I want to begin by making a few remarks about the events in Charleston, South Carolina. Elizabeth Eaton, Presiding Bishop of the ELCA, has encouraged all congregations to observe today as a day of repentance and mourning. Since today is a day for Ted, I have chosen to not focus on that element of worship. I will simply include a couple of prayers for the people who died.
But, I do want to make it clear that there is no place in this congregation, in the Lutheran Church, in the Christian Church, or in any religion, for hatred of another person based solely on the color of their skin or their ethnic or religious background. Jesus would be appalled at the action taken by Dylann Roof, and grieves with all of us over the deaths of the people he killed. Jesus also grieves over Mr Roof, for the choices he made.
Let us be careful in how we think about and treat everyone. And let us be aware of the subtle ways in which we are taught by our culture to judge others as different and therefore less than us.
Mark 5: 21-43
Last week, Jesus was on the Sea of Galilee in the fishing boat. He demonstrated his access to divine powers by stilling the storm. The disciples were amazed, as they had this new insight into who Jesus is. Today, they get additional insight into his true identity.
Jesus and the disciples are in a town walking and talking, surrounded by a crowd of people, as usual. In this episode, Jesus begins with one healing and is interrupted on the way.
One of the town’s leaders, a man named Jairus has a sick little girl. The text tells us she is about twelve. She appears to dying, and Jairus is scared. He begs Jesus repeatedly to come to his home and heal her. His life has been interrupted by his sick child.
On the way, a woman who has been bleeding for twelve years is desperate. She has lost hope, hope of having a husband, hope of having children, hope of having people who welcomed her into their homes. Her life has been interrupted.
She doesn’t think she is worthy enough to speak directly to Jesus, so she reaches out as he passes and touches his clothing. She knows instantly she has been healed; her bleeding has stopped, just like that!
Although she did not want to be noticed, Jesus has felt his power going from him to someone. “Who has touched me?” he asks. The disciples are astounded. “How do you expect us to know that? Do you know how many people there are in this crowd?”
The woman gives up, and confesses it was she who touched him. Jesus speaks tenderly to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace.” The Greek word Jesus uses means the woman is not just healed physically, but made whole – healed physically, emotionally, socially. She has been made completely whole.
After this interruption, Jesus continues on his way to Jairus’ house with just Peter, James and John accompanying him. By now, the daughter has died, and the crowd outside the house has begun the wailing of grief. “Jesus, you’re too late. The girl has died!” Jesus takes the girl’s parents with him into the house, where Jesus calls to the girl. “Little girl, get up.” Immediately, the girl stands up. Jesus tells the parents two things: “Give her something to eat.” And “Don’t tell anyone about this.” The child is well enough to eat – the healing has instantly made her whole.
I want to touch just briefly on this comment Jesus makes about not telling anyone about the healing. Several times in Mark’s Gospel, Jesus tells people to not tell anyone about something he has done. I think this is mostly because he doesn’t want the timeline to be pushed ahead. Assuming the plan is for him to be crucified at the beginning of Passover, too many people talking about his power might push the time of his arrest ahead. Once he has died and been raised, it would all make sense, and people would be free to tell these stories.
Mark’s way of telling these stories, with one story interrupting another, makes me think about how often our lives are interrupted. I remember a family trip to the beach when I was a child. In fun, my mother kicked some sand at my father, and broke her toe. Usually a broken toe is no big deal, but it was a spiral break, and she wore a cast halfway up her shin for several weeks.
We are living our lives, and suddenly something happens. We get cancer, a loved one dies, our spouse leaves us, our children are in trouble with the law, our finances hit bottom. Our “normal” lives are interrupted. We want Jesus to come to us and make us or our loved ones whole.
But, we remember that Jesus didn’t heal everyone in Galilee, just those who came near him when he was in their town. We don’t really trust Jesus to physically heal anyone, anymore. Mostly, we put our trust in doctors and other medical people to take care of our physical ailments. I believe that Jesus does indeed heal us through medical people.
In addition, Jesus seeks to make us whole, even if we are not physically healed. Through the Holy Spirit, Jesus works within us to help us go on living, to find a purpose in life, despite our circumstances, our life interruptions.
Life interruptions can be positive. A new job, a new house, a new child or spouse, even a new car can be pleasant interruptions. For gay and lesbian couples seeking permission to be married, the decision of the Supreme Court is a happy interruption to their lives. Although some of you may disagree, I believe that Jesus is pleased with this decision.
Life, interrupted, happened in Charleston, South Carolina. Dylann Roof’s goal was to start a race war, to so enrage people that a lot of black people would be killed. But it backfired on him. First, the people he planned to murder were so nice to him in the Bible study that he almost changed his mind. And second, the race war he hoped for was interrupted by the families of the people he killed. Over and over, they said, “I forgive you, because that’s what Jesus wants me to do.” They will be made whole by their faith in Jesus and the Spirit’s work in their hearts.
Ted, too, faced life, interrupted. It was about six years ago that he came to me and said he wanted to be a deacon. He spent two years studying, and was consecrated by Bishop Benoway on the same day that Hope celebrated its 40th anniversary. He went with me or with Deacon John making visits to some of our homebound people. He led worship, reading the scriptures and leading the prayers. I think this role as deacon gave him great joy.
And, then, we began to notice that he was becoming different. He didn’t always know his place in the liturgy or in the music booklet in the choir. He became more easily upset. He used standard answers to questions which hid the fact that he didn’t really know what we were talking about. His driving made Manley, with whom he rode in the Crime Watch vehicle, very nervous. Like the character Jim on the TV show Vicar of Dibley, he said “no” even if he meant “yes.” He didn’t even want his beloved dogs near him.
For the last few months, he has been in bed, waiting to die. His life was interrupted by Alzheimer’s. And now, he has been made whole. His mind and body have been restored to wholeness in Jesus’ presence. Lynn’s life, interrupted by caring for a spouse with a terminal illness, will also be restored to wholeness.
This morning (at the 10am service) we will take some time to remember Ted. And we will come forward to be anointed with oil as we pray for healing in our lives and in the lives of loved ones. Healing may or may not be physical, but even so we pray that God will make us whole. God will shape our hearts to be open to God’s purposes, to God’s love for us, to God’s forgiveness for us and for all people.
This week, be nice to Lynn and to Ted’s family members who are here this morning, but not too nice. They are putting their lives back in order after the interruption of Ted’s illness and death.
Also this week, consider if your life is currently “normal” or feeling interrupted. Is there some way we can help you? Please ask – maybe a Stephen minister can walk with you.
Look for people whose lives have been interrupted. Offer to help them, with some time, or with something tangible like food. Offer to pray for them, and then do pray.
And watch for healing and wholeness to come, because Jesus’ power will come, one way or another, along with the interruptions.
Please pray with me. God of life, even life interrupted, be present with us today as we remember Ted. Comfort and strengthen the families in South Carolina. Fill us with your wholeness. Amen