March 14, 2021   Holy Vessels: Different Pictures  Intellectual Health by Pastor David

Mark 5: 21-43 When Jesus had crossed again to the other shore in the boat, a large crowd gathered, and he stayed by the lakeside. Then one of the synagogue officials—Jairus by name—came up and, seeing Jesus, fell down, and pleaded earnestly, saying, “My little daughter is desperately sick.  Come and lay your hands on her to make her better and save her life.” Jesus went with him and a large crowd followed, pressing from all sides. Now there was a woman who had suffered from hemorrhages for twelve years, after long and painful treatment from various doctors, she had spent all she had without getting better—in fact, she was getting worse. She had heard about Jesus, and she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak.  “If I can touch even the hem,” she had told herself, “I will be well again.” Immediately the flow of blood dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed of her affliction. Immediately aware that healing power had gone out from him, Jesus turned to the crowd and said, “Who touched my clothes?” The disciples said, “You see how the crowd is pressing you and yet you say, ‘Who touched me?’ But Jesus continued to look around to see who had done it. then the woman came forward, frightened and trembling because she knew what had happened to her, and she fell at Jesus’ feet and told him the whole truth. “My daughter,” Jesus said, “your faith has saved you, go in peace and be free of your affliction.” While Jesus was still speaking, some people arrived from the house of the synagogue official to say, “Your daughter is dead.  Why put the Teacher to any further trouble?” But Jesus overheard the remark and said to the official:  “Don’t be afraid.  Just believe.” Jesus allowed no one to follow him except Peter and James and James’ brother John. They came to the official’s house and Jesus noticed all the commotion, with people weeping and wailing unrestrainedly. Jesus went in and said to them, “Why all this commotion and crying?  The child is not dead, but asleep.” At this, they began to ridicule him, and he told every one to leave. Jesus took the child’s mother and father and his own companions and entered the room where the child lay. Taking her hand, he said to her, Talitha, koum!” which means, “Little girl, get up!” Immediately the girl, who was twelve years old, got jp and began to walk about. At this they were overcome with astonishment. Jesus gave the family strict orders not to let anyone know about it, and told them to give the little something to eat. 

We take a moment here to let the music and the reading fresh in our ears, sink in for a moment as we center ourselves by breathing deeply and slowly, reflecting on what brings us alive.

March 14, 2021 Holy Vessels: Different Pictures (Intellectual Health)       

Many of you have heard me tell the story of my preaching teacher, the extraordinary preacher, Dr. James Forbes. He is retired now, but I think he still gets around. In this prime, he did a lot of traveling, he was in such high demand as a preacher. He said that when he got on a plane and sat next to someone, he noticed that when they asked him what he did and he said “I’m a minister” or “I’m a preacher” it could be a real conversation stopper. People would just look the other way or down at their menu again. 

He didn’t mind that a lot of the time. He wasn’t necessarily looking for long conversation, but he’s an engaging guy and he wondered what it would take to change the mood from deadly to enlivening. He thought about it and the next time he got on a plane, when his seat mate asked him what he does, he said, “I raise people from the dead.”

That story tickles me. Maybe it’s kind of a pastor’s joke, but I could tell it every week and not get tired of it. Because really, it’s what we’re all about as a church. We are all ministers of the living God, called to raise each other from the dead. 

A year ago this week we held our first worship service on Zoom. We were nervous and worried about the coronavirus and about what was going to happen, wondering if we were going to be able to get back together again in a few weeks. We were amazed at how reassuring it was to gather on Zoom together - how much we needed each other, if only virtually, to feel alive and whole. The touchstone of this service every week and the connections we have made within our community have kept us alive all through this past year.

You might ask your friends what has kept them alive during the past year - what has kept them going. We can even ask each other, what yoga class, Bible study, reading group, or family meeting has rejuvenated us, or at least kept us from feeling hopeless. When we still have a sense of purpose, when we still have creative work to do or care to give, we are not too far gone. We may still be raised. We may still be agents of hope for our loved ones, helping them find the divine spark that raises them from the dead.

The healing story that Adrienne read this morning is one that best typifies the pattern of the gospel of Mark - putting a story within a story. We learned in our Bible story that when Mark does that, they are inviting us to see the inner story as a comment on the outer story. The outer story begins when Jairus, a leader in the synagogue, a father, a well-regarded man, kneels at Jesus feet and asks him to come heal his daughter. 
Jesus goes with him, with, Mark says, the crowd, representing the poor people, pressing in on every side. While they are on their way, the story is interrupted by the internal story. From the middle of the crowd, a nameless woman, a nobody, reaches out to touch the hem of Jesus’ garment. This was not a well-known leader clearly. Even today we do not know her name. She had been sick with a flow of blood for 12 years. She was desperate and thought she could find healing if she just touched Jesus’ clothes without making any big deal out if it. 

She is healed and she knows it immediately. Jesus, though, stops in the middle of the crowd and says who touched me? The disciples laugh and say, “‘Who touched me?’ he says. Who’s not touching him? Everybody’s touching him.” But Jesus waits for the woman to reveal herself, because in some ways the healing would not be complete until the whole community knew and accepted her, recognized her as “clean” and whole - part of the community again. “My daughter,” Jesus said, “your faith has saved you, go in peace and be free of your affliction.”

Then the outer story resumes again - where were we? Oh yeah, a different daughter was ill, the daughter of Jairus. But someone comes to them to say, “don’t bother. She’s died.” But Jesus says, “Don’t be afraid.  Just trust the Spirit.” When they get to Jairus’s house the funeral has essentially already started. People are weeping and wailing in the street. But Jesus says, ““Why all this commotion and crying?  The child is not dead, but asleep.” He takes her hand and she stands up, and Jesus says, “Get her something to eat already.” 

You see the inner story comments on the outer story. The inner story about a woman who was dead to the community, who had been bleeding continuously for 12 years, unclean, a poor person, a nobody, and yet Jesus stops and pays attention to her as he does to the leader of the community. The girl, who perhaps had not started bleeding yet at 12 years old, whose life seems to end before if had begun. Jesus gives her new life so that she can be part of the community just like the woman who had been bleeding for 12 years. 
For both the woman and the girl, Jesus is speaking a word of empowerment. He is legitimating them, restoring them to the community, challenging everything that keeps them, woman and girl, separate, isolated, unrecognized within the community. The woman who was left out because she was bleeding. The girl who was just going to find out that starting to bleed is a kind of mini-death. He brings them back to life in a community where their lives were not valued in the first place. 

During the pandemic, I not been able to keep track of everything. I can’t keep track of everything when there isn’t a pandemic, so it shouldn’t be a big surprise that it’s a little harder when we can’t even meet in person. I tell you the truth, I started to get afraid that we were going to lose the children’s program, that it was dying, especially when Kiara went out on maternity leave. When we get together outside for one thing or another, I’ve been amazed at how some of the young people in our children’s program have grown. The pandemic has not stopped them at all! So I’m excited to get back together with some of them online today. not “what do you want to be” but “what do you want to be when you grow up”.

42 I am confident that we are a time of rejuvenation, of spring. The term we Christians use for it is resurrection. As we come back together slowly, when the time is right, we will find that we have learned things over the past year that serve us well for the next year of our life together. We will come alive and realize that there were ways in which we were dead before and this crazy head-swirling, time apart and time of adaption has forced us to be creative. God is like that - always bringing life out of death, always bringing life out of the dead times and the dead parts of our lives. I gotta say, I’m looking forward to what comes next. 
This is God’s good news.