Sunday, June 28, 2015

Sermon; 5 Pentecost/Proper 8B; Mark 5:21-43

Last week I said that Mark's gospel contains several thematic blocks.  So far we have encountered blocks of controversies, parables and miracles.  We are still in the miracle block.  We have been shown Jesus' authority over the natural world with the calming of the sea.  We missed his authority over the spiritual world with his sending Legion, the unclean spirit, into the herd of swine.  And today we are shown his authority over both the physical body and death.

To keep you current on his itinerary, last week Jesus went from the west side of the Sea of Galilee to the east side.  It was during that trip that the storm arose, and it was on the east side that he healed the demoniac.  Today we hear that he has crossed back to the west side, where he is once again in familiar territory, as evidenced by the great crowds.  And, as Mark likes to do, we get two stories for the price of one.

A leader of the synagogue, Jairus by name, comes pleading to Jesus to heal his deathly ill daughter.  Jesus agrees, but on the way, and as the crowd presses in on him, an unnamed woman reaches out and touches his robes, hoping to herself be healed of her 12-year bleeding.  After touching Jesus and after being healed, she disappears into the crowd.  Jesus stops to figure out who touched him and, finally, she steps forward to say it was her.  While Jesus is delayed, the little girl dies.  Jesus continues to Jairus' house where, after sending almost everyone outside, he raises her from the dead.

There is more than the usual plots and subplots going on here.  We've got a deathly ill 12-year old girl.  We've got a woman who has been bleeding for 12 years.  We have a named man and an unnamed woman.  We have Jesus treating the woman with dignity and respect.  We have the woman being healed without Jesus' knowledge.  We have Jesus raising a dead girl back to life.  We have proof that not all synagogue leaders were against Jesus.

Which of these do you think is the most important story-line of today's gospel, and why?  Or maybe there's a story-line I haven't mentioned that you think is most important.  Why do you think that?

I think there are a couple of things in this gospel story that probably get overlooked but are vitally important to our own discipleship.  The first is the woman in the crowd who comes to Jesus for healing; but I don't think it's the actual healing, I think it's the fact she was in the crowd.

She has been bleeding for twelve years.  She has spent her life savings looking for a cure.  And now there's this guy Jesus coming through town who has the reputation as a healer.  She wants to be healed of her infirmity.  She wants to draw near to Jesus, but she also wants to remain anonymous.

I think this is representative of a lot of Christians today.  We want to draw near to Christ.  We want to be healed of our infirmities.  We want to be touched by Jesus, or, at least, we want to get close enough to touch the hem of his cloak.  We want all that, and we want it to happen within one to two hours on a Sunday so we can go home and get back to our normal lives.

I also think this is part of the draw of larger churches.  I’ve had people tell me that one of the reasons they attend Church of the Fill in the Blank is because they can go, blend in with the crowd, and go home without being asked to serve on any committees, teach Sunday school or sign up for coffee hour.  People simply want to blend in, content to look for what Jesus can do for them, without taking on additional responsibilities.  This, by the way, can also happen in small churches.

But Jesus has a way of taking us out of the crowd.  He would not let her get her “daily dose of Jesus” and then go home.  He searched the crowds until she came forward, acknowledging that she was the one who received healing from him.

As disciples, we are called to make known the love of God and the Good News as found in Christ.  As disciples, we are called to stand out in a crowd, and stand up, and say, “This is what Jesus did for me.”  But that is not always easy.  It's not easy to move from anonymity to having a public presence.  It's not easy to proclaim the Good News of Christ in a crowd.

Oftentimes, for me at least, when I am called upon to proclaim the gospel publicly, when I am called upon to stand out in a crowd, I do so like the woman, with fear and trembling.  I wonder if this is not the case with many Christians, a fear of going public with their faith.

If that is the case, if you are afraid to move from anonymity to being known, or if you are afraid of what the crowd might think, look to this woman.  Yes, she was afraid, but when she stood up in front of God and everybody and said, “I did it,” she wasn't excluded, but welcomed as a member of the family.

The other important point that might get missed is the story itself.  Not the part of Jairus pleading for his daughter's life, or the healing of the woman, or the raising of Jairus' daughter, but the story.

The story is about Jesus being called to a home to heal a deathly ill girl and then being interrupted to heal another woman.  That interruption allows the girl to die before Jesus gets there.  Jairus planned to get Jesus back to his house ASAP.  Jesus planned on going with him to check in on the girl.  But then this woman showed up.  As the old saying goes, “Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans.”

How many times are we interrupted, either by our children, unexpected office visits, phone calls, or any number of other things?  My business card should read, “Rector – Interrupt at will.”

But what's important is how we handle those interruptions.  Do we look to dispatch the interrupter as soon as possible, or do we choose to deal with them as if they were on our schedule all along?  More importantly, can we see interruptions as a place of grace and opportunity to express God's loving presence?

As we look to grow as disciples during this season of Ordinary Time, these are two areas in which we could probably look to improve.  We need to get better at sharing our story of what Jesus has done for us, and we could probably get better at seeing interruptions not as annoyances but as possible grace-filled moments.

I will leave you with this:  How might the story of proclaiming the Good News of Christ in the midst of a crowd, and the story of a holy interruption, challenge you and help you to grow as a disciple?



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