The king said to Daniel, ‘May your God, whom you faithfully serve, deliver you!’

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

A Sermon about Privledge, Loss, Uncertainty, and Healing Touch

Grace and Peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. 

The has been a lot of news in the past two weeks. Charleston, the trial, the flag, the funeral, and same-sex marriage decision in the supreme court, and two murders who escaped from prison, and shark bites on the Carolina coast. I told a friend that Neil Armstrong could walk on Mars and I’m not sure it would make the evening news.
We live in a world where things are coming at us quickly, fragments of life, death, truth, inspiration, fear, and change, and there are tensions and complications everywhere.

And when I look at the world Jesus walked into, I see a similar amount of chaos. People living side-by-side who didn’t get along. Jews and Gentiles; people who spoke Greek, Latin, and Aramaic. Romans who occupied, and commoners.
And when Mark writes his gospel, rather than writing it think about him compiling a bunch of stories- miracle stories and sayings about Jesus and the passion narrative, and imagine that he is putting them together in a collage to tell one narrative. And the way he does this shows us the chaos of the day.
For instance, one of the stories he tells is that Jesus had to go from the Jewish side of the Sea of Galilee to the Gentile side. And every time he crosses the lake from the Jewish side to the Gentile side, there is  a mighty storm. But on the way home, there is smooth sailing.
This is how this story begins for us today.
Jesus went to the other side and now that he’s back, many people have gathered looking for healing.
When there are a lot of people in need in any civilization in need, the ones with money and privilege move to the front of the line.
One such man was Jairus, who was a leader of the synagogue and he had a daughter who was sick. He falls on his knees before Jesus and begs him to lay hands on her.
He believes that Jesus can heal her before she dies, he can save her life.
Then on the way to Jairus’ house, another story happens.

A woman who had been bleeding for 12 years
He asks who touched me?
She falls on her knees and confesses.
Jesus says Daughter, rise and go, your faith has healed you. As soon as he heals her, news spreads that Jairus’ daughter is dead.

When I was a chaplain at Wake Medical Center in Raleigh we would be on call for 12-24 hours. And when I was rolling off of duty and another person was coming on, we would go around together and hand-off the patients and families in need of pastoral care. This particular night my friend, we will call him Eddie, was becoming the chaplain so we went around and met the families he’d be sitting with and holding their hands. Eddie was a great guy. Smart, kind, and compassionate. Eddie was tall and thin with perfect teeth. He had very dark skin and I noticed that some families were uncomfortable around him because of the color of his skin while others seemed to prefer him because he was dark-skinned. We were walking around the hospital when the pager went off and we were called to the Pediatric ED, so we went. A mountain of a man, who I would guess had an accent from the islands, came walking toward us, looked at both of us and made a B-line straight for Eddie. He took Eddie by the shoulders and slammed him up against the wall and said, “I know you are a healer. Bring my daughter back” Fortunately there were guards close by who got everyone to calm down and after a while, Eddie was sitting with the family in their grief.

I think of that story when I imagine what Jairus must be thinking knowing his little girl was gone. Going through the stages of grief, he’d hit anger pretty quickly.
The time spent with this poor woman, has cost the privileged man to lose his daughter
What is the point of having privilege if you can’t use it?

Even though the girl is dead, Jesus goes anyway-
He goes into the bedroom with just the parents and some choice disciples, he took the little girl by the hand and said little girl, get up!

Pastor Rinn showed me on my first day how to lay hands. Every hospital visit we went on, he would touch the person in the bed, hold his hand and stroke her hair.

There is incredible research out there on the healing power of touch, stories of babies in the NICU who thrived when being massaged, research about people who stroke a cat or dog live longer, research those unconscious having improved vital signs after being touched,
But wait: there’s more! better marriages, lower blood pressure, lower anxiety, higher quality of life.

These two stories of Jesus healing touch are woven together on purpose.
Mark is sending us a hidden message.
Think about it- he could have told one and then the other. Two women- one young and one old, Jesus heals both.
One  who will never have kids because she died at 12 one who can’t have kids because she’s been bleeding for 12 years. Jesus heals them both.
One has a family of privilege, one doesn’t. Jesus heals them both.
One has an advocate that falls on his knees and pleads, the other falls on her own knees. Jesus heals both.
One is dead, one is good as dead. Jesus heals both.
Both are ritually unclean. Both are untouchable. Jesus touches and heals them both.
Maybe the point of the story is that the stories are meant to be read together because our stories are interwoven. We don’t live side-by-side with people different from us- we live with.

Rich or poor, jew or greek, male or female, gay or straight, black or white, we all fall on our knees before Jesus.

We all bleed. And we all die.

We are united in our need for Jesus’ healing touch in our lives, and if we are called to anything in the chaos of the world around us it is this: to be the healing hands of God in a world desperate for healing touch.

When I saw Eddie the next day, I asked him how it went. He said he sat with that family for six hours.

Did you bring the daughter back to life? "No," he said. "But there was much healing."