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5th Sunday After Pentecost - June 27, 2021

Updated: Jul 6, 2021

When I first moved into this country, I did not know what to expect. Sure, movies and tv shows gave me some idea of what might be in store for me, but they are maybe not the most reliable of sources I figured. For example: I really did not believe that fraternity houses and frat parties were a thing. Turns out I was wrong on that one. I knew about football, but man was I not prepared for how serious y’all take it. The first time I saw an iconic yellow school bus my delight amused my husband to no end. But of all the things I did or did not expect from immigrating to the US, I did not see one particular side effect coming: I got sick. I became almost incapable of holding down any food. I was constantly hungry and constantly nauseated, which is just as miserable as it sounds. I had a great Dr who threw every test at me he could think of. My husband and in-laws were worried for me and offered steadfast and loving support without question. But the weeks and months dragged on, I was still hungry and nauseated, and there was no diagnosis in sight. Every time I heard the dreaded words: ”The results came back negative, we still don’t know what it is” I became more discouraged, more depressed, sicker and poorer. Finally, after a little over a year a diagnosis happened, and I was helped. I had something the Dr called Irritable Bowel Syndrome. I think it’s the diagnosis you get when there is no other diagnosis available. As it turned out my body was not used to the additives and chemicals put into American food and did not know how to digest them. So a change to mostly organic foods and limiting meat helped immensely. Nowadays my digestive system is used to the United States of course but I still remember the first meal I truly enjoyed after such a long year. It was a great feeling to eat without abandon!

One year I was sick. And I was loved and supported throughout the whole ordeal. Our woman in the gospel today was not so lucky. The text tells us that she was sick and bleeding for 12 years. 12 years of pain, bleeding, and worrying! 12 years of getting more discouraged, more depressed, sicker, and poorer. And unfortunately for her, a woman bleeding is considered unclean in ancient society. Being sick with bleeding would make her even more so. Being sick caused her to be ostracized. She would have been isolated from most of society. Places like the temple would be closed to her. Talk about adding insult to injury. For 12 years! Her despair must have been palpable and oppressive. This would have been enough to make even the strongest person give into depression and give up. But our woman in the gospel persisted. She continued looking for a cure, she continued to look for a way to be reconnected with her world. She is someone I admire. I also feel greatly for her. And she makes me wonder, why do we harm one another so? She was already sick, already at her lowest, and societal rules added insult to her injury by claiming she was now unclean. She was not to be around the acceptable elements of society lest they become unclean. Her weakness, her disease, was used to injure her further instead of helping her. Why is that? Why do we harm the weakest members of our society? Are we scared that their weakness may be contagious?

After all, human beings are hardwired for survival. That is why we find strength in numbers, support our children, and pass along knowledge like which foods are safe to consume. However, it is also why we exclude one another. We believe that food, shelter, and other resources are limited. We operate from a paradigm of scarcity. If there is not enough, we must make sure that we ourselves have enough. We are hard wired for survival. Unfortunately, we do that by prohibiting others access. To do this in the easiest way possible the people we choose to keep resources from are the weakest part of society. I wish this was not so, but there is no sense in denying this awful truth. Human history is pockmarked with examples of when we have ostracized and taken advantage of the weak. Our paradigm of scarcity frightens us into harming one another so.

Not that this stopped our woman in the gospel. No. She knew exactly what to do once she heard about Jesus. She knew, that just touching his cloak would heal her. Her faith was strong, and she fought her way, weak as she must have been, through the crowds, to the center of the action, to Jesus himself and there her faith was rewarded. She touched his cloak and was indeed healed. But her story does not end there just yet. Jesus realized what happened. Our gospel says that he was immediately aware that power had gone forth from him. I love that word Mark uses here: forth. The power went forth from Jesus. It did not go out, it did not get transferred, it did not get used up. It went forth from him. Indicating that even though it was used to heal this woman, it was not diminished. The fact that Jesus goes on to bring a little girl back from the dead proves to us that his power is intact. God’s power cannot be diminished. Upon realizing what happened, Jesus wants to know who it was that touched him in such a manner that it caused his power to go forth. Trembling, the woman comes before him. And now, Jesus finishes the healing that her touching his cloak began, he tells her: “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.” Calling her “daughter” and acknowledging that her disease is healed, publicly and in front of all these people is exactly the missing ingredient to this woman’s healing. See, by doing so, Jesus restores her social status as well. Her years on the fringes of society are over. Jesus’ words made sure of that. Her healing is now complete. After 12 years of misery and isolation, this woman is finally well. Her joy must have been quite the sight to behold!

This healing flies in the face of our perceived paradigm of scarcity. Jesus’ power went forth to heal. It was not diminished, God’s power can’t be, God’s power, is inexhaustible. I believe that is the point of this story.

God’s loving power is inexhaustible. Jesus’ undiminished power and his loving words teach us by example. We may not have the power to physically heal, let alone bring back the dead. But what about the words Jesus uses? He speaks up for the woman. She does not ask him to do so, but Jesus goes out of his way to speak up for this woman. To call her daughter, to proclaim her well. Well enough to be a member of the community once again. There is something we can do, speak up. We can call those on the fringes of our society our brothers and our sisters. We can assure them, that they are well enough, that they are welcome, that they are members of our community. The sick, the homeless, the refugees, the immigrants, the persons of color, the women, the neighbors. Everybody. They belong to us. For everybody is a part of God’s Kingdom. God’s loving power is inexhaustible.

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