McFarland

5th Sunday after Pentecost June 27, 2021

Readings

First Reading: Lamentations 3:22-33
Psalm 3
Second Reading: 2 Corinthians 8:7-15
Gospel: Mark 5:21-43

Prayer of the Day:
Almighty and merciful God, we implore you to hear the prayers of your people.  Be our strong defense against all harm and danger, that we may live and grow in faith and hope, through Jesus Christ, our Savior, and Lord.  Amen.

Hymns of the Day

If you don’t have hymnals at home,
lookup the hymns on YouTube or other websites.

Great is Thy Faithfulness – ELW 733
Lord Whose Love in Humble Service – ELW 712
Abide, O Dearest Jesus – ELW 539
Draw Us in the Spirit’s Tether – ELW 470

Reflection on Mark 5:21-43

by Pastor Kelli Schmit

Our Gospel reading this morning drops us right in the middle of a narrative.  Mark tells us, “When Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side…”  This mention of Jesus’ travel functions like alarm bells for us.  Whenever he travels or is on the move or goes into a house or arrives in a new place or crosses again in the boat to the other side, this lets us know that the crossing is just the beginning.  We should be on high alert because there are more thresholds to move.  Jesus is going to be up to something in this new place.

And for us today, it’s not only important to notice that he’s crossing into a new place but to also see from where he came.  Jesus and the disciples were in the country of the Gerasenes where they were approached by a man possessed by a Legion of demons, who lived in a cemetery near herds of swine, who had both scars and fresh wounds from the chains and shackles that had tried to restrain him…but had failed.  In short, they were in Gentile territory, in a cemetery, near pigs and the demon possessed – all negative marks for a devout, Torah observant Jew like Jesus…and yet Jesus heals the man from what was holding him captive and from what prevented him from living a whole, safe, and authentic life.

So this is where Jesus is coming from when he returns to Jewish land where he is swarmed on all sides by a crowd.  Among the masses is Jairus, a leader of the synagogue, who comes forward and asks Jesus to heal his daughter laying on her literal death bed.  The young girl is only 12 years old – a short amount of time when speaking about the duration of a life.  Also in the crowd is a woman who has been hemorrhaging for 12 years – a very long amount of time when speaking about the duration of her exile and exclusion from family and community.

This woman was once wealthy but had spent all she had on medical care, but to no avail.  She actually grew worse.  She sneaks among the masses, reaches out a hand and touches – merely brushes – Jesus’ cloak.  This traveling teacher is surrounded not only by the group but also by stories and rumors of what he has done for other people.  It’s a long shot but for whatever reason, she trusts deep down that the stories are true, that just touching a scrap of dusty fabric will be enough.  And immediately, she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease.

Jesus feels power go out of him and asks who in the crowd touched him.  The woman comes forward in fear and trembling.  At first glance I thought the fear and trembling were because she was afraid Jesus was upset with her, but this week I read that “The woman’s fear and trembling were in reaction to what had happened to her […], not in response to having been found out.”[1]  She is trembling because she can’t believe it actually worked.  She can’t believe she’s actually healed.  She can’t believe the 12-year nightmare is finally over.

Jesus pauses the movement towards Jairus’ home to speak to the woman.  Speaking to an unclean woman would have been beyond unacceptable, but Jesus does it.  He finds her important.  This woman who should have been excluded and ignored is given audience, attention, and autonomy.  Jesus sees her, calls her daughter, and proclaims that her faith made her well.

Jesus then goes to Jairus’ house and calls the girl back to life.  The transformation of both females in this story doesn’t just impact them but has a ripple effect.  Both are healed – brought back to life – and both are empowered to return to those who love them, to community participation, and to the lives they wanted to live.

Pastor David Lose teaches, “Jesus gives [the woman] a new name, calling her daughter, calling her a person of great faith, and naming her healed.”[2]  Instead of being identified by what holds them back, being unclean or deceased – instead of being permanently marked by what limits them and keeps them labeled as “other,” Jesus calls them daughter and brings them back into the family.  They are beloved.

From the interaction with the man from the Gerasenes, and now he’s interacting with a bleeding woman and a dead girl – Jesus is constantly helping and loving and accepting those who have been stigmatized as unclean outsiders.  The woman and the young girl didn’t make Jesus unclean, which leads us to wonder what is, actually, contagious in this story?  My Gospels professor described it as reverse contamination.  It’s Jesus’ holiness that is contagious.  In the words of Professor Matt Skinner, “There’s a sense in which the things that make for human misery and for the destruction of human well-being, not just for individuals but for societies, that kind of stuff is getting reversed or is getting utterly transformed in the presence of Jesus, and in one instance, without him really even know what’s going on.”[3]  It makes me think of the character Pigpen from Charlie Brown.  Jesus is just walking around with a cloud of grace sluffing off of him.  There’s so much even he can’t contain it.  There’s no border or limits to this cloud of acceptance and love.

Whether it is people who are Gentiles, those with pigs, the possessed, those hanging around tombs, those who are suffering from medical ailments, the impoverished, and those who are dead…all the things that are supposed to separate us from God don’t matter to Jesus.  The heavens were torn apart at Jesus’ baptism, the temple curtain was torn in two on Good Friday…all that seeks to keep us distanced from God is torn apart.  All that keeps us at an arm’s length is torn apart.  All the limitations and borders and parameters that say “you may go no further” are torn apart by God.

The threshold between heaven and earth, between insider and outsider, between clean and unclean, between rejection and acceptance, isolation and community, the barrier between life and death are torn apart – are shattered – by God’s determination to be with us.  Jesus crosses threshold after threshold to draw more people into relationship, to empower more people to be their authentic selves, to tear apart any and every thing that lies to us and says, “God will come no closer to you.”  Nothing is too unclean or too far gone or too anything for Jesus’ love.

What is remarkable about this woman is that she’s not a passive participant in her own story.  She goes against the rules of the day that tells her to stay back and not go near Jesus.  She either ignores all the limitations that are weighing her down or she trusts that they aren’t as important as the life and love Jesus has to offer.  She didn’t know with 100% certainty that touching Jesus’ cloak would work, but Jesus still identifies her bold act as faith…as trust.  Dr. Skinner teaches, “Sometimes faith means you can doubt your way through the recitation of a creed […], but the fact that you’re there [in worship] says something.  The fact that you got up and you came that morning says something.”[4]  The woman still reached out and touched Jesus’ hem.

The fact that faith and doubt don’t cancel each other out – that trust and uncertainty can coexist – this is important for us all the time, but especially this year.  This has been a hard and difficult 16 months.  We’ve cleared a lot of ground but we’re still figuring out what to do and where and with whom.  We’re still balancing our own comfort with the safety of others.  And this is not easy to do.  On top of all of this, we’re still embroiled in the non-covid issues of illness, the stress of environmental devastation, marriage instability, systemic racial injustice, aging relatives, addiction, fertility complications, job loss, and mental health hurdles.  People are overwhelmed and mad and frustrated and have little left in the tank.  It may not be any one thing in particular, but the random straw is about to break the camel’s back.

It’s understandable why our Pigpen cloud may be more doubt than grace.  There are any number of reasons why our faith may be limping along.  Today we witness that just clinging to the hem of Jesus’ cloak – that just brushing the dusty fabric – is more than enough.  We will still be enveloped in his cloud of grace and he will cross any threshold – tear apart any limitation – to be with us and to rename us.  We are no longer “unclean” or “too far gone” or “other” but we are, in the words of Dr. Lose – because of Christ we become “‘daughter’ and ‘son’ and ‘person of great faith’ and ‘faithful’ and ‘wonderful’ and ‘beloved of God’ and more.”[5]  Thanks be to God.

Amen.

[1] C. Clifton Black, footnote to “Mark 5.33” in The HarperCollins Study Bible: Fully Revised and Updated NRSV ed. Harold Attridge (San Francisco: HarperOne, 2006), 1733.  (italics his)
[2] David Lose, “Dear Partner, Pentecost 5 B: Known and Named,” …in the Meantime, Jun 22, 2015, accessed June 25, 2021, https://www.davidlose.net/2015/06/pentecost-5-b-known-and-named/.
[3] Matt Skinner from: Working Preacher, “Brainwave 790: Fifth Sunday after Pentecost (Ord. 13B) – June 27, 2021,” Jun 20, 2021, video, 30:20, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xwNnewZEplo.
[4] Skinner.
[ 5]Lose.

Let Us Pray

God of life, you travel across every threshold and tear apart every limitation that tries to keep us separated from you.  Thank you for enveloping us in your grace and assuring us that we bear no label other than your beloved – that we have no name other than child of God.  Be with all who are suffering in mind, body, or spirit.  Reveal to us the ways and places we may share your love with others.  In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.