Proper 8, Year B, RCL, Track 1
2 Corinthians 8:7-15, Mark 5:21-43
She wanted to be cured, but she hoped for more. In her present condition, the hemorrhaging lady from our story would be ostracized to the fringes of the community. Her continuous bleeding would make her unclean. Anyone who would touch her or even sat in a chair that she used would be made unclean. Because of this, she would not be able to live with her family or to work within the community. She may have been relegated to places like a leper colony. This lady tries to get help. Over 12 years she risks all she has in an attempted to be cured physicians. But today she risks ridicule and punishment by intentionally touching someone, spreading her uncleanliness. If we think about what she wants, I think she wants more than to be cured. She wants wholeness, to have her life back with her community of friends and family.
The day before Hurricane Harvey hit, I saw a young lady walking down Stockbridge pulling a small rolling suitcase. Just the day before, I saw her near the end of the street heading west. But that day she was right in front of me and I asked if she needed help. I discovered she had been kicked out of her home and has been spending her days at the library. It came to light that she suffers from bipolar disorder and for quite a while now she had been bouncing from one family member’s home to another; just to eventually be kicked out again.
At this point, she had nowhere to go. No family to take her in, no friends in town, and no car to go anywhere else. With the storm coming I couldn’t find a shelter that had room for her even if I could get her there. So I ended up getting her a room at the local motel. Some of you helped her with food and supplies, along with another family who was stranded by the storm. Some of the help also came from your contributions to this church; of which a portion goes to a discretionary fund for such purposes. During the next week or so, while we were being pulverized by wind, rain, and then flooding, I spoke with many of her family members along with different shelters and program centers. Timing is everything and during a storm, it is very hard to find help. By building a relationship with her and her family, along with advice from professionals; I was able to encourage her to make the decision to admit herself to a treatment facility.
To make a long story short, last month I received a call from her mother thanking me for what I have done her. She is on her meds, she is stable, and holding down a good job. She has not been cured of her bipolar disorder but she has been restored to wholeness. She has been received back into her family and life, for the most part, is good. It is no secret that during this time I felt drained of energy. Helping takes time, energy, and sometimes money.
Looking at today’s story Jesus cures an unclean person within the Jewish community. If she was not hemorrhaging she would be viewed by others as an acceptable part of society. But this is not the only story about bringing wholeness. We have other stories, stories of the Samaritans. Samaritans would be seen as unclean as this woman yet reviled even more so. The Good Samaritan goes out of his way to take care of an injured Jewish man; a man that the other Jewish people would have left to die. They left him because his bloody injuries would have made him contagious with uncleanliness. It would be too inconvenient to take care of this unfortunate man. The caretaker would be unclean for the rest of the day or possibly a week if the patient should die. As we know, the Samaritan man took time and money to restore the Jewish man to wholeness.
We also have the Samaritan woman at the well. She would be unclean because she was an unknown woman and also a Samaritan. Yet Jesus asks her for water. He interacts with her as if she was a friend. He is not afraid of her contaminating him or the objects she touched. In both of these stories, Jesus is trying to break the public perception of the Samaritans. He tells us that the people who we revile or see a lesser than ourselves are equal in his sight, maybe even better than we are.
There are many people in our country that have lost everything and are generally looked down upon. We may view them as the hemorrhaging woman was viewed; with contempt, or disgust. There are people who have become indigent through unmanageable medical bills. Minor crimes can place people in a judicial system which can be hard to get out of. Others have lost everything through mental illness and addiction. Others yet have fled the horrors of abusive homes. Families are escaping their home countries legally, yet are being treated the same as those crossing illegally. Much like the hemorrhaging women, many of these people are trying to obtain a better life; a life in which wholeness can be found.
Our story of the hemorrhaging woman is sandwiched by another story; the raising of Jairus’ daughter. Jairus, a prominent man in the city, possibly risking his reputation, has sought out Jesus because his daughter is very ill. A large crowd has formed and is following Jesus on the way to Jairus’ house. It is at this point when the hemorrhaging lady touches Jesus’ clothes. After this woman is healed, a small group of people comes to tell Jairus that he is too late, his daughter is already dead. They say, there is no point in walking with Jesus any further. Jesus tells Jairus “do not fear, only believe.” Jesus gets rid of the crowd and continues to the house. When he gets to the house Jesus tells the mourners that the girl is not dead but sleeping. This is when the people “laughed at him,” but Jesus is not dissuaded by their ridicule. He takes the girls hand, tells her to get up, and instantly she gets up. The girl and the family are restored to wholeness.
These two stories are connected, not only through their restoration of wholeness but also by time. The girl was twelve years old and the hemorrhaging lady had suffered for twelve years. These connections are not coincidental but link the stories intimately to our lives. One family is well off another is as destitute as you can get. The number 12 often represents the 12 tribes of Israel; meaning that all of God’s people are represented in these stories.
These stories illuminate God’s mercy, in which through suffering, illness, or even fear we can be restored to wholeness and new life. Regardless of a person's prominence, we are also called to restore others to wholeness. This can be a hard task. It takes energy, it may take risk, and it can come with ridicule. Though, through healing and wholeness, within others or ourselves, we find new life in Christ. And like Jairus, we continue to walk with him and he tells us, do not fear, only believe.