Weekly Seeds: Healing

Sunday, June 30, 2024
Sixth Sunday after Pentecost | Year B

Focus Theme:

Focus Prayer:
Divine Healer, send the power of your touch to meet our faith so that we might be well. Amen.

Focus Reading:
Mark 5:21-43
21 When Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a great crowd gathered around him, and he was by the sea. 22 Then one of the leaders of the synagogue, named Jairus, came and, when he saw him, fell at his feet 23 and pleaded with him repeatedly, “My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well and live.” 24 So he went with him.
And a large crowd followed him and pressed in on him. 25 Now there was a woman who had been suffering from a flow of blood for twelve years. 26 She had endured much under many physicians and had spent all that she had, and she was no better but rather grew worse. 27 She had heard about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, 28 for she said, “If I but touch his cloak, I will be made well.” 29 Immediately her flow of blood stopped, and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. 30 Immediately aware that power had gone forth from him, Jesus turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my cloak?” 31 And his disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing in on you; how can you say, ‘Who touched me?’ ” 32 He looked all around to see who had done it. 33 But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling, fell down before him, and told him the whole truth. 34 He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”
35 While he was still speaking, some people came from the synagogue leader’s house to say, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the teacher any further?” 36 But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the synagogue leader, “Do not be afraid; only believe.” 37 He allowed no one to follow him except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James. 38 When they came to the synagogue leader’s house, he saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. 39 When he had entered, he said to them, “Why do you make a commotion and weep? The child is not dead but sleeping.” 40 And they laughed at him. Then he put them all outside and took the child’s father and mother and those who were with him and went in where the child was. 41 Taking her by the hand, he said to her, “Talitha koum,” which means, “Little girl, get up!” 42 And immediately the girl stood up and began to walk about (she was twelve years of age). At this they were overcome with amazement. 43 He strictly ordered them that no one should know this and told them to give her something to eat.

All readings for this Sunday:
2 Samuel 1:1, 17-27 and Psalm 130 • Wisdom of Solomon 1:13-15, 2:23-24 or Lamentations 3:22-33 and Psalm 30 • 2 Corinthians 8:7-15 • Mark 5:21-43

Focus Questions:
What is power? How does it function in your life and your faith?
How does lack of power impact you, your neighbor, or the world?
How does power relate to healing?
How has experience (or lack thereof) of healing impacted your faith?
What needs healing in your sphere?

By Cheryl A. Lindsay

Power can take many forms. It connotes authority, control, dominion, jurisdiction, force, strength and might. Power is attractive. It’s something some seek to get and once gotten, even more determined to maintain. The pursuit of power can impact our actions and shift our values. The desire to attain power can compromise principles and jeopardize relationships. Power can be so compelling that it can make those who have it more appealing than they otherwise would be. The fear of power can cause us to avoid certain people and situations. The love of power can cause us to abandon rational thought and the common good.

All we have to do is turn on the news to observe the negative consequences of power. For one to have power is for another to be without it or have less of it. All of our “-isms” are related to power. Racism, sexism, ageism, and on and on, are all about one group with power trying to keep that power by controlling another group or groups without it. Child abuse isn’t about discipline, it’s about power. Rape isn’t about sex, it’s about power. War isn’t about peace, it’s about power. Most violence is related to power.

Yet, power doesn’t only have negative connotations. Power can be positive and move things forward for good. Political power can be used to affect change and impact the lives of the impoverished, marginalized and underserved. Relational power can be used to help someone make important connections in finding a job, starting a business or non-profit organizations, or transforming communities. Economic power can be used to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, develop educational opportunities, and minister to the sick, vulnerable and imprisoned. Power can be used for good. Power can heal.

The gospel text sandwiches two stories of healing and of power. The healing of Jairus’ daughter and the hemorrhaging woman have remarkable parallels and contrasts that make this connection intriguing. Both female characters go unnamed. The woman is known by her affliction which exerts power over her life; the girl is known by her father, a man of great power except when it comes to the illness of his child. The girl is twelve years old, and the woman has been suffering with her disease for the girl’s entire lifespan. Both seek Jesus for healing, the woman with hopes of anonymity and the daughter by the intervention of her father. Crowds have the potential to get in the way and block the healing but are unable to do so either because of the woman’s determination or the father’s obedience to Jesus’ command to dismiss those who will hinder the healing with their fatalistic vantage.

The story begins with an initial encounter between Jesus and Jairus, a ruler of the synagogue–a person in a position of power and authority, someone charged with leading worship and offering instruction in the synagogue. Jairus was respected and considered important and influential. Powerful, but unlike most leaders in the synagogue, scribes and Pharisees, he treated Jesus with respect, approached Jesus with humility and deference–bowing, begging and believing that Jesus could and would heal his daughter. Isn’t it interesting how all our perceived power fades in the face of personal tragedy and potential loss? No matter our stature or status, how high we think we’ve climbed or how much we’ve accomplished or how much influence or control we’ve attained, there are times in our lives when we feel totally out of control, helpless and powerless.
And that’s how we meet Jairus, a normally powerful man, when he’s at his lowest point, his daughter is gravely ill—at the point of death—and the only hope left is that Jesus will have mercy upon her…that Jesus will hear Jairus’ cry for his daughter and feel compassion…that Jesus will be willing to make her well.

He begs Jesus, in fact, he falls at Jesus’ feet as soon as he sees him. He’s living a parent’s worst nightmare, and he’s realized that all of the power that he seems to have doesn’t mean anything if his daughter dies. All his influence cannot make her well. He doesn’t have any authority over her physical condition. And he cannot command her to be healed. He’s trusting that there is a power out there that can make a difference in her life, that can make her whole, that can make her well, he just has to plug her into the source. His trust is rewarded by Jesus’ ready acquiescence to his plea.

Their journey is interrupted by the hemorrhaging woman. It’s interesting to note that she did not intend to disrupt their movement. Unlike Jairus, she does not need an audience with Jesus to present her petition. She believes his touch will be enough. In fact, she may desperately hope that a conversation or permission will not be necessary because the particulars of her condition (largely unknown to the audience) and the religious purity laws observed during that time would make such an encounter scandalous at best and prohibited at worst. Yet, her need for healing overwhelms any other consideration as her primary concern.

[quote] Mark’s audience, being familiar with Israelite tradition, would have naturally interpreted this story against the backdrop of the Levitical purity laws. They would have imagined this woman not only as ill, but also as being in a state of impurity. This impurity is a direct consequence of her illness, and is therefore an integral part of her identity as the ‘hemorrhaging woman’. It must be emphasized, however, that it is the physical ailment, and not the ritual implications of her condition, that is of primary concern to the narrative. Like the paralytic and other characters in Mark’s Gospel, the woman is in need of physical healing, but she will have to undergo ritual purification as well. In describing the distress of the woman, Mark places considerable emphasis on the length and seriousness of the woman’s illness. Having been ill for twelve years, she had sought out various physicians, but their attempts to cure her had only made her worse. Moreover, her pursuit of a cure had exhausted her financial resources and resulted in her destitution.32 What is remarkable about this description is that it is the only time that Mark makes a reference to physicians in a healing story. Juxtaposed to this report on the ineptitude of the physicians is the assertion that the woman had heard about Jesus—that is, she had heard about his power to heal. Mark effectively sets up a contrast between the healing power of physicians, which in this case had been ineffective, and the supernatural healing power of Jesus to which the woman was now turning.
Susan Haber

Culturally, a woman’s body was considered inherently weaker and prone to sickness due to the complexity and rhythms of the female reproductive system. This woman has means, the financial resources and access to physicians to address her condition. Yet, those efforts have proven to be frustrating and fruitless as her illness was graver than their typical treatments could heal.

[quote] Several views have been presented concerning her body as it carries the disease. For example Eugene Boring comments saying that her condition meant social ostracization or divorce, and this may explain the absence of her children or husband from the narrative (Boring 2006:159). Boring’s comments focus on her body as an unwanted other, dislocated from society. Furthermore, R.T. France says that the story was narrated to evoke sympathy towards the woman’s condition (France 2002:236). The sympathy from the crowd may emanate from the fact that she inhabits the female body, which, by nature, is imperfect. This reinforces the Hippocratic teaching that being a woman was physiologically sick. In knowing this, she was supposed to accept its imperfection as part of her reality….. Equally and notably, her body was presented as the natural condition of being female. She carries the bleeding womb, which is her natural death sentence. Presented in a narrative sandwich, and similar to the dying body of Jairus’ daughter, her body is also dying (Boring 2006:159).
Zorodzai Dube

The crowd surrounding Jairus’ daughter assumed her death was imminent and the crowd the hemorrhaging woman invades considers her life in the same way. Yet, healing comes to both persons living in female bodies. The woman asserts her own agency to grasp her healing without permission, which Jesus affirms as the passive participant in her story. It is her faith not his actions that have made her well. The girl benefits from the support of parents who value her life above everything else, including public opinion, their reputation and prestige, or conventional wisdom. While these outcomes are miraculous, perhaps the fullest demonstration of power in these interlocking narratives flows from a faith and path of discipleship that calls human beings to seek divine encounters while living lives of agency and value. Here I am.

Reflection from Voices of People of African Descent
The 33rd General Synod adopted a Resolution to Recognize the United Nations International Decade for People of African Descent (2015-2024). As part of its implementation, Sermon and Weekly Seeds offers Reflection from Voices of People of African Descent related to the season or overall theme for additional consideration in sermon preparation and for individual and congregational study.
“But for power truly to feel itself menaced, it must somehow sense itself in the presence of another power—or, more accurately, an energy—which it has not known how to define and therefore does not really know how to control. For a very long time, for example, America prospered—or seemed to prosper: this prosperity cost millions of people their lives. Now, not even the people who are the most spectacular recipients of the benefits of this prosperity are able to endure these benefits: they can neither understand them nor do without them, nor can they go beyond them. Above all, they cannot, or dare not, assess or imagine the price paid by their victims, or subjects, for this way of life, and so they cannot afford to know why the victims are revolting. They are forced, then, to the conclusion that the victims—the barbarians—are revolting against all established civilized values—which is both true and not true—and, in order to preserve these values, however stifling and joyless these values have caused their lives to be, the bulk of the people desperately seek out representatives who are prepared to make up in cruelty what both they and the people lack in conviction. This is a formula for a nation’s or a kingdom’s decline, for no kingdom can maintain itself by force alone.”
― James Baldwin

For Further Reflection
“Scars are not injuries, Tanner Sack. A scar is a healing. After injury, a scar is what makes you whole.” ― China Miéville
“As my sufferings mounted I soon realized that there were two ways in which I could respond to my situation — either to react with bitterness or seek to transform the suffering into a creative force. I decided to follow the latter course.” ― Martin Luther King Jr.
“And I felt like my heart had been so thoroughly and irreparably broken that there could be no real joy again, that at best there might eventually be a little contentment. Everyone wanted me to get help and rejoin life, pick up the pieces and move on, and I tried to, I wanted to, but I just had to lie in the mud with my arms wrapped around myself, eyes closed, grieving, until I didn’t have to anymore.” ― Anne Lamott

A preaching commentary on this text (with works cited) is at //ucc.org/SermonSeeds.

The Rev. Dr. Cheryl A. Lindsay, Minister for Worship and Theology (lindsayc@ucc.org), also serves a local church pastor, public theologian, and worship scholar-practitioner with a particular interest in the proclamation of the word in gathered communities. You’re invited to share your reflections on this text in the comments below this post on our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/SermonSeeds.

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Weekly Seeds is a service of Local Church Ministries of the United Church of Christ. Bible texts are from the New Revised Standard Version, © 1989 Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.