Your Faith is Saving You

by admin on April 26, 2010

Reflection for Sunday, 25 April 2010

This morning we shared a Scripture teaching on “How to deal with hurts that won’t go away.” Looking at the healing of a woman afflicted with a bleeding disorder in Mark 5:25-34 we talked about three questions: What? So what? and Now what?

What? Here was a case just ripe for Obamacare. Taking a cue from today’s New York Times article on scams in health care, with some insurance company selling policies that will guarantee you won’t have to face a death panel, Jesus appears as the answer to chronic health care issues.

In Mark 5 there are three patient cases that not only end up being medical, but also religious and theological. Three people: a demon possessed guy, a little girl who dies and this bleeding woman, all of them end up on the outs, shoved away and sequestered beyond the sight of the hoi polloi (that’s Greek for: the usual suspects)

However, being an outsider doesn’t stop this woman from shoving through that crowd just to touch the hem of Jesus’ pants. She’s thinking: if I can just get near enough to him I got a chance to get better. What we do know from the story is that all her savings is shot on doctors. Not a one of them could really help her and now her medical insurance is cancelled. What to do? Just touch Jesus.

So what? This is a synoptic gospel story—Matthew, Mark and Luke. Synoptic means “one view;” all three writers have the same basic view of Jesus’ ministry. Mark is the shortest of all four gospels writers, only 16 chapters. But in telling this particular story he is the longest, very detailed, which is completely out of his normal routine in story telling. Why? Mark presents three medical cases of extraordinary difficulty as if to say: nothing short of the Kingdom of God will do!

What’s your story like when you have pain and hurt that just won’t go away?

A second point—this bleeding woman is ritually unclean, and whoever comes into contact with her gets it, too. She makes others dirty. Ever notice that about pain and anxiety? We catch it from those who got it. So what’s the way to handle that? Stay away as far as possible. Those in pain get deeper into it. We isolate people who are painful to us, be they physically sick or dying, or just pain “dirty” in our minds.

Interestingly, Mark begins this story in 5:25 with these words: “A woman was there…” Where? She was placed between her pain and Jesus. She has tried everything humanly possible and was now to the point of desperation.

Desperation fuels daring and that drives to hope. Her touch at her initiative and without Jesus’ conscious agreement heals and saves her immediately. Another question: are you there? Desperate, daring, hopeful?

A third point—Jesus says, “your faith—trust—has healed you.” He calls this bleeding woman “daughter,” meaning she is kin to him. And as a kinsperson that trust opens her to a new way, future and possibility.

Now what? What’s our major coping mechanism when dealing with hurt and pain that just won’t go away? Isolation. This story within a story is Mark’s way of saying “you are not alone.” Pain isolates us and puts into our mind our terminal uniqueness.

Last week several of us heard Dr. Alan Wolfelt speak on grief and mourning and we walked away knowing that we aren’t weird after all. We are just normal. And with that comes the idea that hurt can be a teacher we can embrace.

A second idea—Pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional. In the offices of Pixar Studios, the premier animators, the walls are covered with failed ideas, cut cartoons and miserable thumbs-down projects. Why? To remind these brilliant people who entertain us so much that failure—pain and hurt—are our primary teachers.

Much of the personal pain we bear is our mind set. Much of our physical pain is directly related to our mental gymnastics and tricks. The mind is a mystery—which is why Jesus’ out-the-chute first sermon began this way: “Time’s up; the Kingdom of God is here…Repent.” Get your mind changed, turned around, returning to the one who loves you.

A third idea—Growing into the unknown. Here trust, the very thing the woman showed, builds bridges. “Your faith has healed—saved—you. Go in peace.” Go where?

She can’t park in the handicapped lot anymore. Did Jesus really do her a favor? Go and do things you never could before.

On the spectrum of pain management where have you been able to go? Not go? Paul Harvey’s The Rest of the Story is a good way to wrap this up. What’s the rest of the story here today? What might that look like for this woman after this Jesus encounter? What might it look like for you?

As an awesome spiritual practice why don’t you write a short story that does just that—an ending for this story, a hope for yours? This woman gave the offering of her body, her illness, her mind. Jesus takes what we can give him and gives us the fullness of the grace that heals. Go in peace, your faith is saving you.

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