Touching

CC0 Public Domain (https://pixabay.com/en/fear-fearless-without-fear-617132/)
CC0 Public Domain (https://pixabay.com/en/fear-fearless-without-fear-617132/)

Mark 5:24-43 (passim)

24b A swarm of people were following Jesus, crowding in on him. 25 A woman was there who had been bleeding for twelve years. 26 She had suffered a lot under the care of many doctors, and had spent everything she had without getting any better. In fact, she had gotten worse. 27 Because she had heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his clothes. 28 She was thinking, If I can just touch his clothes, I’ll be healed. 29 Her bleeding stopped immediately, and she sensed in her body that her illness had been healed. 30 At that very moment, Jesus recognized that power had gone out from him.  …  34 He responded, “Daughter, your faith has healed you; go in peace, healed from your disease.” 35 While Jesus was still speaking with her, messengers came from the synagogue leader’s house, saying to Jairus, “Your daughter has died. Why bother the teacher any longer?” . 38 They came to the synagogue leader’s house, and he saw a commotion, with people crying and wailing loudly. 39 He went in and said to them, “What’s all this commotion and crying about? The child isn’t dead. She’s only sleeping.” 40 They laughed at him, but he threw them all out. Then, taking the child’s parents and his disciples with him, he went to the room where the child was. 41 Taking her hand, he said to her, “Talitha koum,” which means, “Young woman, get up.” 42 Suddenly the young woman got up and began to walk around. She was 12 years old. They were shocked! 43 He gave them strict orders that no one should know what had happened. Then he told them to give her something to eat. (CEB)
[Scripture taken from the Common English Bible®, CEB® Copyright © 2010, 2011 by Common English Bible.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.]

A Sermon

In the years during and after Jesus’ life people expressed amazement by telling great stories about amazing people. Stories of miraculous healings and people being raised from the dead were the currency of such stories. Jesus was the focus of many of these stories of amazement. In our day and age medical miracles are almost a dime a dozen. EMTs and emergency room staff routinely bring people back to life with electronic defibrillators; doctors administer drugs and surgery to cure and/or retard life threatening diseases. I personally have watched a surgeon remove a piece of detached cartilage from my knee, felt the blood course through the veins of my arm after hand surgery, and have had cancer arrested in both bladder and prostate. Amazing!

But I don’t think Jesus wants you to be amazed by such stories as we read today. There is something more amazing about Jesus than healings and raisings the dead. He lived a life that was not compromised by striving after social status, money, recognition, or power. He had a profound sense of an intimate connection to God that was made manifest in peace, love, justice, wholeness. I think that is the key. Jesus wants you to simply live your life trusting in God.   

Jesus had a deep God-centered passion for the plight of the poor, the marginalized, the distressed, and the suffering. That passion was the focus of the two stories in today’s Gospel lesson.

A woman who has suffered for 12 years elbows her way through the crowd to get close to Jesus. She is afraid to come to him face-to-face, ashamed because of her illness. So she brings herself to reach out and touch the bottom hem of his cloak — hoping against hope that this will bring her healing. 

Sensing her presence,  Jesus stops and looks into the crowd…    She had touched his cloak; he was touched by her need and her faith. 

When Jesus finally arrives at the house of Jairus, everyone there is in a frenzy, everyone that is except Jesus. Jesus is touched by the plight of this family and the conditions the little girl. He reaches out and takes her by the hand.  “Talitha com.”  “Stand up!”

“Talitha cum” is not only addressed to the ‘little girl.’ It is an invitation to all of us — young and old, male or female, rich or poor, black or brown or white, Arab and Palestinian and Jew, … — to rise up and take our place in the Commonwealth of Peace and Justice. It is an encouragement to follow in the Way lived and taught by Jesus. It is a clarion call not to be taken in by the boisterous and pretentious posturings of the principalities or powers (whether political, social, cultural, or religious). It is an insistence that begs a response.

The sick woman who literally had the life force draining out of her for 12 years and and the family of Jairus which was facing the agonizing death of a child describe the kinds of life-denying situations you and I face in our daily journeys — cancer or other life threatening diseases…   the hectic pace of life that has robbed us of joy…   relationships that have frayed or broken…  dreams that have fallen by the wayside…  hopes that have been smashed… 

Those of us who have reached out to touch Jesus and or have been touched by him, have a responsibility to allow others close enough so that they could touch us and then we might reach out and touch them — those working two, three, or more jobs and still not earning enough to make ends meet…   those whose learning disabilities or social awkwardness makes them the butt of jokes, ostracism, or bullying…   those whose race, religion, ethnicity, sex, age, or sexual orientation makes them the objects of fear, hatred, or prejudice… 

When we remain at the level of amazement at miracles, we easily curtail our capacity to respond with acts of compassion and mercy.  

The sacredness of these two stories lies in what they celebrate — namely the human passion for abundant life…    life beyond the confines of illness and decline, life filled with hopes and dreams realized,  life in touch with the divine mystery…   

The Good News is that such life is possible when you touch (or are touched) by Jesus on the one hand and the poor, distressed, and suffering on the other.

And, when we are living in this manner — touching Jesus with one hand and those in need with the other, then maybe we will hear someone echo the words of today’s epistle lesson:

“Look! God has moved into the neighborhood, making his home with men and women! They’re his people, he’s their God. He’s wiping every tear from their eyes. Death is gone for good—tears gone, crying gone, pain gone—all the first order of things gone.” 

When Jesus was dealing with Jairus, the troubled father, he said, “Fear not. Have faith.”   “Don’t be troubled by current circumstances. Trust me.”

Maybe we just have to throw fear, trepidation, and dismay out the window replacing them with wonder, awe, confidence, joy, contentment, and a buoyant faith that puts hope in God and trust in friends and neighbors (near and far). Such faith confounds the principalities and powers that expect us to cower in their presence and it gives the world a foretaste of the Commonwealth of Peace and Justice. 

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