Sunday, July 1, 2012

Pentecost 5B, 2012: Feed this child of mine

Proper 8 Lectionary: Wisdom of Solomon 1:13-15; 2:23-24; Psalm 30; 2 Corinthians 8:7-15; Mark 5:21-43

En el nombre del Dios, Padre, Hijo, y Espiritu Santo. Amen.

In our gospel story last week, Jesus and the disciples found themselves in a small fishing boat, in a terrible storm on the Sea of Galilee. After Jesus stilled the storm, they arrived on the “other side” in the Gentile country of the Gerasenes where they encountered a demoniac who called himself Legion. Since the lectionary left this story out, I’ll remind you that this is the story where the unclean spirits leave the demoniac and jump into a herd of pigs which then goes and jumps off a cliff and drowns in the sea. After witnessing this healing, the Gerasene people were so frightened that they begged Jesus to leave their neighborhood – which he did.

Getting back in their boat, Jesus and the disciples travel back to the Jewish side of the Sea of Galilee. And this is where our gospel story picks up today – with two more healing stories: the daughter of Jairus and the woman with the flow of blood.

By presenting these stories as a group, Mark is offering a comprehensive picture of the kinds of storms the presence of God in Christ can heal in our lives. There are spiritual storms, like the storm on the Sea of Galilee which gave the apostles the opportunity to recognize and deal with their own lack of faith in Jesus. There are emotional storms, like the storm going on within the Gerasene demoniac. And there are physical storms, storms that happen in our bodies, like those described in today’s gospel story.

As Jesus and his disciples stepped out of the boat onto the shore, a great crowd began to gather. Out from this crowd steps Jairus who is the leader of the synagogue. Jairus approaches Jesus and kneels in his presence… a pretty amazing thing because as this man had clout and Jesus was an itinerant preacher - an institutional nobody.

Kneeling before him, Jairus asked Jesus to come to his home where his 12 year old daughter was dying. Jesus agreed and set off for Jairus’ house.

As they walked through the crowd, Jesus felt healing power leave him. As a healer myself, I can attest that when God chooses to unleash healing love, it flows through my body and I can feel when it moves out from me. I often feel a sensation of heat, many times in the palms of my hands and my attention is drawn toward the person needing the healing. Other healers report the same kind of felt experience.

So Jesus felt the healing power move through him and turned toward the one needing the healing and asked, “Who touched my clothes?” I can imagine his disciples looking around at the crowd and saying to him, “You’re kidding, right? Do you see all these people? A whole bunch of people probably touched your clothes.”

But Jesus wasn’t simply asking who touched his clothes. He was asking to whom the healing power of God had flowed. The woman with the hemorrhage fell down before Jesus, admitting that it was she who had touched his cloak. The woman was scared because she knew she was not supposed to be near people – her flow of blood made her ritually unclean and anyone she touched would have been made unclean too.

In that culture, ritually unclean people were exiled from their community until the priests declared them clean. And this woman had been exiled from her community for twelve years! According to the law, both she and Jesus should have left the area until declared ritually cleaned by a priest of the temple.

But the woman’s faith compelled her to ignore all the earthly barriers that stood between her and Jesus. Rather than being angry at her Jesus declared to her and all in the crowd who could hear: “Daughter, your faith has made you ‘whole’ (which is a truer translation from the Gk than ‘well’) Go in peace and be healed of your disease.”

In fact, if we look at the stories of Jesus’ healing throughout the gospels, we almost always hear Jesus say, “Your faith has made you whole.” Or we might hear him say, “Your sin has been forgiven.”

Sin, as we have discussed before, is a state of separation from God (as Paul Tillich describes it). It is whatever stands between us and God and disrupts our wholeness, our hol-i-ness.

Today we will offer anointing with holy oil and healing prayer. As we do, remember that healing is simply this: by the power of God in Christ we are made whole. Our sin, that is, anything that separates us from God, is forgiven. And our faith, which comes from a deep knowledge that we have been made in the image of God, that we are beloved children of God, compels us to risk everything and cross any barrier that human systems and humankind (including ourselves) have placed between us and God.

Wholeness, hol-i-ness, is divine. Cures are earthly. There’s a difference. That’s why Jesus said, “Go in peace… and be healed…” To be healed is to be made whole through God in Christ. To be cured, that is, to experience a change in the state of one’s body, may or may not be part of that.

Those of you who know me, know I’m a huge science geek. I am joyfully amazed and grateful for the advances humans have made in medicine and medical technology. The list of what doctors can cure nowadays is impressive. What they can’t do, however, is provide wholeness of life.

When Jesus did healings, he always restored a person to wholeness of life. Those whom Jesus healed were returned to their families and set free from their exile. Returning to their work and their livelihoods, they were no longer forced to beg to survive. This restoration of life relieved them of the emotional pain of their exile, the shame of their sin. Jesus’ healing always brought about wholeness of life - harmony of body, mind, and spirit, and restoration of relationships.

Back to the Gospel story…

While Jesus was still speaking with this woman with the hemorrhage who interrupted his journey, people came from Jairus’ house to tell him it was too late – his daughter was dead. Jesus responded by saying to Jairus: “Do not fear, only believe.”

The only thing that interferes with our wholeness is our fear. What if God doesn’t really love me? What if I’m too bad, too sinful, too unworthy to be healed? What if I didn’t pray right? What if I’m being punished?

To that, Jesus says, “Do not fear, only believe.”

As they reached Jairus’ house, professional mourners, whose job it was to announce to the community that someone had died, were making a mournful commotion. Jesus asked them why they were weeping. This child is not dead, he said, she’s only sleeping.

These mourners, who had a lot of experience with death laughed at Jesus. We know death and it’s plain to see that this child is dead.

But Jesus saw beyond what was plain to earthly eyes. He saw what was true – that nothing is impossible with God. Taking the child by the hand, he told her to get up, then he told her community to feed her.

This is our message too. Feed this child of mine, God says to us. She may seem dead to you, but she is not dead to me. Feed this child. Nourish him and restore him from his exile, his shame, back into love.

Do not fear. Only believe.

All of us who have ears to hear, please hear this command from God. People of Redeemer, this is the ministry of healing our church practices all of the time, but especially and outwardly on the first Sunday of the month.

The healing ritual we practice reminds us that our faith compels us to come into the presence of the healing power of God, to receive God’s grace into our bodies, minds, and spirits, and be restored to wholeness of life.

It reminds us that it is our responsibility in this faith community to nourish each child of God being raised out from sin and death to new life. We are the home where the healing love of God is made available to all. We are the home where all of the children of God are nourished by the Word and sacraments.

We are the community to whom the exiled children of God are returned so that they can live into the newness of life God is birthing in them. We are the ones called upon to treat one another with the reverence due to one who is a dwelling place of the Holy Spirit.

I close with a quote from theologian Howard Thurman, a favorite of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. In fact, this quote comes from Thurman’s book, Jesus and the Disinherited, which (I’m told) Dr. King used to carry in the breast pocket of his suit. Some of you saw this quote on my Facebook page recently – the product of my search for something inspiring during a particularly demanding day of pastoral care.

Howard Thurman said: “This is how Jesus demonstrated reverence for personality. He met the woman where she was, and he treated her as if she were already where she now willed to be. In dealing with her he “believed” her into the fulfillment of her possibilities. He stirred her confidence into activity. He place a crown over her head which for the rest of her life she would keep trying to grow tall enough to wear.” ~ Jesus and the Disinherited, 106.

May our confidence be likewise stirred into activity as we strive for the fulfillment of our possibilities, in the name of God and for the welfare of all God’s people.


1 comment:

Unknown said...

A beautiful sermon. Truth that soothes, encourages, motivates, and refreshes - what a blessing!