Proper 8 (13)
Sixth Sunday after Pentecost, Year B
1 July 2018
2 Samuel 1:1, 17-27
2 Corinthians 8:7-15
When I was young I learned that I could tell God anything, that no matter what, God would be there for me. And I did that lots of times. God was (and is) my best friend. I think it was on walks that I was best able to pour out my heart to God, and that too has not changed.
That we can tell God anything is as true now as it was then. And because of this, prayer is also a way of calling to mind that we are not alone, that even though we cannot see God, God is in fact here.
There are many hymns that articulate this kind of relationship with the God who is always there for us, the first one that comes to mind is “What a friend we have in Jesus”.
In our passage from Mark there are two women, an adult woman and a girl who are healed by Jesus. The first story is the story of a woman who has been hemorrhaging for many years. Doctors were unable to help her. She is socially isolated – for she is considered unclean and shouldn’t even be here, and she is impoverished due to her medical bills.
Jackie’s dad will start radiation treatments on Tuesday. He and my mother-in-law like spending their summers at the lake but haven’t been able to make it up this year. They had about ten days between appointments and we wondered whether they’d go to the lake. But they decided against it. It would not have been the diversion they were seeking. Everyone would have asked where they’d been and why they were leaving again so soon, and they’d have to tell the same story over and over, and my father-in-law would become his illness.
But when you are sick, the last thing you want to do is become your illness. Your illness is real but it’s not your story, not your identity. Which is why it’s good when we visit people in the hospital we simply come as friends and as brothers and sisters in Christ but leave the telling of what they want to share up to our friends.
Mark tells us that the woman had much faith. She was not wondering whether Jesus would want to heal her, of course he would. She was receptive to his presence and power. And Jesus praises her faith. She is also privileged to tell him ‘the whole truth’. In Mark only Jesus and this woman proclaim truth.
Twice is Jesus laughed at. He is laughed at when he says that the young girl is only sleeping. He is laughed at when – in the midst of the crowd pushing in on him – he asks who touched him.
What happens in the story is that Jesus notices her when no one else did. This corresponds with what we learned in Sunday School or worship, that Jesus knows us and sees us, not as someone who mistrusts us but as someone who loves us. No one else may notice us but God is always with us.
When the woman comes forward to reveal the truth, Jesus calls her daughter. He does not scold her for being out in public when purity laws required her to stay away from people, he does not reject her from having crossed the boundary between men and women (for a woman was not to touch a man), he does not define her by her illness but by being a child of God. He calls her daughter.
Whatever crisis I have encountered I have never doubted that I am God’s child. I learned this in Sunday School, through hymns, teaching and preaching, and it was validated by my experience.
The story of the hemorrhaging woman illustrates that God notices us when no one else does or seems to and that God does not condemn or stigmatize us even when others do.
But when Jesus calls her daughter he places her in a social context. She is no longer an individual who has suffered alone but alongside all others she is God’s child. By calling her daughter Jesus affirms not only the relationship between him and her, between healer and healed, but he affirms that she is a daughter of Israel, that she has a community and that the community has her.
You see, often we unconsciously think of hymns like ‘What a friend we have in Jesus’, as to say, ‘what a friend I have in Jesus’. And if it is only about me having a friend in Jesus then I do not need the church and if I felt isolated before I will continue to feel isolated, only that I can feel comforted or affirmed in my isolation, even when my isolation may be self-imposed.
And so I find it significant that the other person Jesus gives his attention to is a member of the pharisees. It appears not only that Jesus does not write-off hemorrhaging women but refuses to write off members of the establishment. Pharisees and their children are also recipients of God’s mercy. They too are part of a community, part of Jesus’ mission.
For many people their faith can be summarized as “Jesus loves me, this I know.”
This is profound, as simple as it is.
But it appears that the love of God creates a community in which outcasts and establishment can eat together at the table of God’s mercy and that thereby the knowledge and experience of God’s love no longer remains esoteric, something I can feel and experience in my heart alone, but becomes something we experience in the fellowship and mission of the church.
It is in Matthew’s Gospel that we are given the promise that where two or three are gathered in the name of Jesus, he is there among them. The promise is given in the context of what it means for the church to live together. Consequently, that Jesus loves me is not only an emotional experience but an embodied and enfleshed experience in the community of the church where sins are forgiven, where life is oriented toward the Gospel, and where we eat at the same table, not all of which is easy.
The disciples laughed at Jesus when he asked who had touched him. They had not noticed the woman, daughter of Israel, child of God.
May we be God’s presence so that people know they are loved and known by God because they are loved and known by the church, by us, by you and me, just as we are loved.