God Will Healing – Symbols that Tell me So

Over the next week or so my posts will revolve around healing in the Bible. I started with the idea of one post on healing gardens but this has grown as I have reflected on my own history in healing and quest for a Biblical understanding. The forst post is adapted from one I wrote several years ago

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Examining patient medical outreach Dominican republic

I no longer practice medicine but am still passionate about health, particularly for the poor.  One of my yearly tasks is to download the latest World Health and United Nations Human Development reports.  When I first started reading these reports in the mid 1980s there was a sense of optimism and excitement.  Life expectancy was increasing rapidly, child mortality was plummeting and infectious diseases such as smallpox and measles were being brought under control.  Over the last few years however many of these trends have been reversed and I have found the statistics rather discouraging and somewhat daunting.

The greatest health challenge for millions of children worldwide is still whether or not they will survive to their fifth birthday.  Children in developing countries, already lack proper nutrition and may also lack access to affordable measles vaccinations and simple interventions for diarrhoeal diseases. Children are also most likely to die from malaria. Overall 35% of Africa’s children are at higher risk of death today than they were 10 years ago.  Every hour 500 African women lose a small child.  Even those who do make it past childhood are confronted with adult death rates greater than 30 years ago.  Life expectancy is shrinking – in some countries by as much as 20 years

Tragically the causes of many of these deaths could easily be controlled with simple vaccines or antibiotics.  Six deadly infections – pneumonia, tuberculosis, diarrhoeal diseases, malaria, measles and more recently , HIV/AIDS – account for half of all premature deaths, killing mostly children and young adults.  And, while not major killers, a number of other diseases, often neglected by researchers because they have little impact on health in wealthier countries cause chronic disability and stigma for millions of men, women and children.  Unfortunately those who are most vulnerable often lack access to essential medicines.  WHO estimates that 15% of the world’s population consumes 91% of the world’s pharmaceuticals.

Many of these challenges overwhelm me.  They make me wonder: “Does God care about physical health particularly for the most vulnerable in our world?”  I often struggled with this as I worked in poor communities in Africa and Asia.

God does care.  From the time the children of Israel came out of Egypt God showed concern for their physical as well as their spiritual well being.  However God’s prescription for health was always very different from that of the surrounding cultures.  During Moses life, the Papyrus Ebers written about 1552 B.C. provided many of the standard treatments for disease.  Drugs included “lizards’ blood, swines’ teeth, putrid meat, stinking fat, moisture from pigs ears, goose grease, asses’ hoofs, excreta from animals, including human beings, donkeys, antelopes, dogs, cats and even flies.”

Not quite our idea of good medicine and not God’s either.

Central to God’s model of health and wholeness is reconciliation to God.  Healing depended not only on the taking of medicine but primarily on obedience to God’s word and commandments.  Many of the laws of Leviticus are good preventative health directives that we still use today.  These regulations include nutrition, environmental laws and behaviour – the three primary factors that influence the health of any community.  Others are guidelines for how the most vulnerable in society are to be cared for.

Interestingly the Greek word most commonly translated save in the New Testament SOZO can also be translated heal. It means to heal, preserve, save, make whole.  Healing from a Christian perspective is the process of moving towards wholeness in body, soul and spirit.  The purpose of medicine is to support and encourage human wholeness in every respect.

Nothing speaks more highly of God’s desire for healing than the incredible systems of protection and repair within our own bodies.  The immune system cures most of the illnesses that attack us.  Wounds heal, bones knit together and tissue repairs itself in miraculous ways we rarely think about unless something goes wrong. At best doctors and nurses assist God’s healing work yet we rarely thank God for these miracles.

Unfortunately in our imperfect world, corrupted by sin and disease, these systems don’t always work but God provided other elements to assist the healing process.  Most modern medicines originate from medicinal plants and herbs that are a part of God’s wonderful creation.

The Cross is probably the most powerful symbol of and power for healing in the world.  Its redeeming and transforming power brings healing to body soul and spirit – and beyond that it brings healing to communities, and eventually will bring healing to our entire broken world.

The taking of communion is another powerful symbol of healing.  In many churches healing services are Eucharistic, deliberately linking our need for healing to confession, repentance and forgiveness.  (1 Cor 11:27-34)  Baptism too, because it infuses a person with new life, the life of Christ, can drive out before it all the powers of sickness and death.(Rom 6: 1-14)

James 5:13-16 lists other important symbols of healing we need to pay attention to.  Praying for the sick, often associated with laying on of hands, anointing with oil, singing psalms and hymns, confession and forgiveness are all practices that can encourage the healing process.

Observing the liturgical calendar is another way that God’s people can find God’s healing.   “By connecting to the seasons of the church year we enter into a rhythm that focuses every day and every season very intentionally on the One who gives all of life meaning and purpose.  By celebrating through the structures of the Church we actually are given the forms we need to become whole and we are given the formulas to make whole every human experience.

An wholistic approach to health that embraces the need for both spiritual and physical transformation is an extremely effective way to eradicate infectious diseases.  LifeWind International (formerly Medical Ambassadors International) www.lifewind.org works to improve the total health and well-being of children, women and men in communities worldwide by addressing the root causes of poverty, disease, and hopelessness. LifeWind’s Community Health Evangelism (CHE) is an integrated wholistic strategy that equips and empowers communities to discover and implement effective and lasting solutions to their problems through the combination of disease prevention, economic enterprise, and social and spiritual renewal. People from over 150 organizations are using CHE training and materials to serve the poor around the world.

God does will healing not just for us but for all human kind.  Incredibly we are asked to become participants in the process and bring God’s healing and wholeness to others.  The statistics are overwhelming but fortunately God does not call us to change statistic but to transform lives.  Even providing a cup of clean water can make a difference.  And as Matthew 10:42 reminds us “if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciple, I tell you the truth, he will certainly not lose his reward.”

Let Us Do What Is Right – A Reflection On Martin Luther King

Martin Luther King

This morning two images have merged in my mind. This Martin Luther King quote from the Idealist  and another quote from Randy Woodley’s book Shalom and the Community of Creation

When we cease to trust the Creator for our daily provision, evil takes over and oppression occurs. Shalom, with its embedded concern for the poor, the marginalized, the animals, the birds and the earth, is the divinely preferred way for humans to live. Justice and righteousness are weapons to be employed in order to combat evil, once the systems begin to become corrupted. Truth, which I define here as following the natural paths of God’s intentions, is also one of the main weapons that humans have been given in order to fight the temptation towards self-reliance (80)

When we don’t do what is right and trust our God for provision but rely instead on the values of greed, exploitation and oppression, evil does indeed take over. We have seen it in the enslavement and genocide of peoples. We have seen it in the confiscation of native lands. And we have seen it in the destruction of the earth’s animals and habitats. My home country Australia is suffering from record breaking temperatures that have soared to over 50C or 122F. sparking hundreds of bushfires.  The government’s climate commission admits that climate change had contributed to making the extreme heat conditions and bushfires even worse.

Surely there has never been a better time to refuse to look the other way. All of us need to do what is right for those who are still oppressed and marginalized in our world. We need to do what is right to reduce emissions and reduce our consumption to contribute our small bit to the fight against climate change.

As Martin Luther King suggests, our souls suffer along with our bodies and our world when we do not do what is right. I pray that today all of us will catch a fresh glimpse of God’s incredible shalom kingdom in which all humanity is set free, creation is restored and we all live together in peace, harmony and mutual concern.

What do you think?

More Insights from My Parish Collective Friends

Toward an architecture of place

Toward an architecture of place – via project for public spaces

It is easy for me to get distracted and I must confess that since the Inhabit conference I have found it even easier. My friends at the Parish Collective keep posting such interesting articles, examples of what creative ordinary people are doing in their communities. It is both inspiring and energizing so I thought I would share some more of what I have learned this week.

Continuing the Conversation: Toward an Architecture of Place and Toward an Architecture of Place are two articles well worth reading.

We believe that the  iconic design movement, which defines our architectural era, must integrate a sense of place into its work. When the bold idea of place takes hold in modern design, cities will become more livable, sustainable and authentic.

Now it is time to watch Paul Spark’s video on Land and the Baptized. produced by Work of the People. Paul is always an inspiration to me and his insights are well worth reflecting on.

OK now download this great resource from the New American Dream.

New American Dream Guide to Sharing

And finally this is a very inspirational video to watch too. I love the comments she starts with: There is no failure – creativity comes out of chaos. Gratitude trumps fear.

And Paul Spark’s comments:

The only stories of heroes most people have in common are the ones they watch on TV. But in our neighborhood a lot of us have stuck around long enough to see the characters who deserve to be called “hero” because of the way they live their lives, and what they’ve overcome. In our town stories are told about their lives, about their character, about their courage, and about how their acts of imagination bring power to the people. My friend Patricia Lecy-Davis is one of those kind of heroes.

Place Matters: The Parish Collective on Churches, Places and Spaces by Jason Fowler.

Inhabit special

Tom & I are eagerly anticipating the Inhabit Conference next week. So much to look forward to and I thought that you would enjoy this reflection by Jason Fowler over at Sustainable traditions. where it was first posted

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I recently had the privilege of meeting Paul Sparks of the Parish Collective when he was visiting the East Coast. My son Ephraim and I drove the two and half hours to Richmond, where he was meeting with Dave Cooper of the Drew University Communities of Shalom InitiativeWendy McCaig of Embrace Richmond, and others at the Richmond Hill urban retreat center (it was also greatly inspiring to hang out with Dave and Wendy as we surveyed their work in the local community). As we arrived and were about to enter the retreat center I looked up and saw Jeremiah 29:7, inscribed on the building, which says: “Seek the peace of the city where I have sent you, for in it’s welfare, you will find your welfare“. From what I understand, another translation of the words ‘peace’ and ‘welfare’ is “shalom” which is a Hebrew word that puts forth the idea of “health, harmony and wholeness”.

I believe this understanding of ‘shalom’ as wholeness – as an interwoven whole that “has nothing missing, nothing broken’ – is central to how we as Christians live out the kingdom of GOD that Jesus spoke about and demonstrated. Shalom is a restoration of relationships that were broken by sin. It is this ongoing work of mission and reconciliation that I believe is characterizing a new generation of holistic, missionalministries in our time. After all, if GOD “took on flesh and moved into the neighborhood” shouldn’t we leave the safety of our church buildings and start embodying the Gospel in the communities GOD has placed us in?

One of these new place-based, ministries of shalom-seeking is the Parish Collective out of the Seattle/Tacoma, Washington area, who are seeking to help cultivate a national shift in the Church at large.  The Other Journal, an online magazine that explores the “intersections of theology and culture”, has recently begun to partner with the Parish Collective and produced this brilliant little video (see below) that gives a short introduction of their work in “seeking shalom”. I could say much more but I think the video is enough to whet your appetite.

I Believe In Jesus… or Do I?

Jesus Is Coming - What Are You Expecting

Jesus Is Coming - What Are You Expecting


It is just over a week until the beginning of Advent, that season in which we prepare our hearts and minds for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. This is my favourite season of the church calendar though it is also in many ways the most challenging. At no other season are we more aware of the contrast between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of this world. At no other time of the year are the forces of the secular culture more at odds with what the spirit of God is inviting us to participate in. The spirit calls us to quiet reflection, the world calls us to loud partying. The spirit calls us prepare our lives, the world calls us to indulge in every extravagance.

What we believe about Jesus will shape how we celebrate this season, just as it should shape all that we are and do. We will reflect on this further over the Advent season in the series Jesus Is Coming: What Do We Expect? but I thought that I would give a sneak preview this week. What are those backbone building, soul strengthening beliefs about Jesus that really shape our celebrations and our lives?

This is the sixth post in my series Whatever happened to Our Backbones, and I am continuing my walk through the Nicene creed reflecting on the core beliefs that strengthen my faith and motivate my life. This morning my thoughts revolve around the phrase: for us and for our salvation he came down from heaven. What did Jesus really come to do? What does it mean to be saved? How does it transform our lives? Some of us think that salvation is entirely personal. It is nothing more than a private, personal belief in the saving power of God. Others are more concerned about the social implications and how we live out the saving power of Christ in our daily lives.  For me both are essential. Let me quote from my publication Shalom and the Wholeness of God:

The Greek word sozo most commonly translated save in the New Testament could just as easily be translated to heal, to preserve or to make whole. Salvation, shalom and healing are inseparable because salvation is the process whereby human beings are restored to wholeness and full relationship with God – body soul and spirit – not as individuals but in community with others and with God’s creation, what theologian Paul Tillich calls the the act of cosmic healing. In Transforming Mission, missiologist David Bosch tells us that there is, in Jesus’ ministry, no tension between saving from sin and saving from physical ailment, between the spiritual and the social. Salvation carries with it the same sense of anticipation as shalom – the promise that God’s intention is to restore all things to wholeness.

Salvation is about wholeness for individuals, communities and indeed for our entire broken world. Jesus, our messenger of salvation comes saying: Believe in me, I am salvation, I am wholeness, and I am turning the world right side up. I am restoring and transforming the entire creation to what God intended it to be. I have come down so that you can follow me, learn from me and join me. I have come down so that we can work together, transforming this broken and corrupted world into what it should be. Through your compassionate action the first signs of God’s new world are being made visible.

As Henri Nouwen expresses it in Compassion: Reflection on the Christian Life,

This is the vision that guides us.  This vision makes us share one another’s burdens, carry our crosses together, and unite for a better world.  This vision takes the despair out of death and the morbidity out of suffering, and opens new horizons.  This vision also gives us the energy to manifest its first realization in the midst of the complexities of life.  This vision is indeed of a future world but it is no utopia.  The future has already begun and is revealed each time strangers are welcomed, the naked are clothed, the sick and prisoners are visited, and oppression is overcome.  Through these grateful actions the first glimpses of a new heaven and a new earth can be seen.

In the new city, God will live among us, but each time two or three gather in the name of Jesus he is already in our midst.  In the new city, all tears will be wiped away, but each time people eat bread and drink wine in His memory, smiles appear on strained faces.  In the new city, the whole of creation will be made new, but each time prison walls are broken down, poverty is dispelled and wounds are carefully attended, the old earth is already giving way to the new.  Through compassionate action, the old is not just old anymore and pain is not just pain any longer.  Although we are still waiting in expectation, the first signs of the new earth and the new heaven, which have been promised to us and for which we hope, are already visible in the community of faith where the compassionate God reveals Himself.  This is the foundation of our faith, the basis of our hope and the source of our love.

If you would like to contribute to the blog series Jesus is Coming What do we expect. Please leave a comment to sign up or email me.

Martin Luther King Memorial Dedicated

Martin Luther King Memorial dedication Photo By Jose Luis Magana,

Martin Luther King Memorial dedication Photo By Jose Luis Magana,

Yesterday was the dedication for the Martin Luther King Memorial in Washington DC. Thousands of people thronged the Mall to attend.  The prayers, songs, speeches and the excitement of the crowd made watching the videos and newscasts from the event is a moving experience.  Knowing that the Martin Luther King Memorial is the first in Washington DC to honor a man of hope, peace and color made it even more moving

It seemed so appropriate that President Obama, America’s first black president was there to speak, showing that change is possible and the injustices of the past can be overcome.  Though as the president also reminded us, change came at a huge cost to King and to all involved in the civil rights movement. There wasn’t just physical violence to overcome with a message of reconciliation amongst those who disagreed with one another either. King was attacked for his activism, labeled a communist and accused of lacking patriotism. And unfortunately, as President Obama said in his speech, little has changed in many communities since King’s famous “I have a dream” speech in 1963.  There is still widespread racism in this and in many other nations of the world.  Unemployment is higher, incarceration in prison more likely and education more inaccessible to African Americans than to white Americans.

This morning as I write this I am also getting ready for Tom’s and my upcoming trip to Laurelville Mennonite Church Center.  I am working on a section for our presentations on the subject of shalom – God’s desire to see all things made new.  I cannot help but think of this as I watch what happened on the Mall yesterday.  I felt that in the dedication of this memorial I had glimpsed another part of God’s world made new.  We still need to see much done to overcome injustice, racism and abuse but there is hope and it that to which we hold.

As President Obama said in his speech: “I know we will overcome. I know there are better days ahead,” “Let us keep striving, let us keep struggling, let us keep climbing to that promised land of a nation and a world that is more fair and more just.”

Like Martin Luther King and President Obama, I too have a dream, a dream of a world made new in which all people live together in peace, harmony and mutual concern.  What is your dream for the future?

Reading the Scriptures – Are You Equipped for Service?

Mural outside Simple Way

God's peace is at the centre of our equipping

Tom and I are currently getting ready to speak at the Laurelville Mennonite Church Center in Pennsylvania.  I always love working with Mennonites as they have helped shaped my theology over many years.  Just after I worked in the refugee camps in the mid 80s when I was grappling with how to interpret the events I had witnessed in light of my faith I was given a book entitled From Saigon to Shalom .  It was my first introduction to the concept of shalom and my initiation into a different perspective on God’s purposes for the human future which has become the central passion for my life.

It also started me on a bible study searching out the Biblical foundations for shalom theology and God’s desire to make all things new.  This has become a lifelong study for me which I have brought together in my publication Shalom and the Wholeness of God.  I am constantly amazed by how God continues to open up new areas of understanding that fill me with awe as I realize both the complexity and the incredible breadth of God’s purposes.  This ongoing bible study has been the best equipping tool I know and is a wonderful and constant reminder to me of why I do what I do.

2 Timothy 3:16 & 17 tells us: All scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.  It sums up better than I could do the equipping work of our bible study. Teaching, rebuking, correcting and training, all of these are necessary if we are to walk in the ways that God intends for us. We are not being equipped to serve ourselves but to serve God.  We are not being equipped to provide for ourselves but so that we can perform the good works that God wants us to.

So how do we equip ourselves as we read the bible?

  1. Know what you are being equipped for. The stronger our sense of the purposes of God both for our world and for us as individuals the more likely we are to read the bible in equipping mode.  If we know we are called to serve the poor then we look for scriptures that strengthen and encourage us in that work.  If we are struggling with issues that prevent us being effective in the work God has called us to then we read the bible looking for solutions and sometimes for repentance.
  2. Equipping is about teaching, rebuking, correcting and training.  Humility is the key to being well equipped. This means that we need to read the bible with and open heart and an open mind, being sensitive to the places in which we do need correction and rebuke.  One of my biggest struggles in Christian work has been the lack or willingness that many show to the rebukes and corrections of God.  Some of us who are involved in Christian activity – be it preaching, activism or meditation and prayer – build up a certain arrogance and self righteousness about what we are doing.  We think that our way is the only way and it is very hard for God or others to correct us when we have gone astray.
  3. Equipping involves spiritual, emotional and physical aspects.  I have friends who think that the key to being well equipped is spiritual formation.  I have others who focus on activism.  To be well equipped we need to bring both together.  God does not want to just change our hearts but our whole lives and we need to enter into the scriptures with this in mind.

Catalysts for God-Inspired Change in a Turbulent World – We Can Make the World A Better Place

We can make the world a better place

Shouting Jubilee and Shalom

The MSA team has just completed two very successful but draining days of planning.  We have talked a lot about Jubilee and our desire to enable followers of Christ to dream new dreams and reimagine how to live and serve God in a changing world with the wonderful shalom future of God in mind.  It seems such an appropriate time to do this as the US government moves relentlessly towards a precipice that could put the whole world wide economy in jeopardy.

How do we live in these challenging times, remaining faithful to God’s call to bring freedom and liberation for all who are oppressed and marginalized?  It is easy to feel overwhelmed not just by the chaos of our times but by the magnitude of the problems around us – climate change, rising joblessness, economic chaos, droughts, floods, starvation, sex trafficking, massacres in Norway – the horrors confront us at every turn and we want to disengage.

Becoming world changers does not start with becoming crusaders.  In fact it is my experience that if we start there we often end up with a worse problem than we started with.

Becoming world changers begins in the place of prayer – not just intercessory prayer where we lift the heartache of our world before God but contemplative prayer where sit in the presence of God sensing God’s heartache and reaching in to the compassion and love that resides only in God’s deepest heart.  Without this we will never sustain ourselves or others sufficiently to respond to the challenging and horrific needs that fill our world.  Our ability to enter into the reality of God’s new world of abundance and wholeness for all only comes when we have given voice to the deep pain and anguish in our hearts.  It is our screams of horror, our tears of anguished repentance and our deep heart centred compassion towards those who have suffered that makes it possible for us to respond and reach out to strangers as though they were our closest friends.

 

However we will never become world changers if we spend all our lives sitting in a quiet secluded place weeping for the world.  Contemplation requires active engagement.  It frees our hearts and our minds to look beyond ourselves and our own desires and infuse all our actions with love and compassion.  It enables us to lay down our own self centred lives and desires for personal significance so that we can be truly open to the spirit of God acting in and through us.

In all that we face in our turbulent, dysfunctional world at the present time we need to remember that though we feel we have lost control, God has not.  We don’t need to ask why but rather what can I do in order to bring glimpses of God’s new world into being?  What is God already doing and how can I become a part of it?

Often the moves of God that are transforming our world really do appear as hidden mustard seeds planted in dark places.  And often they sprout and grow before we even realize that something has changed.  So look around you today and see where God is at work.  Join in and together we can transform our world.

Turbulent Times are Here to Stay – Believe in the Future

Shalom and the Wholeness of God

In the last few years economic turmoil, natural disasters and an ongoing wave of war, conflict and uncertainty have shattered our confidence in the future.  Many of us laughed at the end times gurus who thought that the world would end on May 21st but if we are honest, deep within us was an uncertainty about the future that made us wonder if they could be right.

What we believe about the future toward which God is leading us will greatly impact our ability to both prepare for the future here on earth and participate in God’s redeeming activity.  For most of us the future we dream of is shaped, consciously or unconsciously, by a culture that tells us success and prosperity will follow us all the days of our lives.

Tough economic times and natural disasters have brought that dream into question but have not replaced it with a compelling and gratifying new vision.  Proverbs 29:18 tells us that without a vision the people perish, and I think it is true.  Not only are we in danger of perishing, but many others in our world are already perishing because of our limited understanding of the future and particularly of a vision of world made new in which all are provided for that God wants us to be a part of.

What we need more than anything else to prepare us for the future is a new and compelling vision of God’s shalom world that resounds in our hearts and reverberates out in our actions throughout the world.  If Christianity is to be a vibrant and life giving part of the future of our world, its vision of a new world of wholeness and abundance must become the place of security from which we explore and understand all of life.  And at the centre of that vision must be a vision of a God of love whose heart aches for the brokenness of our lives and the devastation of our hurting world.

This, as many of you know this has become the central passion of my life and is the central theme of my bookShalom and the Wholeness of God.    And I think that this vision which is so central to the gospel message cannot be stated too often.  Our vision of the future needs to be communicated as though it were the current reality otherwise it never has a hope of coming into being.   We need to be constantly reminded that the call of God’s kingdom for all disciples of Christ is to bring the wholeness and abundance of life promised in God’s shalom vision, into the lives of all human beings and indeed into all aspects of God’s world.

It was this kind of “abundant life” which Christ lived and demonstrated through all his actions.  It is also demonstrated through the lives of the early disciples and their call to be a countercultural community representing God’s Kingdom purposes to the world.  This vision culminates in the wonderful imagery of the Revelation of John where we are again given a vision of a world in which shalom is fully present – a world in which all things are restored and reconciled through Christ.

Our journey toward the shalom of God must include our own personal turning toward God when we kneel at the foot of the Cross, seek forgiveness for our sins and give our lives to be followers of Christ.  This however is not a single experience that brings us instantaneously into the ways of God.  Self-centredness does not automatically disappear when we become followers of Christ.  Educating ourselves into God’s perspectives really does take a lifetime.   It involves a deliberate effort to lay down our self centred lives daily, confront our brokenness and make active decisions to embrace God’s ways.  Only then can we walk with Christ into the freedom of a life lived for the good of all not just for ourselves.

Our vision of the future should be one in which we see ourselves as  instruments of God’s shalom world, growing into wholeness in our individual lives and reaching our with compassion and love that brings that same wholeness into the lives of others.

We gain hope and inspiration whenever we catch glimpses of God’s shalom world breaking into ours.  And there are so many of these glimpses in our world today.  We see them as strangers reach out to help those whose lives have been devastated by disaster.  We see them as people give up the hope of personal wealth and prestige to share their resources through local networks and small business creation.  And we see them in every fight for justice and freedom that are going on all over our world.

I love God’s vision for the future because it is the only one that gives hope and provides stability in the midst of an uncertain and insecure world.

 

Rejected or Embraced

This morning’s scriptures included one of my favourite gospel stories as recored in Mark 5:21-43.  It is the story of Jesus being asked by Jairus, one of the leaders of the synagogue to come and heal his daughter.  On the way he is touched by a woman who had suffered for many years from constant bleeding.  He stops and takes time to make sure she is identified and that everyone know she has been healed.  She is poor, she is ostracized and she is obviously afraid, because according to the Jewish tradition of the time she should have been part of that crowd.  She was unclean and certainly unfit to touch the hem of Jesus garment.  But Jesus welcomes her, heals and tells her “Your faith has made you well, go in peace (shalom) your suffering is over.” (Mark 5:34)

In the meantime Jairus’s daughter dies.  I can just imagine the angry mutterings in the crowd when this is announced.  Why did he wait?  Why did he bother about this nobody when he had the chance to heal an important leader’s daughter?  Some I am sure wanted to blame the woman for wasting Jesus time.  Instead of healing her and ending her suffering, they wanted to add to it.

Jesus response to the crowd contrasts their lack of faith to that which the woman has just shown.  “Don’t be afraid” he says, “just have faith.”  And of course he goes on to the leader’s house and heals his daughter once more embracing and including the unclean and breaking the Jewish traditions.  This time he touches a dead body and no matter how important this child’s parent’s may have been, that was just something you were not meant to do.

This story is so profound at so many levels and it never ceases to touch my heart.  The way that Jesus reaches out to the rich and the poor in a single sweeping expression of his ability to heal is awe inspiring.  And the fact that both are women makes it even more profound.  We are never told the names of either the woman or the child, but we are aware that in this moment they are sisters embraced and welcomed together into the family of God.

This story always fills me with hope.  Jesus notices the most insignificant and seemly rejected of our society.  But he also reaches out to the rich and the powerful.  All are included in his embrace.  He does not just heal and restore them but welcomes them into the same family together.  That is truly an expression of shalom.