Saturday, June 30, 2012

Lightening Strikes!

1 July 2012/Proper 8B -
Wisdom of Solomon 1:13-15;2:23-24/Psalm 30/2 Corinthians 8:7-15/Mark 5:21-43
The Reverend Kirk Alan Kubicek, St. Timothy's School for Girls, Stevenson, MD
Do Not Fear, Only Believe
This story of healing has always been close to my heart. The leader of the synagogue, that is a very important person in the community, needs Jesus to heal his daughter. A woman who has been unclean, therefore an outsider, ostracized by the community for twelve years, interrupts and is healed. People, doubters, unbelievers, people who had shunned the woman, then try to discourage the leader of the synagogue from bothering Jesus any further. Jesus is undeterred. He goes to the house. People laugh at him for even coming, let alone trying to do anything. The girl gets up and walks. Jesus instructs people not to tell anyone, and by the way, please get her something to eat.

When dealing with Jesus, life appears to be about interruptions. Life stops, plans are suspended, to take care of the interruptions - even when it means attending to the most marginalized people in society. Our culture is obviously not ordered this way. Those who have access to money and power are first on the agenda. People like the woman, and even the little girl, are not even afterthoughts. In America, repeatedly described as a "Christian Nation," we might pause to consider what this story might have to say to us as a people, as a nation.

Further, the story challenges all our assumptions around scarcity and abundance of resources. Saint Paul goes back to the 40 year wilderness journey when he recalls, "The one who had much did not have too much, and the one who had little did not have too little." Jesus seemingly has no concerns about scarcity of resources. And he seems to recognize that there must be a just distribution of those resources - there is enough for the woman and the child. That is, there is enough for everyone if, as Saint Paul urges, there is a "fair balance between your present abundance and their need, so that their abundance may be there for your need." Jesus looks past rights and property ownership to the bigger picture - how can God's world provide for all of God's people?

Yet, we are constantly encouraged by marketing and advertising schemes, and by policy debates, to adopt an attitude of scarcity, which in the end is always an attitude of fear - fear that there will not be enough. And we know that actions and decisions made out of an attitude of fear will not serve us well.

We are to place ourselves in these stories. What is it like to be the leader of the synagogue whose daughter is "at the point of death?" What is it like to be in the "great crowd" following Jesus? Are we among those who truly follow him? Are we among those who laugh at him for trying against all odds? What is it like to be the little girl, home, waiting, fearful of what comes next? What is it like to be the disciples, trying to protect Jesus from the crowd? What must it have been like to be the woman, cut-off from  society for  12 years? What is it like to have  her kind of hope and faith? What is it like to touch the hem of Jesus' garment? Madeleine L'Engle helps us to imagine this all:
The Lightening   by Madeleine L'Engle
When I pushed through the crowd,
jostled, bumped, elbowed by the curious
who wanted to see what everyone else
was so excited about,
all I could think of was my pain
and that perhaps if I could touch him,
this man who worked miracles,
cured diseases,
even those as foul as mine,
I might find relief.
I was tired from hurting,
exhausted, revolted by my body,
unfit for any man, and yet not let loose
from desire and need. I wanted to rest,
to sleep without pain or filthiness or torment.
I don’t really know why
I thought he could help me
when all the doctors
with all their knowledge
had left me still drained
and bereft of all that makes
a woman’s life worth living.
Well: I’d seen him with some children
and his laughter was quick and merry
and reminded me of when I was young and well,
though he looked tired; and he was as old as I am.
Then there was that leper,
but lepers have been cured before –
No, it wasn’t the leper,
or the man cured of palsy,
or any of the other stories of miracles,
or at any rate that was the least of it;
I had been promised miracles too often.
I saw him ahead of me in the crowd
and there was something in his glance
and in the way his hand rested briefly
on the matted head of a small boy
who was getting in everybody’s way,
and I knew that if only I could get to him,
not to bother him, you understand,
not to interrupt, or to ask him for anything,
not even his attention,
just to get to him and touch him…
I didn’t think he’d mind, and he needn’t even know.
I pushed through the crowd
and it seemed that they were deliberately
trying to keep me from him.
I stumbled and fell and someone stepped
on my hand and I cried out
and nobody heard. I crawled to my feet
and pushed on and at last I was close,
so close I could reach out
and touch with my fingers
the hem of his garment.
Have you ever been near
when lightning struck?
I was, once, when I was very small
and a summer storm came without warning
and lightning split the tree
under which I had been playing
and I was flung right across the courtyard.
That’s how it was.
Only this time I was not the child
but the tree
and the lightning filled me.
He asked, “Who touched me?”
and people dragged me away, roughly,
and the men around him were angry at me.
“Who touched me?” he asked.
I said, “I did, Lord.”
So that he might have the lightning back
which I had taken from him when I touched
his garment’s hem.
He looked at me and I knew then
that only he and I knew about the lightning.
He was tired and emptied
but he was not angry.
He looked at me
and the lightning returned to him again,
though not from me, and he smiled at me
and I knew that I was healed.
Then the crowd came between us
and he moved on, taking the lightning with him,
perhaps to strike again.
-          Madeliene L’Engle

"He strictly ordered them that no one should know this, and told them to get her something to eat." After the interruptions, come the practicalities. Alongside the spirituality of Mary comes the spirituality of Martha. There is no time to waste glorifying the good thing that has happened. There are people who are hungry and need to be fed. See to it that those who have little do not have too little. See to it that those who have much do not have too much.

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