To the Church in Exile,
The peace of Christ be with you. First off, can we just praise God for the sunshine we’re getting this week. Of all the times we’ve needed outside weather, especially our families with young kids, it’s this week. Here’s our lectionary passage, Mark 5:21-34:
When Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a great crowd gathered around him; and he was by the sea. Then one of the leaders of the synagogue named Jairus came and, when he saw him, fell at his feet and begged him repeatedly, “My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well, and live.” So he went with him.
And a large crowd followed him and pressed in on him. Now there was a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years. She had endured much under many physicians and had spent all that she had; and she was no better, but rather grew worse. She had heard about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, for she said, “If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well.” Immediately her hemorrhage stopped; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease.
Immediately aware that power had gone forth from him, Jesus turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my clothes?” And his disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing in on you; how can you say, ‘Who touched me?'” He looked all around to see who had done it. But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling, fell before him, and told him the whole truth. He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace and be healed of your disease.”
I want to freeze the story right there. Imagine this event from the esteemed Jairus’ perspective. The president of the synagogue has convinced Jesus to follow him to his home to heal his daughter. How relieved and hopeful he is. Suddenly Jesus halts in a crowd. In the unfolding drama, the devastating news falls upon Jairus that Jesus has been touched by a woman who is ritually unclean which has now defiled Jesus thus putting the mission to heal Jairus’ daughter in jeopardy. The horror in his gut is palpable.
This story reminds us of how Jesus was a bold man who refused to stop at barriers. Furthermore, he is the grand physician who cannot turn away from the broken person. The protagonist in Georges Bernanos novel Diary of a Country Priest notes, “A priest can’t shrink from sores any more than a doctor.” Whenever I read that quote, I am immediately linked to that great Reformation tenet the priesthood of all believers.
Did you notice how often Mark uses the “touch” in this drama? Four times. Ironically, for us in this season, our refusal to shrink from sores in Seattle, means not touching. Yet, community does not require proximity. Think about that.
I cannot read this story in my context, in this city at this time, without thinking of all those who are working almost non-stop caring for and indeed touching those with sores. I think of our own nurses at Bethany, our physicians, our hospital and hospice chaplains, our paramedics and firefighters. I think of all their colleagues. They need my prayers. Yours too.
And what of Jairus’ daughter? Reading one more paragraph in Mark we find out she is healed, resurrected. Jesus cannot turn from wounds, but that doesn’t mean the grand physician doesn’t complete his rounds. Rest in that.
Lord Jesus, our redeemer and healer, look mercifully on your city Seattle and all your cities and villages where people have sores. We pray your healing power upon all those in the battle of their lives. And Lord, we especially remember in our prayers the front line medical, emergency, and hospice workers as they try to be agents of your healing, comfort and mercy. We pause to name before you those we know…. Grant them stamina. Be the rock beneath their feet and give them the knowledge that you go before them into every examination, operating, recovery and emergency room. In your name Lord Jesus, we pray. Amen.
Peace in Christ,