Saturday, March 05, 2016

“Secret Healing”January 24 2016; MCC Windsor

Mark 5:21-43
When Jesus had again crossed over by boat to the other side of the lake, a large crowd gathered around him while he was by the lake.  Then one of the synagogue leaders, named Jairus, came, and when he saw Jesus, he fell at his feet. He pleaded earnestly with him, “My little daughter is dying. Please come and put your hands on her so that she will be healed and live.” So Jesus went with him.
A large crowd followed and pressed around him. And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse. When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, because she thought, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.” Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering.
At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched my clothes?”
“You see the people crowding against you,” his disciples answered, “and yet you can ask, ‘Who touched me?’ ”
But Jesus kept looking around to see who had done it. Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet and, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth. He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.”
While Jesus was still speaking, some people came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue leader. “Your daughter is dead,” they said. “Why bother the teacher anymore?”
Overhearing what they said, Jesus told him, “Dont be afraid; just believe.”
He did not let anyone follow him except Peter, James and John the brother of James. When they came to the home of the synagogue leader, Jesus saw a commotion, with people crying and wailing loudly.  He went in and said to them, “Why all this commotion and wailing? The child is not dead but asleep.” But they laughed at him.
After he put them all out, he took the childs father and mother and the disciples who were with him, and went in where the child was. He took her by the hand and said to her, “Talitha koum!” (which means “Little girl, I say to you, get up!”).  Immediately the girl stood up and began to walk around (she was twelve years old). At this they were completely astonished. He gave strict orders not to let anyone know about this, and told them to give her something to eat.

Refuse To Fall Down by Clarissa Pinkola Estes
Refuse to fall down.
If you cannot refuse to fall down,
refuse to stay down.
If you cannot refuse to stay down
lift your heart toward heaven
and like a hungry beggar,
ask that it be filled
and it will be filled.
You may be pushed down.
You may be kept from rising.
But no one can keep you
from lifting your heart
toward heaven
only you.
It is in the midst of misery
that so much becomes clear.
The one who says nothing good came of this,
is not yet listening.

Will you pray with and for me? God of healing and grace, give us open hearts to hear your word for us; may all we speak and hear ring with your truth. Amen.

This is an odd sort of reading, isn't it? Mark starts to tell us the story about Jairus's daughter, then interrupts that story with another one about a woman who tried to steal a blessing, then goes back to the story about the little girl. When this happens in the Bible, it happens for a reason. There's something more than comparison and contrast. So let's take a look at what is happening here.

The two stories are very different. In one, there's a young girl, whose father seeks help for her. Jesus goes to her, but insists that everyone stay outside except three of the disciples and the girl's parents. Jesus heals her, and tells then to give her something to eat.

In the other, it's a woman, very ill for many years, and in fact ritually unclean, who tries to sneak in and get a blessing from Jesus, any which way she can. He's in the midst of a crowd; when Jesus asks who touched him, she confesses. He confirms that she is healed.

Lots of contrasts there--a grown woman, a young girl; seeking help for herself, versus the parent seeking help;  a crowd in one case and few witnesses in the other.

But there are a lot of similarities, too. First, of course, they are both female--notable in a society that mostly ignored women. They are both cured simply by a touch.

But here's what is most important about their similarities--they are made somebody by Jesus. A bleeding woman and a pre-pubescent girl--they would not be seen as somebody in that culture.  But Jesus does. He recognizes both of them as people on their own right. He names them--the woman he calls daughter--a loving, welcoming endearment. And the little girl--he says to her, "Talitha koum." As we might say to a child, "Get up, sweetheart." Jesus speaks to them, names them as people dear to him. He recognizes them, and they become somebody. Before they were nobodies--now they are some bodies.

This is a powerful moment. I think we can all appreciate the power of being named, known, made to feel like we were somebody, not just a face in the crowd. Here's a minor example--there's a website called Caring Bridge--some of you have heard of it, I am sure.  It is basically a blog site for people going through a health crisis of some kind, and their families. The idea is that posts are made to the website, and friends and family can check the website rather than the patient having to endure a constant stream of phone calls and emails. I am guessing that these days Facebook is the default location, but this was in the days when Facebook was fairly new. As I was going through my breast cancer treatment, I had a Caring Bridge site. One of my colleagues on the Pride board at the time was Melanie Deveau, who, as some of you will remember, had an afternoon talk show on AM800. Mel was so taken by the idea of Caring Bridge  that she set up an interview with the founder for her show. In introducing her, Mel told how she had found out about the site from me, paying me some compliments--and naming me. It's not exactly fame, but I felt recognized too--and I had not realized how much Mel esteemed me and applauded me. I felt like somebody. I had been recognized for my work; she had spoken my name.

I think many of us have had similar experiences. It's not that we want the adulation, or the praises--we simply want to be seen, and to know we are somebody.

In these days of racial and cultural tension, I think it behooves us to think about who is made to be nobody and who is recognized and made to be somebody. The citizens of Flint, Michigan--they were nobodies, weren't they? Their health and their very lives were made of no account, by politicians and public officials who thought they could get away with it because no one would listen to poor African Americans--the majority of Flint residents. But that didn't work. The residents were heard and seen and were recognized and became some bodies. We've heard of several incidents where ignorant individuals harassed or even attacked people because of their perception of the others religion or culture--attacking a man in a turban and calling him a Muslim terrorist, for example. That is making a person into a nobody, besides the ignorance--most Muslims do not wear turbans. The attacker knows nothing of the person, and doesn't care.

So here is something to think about this week--do we make people nobodies or some bodies? Do we discount the contributions of someone at work, because we think they never have anything useful to offer? Do we do our best to ignore a family member who annoys us? Do we belittle others on the basis of looks or age? All those are ways to make others feel like nobodies.

I've told this story before, but it fits here very well. When I was working as a librarian in Washington DC, I once went to lunch with my supervisor and another colleague, both of whom happened to be black. We were on the early end of the lunch hour, and when we went into the restaurant and approached the hostess's station, my supervisor, Pam, asked if they were serving lunch yet. The hostess looked at me and said, "We will be serving lunch in about fifteen minutes; did you want to go ahead and sit down?" I was stunned for a moment, not believing what I had heard, then turned to Pam and waited for her to speak--she was the one who had asked the question, not me. The hostess continued to speak to me, ignoring Pam and Versella as if they were not there. When we were seated and the hostess left, I asked if they wanted to leave since the hostess had been so rude. They were much more gracious that I was, and we stayed.  But the hostess had tried to make them into nobodies; they refused to be driven away, and insisted on being some bodies.

A minor thing, maybe; but for Pam and Versella and many others, it is an everyday occurrence, and for any number of reasons--someone doesn't know them, doesn't see them, and tries to make them nobodies. Maybe it is the colour of their skin, or their accent, or their level of education or income; maybe it is their religion or who they love. We humans seem to be able to find all kinds of ways to draw lines between us and other people, don't we?

My friends, for this week, can we try to simply see people--acknowledging  all they are, not erasing their identity, but accepting that identity as a human identity and therefore they are somebody? And can we do the same for ourselves, not putting ourselves down for our perceived flaws, but recognizing all that is good in ourselves, and acknowledging that we are some bodies, and everyone in the world is somebody? We can, if we want to, make people into some bodies.

Go in peace, beloved children of God.

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