#Touching a reflection for Sunday, June 28, 2015 asks, “What cultural stigmas are guiding your thoughts without you knowing about it?” What role did the ways that people thought of others in their community shape the reading for this Sunday? How are these cultural roles and stigmas addressed by Jesus? Find out in “Touching”, the podcast for this week. Available on itunes and android. #MSAWordfortheDay #MySpiritualAdvisor #Sermon #Homily #Touch #Heal #Rich #Poor
For My Spiritual Advisor, this is Mark Kurowski with a reflection for Sunday, 6/28/2015 The 13th Sunday of Ordinary Time.
Please pause this audio and read Mark 5:21-43.
The video I have posted on MySpiritualAdvisor.com has a great scenario about stealing and the reactions by the people around them. The beautiful young woman in the video steals the young man’s wallet. If you look at the video, no one really says much until a man comes and does the right thing, finally. When the tables are reversed and the young man steals the phone out of the beautiful young woman’s pocket, practically everyone says something to her. The video plays on how we interact as human beings, the values that we set to each other, and the privileges that are given to one group over another.
When my son was playing basketball in our predominantly white suburb of Chicago, there were three sets of families in the stands. There were white parents who sat together, black parents who sat together, and my family who shuttled back and forth between the two. When the white parents said, “Why don’t they just come over here and sit with us?” when referring to the black families, I said, “the unwritten rule is that they need to be invited. Black people do not normally go into white circles unless they are invited. It would be considered “being pushy”.” To that, one of the women got up, went over to the black families, and asked if she could sit with them.
The fact of the matter is that our society has many unwritten rules and our prejudices play a huge role in what happens. A beautiful young girl is allowed to steal. A young black male is not. White families are allowed to go over to sit with a group of black families. Black families wait to be invited because they do not want to be accused of putting themselves in situations where “they do not belong.” All of these have in them the role of status.
Our passage today features two stories, one sandwiched between another. Mark likes to do that. The first story is called “Jairus’ daughter”. The second story is called “The woman with the flow of blood.” These stories paint a vivid picture of the status issues and the unspoken rules of the society of Jesus’ day. Simply put, he shatters every one of these rules and status issues because of who he is and what it takes to be a part of who he is. He is God and man. What it takes to participate in his life is faith.
The first person who encounters Jesus is Jairus. Jairus is a leader of the synagogue. He is an official who could have summoned Jesus through a servant to have Jesus come to him. He also is a person who would not want to be associated with Jesus because Jesus was upsetting all the apple carts of the other officials of the Synagogue, the scribes, the chief priests, the Pharisees and Sadducees. The proper way to handle an encounter with Jesus would have been to summon Jesus to come to Jairus and then Jairus to give Jesus a—ahem—request that Jesus do what he wanted. Status has its privileges. That is why the pretty girl is allowed to steal the wallet. So what, it is just some thug she is stealing from. It is also why it is acceptable for the white mother to go over to the black families, but not vice versa.
The woman with the flow of blood in the middle of Jairus’ Daughter, is an outcast. She is a woman who doesn’t even belong in the shadow of Jesus in the status structure. Women were not of equal status as men then in the eyes of society. Additionally, because the life of a person is in their blood and the life of a person can only be touched by God, a person with a flow of blood would be unclean. To protect others around her from violating God’s role in the universe, she was prevented from coming near anyone until the flow was cured. Yet, because she was an outcast and avoided as being unclean, she was also taken advantage of by unscrupulous doctors who could not give her restoration to the community. It is sort of like payday loan places that swim around the poor like sharks in a small pool, attacking at will.
The woman with the flow of blood is not honored with a name, like Jairus, she is just “the woman.” She would not have been allowed to get near anyone, let alone a popular figure like Jesus. She would be caught for every little transgression and not given any slack. Like the young man who stole the phone out of the pretty girl’s pocket. She is pretty, how DARE he steal from her! He is a young black male. Of course, he stole her phone and should be caught!
The woman is moved to approach Jesus because she just couldn’t take not being treated as a human being anymore. Jairus is moved to approach Jesus because the issue of Jesus has become personal. This dynamic has not changed. Those without lash out or break all social conventions when they cannot take it anymore. Those of privilege often don’t connect with the reality of the need until the disease is in their own family or personal life.
The woman comes to Jesus and has so much trust that he can heal her that she doesn’t even have to encounter him, she just needs to touch his garment, she believes. She fights through the crowd. In my head the scene is of people all around Jesus without room to breathe. He is in the front and she is pushing and shoving through the crowd from behind, which is totally forbidden for someone like her. Driven by her poverty, her lack of social status, and her undoubtedly poor treatment by society, she struggles for the one she knows can heal her. Finally, she gets just close enough to barely touch his garment, and she is healed. Magnificently, she is healed!
Jairus, the formal man of privilege, does the unseemly. In my mind he runs up to Jesus from the front. He throws himself at Jesus’ feet and begs him over and over, “Save my daughter! Save my daughter!” His desperation at losing all that is truly important to him causes him to throw all social norms to the wind. He seeks that Jesus come and touch his daughter, fully laying his hands on her, so that she would be raised from the dead. Jesus goes, touches only her hand, and raises her.
Who is this that raises-up the outcast to reach out and touch him and causes the privileged to kneel before him begging to be touched?
This person is the God man who is more than a magician or a healer. He is the one through whom the heavens and the earth were made, the Logos, the Word, spoken from the Father’s lips which created all. Through him alone is not just healing, but restoration to a new status, a new body, a new life to be lived in joy. For the outcast, for the privileged, all are welcome to come and be transformed by their faith, their trust.
Faith is trust and a firm commitment to the knowledge of who you know someone is without absolute proof. The outcast and the privileged in these sandwiched stories share this one thing: faith. I have seen it a thousand times in churches all over. The poor man who is nothing in the world is a leader in his church. The rich man who is everything to all in the community is a humble man who cleans the bathrooms in the education wing. They both have burdens, maybe share the loss of a spouse, a child who has gone rebellious, or they have suffered great loss in some other way. The only thing they both are certain of is that Jesus Christ is able to not just heal them, but raise them from the dead lives they once were living.
Come. Come to touch the garment. Come. Come and touch the feet. Go. Go away healed and renewed. Go. Go away having your heart’s desire answered. Believe. Believe in Jesus, who can do it all. Amen.
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