Faith.

Mark 5:21-43

21 When 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 overhearingwhat 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. 

When I was in high school, a freshman, I went out for the soccer team.  We ran like 7 miles the first day.  It was miserable.  I went out for track that same year, we ran a lot the first day.  I quit to  thereafter…seems like I had not fully realized how much running was involved in being a runner.  At that time in life, I realized I hated running.   

At 37 I went in for a physical with my doctor.  He said I was healthy, but not as healthy as I could be.  He told me that I think I’m active, because of being a pastor to students, but I wasn’t consistent and my cholesterol was a bit high.  He asked me how I was going to live my second half of life?  Which I thought then and now that his statement wasn’t very optimistic!  He also encouraged me to find a sport or activity that I could be consistent in.  Deb was a runner at the time, so I thought if she can do it, so can I.  I became a bit desperate, then obsessive, and I fell in love with it and running brought lots of changes and opportunities for me.  At 37, I was ready to run.  Plus, the more I ran, the more I saw that I’ve always had it in me, my understanding of faith in my running deepen.  

In our lectionary reading this morning from the Gospel of Mark, we pick up where we left off last week.  Jesus and his disciples have finally made it through the storms on the sea or lake that they were crossing and made it to the other side.  If you remember last week, we talked about Jesus being with us in the storms of life, both physically and metaphorically.  And, to have faith that something or someone is with us no matter what.  Well, they get to the other side, and there’s no rest for the weary!  They are immediately surrounded by a great crowd.  These two stories are lumped together because they are have a bit of a contrast in the character’s faith and one is named and the other has remained anonymous throughout history.

Jairus is listed as a religious leader in the synagogue, he immediately comes to Jesus and asks him to come to his house for his daughter is dying.  It’s interesting to note that this guy is part of the religious establishment.  Many of these folks looked at Jesus as a threat, some warily, some were curious…but, this guy had faith that Jesus could do something for his daughter.  So, Jesus seems to respond to faith…as if saying that if you are with me, we can do this together…and says he’ll go to Jairus’ house.  Now, Jairus is the ruler of the local synagogue.  He’s a high profile guy and is a leader in his community.  He’s an insider, yet Jesus sees him, and heads to his house.  

But, on the way there, he has to go through a crowd.  In that crowd is a woman, unlike Jairus, we don’t know her name.  She’s been anonymous throughout history.  She was an outsider.  Because of the religious rules of that time, she could not go to the synagogue, she could not be a part of community, because she had been hemorrhaging for 12 years.  In Jewish custom at that time, blood was considered unclean.  You would have to go through a purification ritual that takes days to be considered clean.  If you are hemorrhaging for that long, you are never clean.  

She was desperate.  She needed healing, she longed to be in community, and she approached Jesus with a simple faith of, “if I can just get close enough to touch his cloak, I will be healed”.  

This woman has been through so much pain, she’s seen so many doctors, she had depleted her savings, and yet she was getting worst, not better.  This sounds like something that so many folks in our society today doesn’t it?

So, she goes to Jesus.  Works her way through the crowds, and touches Jesus’ cloak.  And, miraculously, she’s healed.  

Jesus feels power going out from him, he looks around to see who it was, he can’t find out and so who he asks who touched him.  The disciples are incredulous and ask, how can we know?  See the people around you?

Think about that moment.  Have you ever been in a crowd and lost track of someone?  How many of us have had experiences where we lost sight of a child or a parent or someone that we were with in a crowd.  It can be frantic.  

This woman though mustered the courage and came forward.  She was scared, something amazing had just happened.  But, she took a risk, was vulnerable, and shared her story.

Friends, being vulnerable like this can be risky, yet she had the courage to do it…even in the midst of her trauma.  This past week I came across this quote from the late Rev. Rachel Held Evans that points out how important the church is, it sums up the vulnerable risk taking people and places that churches should be:

“We long for our churches to be safe places to doubt, to ask questions, and to tell the truth, even when it’s uncomfortable.”

That’s what this woman needed, a safe place to be vulnerable.  This woman who was an outsider the synagogue and to the culture at large.  

Jesus gives an interesting respond, “your faith has made you well, go in peace, and (as well) be healed of your disease.”

It’s as if Jesus is saying that the physical healing is secondary, but, what you really want is to be made well, to be whole, and to have peace…that only happens through your faith…a faith that takes risks, that notices things.

I heard this week that we in the church can talk all we want about spiritual growth, awareness, etc.  But, what is necessary in our churches is to develop the practices of spiritual growth and awareness.  That means taking the time to walk, or journal, or be quiet, to reflect, to notice the beauty within you and others, and to hold all of you and others up, even the messy stuff.  To embrace life and to live it.  The church cannot give anyone what they need spiritually, but it can be a powerful witness to God’s love and actions in and through us by God’s giving of God’s self to us.  

Power went out of Jesus, God gives, the woman received it, and the woman met Jesus.  He saw her, she saw him, they were known, and she stood up and had agency.  Agency is defined as the capacity of individuals to act independently and to make their own choices.  This woman did just that, as did Jesus…and they met…and her life was never the same.

While this was happening, folks came from Jairus’ house and told Jairus not to bother Jesus anymore for his daughter is dead.  Jesus told him to not be afraid, to believe.  Again, belief in this passage is not about dogma or correct theological thinking, it’s believe in me, as a person, as someone that has faith in himself and in you.  

They go to the house, Jesus just takes a couple of the disciples and when they get there, they hear this great commotion of people crying and waling…Jesus asks them why are you weeping, she’s just asleep…and they laugh.  It may have seemed ridiculous to the folks in the house, or maybe it was a bit of a nervous laugh.  Either way, it didn’t seem to phase Jesus…he sent everyone out but the parents and his disciples into the room of the daughter, took her hand and told her to “get up”.  And, she did…and even walked about around and Jesus made sure that she had something to eat.  

Again, these two healings, together.  One of an anonymous woman, another of a daughter of Jairus, a prominent leader.  It seems as if Jesus is telling us that he shows no favoritism.  That everyone is loved and however we meet Jesus, that this Jesus wants us to “show up”.  We, the church, or a pastor, or a program cannot force someone to “see” or “hear” the divine, or even touch the divine.  We can only do that when we are ready, or are desperate enough.  

Let’s ask those questions, and let’s run Fleming Road UCC!

Amen.  

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