Total Pageviews

Monday, January 30, 2017

The Compassion of God (Luke 8:40-56

Sunday, January 29, 2017

A leader of the synagogue; that’s how Luke introduces us, his readers, to this man Jairus, who approaches Jesus.  Following Luke’s telling of the story of Jesus, we know that in chapter 1, Mary was told she was to be the mother of Jesus.  In response, she broke into a song inspired by a woman of the Old Testament, Hannah, the mother of the prophet Samuel.  In her song praising God, Mary sings, “[God] has brought the powerful down from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things and the sent the rich away empty,” (1:52-53).
Following Luke’s story further, we come to chapter 6 where Jesus says, “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God; … woe to you who are rich, for you have [already] received your consolation” (6:21, 24).  Luke has told of Jesus engaged in public debate with the Bible experts, the Pharisees.  They accused Jesus of doing things only God can do – forgive sins.  And Jesus did not deny it or distance himself.  He continued forgiving sins and butting heads with them.  Luke showed Jesus doing what only God can do – driving demons out; 1000 demons in one man, and they were powerless before Jesus (8:31).  Jesus rebuked a storm that raged over the Sea of Galilee, threatening the disciples with death.  The wind stopped and waves fell to a silent calm at his word. 
As simple as it might sound the conflicts in the life of Jesus – with nature, with the demonic, with earthly power structures – all these conflicts are manifestations of the battle between God’s good and malevolent forces of evil that try to oppose God by hurting us.  In Ephesians 6 we read, “Our struggle is not against enemies of flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, [and] against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (6:12).  What does that mean?
It means there is more going on that meets the eye.  In your life, in mine, the course of history of nations, more is happening than is reported in the news and recorded in the history book.  It means there is a battle taking place we can only understand through faith.  To be on the winning side in that battle, to avoid being utterly consumed by Satan’s evil and death’s final end, we have to know God, worship God, love God, and follow God.  To know, worship, love and follow God, we need Jesus. 
What does this spiritual battle look like?  It looks like an angel telling a young, betrothed virgin she will be the mother of Jesus.  It looks like a storm that threatens lives to obediently cease at God’s command.  It looks like those who suffer being helped to their feet, fed a warm meal, loved, and empowered to live blessed lives in the love of God and the community.  And the battle against the cosmic powers of this present darkness sometimes looks like what we read last week and today in Luke 8.
 It begins with the leader, a person with some measure of power, coming to Jesus.  His power, his position, his authority has been reduced to nothing by an incurable, fatal disease that threatens to take his daughter from him.  Forget all the run-ins Jesus and authorities have had up to now in Luke.  Jairus doesn’t care.  Pain and fear have given him singular focus.  Only one thing matters: saving his girl. 
Jairus comes to Jesus and falls at his feet.  Everyone in the community knows who Jairus is.  Everyone knows his position.  Everyone knows the running controversy – Jesus or the Pharisees?  Whom do we trust?  Who do we follow?  Now here is the main man at the synagogue, the local house of worship.  Here is a man they’ve afforded much respect.  Here he is groveling.  I guess we know where he stands.
But Jairus doesn’t care.  He doesn’t see them watching him.  He only sees Jesus and he sees Jesus through fear-tinted lenses.  And that’s how we must see him.  We must see Jesus as our only hope. 
Word association!  I am going to say a word.  When I say this word, I want you think of a person, a person in the real world – not a fictional character.  When I speak this word, capture in your mind’s eye an image of this person.  Oh, also it has to be someone living.  Not someone from history.  Not someone from the Bible.  Not God or Jesus.  Think of someone today.  See that person.  Concentrate on that image.  Think about that person.  Are you ready?  I will say the word and you fix in your thought the image of the first person that comes to you mind.  Here’s word:  Power.
OK, do you have the image of a person in mind?  Think about that person that jumped to your mind when I said the word ‘power.’  Why this person?  Is this person physically imposing?  Does he or she possess tremendous riches, able to buy any and everything?  Is he or she the CEO of an enormous company?  Or a top military leader?  Or someone with political clout?  Center in on the person who to you embodies power.  
Whomever jumped to your mind is likely someone very aware of the power he or she possesses.  This person undoubtedly feels powerful and self-reliant.  Thus, this person will have trouble acknowledging he or she needs anything, including God.  I think this is why Luke so frequently highlights the idea that those exalted in human institutions, the power-hoarders among us, will be brought low.  They cannot be overcomers in that battle with cosmic evil until they truly understand their own powerlessness in the face of Satan and death.  Only when someone knows he is completely lost and broken can he then rely on God for salvation.  It is hard for power possessors to see their own weakness and dependence.  That’s why it is so hard for the rich to be saved.  They don’t realize they need.
Jairus did.  I don’t believe God inflicted his daughter with a deadly disease.  In ancient times a lot of people died of incurable ailments, including children.  With all the advances in medical science, today, a lot of people still die of diseases, even rich people.  I don’t think God imposes heart failure or cancer or diabetes.  Those evils aren’t from God.  But, I do think God speaks in those moments.  When Jairus the synagogue leader saw his daughter dying before his eyes, he was broken, dropped to his knees.  He was ready to be dependent on God. 
Jesus went with him.  Without a word, Jairus came, asked for help, and Jesus went.  Jesus never brought up the conflicts with leaders.  He didn’t refer to his past accomplishments or use the opportunity to pontificate his own virtue.  I find it significant that Luke doesn’t record a verbal response from Jesus at all.  The next phrase Luke writes ending verse 42 is “as he went.”  God is always as ready to help and to save the wealthy as He is to help and save the poor.  God does not love downtrodden people more than wealthy people.  But it looks that way because those who are down and out are more ready to receive God’s love because they are more aware of their desperate situation.  God loves everyone abundantly.  We miss the good God gives when we are caught up in ourselves.
As Jesus went with Jairus, a woman who had suffered for 12 years came behind him in the crowd.  She had a perpetual menstrual bleeding.  Upon surreptitiously touching Jesus, she was instantly healed.  Her utter poverty and desperation, her unending suffering gave her clear vision.  She could see that God was in Jesus.  She knew He was her only hope.
For Jesus’ part, it was not enough to heal her.  He also had to name her.  He had to look into her eyes.  This is where we ended in this story last week.  A desperate woman is healed as Jesus walks along.  He didn’t even need to stop walking or even be aware of what was happening.  Like a skilled pickpocket, she stole the blessing.  But we cannot steal from God.  He stopped to give a greater blessing.  He called her out.  Trembling, she came.  He named her.  “Daughter, your faith has made you well.”  Is that was faith is, desperation?  Sometimes.  He sent her away in peace.
And there is desperate Jairus, just waiting.  Has he waited too long?  Luke writes, “Someone came from the leader’s house to say, ‘Your daughter is dead; do not trouble the teacher any longer’” (8:49).  That messenger was stuck in the way the world, a world fallen in sin, operates.  We think that when the doctor says, “It’s over,” then it is over.  We accept the limits imposed by human wisdom.  Jesus plays a different game, one in which God sets the limits and exceeds them when God so pleases.
Jesus doesn’t mind that Jairus’ anxiety grows as he stopped to help a woman.  For Jesus nothing mattered more than restoring her life.  For God nothing matters more than a broken person coming for healing, for forgiveness, for hope.  However, Jesus won’t let this messenger’s word of finality crush Jairus’ spirit.  How many times do we surrender to inevitability when we could look to God and to the possibility that God might write an entirely different chapter in our stories?  A better chapter?  A more hopeful one?
Jesus says the words he and angel say throughout scripture to people who are overwhelmed when they meet God.  “Fear not.”  Jairus burned with anxiety when Jesus stopped and gave way to despair when he got the message he’d been dreading, but Jesus will not let that sit for even a minute.  “Do not fear. Only believe and she will be saved” (8:50). 
They arrive at the house and the professional mourners have already begun their dirges.  This sorrow has be done properly.  It’s not just anyone who has died, but the daughter of the synagogue leader.  And underneath the breath of those weeping their showy tears are the whispers.  What sin did Jairus commit that God would punish him by taking his daughter?  No one’s saying it.  Everyone’s thinking it.  Actual compassion is in short supply.
Jesus quiets the nonsense.  “Do not weep for her; for she is not dead but sleeping” (v.52).  The mourners in the story laugh a mocking laugh at Jesus, and in fact, the girl was dead in the sense that her heart had stopped, she wasn’t breathing, and disease had ravaged her body.  But I believe Luke has in mind several layers of meaning at this point.
Sleep and death are an odd dynamic in the New Testament.  Jesus says she is not dead, but is only sleeping.  She was actually, in a physical sense, dead.  In 1 Thessalonians 5, the word “asleep” is a euphemism for Christ followers who have died. They have resurrection to look forward to.  I think Luke embeds the same idea in his storytelling here.  His gospel would have been completed and first read in churches in the 80’s.  Many Christ followers had died.  His framing of this story reminds believers that the ultimate enemy, death, is no match for the power and the love of God.  It is as simple as Jesus walking in and saying, “Child, get up” (12:54).
Luke writes that her spirit returned to her.  It had departed but now came back.  That can happen when Jesus speaks because Jesus is God in the flesh.  And God is uninterested in the victories death claims.  God is a God of the living.  “Child, get up.”  And she gets up and her parents feed her because Jesus tells them to do so. 
The confused crowd had cried fake tears and laughed a mocking laugh.  Now they stood mouths agape.  Crowds want a show from Jesus, but he’s no showman.  When the power of God is on full display, it leave us in awe and afraid.  We are profoundly aware of how powerless we are and how unworthy we are.  The same crowds that clamored to see more and more miracle later on in the story clamor to see Jesus nailed to a cross.  Too much God overwhelms us and we need to maintain control.  In a sense, that’s what the crucifixion was.  Different groups – the priests, the Romans, the crowds – were all aware of how powerless they were before God but instead of bowing in grateful worship and receiving the salvation they desperately needed, they tried to pry control away from Him. 
As Jairus hugged his daughter, he was thankful he made the decision to fall at Jesus feet, acknowledge his desperation, and rely completely on God’s power.  When we come to God as Jairus did, God shows us His power through compassionate acts of salvation.  God does it in God’s own way, in God’s own time.  Sometimes there will be delays and accepting that is part of living in dependence on God.  God’s ways are higher than ours, and God’s timings is more perfect than ours. 
Saying this is not submission to fatalism.  We reach to God as both Jairus and the bleeding woman did.  We beg, we grab, we reach, we pray.  And God, in his power, reaches to us in compassionate love that never runs out.  I do wonder if Jairus continued in his role as a synagogue leader after that day Jesus healed his daughter.  If he did, he was a very different man of religion.  If the crowd couldn’t tolerate his presence and the presence of his daughter, a reminder of how far they were from God, and thus ran him off, I don’t think he minded. 
I pray that this week you will be aware of your own desperation and utter weakness before God.  When you are, then I pray you will see the power of God and it will scare you to the point of silence, mouth agape, eyes big as saucers, heart beating out of your chest, and mind totally blown.  I pray that happens to you this week.  I pray we will all see our own frailty and in our profane smallness, we will then see the holiness of God and scared out of our wits.
When that happens, fall on your face before God in complete dependence, full bodied worship, and absolute surrender.  God will pour out compassion on your until you are soaked in his love because that’s what God does.  God drenches us with blessings and makes us new.


Developing Our God Receptors

            We have sensory receptors.  Our eyes transduce light, our ears sound, and so on.  When it comes to processing the information that light, sound, touch, and the other senses convey to us, our experiences, our temperament, our IQ, our personality style, and our world view all influence how we process the words our eyes read or ears hear.  So then, how do we see or hear God in it?
            At our church, we are spending 2017 trying to see and hear more of God, and even taste and see that God is good (Psalm 34:8).  We want to feel God’s Spirit fill us and wash over us.  This talk of the senses in relation to knowing God is intended to fully awaken us for the sake of knowing more of God than we now know.  It is both metaphor and literal knowing. 
            One of the points I have tried to emphasize is that God is present, is speaking, and is active – right here, right now.  If we can’t hear and see God, it might be because we are too distracted.  We’re paying attention to other things and God in God’s freedom chooses to allow us to choose to ignore him.  Living in America in 2017, there is plenty of noise vying for our attention.  TV, radio, Facebook, Twitter, streaming news, streaming video, You Tube; it all competes for our minds.  With our eyes drawn to all this media, how do we ever focus and see and hear and know the God who loves us?
            We need to develop our brains and then get our brains in tune with our sense receptors so that we are ready to see and hear God amidst the noise.  The first thing to do is to block it all out (temporarily).  This mostly happens in daily devotions.  Get up early when the world is still relatively quiet.  Pray and read the Bible, but before doing that, sit in silence.  Ask God, ‘O Lord, what do you want for me today?’  Then sit in silence and await God’s reply.
            As you do this, you’ll notice a million things that creep into your mind; the grocery list; last night’s football game; an argument with a friend; an important meeting at work; scene from the Netflix show you are binge-watching.  When we try to quiet our minds, even for five minutes, these things and countless others try to jump in. 
One way I have combatted these distraction in my own devotions is to close my eyes and imagine myself sitting on the bank of a gently flowing river.  I am quietly waiting for God to speak.  As I do, last night’s argument with my son parks itself right in the middle of my thoughts.  I do not try to forcefully eject that thought from my mindsight.  It’s there.  So I gently nudge it to the river, and when that distracting thought is in the water, I watch it float down the river, eventually right out of my mind.  Then I am quiet again, listening to God.  Sometimes, my quiet meditation is completely eaten up sending distractions afloat down the river.  Other days, I am able to achieve quiet before the Lord and thus listen. 
After time spent in silence (some days 2-5 minutes, other days a bit longer), then I move into confession, thanksgiving, and pray for things (‘God please help my daughter do well in school today;’ ‘God, my friend’s marriage is falling apart, please help him;’ etc.).  Finally, I spend time reading the Bible.  That initial period of silence before the Lord is the first step in developing my God receptor.  I block out the noise and listen to the Spirit in my spirit.
After blocking out the noise, I then put the colors on the canvass.  Lately I’ve been watching old videos of the bushy-haired painter, Bob Ross.  I don’t actually want to paint, but I find it relaxing to watch him paint and talk about painting.   Bob Ross always begins by painting the canvass with liquid white.  It gets the canvass wet and ready to receive the other colors he will affix to it.  How do we get the canvass that is our mind/spirit ready so that God’s messages will be received and will stick throughout the day?
We prepare our canvass (mind/spirit).  We don’t go into the day with a blank slate.  We color our minds so that when we receive stimuli, it comes through a specific filter, a Holy Spirit-tinted filter.  The coloring of the canvass begins on Sunday morning when the people of the church gather together in worship.  We pray together.  We sing together.  We hear the sermon.  Maybe the sermon is helpful; maybe it sparks push back from you.  Either way, it should stimulate your brain not only to hear the scripture read, but also to think deeply about how the scripture’s message speaks to your life today. 
After Sunday worship, throughout the week, we color the palette by the reading the Bible.  You can read in chunks, several chapters from different books in one sitting.  Or you can reading one passage and spend time reflecting on what it says.  Either way, you’re covering your brain with a layer of the Bible story; that in turn will affect how you take in stimuli that comes throughout the day. 
For example, you hear someone promise to do something.  Trust me!  He says.   This is serious, and I swear on the Bible you can count on me.  You hear that, and somewhere in the recesses of your mind, you remember that last week you read Matthew 5:35-37.  Jesus said, “Do not swear at all, either by heaven or by the earth … let your ‘yes’ be yes, and your ‘no’ be no.”  Maybe you remember specifically that these words come from the Sermon on the Mount.  Maybe you don’t.  But these words of Jesus are on your canvass and in this moment come into play when your friend swears on the Bible and then crosses his heart and hopes to die.
This is a simple ‘for instance’ of how coloring your palette works.  We set our brains by consistently reading scripture.  We come to prayer and to the Bible moldable, allowing the Word of God to shape us.
First we spend time blocking out the noise.  Second we prepare the palette of our brains (our mindsight) through engaged reading of scripture.  A third way we develop our God receptors is intentional looking.  We head into the day constantly telling ourselves, “I am seeking God in this,” whatever “this” might be.  It takes practice. 
Maybe you have a conference with a professor who is making life hard for you as a student.  When you had your devotions in the morning, you reminded yourself to “seek God in this, whatever ‘this’ is.”  As you drove to campus, you again reminded yourself.  But then, in the professor’s office, fighting to not be intimidated while stating your case to the person who controls your final grade, you get nervous.  You are a mixture of anger, fear, and frustration.  You forget all about “seeking God in this.”  Afterward, on top of being frustrated by the meeting, you’re frustrated that it feels like you handled the way anyone would not the way a disciple of Jesus should.  In the pressure of the moment, you totally forgot to ‘seek God in this.’
That happens!  All the time!  Failures are moments where we are more oriented toward the world than toward the eternal Kingdom, but God is a giver of unending grace.  God doesn’t hold our failure against us and we don’t need to dwell on it.  God encourages us to keep stepping toward Him.  Continue, day after day, reminding yourself to “seek God in this.”  The first time you really do it, you’ll be surprised.  You look back at some interaction or experience and realize, “Wow!  I was actually conscious of the Spirit’s presence, and now I can see how God was at work.”

There is much, much more to seeing, hearing, and knowing God.  However, when we begin by daily blocking out the noise, preparing the palette of our mind/spirit, and seeking God in every encounter, we discover just how differently the world is.  When we see live with sensitive, heightened God receptors active, we realize God is at work in the world and we are in the process of aligning ourselves with God.  After a month of consistent, committed execution of the three steps identified here, we see more of God and we’ll see the world differently.  We’ll begin to see from a Kingdom perspective.   

Monday, January 23, 2017

The God Who Stops (Luke 8:43-48)

Sunday, January 22, 2017

          In the sermons, we are in the midst of seeking to see and know more of God.  God is like an ice berg; all we see of God is what is above the surface of the water.  There is immeasurably more of God that is beyond our vision just as the iceberg is bigger beneath the surface.
          So, we have set out on a quest.  We’re on a journey into the unknown – the depths of who God is.  We are invited by God to step onto this path.  To step toward God.  God calls us to seek Him and know Him.
This morning, our quest takes a different turn.  Last week with Job, we pondered the vastness of God.  However, lest we be overwhelmed, we landed at a spot where we saw that God made each of us with intention.

We are created for relationship!  We, humans, are created with a specific purpose.  We exist to be in relationship with God.  There is more to be said about each of us as individuals.  We have each our particular tastes and talents, appetites and aptitudes.  We each have our own stories.  But the link that holds us together no matter who we are, where we are from, or what our story has been is the ‘why.’  The primary reason for your existence and for my existence is relationship with God.  Everything in our lives eventually comes to an end except that relationship.  Our eternity is lived out in terms of how we relate to God, either adopted by him as we received his salvation in this life, or eternally apart from him as we rejected him as Lord in this life.  Either way, our eternal existence is defined by our relationship or lack thereof with the Almighty God.
          This morning we will try to understand this God that calls us into relationship.  There are many kinds of relationships and not all are good ones.  In the movie Shawshank Redemption, when Andy Dufresne first arrives as an inmate at Shawshank prison in the state of Maine, Warden Norton welcomes Dufresne and the other new prisoners.  The warden says, “Your soul belongs to God; your butt belongs to me.”  There is a relationship between the warden and the prisoners.  In that relationship, the warden, through his guards, abuses the prisoners violently.  The prisoners cower before the warden. The warden gives commands.  The prisoners shine the warden’s shoes, clean his office, and do whatever else he orders.  The warden is so all-powerful that even when evidence comes to light that would exonerate Andy Dufresne, the warden steps in. Through murder and lies, he keeps an innocent man in prison so that the innocent man will continue to live as his slave. 
          God, infinitely more powerful than Warden Norton, could have that kind of relationship with us.  I sometimes hear theologians insist that in order for God to be God, God must be good.  That’s a fallacy.  God could be God and be cruel.  We would have no power to resist.  What signs are there that the relationship God created us for is a good thing – good for us?  How do we know God is good?  To get at this, over the next two weeks we are going to look at Jesus, God in human flesh.  How he relates gives us an indication of the kind of relationship God created us to be in.  By looking at Jesus, we will see how God relates to us.

          The account we’ll follow is found in Luke 8:40-56.
Luke 8:40-56
40 Now when Jesus returned, the crowd welcomed him, for they were all waiting for him. 41 Just then there came a man named Jairus, a leader of the synagogue. He fell at Jesus’ feet and begged him to come to his house, 42 for he had an only daughter, about twelve years old, who was dying.
As he went, the crowds pressed in on him. 43 Now there was a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years; and though she had spent all she had on physicians,[a] no one could cure her. 44 She came up behind him and touched the fringe of his clothes, and immediately her hemorrhage stopped. 45 Then Jesus asked, “Who touched me?” When all denied it, Peter[b] said, “Master, the crowds surround you and press in on you.” 46 But Jesus said, “Someone touched me; for I noticed that power had gone out from me.” 47 When the woman saw that she could not remain hidden, she came trembling; and falling down before him, she declared in the presence of all the people why she had touched him, and how she had been immediately healed. 48 He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.”
49 While he was still speaking, someone came from the leader’s house to say, “Your daughter is dead; do not trouble the teacher any longer.” 50 When Jesus heard this, he replied, “Do not fear. Only believe, and she will be saved.” 51 When he came to the house, he did not allow anyone to enter with him, except Peter, John, and James, and the child’s father and mother. 52 They were all weeping and wailing for her; but he said, “Do not weep; for she is not dead but sleeping.” 53 And they laughed at him, knowing that she was dead. 54 But he took her by the hand and called out, “Child, get up!” 55 Her spirit returned, and she got up at once. Then he directed them to give her something to eat. 56 Her parents were astounded; but he ordered them to tell no one what had happened

          Assume that Jairus was a very important man within his community.  At this point in his telling of Jesus’ story, Luke has already shown us a lot.  Jesus had exalted the poor and downtrodden while casting foreboding clouds of judgment over the horizon of the rich and powerful.  He has clarified for John the Baptist that he – Jesus – is the one.  The evidence?  “The blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, [and] the poor have good news brought to them” (7:22).  Jesus’s next statement is “blessed are anyone who takes no offense at me.”  Then, Luke proceeds to show how those in power, even with a little power, are offended when Jesus raises up those who at the very bottom, the absolutely powerless. 
This theme never leaves in Luke.  Jesus is the one from God and on God’s side.  We know God by watching what Jesus does and hearing how Jesus speaks.  Consistently, Jesus is for the outsider, the downtrodden, the weak and the defeated.  Jesus opposes the powerful.  As a guest of a Pharisee, he commends the street woman who comes in and washes his feet with her tears and anoints his head with oil.  In doing so, he shames the host who even with his resources did not show such generosity. 
He travels outside of Jewish territory to the Garasene region where he and the disciples encounter a man who is crazed with demonic possession.  A 1000 demons have wrecked this poor soul’s life.  He is relegated to a haunted existence, living naked and wild in a graveyard.  Jesus approaches this man ritually clean Jews shun and superstitious gentile fear.  Jesus casts out the demons and gives him new life.  In the flow of these events Luke shows us how Jesus redefines life.  He tackles prejudice and fear by replacing hatred and avoidance with compassion and hope.  The dead need not stay dead.  Those in power don’t have real power – not the power of God.  Those on the outside are loved by God too.
This all leads up to the return from the country of Garasenes.  No sooner does Jesus get off the boat when the crowd welcomes him, the Pharisees fold their arms and furrow their brows, and Jairus approaches.  He probably wasn’t a Pharisee or a Sadducee.  Luke likely would have described him as such if he were either of those.  What Luke does tell us is he was a synagogue leader.  Following Luke’s narrative, we know Jesus had frequent tension with leaders.
Then the surprise.  This leader falls to the ground before Jesus and begs for a miracle.  He wants his dying daughter to be healed and believes Jesus is his only hope.  Jesus says nothing.  In fact, Luke doesn’t even say much, only the phrase “as he went.”
As Jesus and his entourage of disciples follows this distraught man rendered powerless by disease, the gawking crowd presses in.  There was paparazzi before the invention of the camera. 
A desperate woman presses into the crowd.  No one sees her because everyone is thrilled Jesus is here.  Everyone is driven to get a glimpse, maybe a touch.  In this case desperation is more powerful than drive. The woman worms her way through the crowd and steals a touch, a handful of the fringe of Jesus’ robe. 
For her sake, it is good that the crowd provides anonymity because she’s not really supposed to be in the crowd at all.  She has a blood flow that has not stopped for 12 years.  When it began, she may have been a woman of means.  Luke says she spent all she had on physicians but none could cure her (v.43).  She had money, but it was all gone.  So now, she is a bleeding woman, thus ritually unclean.  She is a social outcast.  And she is poor.  It’s a miracle she had lasted 12 years.  Somehow she’s managed to avoid starvation, but she’s been reduced to a Hell of an existence.  Hated by society, friendless, dirt poor, and in unending discomfort – that’s Hell.  And she wants to get out of Hell.  So, she sneaks through the crowd and grabs Jesus’ robe. Instantly, the blood stops.  She knows it.  She is healed.
Jesus stops in his tracks! “Who touched me?” 
Peter is flabbergasted.  “Who touched you?  People haven’t stopped touching you since we stepped off the boat.  You couldn’t even get two steps onto the shore.  Back you leeches!  Who touched you?  Everyone is touching you!  Back!”
“Peter, chill.  This is different.  I felt power go out of me.”
Now, all the while, remember a couple of things.  Jairus, a very important man whose desperation reduced him to begging is standing there waiting.  The crowds have been clawing at Jesus.  In the midst of that, Jesus stops for someone who needs him but is also afraid. 
Jesus tells Peter with the ravenous crowd listening in, “I felt the power go out of me.” It’s like when you’re listening to a speaker and the speaker into the crowd and says, “You.”  You think the speaker is just addressing the entire crowd, but then he steps toward and you realize, no, he’s talking to me specifically.  You want to turn invisible.  The reason you’re in the crowd is you don’t want to be on the stage.  You want to stay among the faces.  It’s exposing when that speaker singles you out.  There’s nowhere to hide.
The woman comes trembling before Jesus and explains the whole thing, including her healing.  He looks at this rejected, broken, poor, healed woman and says, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace” (8:48).  Yes, he healed her, but he also redefined her.  She was untouchable.  Now, she is daughter – daughter of God.  She was alone.  She is now in a family – the eternal family.  Her life was misery.  He sends her on in peace.  And when Jesus says, “Go in peace,” it is more than just a nicety.  He defines her future.  She is one with God and is blessed.
The God who strode with a very important man on the way to heal that man’s daughter as a throng pushed in on him stopped for a woman no one else cared about.  That God made it clear that in that moment, nothing was more important to him than meeting her need, healing her hurt, restoring her humanity, and elevating her life so that she left the encounter knowing she was God’s precious child.  That is what Jesus shows us about God. 
Luke drives this home a few chapters late when in 15 he compares the Father to a shepherd who leaves 99 sheep in safety to venture into the perilous wastelands to find the one lost sheep.  That God that seeks to save the lost is seeking you.  That God that stops in the midst of an important mission in order to help one forgotten and to declare her a daughter of God knows your pain.  That God sees you and stops for you, whatever you might be struggling with today. 
Some I talked with this week recommended that I add in a bit about the importance of the fact that the woman risked everything to force her way into the crowd in order to touch Jesus.  What she did is commendable and on blog this past week, I posted a couple of messages I had given in years ago about that woman who made her way to Jesus.  But this morning, our focus is on God.  We’re doing what she did.  We’re forcing our way, reaching, trying to touch God’s robe that he might bless us.
Do we want to see more of God and know God more deeply?  Know this.  The God we seek sees us – sees you.  The God we long for loves us, stops for us, and declares us, in our brokenness healed.  And in our healing he looks and calls us “Daughter; son.”  He sends us with his peace.  That’s God.  Of course there is more, but that is enough for today.
But what about that important man, the synagogue leader?  He’s numb, panic-stricken, desperate, hoping against hope that Jesus can heal his little girl.  He’s just standing there waiting while Jesus stops.  What about him?  We’ll get to him next week.


Thursday, January 19, 2017

Come, Join Us (Luke 8:43-48)

In 2010, I wrote a couple of Mother's Day messages on Luke 8:43-48.  It's the story of the woman with the unceasing blood flow who touches Jesus in a crowd and is healed.  In these two messages, which I post here and in the previous post, I looked at those healed.  This Sunday (January 22, 2017), I will again look at Luke 8.  This time, the focus is on what we learn about God.  Here is the second of those messages.

Sunday, May 9, 2010 – Mother’s Day

          Let me encourage you to join me in looking at this text through a lens colored by the dynamic of inclusion-exclusion.  In the school yard, a group of friends are laughing and playing on the monkey bars.  They climb, they play tag, they just hang out and talk; it seems endless, so fun, so free.  But it’s not what it seems because you pan back just a little, see more the scene, and there’s another kid off to the side, on the swings, alone.  She longs more than anything to be laughing with her peers on the monkey bars. 
Why isn’t she?
Maybe she’s new and shy, and she hasn’t made any friends yet.  Might she have a physical condition that prevents participation in vigorous recess games?  Since 1st grade, the other kids ran and played, and she had to sit out.  Now they’re all in 4th grade.  For four years, the friendships formed.  For four years, she has sat out. 
Or, no, maybe she’s not new.  And, she’s pretty healthy.  But, for whatever reason, she’s kind of socially awkward.  For some kids, relationships come easily.  But not her; she has trouble picking up cues, knowing when to laugh.  She was kind of odd in 1st grade, and once that label stuck; no one dared risk befriending her.  They didn’t want to called odd too.  So, for four years, her friends have grown closer and closer in those monkey bar sessions.  New kids have even come, and blended right in seamlessly.  And for four years, she’s become more and more alone.  They think she wants to be alone, but no, she’s dieing inside.  She would like for nothing more in the world than for someone to come and say, “Join us.”  But they don’t.  They are all inside.  She is the outsider.
Does this only happen at recess?  Of course not.  Kids get excluded on little league teams, in church youth groups, in neighborhood.  Is this inside-outside dynamic in play only with kids?  It gets worse in middle school, and by high school, the popular kids are obvious.  They strut through the hallways.  The outsiders are invisible, sometimes even teachers overlook them.  As they enter adulthood, the popular kids exude confidence.  The not-so popular kids have trouble making it.
I am generalizing here.  On occasion, the popular kid experiences the pinnacle of his success in life while in high school and find rather rudely that the working world did not care that he was captain of the football team or that she was prom queen.  It’s not that rare for the awkward geeky 9th grader to blossom and become a great success in college and beyond.  The issue is people being included and others excluded – in-crowds, and those locked out of the “in-crowds.”  It is easy to spot on the playground, but just as often it occurs in the adult world, and there, it can hurt just as much.  In fact, adult who feel alone, left out, overlooked by the society around them might feel it much worse because they become resigned to the idea that whatever “cool” is, it is not them.  Whatever acceptance feels like, they don’t have it.  I have talked to adults who want more than anything for people around them to say, “Come, join us.”  But they don’t hear it.

A brief overview of the last half of Luke chapter 8 brings to us people who were excluded, kicked to the margins forgotten, and people who were very much the center of attention.  There is the demon-possessed man of the region called Garasenes.  With thousands of demons living in him, the man was a wild animal.  Naked, raving, he roamed among the tombs without human contact.  The people in the nearby town tried to bind him, but he ripped the chains.  He was like a dead man, no living person wanted anything to do with him.  He was feared, rejected, and alone. 
There is also in Luke 8 Jairus the synagogue leader.  He would have been a respected member of the community.  Everyone paid attention to the happenings of his life because he was such an important man.  So, when his 12-year-old daughter fell sick, and the ancient physicians determined that she would soon die, it became a topic of community concern.  When something happens to an insider, everyone notices.
However, in the midst of this insider’s story, we also meet an outsider – an unnamed woman.  Of course she would be unnamed; why would her name matter?  She didn’t matter.  She had an uncontrollable blood flow.  A gynecologist from Washington University, Lewis Wall, has written about this passage.  He believes the woman suffered from a condition where irregular and unpredictable her menstrual periods were irregular and unpredictable.  In most cases it is due to hormonal imbalance, and if untreated for 12 years – the Bible says she had suffered from the blood flow 12 years – then the woman would be infertile.  She couldn’t have children and because of the blood flow, she was ritualistically unclean.  She couldn’t join the community for worship.
Luke places side by side and even in overlapping fashion the stories of an outsider (the demon-possessed man), an insider (Jairus and his dieing daughter), and an outsider (the bleeding woman).  The outsiders had no hope that anyone would say, “Come, join us; be part of our group; we welcome you.”  But, we find something crucial for all of us in our summary of these stories, something that binds the insider and the outsiders.  This binds us to them and to one another as well.  All three desperately needed a touch from Jesus.  Every one of us needs Jesus too
The outsider needs to know he’s included.  The insider discovers that being accepted in social circles does not ensure a person he won’t suffer.  The ultimate insider, the synagogue leader, suffered anxiety and powerlessness and only Jesus could help.  Elsewhere in the gospel and New Testament, religious leaders like Joseph of Arimathea (a council member) and the Pharisee Saul (who would become the Apostle Paul) realized that being an insider isn’t all it is cracked up to be.  Like the rejects who found their only hope in Jesus, the insiders’ only hope for ultimate meaning and truly fellowship with God was and is in Jesus. 

The outsider-insider dynamic plays out on Mother’s Day.  The insider is the mom who has children who love her.  She gets to be with them on Mother’s Day – or if they are grown, they call and send cards and gifts.  They might even bring grandchildren over.  The woman is loved by her husband and surrounded by offspring who adore her.  It is wonderful and it is to be admired.  She’s done a great job with her family.  Today that mom should be celebrated.  There is much good about Mother’s Day, if you are an insider.
Not taking away from that, I hope every mother in that situation can celebrate all the joys of motherhood and at the same time come to understand that motherhood is not the highest good.  The highest good is to be a child of God through faith in Jesus Christ and to grow in that relationship daily through prayer, worship, Bible reading, and Christian service.  A friend recently, with great seriousness, said to me, “You cannot find your validation as a man in your wife.  The only one who can validate you is Jesus Christ.”  I would turn that to all the wonderful Moms around.  It’s awesome that you have great kids and grandkids.  I am happy that you are happy as a mom.  You cannot find your validation as a woman in the children you have raised who love you so much.  The only one who can validate you as a woman is Jesus Christ.  That’s true for the person who’s been a mother for 1 year and for the person who’s been a mother for 60.
That’s also true for those who are not celebrating Mother’s Day with joy.  Mother’s Day, for some, does lead to happy nostalgia, smile-producing reminiscing.  Perhaps someone is bitter because the relationship with his mother is soured.  The relationship with her mother is estranged.  A woman is alienated from her children.  It’s the first Mother’s Day after the divorce; after the death.  The pain of Mother’s Day is hard to capture because a woman feels maternity deep inside her, but she’s 40, and still single.  With the passing of each year, she’s more resigned to a future that includes loneliness marked by uncertainty and feelings that are evasive.  Each person for whom Mother’s Day produces tears not joy finds validation, meaning, and deeper joy in the same place as all the happy moms – in Jesus.  He’s inside the insider’s circle, but he looks out at all who struggle and weep through Mother’s Day; he looks out at those whose chin is bucked and shoulders squared, who won’t give in to the loneliness, who bravely try to put on a smile; he opens the insider’s circle, looks out and says, you there, you who are in such pain, come, join us.  You belong with us because you belong to me.

The doctor I mentioned, Lewis Wall wrote about the woman with the blood flow in an article in Christianity Today magazine.  Because the discharge of blood wise most likely tied to irregular menstruation, she probably had no children.  And this had gone on for 12 years.  “A 12-year stretch without a pregnancy would have been very unusual in ancient Galilee.  [Annual pregnancies were] commonplace.  It would have been almost unheard of to go 12 years without a pregnancy.”[i] 
The woman was unable to obey the command of God to be fruitful and multiply.  “She was thus cut off from something that gave her life meaning and provided her acceptable social status: motherhood.  To be infertile in a culture where motherhood was the supreme female virtue hung a cloud not only over her current life, but also over her future prospects.”  In great detail, Dr. Wall discusses how this situation made life debilitating and without hope for her in terms of health, in terms of social interaction, and in terms of future hope.  She was no one.  She knew it. Everyone knew it. 
Yet, she did not stand pat.  Her status as outsider was actually legally mandated.  If one touched her during her bloody discharge that person would become “unclean” and disqualified from temple worship.  Her rejection from normal society and thus relationships and human touch was law.  So, to force her way into a dense crowd was to break the law.  That’s what she did.  I don’t know if her move is best described as faith, determination, or desperation.  But, she covered up, forced her way in, went unnoticed, and violating all convention touched Jesus.
And it worked!  It worked because coming to Jesus is always the very best solution to a problem.  Don’t take that simplistically!  If someone has a cancerous tumor, it is not enough to turn to Jesus.  He must also get with an oncologist and maybe have surgery.  If someone is being sued, in addition to turning to Jesus, she should get a good lawyer.  The doctor will take care of the tumor.  The lawyer will guide us through the case.  Jesus is there to make sure it is well with our souls on the hard days, on the good days, and on the uncertain days.  The woman turned to Jesus and was healed.
Better still!  She managed to remain anonymous.  There many people and they were caught up in the excitement of all Jesus was doing.  They had no time for her and didn’t notice.  They didn’t see her violate the law.  She could slip away and clean up.  She would put on a new outfit, show herself to the priest, be declared clean, and start life again. 
This was perfect – but one did notice.  We are not ever out of God’s sight.  God is not, as Bette Midler sang watching from a distance.  God is up close and personal.  Things didn’t slip Jesus.  He noticed her.  He always notices outsiders.  You may feel like the biggest loser around, someone who fails at everything, but don’t believe it.  God notices you and me.  God made us.  God made you unique and God wants to fill your heart with His love.  As that happens, God will show you that your life is not a failure.  As we are filled with the Spirit, we see that God will work in us and through us to accomplish mighty things.
Jesus stopped the procession, the phalanx of people parading to watch as he healed Jairus’ daughter, as he worked yet another miracle.  Jesus stopped in the middle and looked out and called the outsider.  The woman had determinedly come and touched Jesus’ garment when his back was turned and no one was watching her.  Now, she trembled as she came and with all eyes on her explained her shame and why she had touched Jesus and what she had done.  Famed preacher Fred Craddock remarks “Faith is indeed personal, but it is certainly not private.”[ii]  As true as it was for that woman, it is equally so for all who trust in Jesus.  We are to tell who He is and what He has done for us and for all sinners.
The outsider, the now healed woman, explained herself and Jesus re-classified her on the spot.  The world she lived in called her “unclean” and relegated her to the forgotten fringes of society.  Jesus said, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.”  Daughter!  An outsider, this lady?  No, no!  The king of kings and lord of lords, God’s own son, our Savior, God in the flesh called her “daughter.”  He called her daughter and bid her “peace.”  All this woman had heard in her life was “keep out, you’re dirty, stay away.”  Now Jesus said, “Come, join us.  You are a daughter of God.  Welcome into the eternal family.  Your place is at the main table.”  She wasn’t just restored for human relationships, wonderful as that was.  She was invited as a child of God.

We are too.  Is Mother’s Day hard because of loss or broken relationships or unrealized dreams?  The gentle hands of Jesus are extended to you and he says, “Come, join us.” 
Do you feel awkward, like you can’t fit in, like everyone is laughing and you didn’t get the joke?  Jesus reaches to you in your loneliness and says, “Come, Son, join us.” 
Do you feel a pain you are sure no one else knows or understands?  You might be right.  No one else does understand what you’re dealing with.  But Jesus does.  He says, “Come, Daugher, join us.”
Do we dare believe him?  Do we dare accept that Jesus means it, he will truly love us?  Can we let go of our identity as the forgotten ones, the excluded ones, the losers?  Can we let go of the hate that’s been building, brick by brick, each time more person is cruel or indifferent?  Can we let go and run into Jesus’ waiting arms?
Twelve years is a long time to bleed.  A lifetime is a long time to spend as an outsider.  This is not a call to conformity.  Jesus was not a conformist.  This is an invitation to community – communion with God and God’s family.  This is God asking for relationship with you and me because he loves us.  That’s why Jesus came.  Representing God Father and the Holy Spirit, Jesus came to say, “Come, my friend.  Receive forgiveness of your sins.  Receive freedom from the consequences of sin and shame, failure and loneliness. Come to me as a beloved child of God.  Come, and join us.”

[i] Lewis Wall, “Jesus and the Unclean Woman,” Christianity Today, January, 2010, p.48-52.
[ii] Craddock, Fred, Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching: Luke (John Knox Press: Louisville, 1990), p.120.

The Unclean Woman in the 21st Century (Luke 8:43-48)

In 2010, I wrote a couple of Mother's Day messages on Luke 8:43-48.  It's the story of the woman with the unceasing blood flow who touches Jesus in a crowd and is healed.  In these two messages, which I post here and in the next post, I looked at those healed.  This Sunday (January 22, 2017), I will again look at Luke 8.  This time, the focus is on what we learn about God.  Here is the first of those messages.

The Unclean Woman in the 21st Century (Luke 8:43-48)
Sunday, May 9, 2010, Mother’s Day

          Imagine this.  You are a 14-year-old girl.  You’ve never been to school.  You were married to a man at age 13, and became pregnant 6 months later.  Now you are in labor.  Labor has already lasted three days.  At midday, on the fourth day of labor, you pass a still-born child.  Relieved, you think the madness and torture is over.  But on the fifth day, you discover to your horror that you have no control over your bodily functions.  No matter how much you wash, no matter why you try, you have no control.  You cannot get rid of the odor.
          Your husband is disgusted.  He cannot stand you.  Your presence is unendurable.  You were supposed to become the mother of his firstborn son.  Instead, this has happened.  It must be some punishment for something you have done.  So, he throws you out of the house. 
          Your parents take you in, but they can’t stand the sight or smell of you any more than he could.  They make you stay in a shack at the edge of the family compound.  Your condition does not improve.  With no control over your body, you always reek.  You are put out again, this time to fend for yourself. 
You are 14.  You illiterate and have no skills.  You just want to die.[i] 

Here’s what the girl in that unbelievably desperate situation doesn’t know.  There are approximately 3 to 4 million women who deal with the condition she has and the condition has a name - obstetric fistula.  “A fistula is simply a hole between an internal organ and the outside world that should not exist.  There are two primary causes of fistula in women in developing countries:  childbirth, causing obstetric fistula and sexual violence, causing traumatic fistula.”[ii]  This impoverished girl thinks her life is over and quite possibly it is her fault.  The problem is unique to her and so she bears the agony of being punished for some unknown sin.  In truth, for only a few hundred dollars, a surgical operation could repair the injury and restore her life.
Instead, she has been kicked to the curb, and herself believes that the curb, the gutter, the waste heap is where she belongs.  Lewis Wall is the professor of obstetrics/gynecology in the School of Medicine and professor of anthropology in the College of Arts and Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis.  He’s also on the board of directors of the World Wide Fistual Fund,  That website gives loads of information about fistula, about what women go through, and it gives ways concerned Christ-followers can pray and help. 
Another website with even more information is the site of the Fistula Foundation  There, Asosa, an 18-year-old young woman from Southern Ethiopia shares her story.

I studied in school until 7th grade. I helped my mother at home with housework, but I didn't have to carry too many heavy things.
I got married when I was 15. I met my husband for the first time on my wedding day. My parents chose him for me. I felt sad that I had to quit my education, but otherwise I liked my husband. He was a good man.
I got pregnant one year later. My pregnancy was fine. My labor started at three in the afternoon and my husband and my mother were with me. A traditional doctor told me to go to the hospital. I got a free letter from my kebele. I went to Asosa Hospital and they operated to take out the baby, but it was dead.
After the baby died, I went back to my village and two months later my husband married another woman. My friends were there to help me in the village. I lived with my mother. When I came to Fistula Hospital, I was very happy. I knew this was the place where I would get cured. It has been 15 days since my operation and now I am dry.
I have made friends here. We have fun together and we talk about our health and our operations. We ask each other, what will you do when you are cured?
When I am cured, I want to go back home and continue my education. I want to study and I want to become a doctor like the doctors here and help girls like me who have this problem.
When I go back to my village, I will tell other women to go immediately to a hospital so that they won't have a problem with their labor. Most people don't know that a hospital can help them, but if they knew, they'd go.[iii]

          The pains of those who deal with fistula are real, but isolated.  It’s easy for someone in the United States to not know and not care.  Obviously men don’t need to be concerned about it.  And women who live in industrialized nations and have access to modern medicine don’t have to worry either.  Obstetric fistula is a third world problem and there are so many third world problems. 
How can we care for them all? 
Jesus cares for them, and we – His church – are his body.  We make up the body of Christ.  What burdens His heart is to burden ours.
I had never heard of fistula until I read the wonderful book Hospital By the River.  It’s the story of two Australian Christians, doctors Reginald and Catherine Hamlin.  They answered the call of God to go to the mission field, specifically Ethiopia.  There, they treated numerous problems, but their specialty was care for women who had suffered fistula.  These women, and sometimes their parents (rarely their husbands), spent all the money they had to travel from remote villages to the capital, Addis Ababa, so they could be seen and treated by the Hamlins. 
When they were cured through the routine surgery, it was like a miracle had taken place.  These women Catherine Hamlin describes thought their lives were done, and then they had life again.  Over and over, women praised the Lord, and saw life with new eyes.  Many stayed and worked as nurses and administrative assistants in the hospital.  Their lives in the villages they left behind were over anyway.  Husbands rejected them, parents saw them as burdens, a shame on the family.  They didn’t contribute anything and so were often relegated to the status of unproductive animals.  Not all husbands and parents were so calloused and cruel, but many were.  No one gave these women much hope. 
That complete rejection is what caught my eye as I thought about the Gospel, and as I thought about preaching on Mother’s Day.   
Luke 8:43-48 says,
As he went, the crowds pressed in on him. 43Now there was a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years; and though she had spent all she had on physicians, no one could cure her. 44She came up behind him and touched the fringe of his clothes, and immediately her hemorrhage stopped. 45Then Jesus asked, “Who touched me?” When all denied it, Peter said, “Master, the crowds surround you and press in on you.” 46But Jesus said, “Someone touched me; for I noticed that power had gone out from me.” 47When the woman saw that she could not remain hidden, she came trembling; and falling down before him, she declared in the presence of all the people why she had touched him, and how she had been immediately healed. 48He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.”

          The connecting point for the woman came when Jesus called her “daughter.”  It says in verse 44, “immediately, here hemorrhage stopped.”  At that point, she was anonymous.  The crowd was so dense they did not notice her steal into the midst of them and touch Jesus.  Her bleeding condition rendered her ritualistically unclean.  By law she was cut off from society.  She couldn’t be in normal relationships because if anyone touched her, they too would become unclean.  She couldn’t go to temple or synagogue.  She was a “reject” in every way describable. 
          Yet, her gamble worked.  Violating law and convention, she made her way unnoticed through the crowd and touched Jesus.  Upon grasping his clothes, she was healed.  She could then wash up and present herself to the priest.  She’d be a part of society once again. 
          But Jesus didn’t leave it at a simple healing.  No healing is complete in his eyes until the broken spirit is healed.  She needed more than just her ailment corrected.  She needed to know that though everyone around her treated her like she was a piece of nasty garbage, God loved her.  In shame and despair, God saw her, was with her, and was for her. 
That point is driven home the moment Jesus calls her “daughter.”  The most legalistically minded among the Pharisees would have called her a lawbreaker.  Jesus called her daughter and commended her faith.  He also bid her “peace.” 
Peace in the Jewish sense is so much more than a simple absence of conflict.  It is wholeness, shalom.  The idea of shalom is that all right between a person and her neighbors and a person and her God.  Jesus called this troubled soul “daughter,” and he bid her “peace.”
This is what Jesus does for all people; you, me, everyone.  The Biblical lesson about an afflicted person and Jesus meeting her in her pain, at her lowest, most desperate point speaks into our lives because Jesus does the same for us.  When we seek him, force our way through obstacles to touch him, and have faith in him, he responds with love and grace.  And our lives change forever.
The woman didn’t suddenly have an easy life because she was healed.  Dr. Wall says of modern fistula sufferers who do not have access to treatment, “They are seen as hopeless, drifting to the margins of society where they live lives of misery, isolation, worsening poverty and malnutrition, unloved, unwanted, and alone.”[iv]  If a Christian ministry, reaching out in the name of Jesus identifies these women and helps them get treatment, they don’t pop right onto their feet and live meaningful, self-sufficient lives the day after the surgery.  The healed woman didn’t have an easy street the moment she heard the Master call her “daughter.” 
She did though have peace of mind because she knew without a doubt that God was on her side.  She did have a reason to live a purposeful life – she had been blessed by Jesus.  She would, from that point going forward, need a new community of people of faith to embrace and welcome her.  She most likely joined the ranks of Jesus’ women disciples (see “daughters of Jerusalem,” Luke 23:27-28).  Those who followed him would be a group on the fringes of society, but though they along with the male disciples were marginalized, it was they the Holy Spirit filled at Pentecost.
Similarly, the women healed of fistula will often need the church to help them find employment, and maybe a place to live.  Many will need the church to become their family, a source of friendship and emotional and social support.  It’s true of any group or individual today rescued from the brink of destruction by Jesus working through his body, the church. 
We help the alcoholic put the bottle down.  We must then help him get on his feet and discover God’s purpose in his life.  We help the person struggling with depression find joy and a loving community.  We then need to help that one move into a productive, sustainable joy that lasts throughout life.  We help each other through times of crisis and provide community and family as brothers and sisters in Christ.  We are there for one another in good times and in bad.  And, the church is always open, ready to enthusiastically welcome whomever we would deem to be the lowly, the outcast, the bleeding woman.  Just as the hurting soul can find hope in hearing Jesus call him “son” or her “daughter, he or she can find that hope in God’s people, the church. 
The connecting point for us is we are as broken as anyone.  The Wall Street banker and the starving child in a poor country have this in common: both are lost without Jesus.  But, both are saved when they recognize their own condition (of being lost apart from God), and turn to Jesus in repentance and in faith.  He welcomes and saves both.  AMEN

[i] Wall, L. Lewis, “Jesus and the Unclean Woman,” Christianity Today, January 2010, p.48-52.
[ii] The Fistula Foundation website,
[iv] Wall, Christianity Today, p.52.