care for all God’s daughters & sons, that we might declare that our own wrongs be made right, that we might be empowered to speak, that we might find life and teach life, freedom, empowerment, liberation, that we might be healed, that we might be empowered to heal.  Amen.

Responsive hymn 2139  I Know the Lord’s Laid His Hands on Me