Lectionary Reflection, Fifth Sunday after Pentecost, Year B
June 28, 2015
Immediately aware that the power had gone froth from him, Jesus turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my clothes?” Mark 5:31
There’s a whole lot of healing going on in today’s gospel lesson. Both the woman with uncontrollable hemorrhages and Jairus’ daughter find healing in Christ. They are given, quite literally, new leases on life through faith that comes only in Christ. Both patients are healed against all odds, despite pressing crowds, despite ostracization and fear, and even despite death. This is all well and good, celebratory, and joyous. But what of those individuals who sit in our pews for whom hopes and expectations of healing have not come to pass? How will they experience this story, and how are we as preachers and teachers to hear their cries?
The truth of the matter is this: there is enormous brokenness, pain, and suffering in our world today–and in our pews. We crave healing. We need reconciliation and restoration. We want a different reality and want to feel loved and whole, even when we see ourselves as broken beyond repair. These healing miracles of Jesus sometimes just sound too unreal to be true to a rational postmodern Western mind. Even so, the desire to touch the hem of God’s garment is still very much real. We want so desperately to believe and to hope for something more. We want to know we’re lovable, salvageable, and that we belong and our lives have meaning. That, dear prophet and preacher and teacher, is where we come in.
We come to make that hem of God’s garment visible. We weave with words (by the power of the Holy Spirit) that very thread of hope and possibility that enables the struggling and weary soul by faith to touch that hem. Sound impossible? By the grace of God it is entirely possible because we proclaim Christ crucified, died, and risen. We proclaim an audacious story that we cannot even begin to believe by our own power and merit. Only by faith are we justified. Only by grace are we saved. And only by the mighty love of God are we lifted from the depths of despair. And only by faith can we climb into that pulpit or lead that Bible study or walk the city streets to tell the story.
It is this same pure gift of faith that enabled the synagogue leader Jairus, against all odds, to fall at Jesus feet and beg incessantly for his beloved daughter’s healing. It is this pure gift of faith that compelled an outcast woman to cross multiple boundaries to touch the hem of God as a last-ditch measure of desperation Because these two very different people were willing to risk their audacious, boundary-busting, Spirit-fed faith, Jesus responded and healing happened — much to the amazement of all who witnessed it.
This is not a fairy tale or a fable, or even a quaint Sunday school-level story. This is what happens when we have nothing left of ourselves and are willing to lean into that radical gift of faith. Reason would have easily prevented both Jairus and the woman from expecting to be healed. Lord knows, the woman had tried for years and spent all her resources seeking healing. Jairus had everything and still couldn’t prevent his child’s descent to death. So they moved their feet, opened their mouths, reached out and fell into the merciful arms of Jesus. They touched the hem of God by faith, and so can we. It’s both that simple and that difficult. Can we expect to get the miracle for which we pray? Maybe, but perhaps not as we envision it and not on our timeframe. But you can bet your bottom dollar on one thing: Jesus knows when we’re reaching for him, and he will not leave us bereft. Our faith can make both us and this whole world well because in Christ every atom and molecule will one day be put together as God intends. So we persevere by faith, in hope, and together.
Consider a responsive reading of this week’s Old Testament reading from Lamentations. If not a responsive reading, then consider making it a reading for several voices. You might then take your sermon in the direction of “The Lord is my Portion.” What would it mean for the Lord to be our portion, or cup that runneth over and never is empty? How might this notion of God as our portion tie into the great portion of faith poured out that made both Jairus and the hemorrhaging woman cross boundaries and take risks to access their portion of wholeness and restoration in Christ?
Consider what Paul writes to the Corinthian Christians: “I do not mean that there should be relief for others and pressure on you, but it is a question of a fair balance between your present abundance and their need, so that their abundance may be for your need, in order that there may be a fair balance” (2 Corinthians 8:13-14). Provide some context and background for the youth about Paul and his work with the church at Corinth. How are the issues then similar to issues of poverty, justice, and stewardship today? Are there differences? What does Jesus’ life and ministry have to say that can shed light on this passage? Invite youth to look at present situations in the congregation, community, and world that relate to this passage. Give them time to discuss in small groups (or one group if your numbers are small) a particular situation, asking what the church can do AND what they can do as individual Christians. Encourage them to use their skills, talents, and voices.
Psalm 30: From Sad to Glad
You will need tongue depressors or other wooden sticks, heavy colored cardstock or construction paper and glue. Take two different colors of paper and cut dessert-plate size circles–one for each child. On one color circle draw a sad face. On the other color draw a happy face. Paste them onto the tongue depressor or popsicle stick to create a mask.
Give each child a sad/glad “mask” that you have made. Tell them that today we’re going to talk about how God can help us turn from “sad” to “glad.” Invite them to tell you about a time when they were feeling sad and how God or someone God sent (like a friend or parent or teacher or even a pet) helped them to feel glad again. Listen and affirm all stories. Then share a very simple version of Psalm 30 and invite the children to turn their sad mask to glad whenever they hear the Psalmist receiving help from God (verses 1, 2, 3, 5, 11). Then ask them, what is the psalmist’s response to God’s help? Encourage them to see that the psalmist gives thanks and praises God. That’s what we can do, too! Finish with a prayer and a rousing amen.
(Photos: mudpreacher and yelena-cherkasova, creative commons license. Thank you!)