From Pastor Kenny's Desk
July 1, 2018
"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
everyone 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 up 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 girl something to eat." ~ Mark 5:21-43
This week's Sacred Text is perfect for people who don't have it all together. Likely many of you are saying: that means all of us. Right? Of course, except that we're not all ready or able to admit it, and I'd wager that at one time or another this includes all of us.
Some of us can't admit our need because we're too invested in having it all together … or at least in looking like we've got it all together … to admit that we actually don't. It's too scary and too frightening, to be that vulnerable. What if someone else notices or tries to take advantage of us? Or, maybe it's just that the world would seem too unbearable if we admitted for a minute that we're not on top of it. I've felt that way at times.
Some of us have a hard time admitting we don't have it all together because we're convinced that others need us to have it all together, and we don't want to let them down. Vulnerability doesn't feel like an option because, quite frankly, we're not sure those we love would make it without us. We haven't checked that assumption, haven't explored whether that's fair to them or to us, but we're pretty sure it's true and that's become part of our identity. I've felt that way at times, too.
And some of us know we don't have it all together, but find it hard to admit because we're pretty sure that's an unacceptable option to those around us. What would people think? We probably haven't checked that assumption either, but given the huge emphasis on success, on getting ahead, in our culture, we've gotten used to faking it 24/7. It's exhausting, but what's the alternative? I've felt that way, too.
If you identify with any of the above I encourage you to keep reading. Like I said, this Sacred Text is perfect for all those who don't have it all together.
There are three main characters Jesus cares for in this story. It'd be cool if they fit the little triptych I painted above, but I'm not sure they do. That's okay, though; they're still important people to learn from.
Jairus is a leader, a leader of the synagogue, who comes to Jesus for help. It’s important to remember that all of Jesus disciples and early followers were Jewish, so it's probably safe to assume that some Jewish leaders also found his message attractive, even as some didn't. It's not that Jairus is a leader of the synagogue, that's significant, but that he's a leader of the synagogue. Leaders are trained to be competent, to get things done, to keep it all together. Until, that is, your daughter gets sick, really sick … deadly sick. I can’t imagine the desperate agony of watching your own child … or any child for that matter … dwindle away, disappearing before your eyes because of illness.
Actually, I can imagine it, which helps me understand why Jairus runs to Jesus himself, instead of sending someone else. I can understand why Jairus throws himself at Jesus feet, rather than address him as an equal. And I can understand why Jairus doesn't inquire, or politely ask, or even petition, but begs Jesus to come. He's desperate; his love for his daughter has left him utterly vulnerable.
The woman is nearly the exact opposite of Jairus. She is not a leader and has no social standing in the community. She apparently has no advocate to implore this teacher on her behalf. And if all this isn't enough, she's also ill, bleeding for twelve years. Mark doesn't make a point of her impurity or isolation from the community, but because this was most likely vaginal bleeding it … because of the religious law of the day … would have rendered her impure and, just as important, likely unable to bear children. So she, too, has been rendered desperate and for this reason faces the crowd seeking only to touch the cloak of this healer whatever the potential cost.
And then there's the young girl. It's easy to forget about her. She's twelve years old … an important age, as it signals the onset of menstruation, of gaining the ability to bear life, of adulthood. Yet she may never see it. She, too, is utterly vulnerable, though she is in no place to do anything about it.
Three characters that Jesus touches. Each in their own way vulnerable, each in their own way desperate. Which one do you identify with? The leader who finds that all the usual advantages and experience that go with his office suddenly benefit him nothing? The one who has endured much and isn't sure she can bear any more? Or the one who is helpless, utterly dependent on others? Which one do you identify with? Can you bear to be this much in need … this vulnerable?
Can we dare consider and identify where we feel vulnerable, to admit we don't have it all together, even to name our own points of desperation? Is it possible to be this reflective … this vulnerable … with ourselves, one another and most importantly, with God? This kind of deep reflection and candor takes a level of trust and maturity most of us would rather ignore.
I believe there are some things we can do … and should do … to help make this level of honesty possible for ourselves and one another. First, we can begin to change the way we think about vulnerability. In our culture and society we tend to avoid vulnerability … to admitting that we don't have it all together … because of the way it can leave us feeling exposed, desperate and … vulnerable. And there is something of that in these stories. But we've also seen that only in admitting our vulnerability are we able to receive help, and only by owning our moments of desperation are we willing to try something out of the ordinary, discover the courage to be and act differently. So perhaps admitting need isn't the end of the world we think it may be, but just the end of the world we've constructed … or had forced upon us. And as the world of self-imposed or culturally cultivated perfection crumbles around us, we're invited to enter a new world of mutual regard, acceptance, and inter-dependence. And we can start to describe that world, even name it the kin-dom of God.
Second, we can determine to work at being communities where you don't have it all together … communities where it’s okay to be real, authentic, honest and vulnerable with one another. There are many ways we can do this, my hunch is as a congregation each of us will have ideas and ways to help make this a reality. For starters, maybe we can encourage people to dress down for church this summer, kind of an invitation to come as you are. Maybe folks can wear what they wear to work, or when they're relaxing, or when they're doing the things they most love doing, the things that remind them of who they really are. Or maybe we can take seriously and demonstrate by our actions and behavior that we are a church that accepts limitation and honors vulnerability. In this way we can perhaps move toward being more inclusive and the kind of safe place of caring where ALL people can come as they are rather than keep pretending to be the person we think others want us to be.
I don't know all what to do but I do know this is important. Because the only way to trust God's great I love you is to first hear God's equally important I know you. Because as long as we think we're fooling someone … a loved one, a co-worker or neighbor, or God … we can never really trust that they accept us for who we really are … until we accept ALL of who we are and ALL of who we want to become.
None of this is easy … admitting our need, our vulnerability, can be scary. And I know I can't … many of us can’t … do it by myself/ourself and why would we? Rather, that's part of the nature and importance of being part of a community of faith … that together we can create a place to admit our vulnerability, to share our hopes and fears, dreams and disappointments, so that together we may speak and hear word of God's amazing grace, unfailing acceptance, and unrelenting love for us … just the way we are! And, don't worry, you don't have to have it all together to do it!