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The July 4 Sunday worship service will be held with in-person attendance. We have returned to regular in-person worship services.
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Lamentations 3:22-33 | Psalm 30
2 Corinthians 8:7-15 | Mark 5:21-43
Today, the gospel lesson is really two stories. Often, they are called “Healing Stories” but they aren’t really, these are “Faith Stories,” very much faith stories. We have the “Raising of Jairus’ Daughter” story and the “Hemorrhaging Woman” story which takes place within (actually along the way to) Jairus’ Daughter. They are both very compelling stories.
Quite often in the past, the Hemorrhaging Woman story has been omitted from the lessons. The Lectionary Committee considered that it might be offensive to some (political correctness over a story of deep faith). I’m glad to see that they have reversed themselves, and put it back in the lessons. I think that it is one of the more telling of all of the interactions between Jesus and the people. It is a very powerful tale, and personally, one of my favorites.
This woman was in very dire straits. She has suffered with this unknown affliction for 12 years, which caused her to have a continual flow of blood. We are told that she suffered much under many physicians. Remember, medicine back then was a far cry from what we have today. And today, there are still many who literally suffer under doctors’ care. Instead of getting better, she was getting worse! Then again, with a continual blood flow for 12 years, she must have been in a terribly weakened state physically. And, to really bring this story up to date, she has spent all of her money on doctor bills, now she is penniless. Some things don’t change. I know a number of people now with the same predicament! Going from doctor to doctor, diagnosis to diagnosis, and sometimes, nothing works; and the only thing that is learned is that it is expensive, sometimes to the point of bankruptcy. We have some members in this congregation with ridiculously high costs for medicine.
But, for this poor woman, the situation is even worse because of where and when she lives and the nature of her disease. That flow of blood, in the eyes of the Jewish law has made her ritually unclean. She is cut off from society. She is cut off from even worship. She was not even allowed to enter the premises of the Temple in Jerusalem. She wasn’t allowed to socialize with anyone – except those who were also considered unclean. She has been removed to the edge of society, and she has been there for 12 years! Her situation is dire indeed.
Somehow, some way, she has heard of Jesus, and she decides to go to him for help. But, she goes quietly, perhaps fearing further humiliation, not even speaking to him. She determines that if she is just able to touch his robe, that that should be all that she will need to be healed. That is FAITH! It is also outside of societal norms, Jewish women were not allowed to touch men outside of their families. She manages to weave her way through the crowd to Jesus’ side. And she succeeds in touching his robe. And she is cured. She was right! But, unexpectedly, she didn’t count on Jesus feeling the power come out of him. He knows that something has happened. The disciples tell him, “Well of course someone touched you, look at the crowds. Someone must have.” Think of a crowd trying to exit Busch Stadium. They don’t get it. Jesus knows something has happened. He has felt it. And she has the courage, and the faith, to admit that she did indeed do what she did. This is one of the few times that Jesus himself was amazed by someone’s faith. That she would go to these lengths to be cured. “Your faith has made you well, go in peace (and wholeness), be healed of your disease.” She was right in her faith, and restored to physical wholeness, and societal “cleanness,” by the grace of God in Christ.
Jairus’ Daughter, is the other story of faith, but not the daughter’s faith, rather the faith of her father. While Jesus has been detained by the unnamed woman, people arrive and tell Jairus that his 12 year old daughter has died from her affliction. But, Jesus is unfazed. “Do not fear, only believe.” Have faith. “She sleeps.” And the crowd laughs at him. How fickle, and unbelieving, the crowd can be. He enters the house alone, and raises her from the dead, and gives them instructions to feed her – to prove to those who don’t believe that she is indeed alive.
Both stories demonstrate the power of Jesus as the Son of God. Earlier stories in Mark, like last Sunday’s Gospel’s calming of the sea, showed Jesus’ power over nature. The stories today reveal Christ’s power over disease and even death itself. They also show us that the Son of God is not limited by the forces of this world, nor those forces which we take for granted.
But, they show us one thing more: that to those who have faith, who believe in Christ, who trust in him, that we need not have fear about the things of this world. We are still assailed by many things, but ultimately, we are claimed as God’s own, by Christ. We are claimed at our baptism, we are strengthened in trust as we draw near to him in faith, and in this life, in this world; we meet him at his Holy Supper as we approach his altar. There testifying to our faith in him, and our confidence in what he has done for us: Freeing us from the power of sin, death and the devil; claiming us as his own; and presenting us in grace to his Father in heaven. “Do not fear, only believe.”