Toorak Uniting Church

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Of Hems and Healings

Mark 5: 21 – 43
Rev. Ian Brown
10:15am, 2 July 2006

The late Henri Nouwen, a Catholic teacher, minister and writer, said in the prime of his career that he became frustrated by the many interruptions to his work.
He was teaching at Notre Dame. He had a heavy agenda each day and didn't like to be disturbed.
Then one day it dawned on him that his interruptions were his work.
Another late great philosopher, John Lennon said, "Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans!" It can happen to us all.

Now Jesus was having a hectic time of it. As we read through these chapters in Mark, Jesus always seems to be crossing to the other side of the sea of Galilee.
He was trying to get away from the crowds, but the boat trip was probably the only peace he got!
The crowds follow, there are sick and troubled people where ever Jesus goes and they all want help!

So when Jesus arrives at the "other side" yet again, a great crowd gathered - this crowd had seen and heard things, the stories about Jesus were getting around, he helped people, he taught things that were good to learn, he accepted every one.

Into the middle of this crowd, Jairus came, fell at Jesus feet and begged him repeatedly. Help me Jesus, help me please, help my sick little one, help my little girl!
Now Jairus, Mark mentions just by the way, was a leader of the synagogue. Jairus was a man of faith, a man of tradition and a recognized religious leader.
Jairus is a minister with training and position,
Jairus has kudos and influence.
But here he is falling at Jesus feet, at the feet of the popular itinerant preacher in utter desperation.

I guess, Jairus stands for many of us.
We get on with business, we do our work, we care for the family, all the really important things get done - even some of the religious things.

But when we get hit with one of life’s bouncers - in pain and with head still spinning, we look for God, look for the God person to cry out to, to look for help from. It’s a natural human reaction. Defence force Padres & Chaplains are never so busy as when there is a war on. Hospital Chaplains are never so busy as when there has been a terrible accident or calamity. Parish ministers as when there have been a number of deaths.

Think for a moment about the times you’ve been knocked about by life. For parents there’s probably nothing worse that could happen than a threat to your little one’s life. How would you feel, how would you cope? Too terrible to think of – but it is one of life’s sad realities and it touches every community!!

I want to spend just a moment highlighting the approach of the crowds - let’s call them the voice of reason, and contrast that with how Jesus responds - the voice of faith.
The people say, "look the girl is dead, don’t bother the teacher."
That’s reasonable isn’t it?
She’s dead, there’s nothing more to be done

Come on Jairus, you’ll just have to get over it.
You’ve lost your daughter - .... lost your mother, father, partner, lost your job, your health - but look that’s life, deal with it!" The people are realists, they’ve seen this stuff before, and so have we.

But Jairus is not resigned that this is the way life should be. Jairus, in his love for his daughter will not give up hope. Jesus says to him, "Do not fear, only believe." Sometimes belief needs to be in the face of reason and stand up against hopelessness.
Mark tells us that "they laughed at Jesus" for his faith. Faith still isn’t popular, people still laugh at faith, laugh where there is hope with no reasonable grounds, but Jesus says to the little girl, "get up" and she got up! I’ll come back to the reaction later.

Because, wedged in the middle of this story of healing is another story of healing, with another person at Jesus feet.
And this person has the opposite status to Jairus, she is a longsuffering woman, outcast from society because of her affliction.
She comes to Jesus with the single minded devotion of the desperate, just hoping for a touch of Jesus hem.
A bloke would have been going for a hand shake I guess!
But the woman is content to be anonymous, to not bother the teacher, - and it made me wonder… I wonder how we approach Jesus? What sort of touch do we look for?
What sort of faith in Jesus do we exercise?

Jesus response to this woman – a response that happens in the middle of a crowd, in the middle of another desperate need, in the middle of someone else’s story – Jesus response to the happening of this healing has an incredible power and integrity of it’s own.

Imagine with me for a minute some other possible – and perhaps playful responses, responses that a Jesus – religious figure might characteristically make today.

Firstly there would be the distant non response.
The Jesus figure would be riding in a bullet proof car, shown to be worshipped as a figurehead, but well beyond reach of the common people.
No, that’s not our Jesus!

Then there might be the entrepreneurial response.

The Jesus figure says something like, "yes my power has healed you, now tell everyone about it, join my group, give all your belongings to my outreach fund and we will save the world."
No, that’s not our Jesus!

Then there might be the rationalist response.
The Jesus figure would say something like, "yes, you do seem better – perhaps the stooping has helped you, perhaps it’s a psychosomatic thing?
Have a chat with your doctor won’t you and we’ll hope it doesn’t happen again."
But No, that’s not our Jesus either!

The Jesus we meet in the gospel says, "Daughter, your faith has made you well."
Jesus begins with relationship, daughter, he says – not who are you, or how dare you, but "daughter" – close family relationship. And then he affirms her faith.
Mark tells us she had wasted all her money on physicians and now the true physician heals her without charge, without demand. She was destitute, "no one’s daughter", a faceless member of the crowd, but by her faith she becomes Jesus daughter, an new entry into relationship and into community. Healed and welcomed in one.
T.S. Elliot wrote:

"There is no life except in community and no community except lived in praise to God."

But healing and the church have a more difficult relationship these days. We don’t start with the magical world view seen in the desperate woman.
We expect our medical system to have the answers and increasingly we sue for malpractice when not satisfied.
The church has been happy to found and support hospitals and professional caring.
Healing is not the metaphor it once was.

But the reality of wholeness, the welcome and inclusion of outcasts that stand behind these gospel stories is just as profound and just as needed today.

Are there still those who suffer from flows of blood, or to put the same thing another way, is there still haemorrhaging, are there still outcasts, poor and desperate?
Think of East Timor and the Gaza Strip, domestic violence and the violence and drug abuse in disadvantaged communities. In our country and across our troubled world there is haemorrhaging, there is need of intervention, of an exercize of faith that healing and wholeness are possible.
The beauty and purpose of this text lies less in what history it might purport to tell and more in what it celebrates. It celebrates that the human yearning for new life, set out in dreams and visions for the climax of history, can find its fulfillment in being connected to Jesus. And then it bears witness that incredibly good things happen in connection with Jesus.

The crowds of people in the story were amazed! Why were they amazed? they had heard of Jesus, they knew what he did and taught. I think they were amazed because reasonableness was shown to be moribund - they were amazed to see hope reborn out of brokenness, amazed because the story of the desperate falling at Jesus feet by one who might have been expected to be opposed to Jesus normally, has a happy ending.
Amazed, but this is the gospel.
This is good news. This is the pattern of Jesus way.

New hope, new beginnings, healing and wholeness where it did not seem reasonable to hope.
Perhaps we might take Jesus words to heart just a little more, "Do not fear, only believe."

© Rev. Ian Brown, 2006

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