Creekside Church
Sermon of June 27, 2021

"Inter...ruptions"
Mark 5:21-43

Pastor
Rosanna McFadden

 

Good morning! this is the final Sunday we’ll be looking at a set of texts from the gospel of Mark and considering Jesus mission and our mission to bring forth the kingdom of God. You may have noticed that this was a long passage which Lynne read for us, because it is not one, but two healing stories. Of course, bringing healing and wholeness, or shalom, were hallmarks of Jesus ministry on earth, and something that we as disciples are called to do, as well. But this morning I want to view ministry through a wide-angle lens and consider some of the larger issues at play in this biblical account.

Last Sunday, we talked about a boat ride which Jesus and the disciples had across the Sea of Galilee. Because of Jesus’ power to calm a storm, they arrive on the other side at Garesenes, were they are met by a welcoming committee of a man possessed by many demons who lived among the tombs there. Jesus rids the man of unclean spirits and crosses the sea again, and is met there by a great crowd before he can even get out of the boat. Among that crowd is a leader of the synagogue, Jarius, whose young daughter is at the point of death. I can imagine how distraught this man is, considering the death of his child. I know that some of you don’t have to imagine that feeling -- that you know what it feels like to get a terrifying phone call or a terrifying diagnosis and be faced with the possibility of a child’s death. It’s not hard to see why Jarius was desperate to have Jesus see his daughter, and why Jesus would be willing to go with him, even when there were so many other people clamoring for his attention.

It turns out that crowd goes right along with Jesus, pressing in on him as he and the disciples went toward Jarius’ house. And something really interesting happens along the way: Jesus heals someone else. Kind of accidentally, maybe. A woman in that crowd, who had no doubt come to the lakeshore hoping to get an audience or a word, or chance just to see Jesus, touches his clothes and is healed of bleeding which she had from twelve years. There’s a lot of interesting things about this particular healing story, but here’s the question I want to consider this morning. Did Jesus know that was going to happen? Did Jesus know ahead of time that he was going to heal someone while he was on his way to heal someone else? You could, of course, argue that Jesus is one with God, and therefore is omniscient -- sees everything -- so is never surprised by anything, and knew that this was going to happen all along. On the other hand, Jesus is human, and may not have had a God’s-eye view of what was happening on the ground that day. Mark’s account certainly supports this second narrative. As soon as the woman touches Jesus, he feels power leave him, and he stops and says, “Who touched my clothes?” And the disciples say “Boss, there are people packed in here like sardines, how do we know who touched you?” But Jesus knows that this was not ordinary jostling of the crowd, and starts scanning the group. The woman falls at his feet and confesses that she thought if she could only touch his clothes, she would be made well. And she was.

Jesus had important things to do. He was on a mission. Not just a mission, but the mission of the kingdom of God. And at this time an important part of the mission and of his calling was to help a man who was distraught about the imminent death of his child. That is a really important thing to do, Jesus was the only one who had the power to heal Jarius’ daughter, and he was on the way to get it done, and some woman interrupted him right in the middle of that really important mission.

I want to confess straight up here that I know there is nothing I do or even aspire to do that is as important as what Jesus was doing that day. I like to think that my work is important, even godly, but my track record for healing is nothing like that of Jesus Christ. But I don’t like to be interrupted when I’m doing my thing -- whether that is ministry, hanging out with my family, or taking a nap. I know that other people have experienced significant interruptions in their lives just this week. I believe interruptions have something to teach us about our calling as disiples. What if part of bringing forth the kingdom of God is holding our own plans for the kingdom of God lightly? I know this may sound a bit counter-intuitive, but I think our plans for being part of God’s mission should include some humility about what are our plans and what are actually God’s plans. Even when we’re trying to act in good faith, those may not be the same thing.

I’m going to tell you the point I want to make in case you stop listening before I make my case for it, because I don’t want to be misunderstood. Here’s the message: Interruptions may be as much a part of our mission as our best-laid plans. Case in point, a global pandemic interrupted business as usual for churches last year. We found out that there’s still work to be done and people to be reached for the kingdom of God even when we’re not doing things the way we usually do. We had some fine activities in the works for March of 2020 which never materialized. Being part of God’s mission means being open to God’s Spirit moving in ways we did not plan. That’s the point I want you to hear today.

Because I have a confession to make. I am not very good at dealing with interruptions. I like it when things are orderly and planned in advance. I like predictable, I like having a schedule which goes according to schedule, and a to-do list which gets done. For those of you who are familiar with the Myers-Briggs personality types, the last letters, J and P describe how a person deals with structure: do you prefer to get things decided or to stay open to new information and options? I like to get things decided. But the Holy Spirit might have other information and options. I know the kingdom needs all kinds of people with a variety of gifts, and that the Spirit can and has used my gifts; I try to do my best to stay open to new options, even when that is not my first inclination. I still have a lot to learn from Jesus (Amen?) and what this story from Mark teaches me is that healing happens when we allow ourselves to pause in our busy important work to be present with people in need and to listen to them with compassion. If Jesus allowed his work to be interrupted, maybe I need to re-think my own busy-ness and importance and be sure that I make space for being present as well as doing things.

There is a great ending to both of these healings. The woman who touched Jesus’ cloak is healed, but Jesus also pronounces a blessing for her faith: her body is healed and she receives the peace of Christ. Because of Jewish purity laws, constant bleeding would have made her an outcast from her community. Jesus restores her to herself and to the community. And while Jesus is speaking peace, friends come from Jarius’ house to say that his daughter is dead, and Jesus doesn’t need to come after all. Jesus takes his closest disciples and goes on to the house where family and friends are weeping and wailing. Jesus says, “Why all the weeping? The child isn’t dead, only sleeping.” And Mark says “they laughed at him,” Yeah, right. Sleeping. It wasn’t very funny. I’m sure some of the family were furious that Jesus took his time getting there and then mocked their grieving. Jesus takes a few disciples and the girl’s parents into the house with him, and takes her hand and says, “Little girl, get up!” and she is restored to health.

It is an amazing story -- two stories, actually -- and as much a witness to Jesus power and authority as the story we heard last week when he calmed the wind and the waves. Only these stories add another dimension to that power: the power of human compassion. Or maybe it’s the power of divine compassion. Either way, Jesus was compassionate enough to make the needs of the people more important than his own need to be important in the eyes of the crowd. This is a great lesson for anyone in ministry, but especially for those of us who claim authority. People first, our own agenda and recognition a distant second.

And for those of us who are in ministry and chafe at interruptions: deal with it, I say to myself. This is what God calls us to, this is how we bring forth the kingdom, this is what we are sent into the world to do: to proclaim and to heal in the name of Jesus.

 

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