July 1, 2018 Immanuel Lutheran, Everson, WA Mark 5:21-43
From April 9th to June 12th of this year I babysat my first granddaughter in Tacoma from Monday through Friday of each week. I have pictures, of course, if anyone is interested in seeing her! Hazelle’s needs are both basic and complex. She, like all of us, has the needs to know she is loved, safe, provided for.
A few hours after she was born, which was seven weeks early, we met with her doctor in the prenatal unit of St. Joseph’s Hospital of Tacoma. We asked the doctor when she would be able to get out of the unit. The answer was phenomenal: the doctor said: “I do not know. Hazelle knows and she will tell us. We just have to listen to Hazelle. “ Hazelle will tell us.
Hazelle had a way of telling me when she had some of her basic needs, such as a change of diapers, a bottle of milk, or a nap, the three basics of a young life. I had to learn how to listen to Hazelle as she told me of her needs.
We all have our needs, some of them universal needs, some of the very unique and personal needs, and I am sure that our needs are often what drive us to Jesus. If you came into the Christian faith later in your life do you remember what it was that initially drove you, motivated you, to check out this person Jesus? Or if you have known him all your life, what have been the needs that have driven you to go deeper in your faith?
Our gospel story tells us of the needs of two totally different people. The first person was a Jewish man who was a leader of the local synagogue. Such men were often Sadduccees, wealthy, respected well-known men who were used to getting their way, being in control, having people obey them. Jairus was his name and he had a daughter, twelve years of age.
Jairus’ un-named daughter became seriously ill, nearing death. I am sure this devoted father would have used all his resources, all is connections to seek help for his daughter, but to no avail. He was helpless, absolutely helpless in regards to saving his daughter. Have you ever felt such helplessness? Such helplessness probably was what finally created the openness in his soul to seek the help of an itinerant rabbi named Jesus.
Jairus fell at Jesus’ feet pleading, begging. (Do it!) “Jesus, Jesus, please come. You have to come. Please. My daughter is dying. You have to come.” Crying, weeping, pleading. I can only image the faces of all those around him. Mouths open, faces stunned. They had never seen this leader of people cry, plead. They had never seen him on his knees, face to the dust, begging, but that is what extreme need does in a person. Need drives us to do what we have never done before. Need drives us to do what we have never done before.
The second person in the gospel lesson was an un-named woman who had had a hemorrhage for twelve long years. Twelve years. Interesting. One commentator wondered out loud: was this un-named woman the mother of the twelve year old girl? Did she start to hemorrhage at her daughter’s birth and when it did not stop, her husband simply kicked her out? Who knows?
What we do know is that she had been a woman of some means, for she had money to go to the Mayo Clinics of her day, but the doctors and insurance companies only took her money and gave her nothing in return. Now she was desperate, destitute, probably an outcaste unable to ever enter into public life or religious life because she had a flow of blood and that man her religiously unclean. The crowd knew her now only as “That Woman,” and shunned her, spoke ill of her, caste her out because she was religiously unclean.
But her need drove her to Jesus and yet her humiliation and shame drove her to him in silence and she hoped with the absence of any public recognition. I think that she had experienced so much degradation from the community that even healing would not have allowed her to reenter society completely. What do you think? Can public humiliation create such shame in a person? Need and the boldness of faith propelled her to Jesus, but fear and shame drove her away from Jesus. She knew she was healed by her simple touch of faith, but in her fear and shame she sought obscurity.
Our need and our faith drives us to Jesus, but at times our fear and our shame prevent us from receiving all the gifts that are ours in Jesus.
So, first, do you see your needs as gifts of God, gifts used by the Holy Spirit to motivate you to come to Jesus. Jesus said, “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens…” (Mt. 11:28). He also said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.” (Mt 9:12) Then the Apostle Paul wrote, “So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses (my needs?)..for whenever I am weak, then I am strong (for God’s grace proved sufficient for him in weakness, in neediness).” (II For. 12: 9,10)
It is so hard for us humans to be needy, especially for us men. As men we are taught to be fixers, problem solvers. It is not OK to have needs, and so often we end up covering over our needs, hiding them, ignoring them. We seek to be our own physicians, going to the internet to solve all our problems but this is true of men and women.
Martin Luther in the Large Catechism asked the question, “Who is your god?” Interesting question. He defined a god as that to which a person turns in their time of need. Who do you turn to? Do you try to solve all your own problems, and the problems of others also, or do you with Jairus and the un-named woman cry out to God in Jesus Christ? Can you begin to see your needs as gifts of God and maybe even begin to say thank you for them, especially as they are the springboards for you to come to God.
And now, secondly, the un-named woman, I’ll call her Regina so she will have a name. Regina’s need brought her to Jesus and her silent, touch of faith was enough for her to to be healed of her hemorrhage. Healed, but not made whole. Shame and fear now were the motivations for her to silently sneak off into obscurity, but to no avail.
Jesus knew, sensed in his own body that healing had flowed out of him and into someone. “Who touched me?’ he called out? His disciples were a little snarly, “What do you mean ‘Who touched you?’ look at the crowd. A lot of people touched you.” Jesus could have said “Yes, there are a lot of people who touch me, who come to me and even who believe in me, but there are those who REALLY TOUCH ME. Who touched me in a living faith that moved that person to action?” Are we the crowd around Jesus who “touch” him, but it makes no difference in our lives? Do we come to worship on Sunday and then from Sunday noon to the next time we are in worship live as if the touch of Jesus makes no difference? Or are we the unnamed woman, Regina, who touched Jesus with a living faith, a living faith that changed her life completely?
Now in our story, Regina was discovered. In Regina’s fear and shame she had desired to be healed, but to live in obscurity, but now she knew she had to face, to truly, openly, honestly face the one who had healed her.
I remember the night very well. I was in high school and it was time for bed. My father asked me if I had locked the back door. In my mind I remember fully well that I had not, but I could not be honest with him. I was afraid of my father so I said YES, when the true answer was NO. I was caught in my lie and could have peed in my pants, I was so scared. Regina had been discovered, caught but she fell down in the dust before pure LOVE. I lied to protect myself for I did not stand before pure love.
Our gospel story said that Regina “told him the whole truth (and nothing but the truth).” Instead of hiding behind her fear and shame she was vulnerable, open, honest. We kneel before LOVE, and love allows us, opens us up to ourselves, others and our God and to be vulnerable. When we can be open and vulnerable with ourselves and with God and with others than true wholeness can come into our lives. This wholeness is more than physical healing, the meeting of our felt needs. This wholeness is the restoration of who we truly are in Christ. It is to be made totally new, from the inside out.
If you are a person who lives in fear and shame, come to the One who is pure LOVE, come in the vulnerability that only Love can create and be made whole.
What is the need of your heart, not simply the superficial need, but the deepest needs of your life? Are those needs driving you to Jesus? As you come to him, do you see him as pure LOVE, not with whom you can be totally open and honest, totally vulnerable?
There is no fear and no shame that is big enough that will stop him from loving you, accepting you just as you are. There is nothing that you can do that will make God love you more and there is nothing that you can do to make God love you less.
Come, be healed; come, be made whole.