Necessities of Life
5th Sunday After Pentecost
June 27th, 2021
Scripture: Mark 5: 21-43
Sermon: “Necessities for Life”
Every story has a beginning. In a way, we’re about to have a new beginning at North Lonsdale, when we reach Phase IV in September—and when so, we’ll come back together in our sanctuary. Some things will feel new and different, yet many things will still be the same. We’ll still worship in the sanctuary where many of us have worshipped for years and years. We’ll still be reading Scriptures you’ve probably heard multiple times from this pulpit. And, we will come to the Lord’s Table, which we have done many times, but never in the way we will when we return—after living through a pandemic. Even in this time of absence of worshipping in person in one place, we have been linked together by something greater than all of us—the Lord, our God. Today’s Scripture begins with Jesus, and it tells us where he is—by the sea. Water is crucial for our faith. Water is the beginning as we are baptized into Christ. So this is where we are. This is where our faith begins. With Jesus.
The gospel of Mark loves to mesh stories together. It begins with Jairus, a leader of the synagogue, whose daughter is dying—then it gets interrupted by another story of the woman suffering from hemorrhages. And then Mark returns to the father whose daughter has since died. Sometimes when we read the gospel of Mark we feel like we’re on a roller coaster ride of ups and downs, and when we slow down to read it carefully, a number of things jump out and make us think.
The father named Jairus (whose daughter is dying) and the woman (who is unnamed), and hemorrhaging, came forth from the midst of very large crowds. Both stories are healing stories. But it is not specifically the healing that I want to focus on, but rather the approach. The healing is glorious and poignant to the story, but it’s the fervor of the ones who approached Jesus that stand out to me today.
Have you ever been in a large packed crowd before? I know—maybe I should ask, do you have any memory of being in a crowd! Maybe you remember, maybe you’ve seen a movie lately to remind you. I lived in Chicago the year the White Sox won the World Series! Literally millions of people came for the parade! In our past, pre-covid, we may have wanted to avoid crowds all together! Yet, still—there’s something in us that makes us yearn to be there, right in the midst of it all, too. Once when I was teaching overseas, my roommate and I thought it would be fun to go to Venice for Mardi Gra weekend. I lived in Budapest, and I remember the bus ticket equivalent to $25. We went! Hindsight showed us that it probably wasn’t the best weekend to go sightseeing! I remember I literally had to grab onto the person’s shirt in front of me and pray I didn’t get tramped to death in the mix. The Scripture says a “large crowd followed him and pressed in on him.” I imagine these crowds with such intensity.
And yet, one man and one woman managed to get Jesus’ attention. They interrupted Jesus, and they approached him. Which is what I would like to encourage us to do! We may not physically be in a crowd today, but we are living in our own worlds of chaos, and we may think it’s not worth it to go to Jesus. It all feels so overwhelming. Well, think again. And go. Hold onto him even if it’s by the edge of his clothes, and do so with faith!
There is a Jewish tradition of the Rabbis that is called Midrash. I think I remember telling you about this. I love it! If you look at any Bible, you’ll see words—but what else do you see? You see the white spaces where there are no words. Midrash is a tradition of discerning those white spaces. It’s a kind of dialoguing to figure out what happens in between the words. Let me give you an example using today’s Scripture:
A leader of the synagogue named Jairus came to Jesus crying out “My little daughter is at the point of death.” Later we learn she is only twelve. After this Jesus proceeds to walk with him through another large crowd—a crowd so large that it presses in on them. White space: how do you think Jairus felt? Don’t you think he’d want to grab Jesus and run to his dying daughter? Instead, another interruption of Jesus happens. A woman had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years. She reaches out from the pressed in crowd and touches Jesus, and even though Jesus is with Jairus on a mission, he takes time to turn around, find her, and speak with her. Another white space: We wonder what is going on in the minds of these two who yearn for healing so desperately. For the woman, we years was way too long a time to be suffering. For the father, 12 years was way too short a time for his daughter to be with him. They both approached Jesus in their deepest need and were met with healing hands. Jesus did not consider these people disruptions at all. He instead ministered to them in their need. Which is also what we are called to do!
I think sometimes we, too, forget to approach God in our own need because we’re too preoccupied. We get consumed with whatever it may be that we’re struggling with, or just daily life, that we forget to take time to approach God and ask for help. We may not be healed in the way that these people were, but we will be strengthened. So whatever it is: deciding to quit a job, or find a job, or create a job, choosing to grow your family or struggling with infertility, making amends with a friend, or a family member. Or coming to God with an ailment, or a dying child. Approach God with all these cares and petitions…death, dying, illness, disease, pandemic, loss—these are all a part of our life, but our prayers are our how we can gather for one another, and ask God’s peace, presence, strength and comfort…and healing!
Admittedly, we also get disturbed at times when we get interrupted of our own agendas. We have certain things we’d like to achieve in a given day, and sometimes circumstances, people, or problems simply get in the way. We tend to blame God, yet should we also approach God when such interruptions come our way. Henri Nouwen wrote “You know…my whole life I have been complaining that my work was constantly interrupted, until I discovered that my interruptions were my work.” Sometimes simply a smile ministers to someone in need.
There was quite a disruption for the twelve disciples just before Mark Chapter 5 which we read from today. Prior to this passage the disciples and Jesus were out in a boat. You’d think with Jesus along, everything would go smooth sailing. How dare a storm rise—a great storm at that. So the disciples were caught in this great storm, while out on a sea, and Jesus slept. We get the disciples words and thoughts here. The white spaces are filled in for us. The disciples whined and complained “do you not care about us?” They were afraid, and they even had Jesus in their boat! With a word Jesus calmed the sea, and the disciples were awed.
Now, why does that story matter for what we heard read today? Today’s passage about the dead girl being raised to life and the hemorrhaging woman being healed points us back to 12 doubting disciples and restores not only them, but us. The woman was bleeding for twelve years. The little girl was twelve years old. It was those twelve disciples who thought Jesus wasn’t doing his job. But even his very touch and a word, he heals people. These miracles bring restoration to all of us—hope for our souls.
I wanted to focus on approaching God rather than the healing, to avoid tell you that we’re not all going to be healed in the way that the bleeding woman was, or the little girl. I’ve been with the dying before, old and very young, and they didn’t raise up from the dead. And I know many who are diseased, that were never healed, despite many a prayer. It doesn’t mean, however, that we doubt our prayers, or that we stop praying. If you look closely at today’s story, it is more of a story about faith, than healing. One pastor writes “Faith is a means of grace, even when a cure if not forthcoming.” There is hope for our souls in this passage. And hope restored to those before us. Including those 12 in the boat.
Many of us have a story about pain. We don’t necessarily know why we had to endure it the way we did, or how, but we know we couldn’t have persevered without Jesus in the boat with us. Maybe healing didn’t happen in the way we had planned, but we were strengthened and changed, by the grace of God. The little girl being raised from the dead is hope for life to come, for the Resurrection, for new life, for new beginnings.
It was after Jesus raised this little girl from the dead, that he had to approach his own road of pain and suffering, for us. Jesus heals us with his own wounds. Bishop Hope Morgan Ward writes “It is a great mystery of our faith that we best help others heal in the places where we have been wounded.”
This Scripture is framed by two necessities for life: water and food. It opens with Jesus being by the sea and ends with Jesus telling them to give the little girl something to eat. This is also the framework for the Christian life: between the water of baptism and the food of the Lord’s Supper.
We, North Lonsdale, will approach God with all that we have, and in God’s own way, be healed. In turn God will send us out strengthened and changed by the body and blood of Christ that we may follow him and serve others.
I haven’t physically been present with you in this sanctuary since Feb 2, 2020 —just prior to my unexpected health leave followed by a pandemic shut-down. But through it all, we have shared a common bond. We are all part of the bigger picture—framed by the water of baptism and the food of the Lord Jesus Christ himself. Necessities for Life. It is within this framework that we will grow again to know each other and learn to love more faithfully. AMEN.