5th Sunday, Ordinary Time
5th Sunday, Ordinary Time
Elizabeth M. Deibert
1 July 2012
1 July 2012
You know the scene in the movie, Bruce Almighty, where Bruce is suddenly bombarded by the cascade of voices of people praying to God for help? Sometimes we wonder, “Does God really care about my illness in the midst of so many major problems in the world? And does God have the power to make a difference?” Today’s intertwined stories help us to see that God Incarnate is responsive to our needs and does have the power to heal us. Having just calmed the storm on the sea, then healed a person severely deranged, the Gerasene demoniac, Jesus keeps moving, surrounded by crowds of people. He is approached by two people in this story, one is a powerful man, Jairus, a leader in the synagogue, whose daughter is gravely ill. The other is an unknown, powerless woman, who has been hemorrhaging for 12 years. In these two stories, we see the boundless compassion of Christ, ready to assist all people in need, no matter their station in life. We see the enormous power of Christ in his touching and being touched by others that gives them life and healing. We see the relational integrity and timeliness of Christ, such that he attends to the present crisis of need without failing to fulfill his promise to the next one waiting for his care.
Most significantly, we see the power of trust in those who are seeking Christ. If you will just lay your hand on my sick daughter…. If I can just touch his clothes, I will be made well.” Trust is a huge factor in the power of the healing relationship. We know this to be true in our relationships with spiritual, mental health, and medical professionals – just as it is true in our relationship with Jesus Christ.
May the Spirit guide our reading and hearing of this Holy Word, Mark 5:21-43.
21When Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side,
a great crowd gathered around him; and he was by the sea.
22 Then one of the leaders of the synagogue named Jairus came and,
when he saw him, fell at his feet 23 and begged him repeatedly,
"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." 24 So he went with him.
And a large crowd followed him and pressed in on him.
25 Now there was a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years.
26 She had endured much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had;
and she was no better, but rather grew worse.
27 She had heard about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak,
28 for she said, "If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well."
29 Immediately her hemorrhage stopped;
and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease.
30 Immediately aware that power had gone forth from him,
Jesus turned about in the crowd and said, "Who touched my clothes?"
31 And his disciples said to him, "You see the crowd pressing in on you;
how can you say, 'Who touched me?'" 32 He looked all around to see who had done it.
33 But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling,
fell down before him, and told him the whole truth. 34 He said to her,
"Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease."
35 While he was still speaking, some people came from the leader's house to say,
"Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the teacher any further?"
36 But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the leader of the synagogue,
"Do not fear, only believe."
37 He allowed no one to follow him except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James.
38 When they came to the house of the leader of the synagogue, he saw a commotion,
people weeping and wailing loudly. 39 When he had entered, he said to them,
"Why do you make a commotion and weep? The child is not dead but sleeping."
40 And they laughed at him. Then he put them all outside,
and took the child's father and mother and those who were with him,
and went in where the child was.
41 He took her by the hand and said to her, "Talitha cum,"
which means, "Little girl, get up!"
42 And immediately the girl got up and began to walk about
(she was twelve years of age).
At this they were overcome with amazement.
43 He strictly ordered them that no one should know this,
and told them to give her something to eat.
Richard and I had only a brief scare when Emily was in Korea and had her seizure-like experience in the night. But it was enough of a scare to make me realize how desperate a parent must feel when a child is gravely ill, like Jairus’ daughter, or like the parents of Leanna Knopik, 16 year old at First Presbyterian, Sarasota. We’ve been praying for Leanna whose heart was so damaged by a viral infection that she is existing with the help of a heart pump. I can only begin to imagine the Knopiks desperation and Jairus’ and his wife’s desperation over their sick child.
Like many people rushing into emergency situations, pleading with the medical personnel, handle my urgent need first. Please Jesus, come to my house now to heal my daughter. And Jesus does, but not without getting side-tracked, delayed briefly when he notices that healing power has flowed from him to someone who touched him. “Who was it?” he wants to know. “Who touched me?” And everyone, including the disciples, just want Jesus to acknowledge that any number of people in the crowd have touched him. Let’s get on to the emergency, to protect the daughter of the very important man. But Jesus was not interested in anonymous healing experiences. Jesus was not interested in ignoring the poor to help the wealthy first. Jesus WAS, despite his hurry, interested in the particular person in the crowd who was so desperate and so full of faith, that she reached out in trust, grabbed Jesus’ robe, and with it took some of his healing power. She, shocked by the power that had entered her body and stopped her menstrual cramping, fell down before him and told him the whole truth. I suppose that the whole truth in her case may have been a testimony of twelve years of misery. Not only did she have a chronic disease, but her disease made her ritually unclean and thereby an outcast in society. Jesus called her “Daughter” and said your faith has made you well, your trusting has saved you. Go in peace and be healed of the disease that has plagued you.
While he was still talking to the woman, the worst fears of Jairus are announced. His daughter is dead. Messengers come and tell Jairus to excuse Jesus because he is no longer needed. It is too late. But Jesus, apparently able to hear two conversations at once, something Bruce Almighty could not handle, says to Jairus and friends, “Do not be afraid, only trust/believe/have faith.”
Taking only the three closest disciples - Peter, James, and John – Jesus approaches and challenges those who were there to support the family with their weeping and wailing, a common practice in first century times, to have people whose purpose is to express the grief, to announce it. There were no newspaper obits or facebook messages or church bells to ring to announce the news. Professional wailers made it clear that a grief was being observed. Jesus tells them to hush because he says the child is not dead only sleeping. They don’t believe him, but he proves his power once again, in this amazing way, by entering the room with parents and inviting the little girl to get up and the parents to feed her.
A day in the life of Jesus – calming/healing/saving storm-threatened disciples, a mentally ill person, an outcast with a chronic malady, a child who has died. In each of these stories, fear is overcome by the power of Christ and people learn to put their trust in him.
If any of you read my faith column in the Bradenton Herald yesterday, I want to make it clearer now than I did in the newspaper that the point of this passage scripture is trust in Jesus Christ, the Healer. I also want to make it clear that I truly respect all who have a different notion than I regarding the direction our country should go with healthcare. But as I was studying this passage and listening to the debate that ensued from Thursday’s Supreme Court ruling, I could not help but see some connections in the power of trusting for healing even in our modern medical context where God works through professionals who are paid for their work and their expenses.
I believe that we need to continue to move toward an economically-sound healthcare system which guarantees access and affordability to all its citizens. I do not think we have reached the goal. I am not intending to sound partisan, though many of you may hear me that way. I simply want to see our broken healthcare system changed into something that will be more healing and humane for all people in this country.
We can have a discussion about the specifics of how to achieve that, because neither the Republicans nor the Democrats ever have all the right pieces to the healthcare puzzle, but my prayer is that we can work together, not against one another. My hope is that we can continue to build trust into our system of care so that all marginalized people with chronic medical issues and all worried parents with sick children, not to mention senior citizens, the middle class, and the very poor, can receive the healing touch of good, solid, not overly defensive medical care. Jesus Christ is the Miracle Worker, but we are His hands and His feet. Let us pray:
Lord Jesus Christ we pray for a good and fair, bi-partisan process that will make healing healthcare an affordable, sensible, and enduring reality for all in this great land of the free and the brave. Teach us to respect one another, listen to one another, and be the healing presence of Christ for one another. Thank you for pouring your power out on your church and for calling us to be your body in the world, broken yet strong with the strength that we gain from merely touching your cloak as we gather to worship you, to be saved/healed, restored to wholeness by you. We actively put our trust in you, even in dire circumstances, knowing that you make us new people by your love and power. Amen.