Posts Tagged ‘Bleeding Woman’

Patience is Hard 6-28-15

In this sermon I explore the healing within a healing from Mark 5:21-43. A man seemingly loses his chance for a miracle when Jesus is distracted by another miracle…yet with God, nothing is impossible.

You can listen to the audio of the sermon here:

You can also follow along with the text of the sermon here:

Grace and Peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

Each and every week as I’m writing my sermon there are two phrases that are the easiest…the shorter of the two is my closer…Amen…and this is also my favorite word to write because it means that the sermon is finished.

The other phrase is the opener…the one that never changes regardless of the topic or the scripture for the week…that opening phrase that serves as a simple reminder of the gift of God’s grace offered to us through Christ…you know the line…as I just said it…Grace and peace to you…

Some weeks I sit down at my computer and type out that opening line and fly right into the sermon without the slightest pause because the Spirit is flowing…other weeks, the Spirit is still stewing around, and the message just won’t come out.

That was the case on Friday. I had that opening line typed…pretty much all day…and I just kept staring at the blank page…and no matter how hard I was wracking my brain, trying to get this big jumble out…it wouldn’t happen…stuff kept coming up…breaking news, phone calls, emails…interruptions just kept coming and throwing off my normal rhythm…my normal routine, kept getting shunted to the background.

But that was sorta fitting this week…because that’s a pretty good description of the entire week…normal kept getting tossed out the window. It all started on Tuesday morning as I headed to town for text study with other area pastors, pausing on the way to drop off the glass recycling in one of the bins down in town…and as I stood there at the bin, a bottle fell out of the bag, broke on the ground and bounced up to hit my knee…cutting me open and slicing my pant leg all at once…and so instead of going to text study, I had to go home and clean up my leg.

With that, my expectations for the day changed…and things happened differently. Now, Wednesday…I had been invited to participate in an adult Bible Study down in town…and then following the study I had a scheduled meeting with a fellow pastor to discuss some upcoming activities…but once again…stuff happened…and just as we were wrapping up the Bible study my phone rang…and I learned that my father in law was in the hospital…you can imagine how that changed things up for the day…as we scrambled to figure out what to do, and how we could help…and as we experienced that helpless feeling of being too far away to do anything, along with the recognition that even if we are there, there’s nothing you can do anyway…nothing except hope…and trust that those who can do something, will.

The week continued that way…random things just kept coming up…kept getting in the way of the “normal.” And though none of these things were bad…they resulted in Friday coming and going…and my brain was a hot mess…and there was still no sermon.

Through all of that craziness, I kept thinking about the gospel…about this familiar story of two healings…of two interactions…this story, that comes across as a story within a story…a healing within a healing…this moment of interruption…and as we often experience when we dwell in the word of God…we find ourselves relating to a character…and for me, that character is Jairus.

Imagine for a moment…that your child is sick…and this is no ordinary head cold…this is a sickness which has no cure…nothing that anyone can do has helped…and your child is at the point of death…this is an unfortunate reality in our world…there are some that have experienced it first hand…perhaps some here today have walked that awful road of seeing your child suffering…fearing the worst…and in those moments we feel powerless…but if there is any chance…any hope…won’t we go after it with every ounce of our being? (pause)
That’s where Jairus is at today…and Jairus is no slouch…we hear that he’s the ruler of the synagogue…and in a Jewish community…this is a pretty important person…in line with the mayor…and as such he likely was a man of means…someone with the influence and wealth to bring in doctors….but nothing works…and now his young daughter…lies on the verge of death.

But Jairus has heard rumors…stories of a traveling rabbi…a man that some claim to be the son of God…a man that has healed many…a man that has cast out demons…a man…that displays the power of God…and Jairus believes that this man…this Jesus…is his last hope.

Nothing is going to stand in his way…he presses through the crowd…and with no shame, this important man falls at the feet of this traveling rabbi…and he begs…he pleads with Jesus…Please…PLEASE…my daughter is dying…come and save her.

Whatever it is about this instance…about this passionate request…Jesus recognizes the need…and without a single word, they set off together…I can only imagine how relieved Jairus must have been. He’s going to do it…he’s coming with me…my daughter will live…she WILL be healed. His insistence has paid off…and despite all the hardships…and despite the powerless feeling of not being able to help his daughter…finally he has procured the power of God to perform a miracle.

But he also knew they needed to hurry…they needed to make their way through the crowd to get to his house before it was too late…Surely Jesus…if he really is the Son of God…he will understand…he won’t delay…he’ll be just as forceful to get there as Jairus.

But then…out of nowhere…Jesus…just…stops. Imagine being Jairus at that moment…Lord, what are you doing? We’ve got to keep moving…come on, before its too late…she’s dying…But Jesus just stands there looking around…and he asks the weirdest question… Who touched my clothes?” (pause) WHAT? WHO CARES? LOOK AT THIS CROWD…EVERYONE IS TOUCHING YOU…WHAT DOES IT MATTER…MY DAUGHTER CAN’T WAIT…LET’S GO.

But Jesus just keeps looking around…and all of the sudden some random woman comes up to him, falls at his feet and confesses that she touched him…but that’s not enough…she keeps talking…telling this story of her sickness and how she knew that all she had to do was touch his cloak and she’d be healed…and Jesus just stands there listening to her. (pause)

What do you think is going through Jairus’ head in this moment? Somehow I doubt that he’s just standing there calmly waiting while Jesus engages with this woman…he had to be going crazy…wouldn’t you, if you were in his shoes?

And sure enough…his fears come true…because as this exchange goes on between Jesus and the woman in the crowd…Jairus’ servants come up and tell him the worst possible news…your daughter has died…its over…you might as well leave Jesus alone. (pause)
NO!!! HOW CAN THIS BE? Jesus…you gave away my miracle…if you had ignored her, my daughter would have lived. (pause) We don’t hear what his words are in this moment…but wouldn’t that be how you would react…one moment it looks like everything is going to be okay…but then, because Jesus’ get’s distracted…because he get’s interrupted…you lose your miracle…your miracle goes a different direction…you lose out because God’s not paying attention.

Ever had a time like that? I time when you begged and pleaded for a miracle…a time when you prayed for something so hard…and didn’t get the answer you were looking for…and in that moment, it feels like God’s just not on your side. (pause)

I imagine that Jairus was in that boat…when his miracle goes the wrong direction…but the thing is that Jairus’ focus…his ability to comprehend…ends…with death. Because death marks a close for us doesn’t it? It represents a boundary that we can’t get across…a barrier that is insurmountable….but Jesus…well…Jesus has other ideas doesn’t he?

And as we see…death doesn’t stop Jesus…because the power of God…the ability of God…the miracles that are possible for God are not hindered by death…in this story…this encounter…this healing within a healing…this story within a story we are reminded that we have a God acting within our reality through Jesus Christ…that is not hindered by death…we have a God who’s power is greater than the power of death…we have a God who can and does act to do something about death.

And even in those moments when we can’t see that…in those times when our eyes are blinded by our own limitations…by our own lack of understanding…and all we can see is that which we fear…Jesus reminds us that we don’t have to afraid…we simply need to believe the promises that God has made that nothing in all of creation can separate us from His love…Do not fear…only believe. (pause)
Now granted, that’s often easier said than done…and there are times in our lives when those pressing issues…those fears loom larger than our faith…that’s human nature…but praise God that our shortcomings do not hinder him…and that even in the midst of these things God is still at work…that the saving grace of Jesus Christ still applies…and the power of the Holy Spirit is still flowing through this world…even in ways that are far beyond our ability to wrap our heads around.

We have a God who has acted out against the powers of sin and death in this world, even in the midst of situations that blind us to it…and thankfully God has given us signs…things that we can hold on to that serve as reminders for us…reminders of the promises that God has made…and one of these things is our baptism…when the simple act of being washed in the water along with hearing this promises of God results in a time when God comes to us.

In a few moments…Nate Maher will come to this font and we believe the promises that are made that God comes upon him…and he will be called Child of God…made an heir to the promise of eternal life…even if we don’t understand how it all works.

And so in times like this, when the world gets in the way…and when our limited understanding is hindered for whatever reason…we remember the words of Luther that mirror the promises of God…I believe that I cannot by my own understanding or effort, believe in Jesus Christ my Lord, or come to him…but the Holy Spirit has called me through the Gospel, enlightened me with his gifts, and sanctified me and kept me in true faith. In the same way he calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian church on earth, and keeps it united with Jesus Christ in the one true faith…in this Christian church day after day, he fully forgives my sins and the sins of all believers. On the last day he will raise me and all the dead and give me an all believers in Christ eternal life…This…is…most certainly true.

Truly there are moments in our lives when we lose sight of that…moments when our circumstances are too much…but praise be to God that this is not dependent on us…its not up to us…its already done…and even more amazing, there’s no limit to it.

Jairus may have been concerned that the woman got his miracle…that in order for her to win, he had to lose…but that’s not the way the grace of God works…for through the power of Jesus Christ, God made it possible for each and every one of us to experience this saving grace…and we see that Grace is not divided…it can only grow…this is…most certainly true. Amen.

Lenten Monologue-The Woman Who Suffered From Bleeding

Last night’s monologue was the character of the woman who suffered from bleeding for 12 years and was based on Luke 8:42b-48. It featured the question “Who touched me?”

This is the fifth and final in Underwood Lutheran’s series of Lenten worship services held on Wednesday evenings through the season. The overarching theme for Lent is the questions of Jesus. Each week we heard a reading by a different Biblical character who was questioned by Jesus in their encounter.

Like many that have come before me, and maybe that came after me, history does not remember my name. I am one of countless individuals who have lived and died, and for the most part, the story of my life has been lost to the ages. But history does remember one aspect of my life…one instance out of a lifetime of experiences…this one aspect which changed my life forever.
So much of my life was controlled and dictated by my circumstances. I was a Jewish woman…bound by the law. I lacked any rights, and though I was cared for my family, I was still considered something of an outcast for a long time.
You see, long ago a sickness attacked my body…and for reasons that I couldn’t understand, I developed sores that would not heal…sores that slowly oozed blood…and that affected me in many different ways.  First was the physical toll that it took on my body. The blood that I lost was never enough to kill me…so that wasn’t a concern…but it did weaken me…the human body is not made to lose blood constantly, and so over time, I grew weaker and weaker.
But the bleeding didn’t just affect me physically…as a Jewish person, I am bound to the law…the law given to Moses by God…and the law states that if a person is bleeding they are considered unclean…and in my culture, that posed serious problems. An unclean person was not supposed to be in settlements, and so I had to stay outside the town…sleeping in a tent. An unclean person cannot touch a clean person, or their uncleanness will pass on…and so whenever someone would approach me I had to speak to them in a loud voice, announcing that I am unclean so they could avoid me.
And so, here I was, suffering from some unexplained condition, unable to be in the shelter of a house, and unable to come into contact with other people, unless they took enough pity on me to approach me…this is bad enough for a short amount of time…and I hoped when this all started that it would not take long for my body to heal so that I could present myself to the priest at the temple and be declared clean once more…but that’s not what happened…days turned into weeks…and weeks became months…and soon months became years…12 long years I suffered…I was lonely and weak and isolated…12 long years.
During this time I did everything that I could do to try and get better. When my family members would come to bring me food, they would also bring me news of physicians in the area…I would ask them to inquire with the physicians…if they would be willing to try and help me…some would refuse, not wanting to be made unclean themselves…but others would take pity on me…and so I would come into the town…all the while announcing my uncleanliness so people could avoid me…other times I would have to travel to a nearby town…and I would do so…but travel made me even weaker…and try as I might…it never helped…the bleeding never stopped.
After a while, I accepted my fate…that the bleeding would never stop and that I would be sick for the rest of my life…but I never gave up hope…and day after day I would pray to God to take my sickness away from me…but for 12 long years I received no answer…and so I simply survived each day…hoping for a miracle…and trying my best to learn what was going on in the world that I was isolated from.
As time went on, I began to hear about a man, walking around the countryside…a man that some thought might just be the long awaited messiah…no one knew exactly what to make of him…some believed in him while others didn’t…but no one could explain away the miracles that it seemed he was performing. I heard rumors that he had turned water into wine…and that somehow he had managed to feed thousands of people with just a few loaves of bread and fish…but the thing that intrigued me the most was hearing that he had healed people.
What I wouldn’t give by that point to be healed…if only he would come my way…and then one day…it happened. I was near town, having visited yet another physician who could neither tell me what caused my sickness, nor do anything to heal it…and I crept along slowly, my body in its weakened state, crowds of people started to pass me by. As usual, I cried out Unclean…unclean…but most of the people just ignored me and walked around me.
But as more and more people passed me by I heard his name…Jesus…Jesus of Nazareth was coming…and not only that, they told me he was on his way to heal the child of some important man in town…He was coming…and he was healing…perhaps this was the answer that I had waited so long for…perhaps God was finally answering my prayers.
I waited by the road…watching…straining my eyes to see this man…this man that could heal me…and I believed…something within me whispered that this was not only a holy man…this was the Messiah…and he had the power to end my suffering…I believed that small voice with every part of me…I believed it so much that I wouldn’t even need to ask him…he wouldn’t even need to touch me…I believed that all I would need to do was touch the hem of his cloak, and the power of God…the power to heal that I had prayed for day after day would come upon me and heal me.
Soon the crowd grew even bigger…and as they pressed past me…I caught a glimpse of him…I saw Jesus…no one had to tell me who he was, for the power of God shone through him…I knew that this was my one chance…this was the answer to my prayers…and so I risked everything…I ducked my head and pushed through the crowd…not caring who I touched or who I was making unclean…I didn’t say a word, but kept pushing…inching nearer and nearer to Jesus until finally I was close enough.
I reached out my fingers…and lightly brushed the edge of his cloak as he walked past me…and the instant I touched him…I felt my body heal…I felt whole again…the weakness left my body and I was able to slip away…back into the crowd…it had worked…God had answered my prayer.
But that’s when everything stopped…because Jesus had stopped. He was looking around the crowd…studying face after face…and I knew that he had felt me touch him.  His followers seemed confused and asked him why he had stopped. I turned and saw his face as he asked the question. Who touched me?
One of his followers laughed and said “Master, the crowds surround you and press in on you.” But Jesus just looked at him and said “Someone touched me, for I felt the power go out of me.” Jesus continued to look at every person…individual after individual. He didn’t ask them anything, but merely looked in their faces, and would shake his head…I could tell…he knew they were not the one simply by looking at them.
And now I was afraid…for I had been healed…and though I was kept outside the town, the people still knew me…and as they watched Jesus, they would recognize me when he looked at me…I was trapped…I couldn’t hide from him…because it had happened…he had healed me…and so once again…I summoned my courage, and pressed through the crowd…falling on my knees before him…I cried out “Master…I am the one…I touched you…for I have suffered for years and knew that God would grant me healing if I could only touch you…and it happened…please have mercy on me…and forgive me.”
In that moment, as I looked up at him…I saw love on his face, and joy…why would he be joyful…I had not asked permission…I had been too bold…but that is not what I saw…he did not condemn me…for he recognized the need in my life for his healing power…and he recognized the faith that I had in seeking the healing that only God could provide.
And so, rather than condemn me…he simply said “Daughter, your faith has made you well…go in peace.”  And from that moment on, my life has been changed…No longer must I stay on the fringes…no longer must I announce my condition to keep people away…once again…for the first time in years, I was acceptable again…and it is all through the power of Jesus Christ…
I needed his power…and his power alone…and God gave me the courage to seek it…for when I touched the cloak of Jesus, his saving grace touched me as well…healing not only my body, but also my soul…and he offers this same saving grace to you…you need only believe that he has the power to change you…to change your circumstances…and he will not deny you, he will accept you…just as he accepted me.