Miracles of Resistance

Miracles of Resistance
Mark 5:21-43
Rev. Liz Kearny
Longview Presbyterian Church
June 27th, 2021

Today’s sermon is going to look a little different. Because this is our last planned time to worship entirely on Zoom as a church family, before re-gathering in a hybrid in-person/Zoom model next Sunday, I want us to take this opportunity to use this passage as a time to reflect on how it intersects with our own lives. If you feel able to participate through the chat when I prompt you for words or phrases that come to your mind, I hope you’ll do so! I’ll be able to read your chat responses out loud during the times we are reflecting together. You can also have a paper and something to write with handy if it is easier for you to journal on your own. Or, you can simply reflect in the quiet of your own heart. 

Listen now as we hear the word of God from the gospel according to Mark, chapter 5, beginning at verse 21:

“21 When Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a great crowd gathered round him; and he was by the lake. 22Then one of the leaders of the synagogue named Jairus came and, when he saw him, fell at his feet 23and begged him repeatedly, ‘My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well, and live.’ 24So he went with him.

And a large crowd followed him and pressed in on him. 25Now there was a woman who had been suffering from haemorrhages for twelve years. 26She had endured much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had; and she was no better, but rather grew worse. 27She had heard about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, 28for she said, ‘If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well.’ 29Immediately her haemorrhage stopped; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. 30Immediately aware that power had gone forth from him, Jesus turned about in the crowd and said, ‘Who touched my clothes?’ 31And his disciples said to him, ‘You see the crowd pressing in on you; how can you say, “Who touched me?” ’ 32He looked all round to see who had done it. 33But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling, fell down before him, and told him the whole truth. 34He said to her, ‘Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.’

35 While he was still speaking, some people came from the leader’s house to say, ‘Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the teacher any further?’ 36But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the leader of the synagogue, ‘Do not fear, only believe.’ 37He allowed no one to follow him except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James. 38When they came to the house of the leader of the synagogue, he saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. 39When he had entered, he said to them, ‘Why do you make a commotion and weep? The child is not dead but sleeping.’ 40And they laughed at him. Then he put them all outside, and took the child’s father and mother and those who were with him, and went in where the child was. 41He took her by the hand and said to her, ‘Talitha cum’, which means, ‘Little girl, get up!’ 42And immediately the girl got up and began to walk about (she was twelve years of age). At this they were overcome with amazement. 43He strictly ordered them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat.”

This is the Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God. 

The common thread that runs through this flurry of healings is that at every moment, Jesus resists the expectations of those around him. At every turn, Jesus is firmly rooted in God’s way of being in the world, and when he bumps up against the forces that surround him, sparks of his resistance begin to fly. 

At first, I thought the healing of the woman who was bleeding and the raising of this little girl had nothing in common. But they do, actually. And I think Mark wants us to pick up on it, because I noticed that the woman had been bleeding for twelve years, and the little girl was twelve years old. What these two people have in common is that almost all the people around them believed they were a lost cause. What we know about the woman who was bleeding is that she had been dealing with this horrendous medical condition for over a decade, and that she had seen doctor after doctor, who continued taking her money til it was gone, to no avail. There were no more doctors to consult. There was nowhere else to turn.

It was the same with Jairus’ community, the father of this little girl. They didn’t just come to report that the girl had died. They also told Jairus, “Why trouble the teacher any further?” And when Jesus came to their home and said, “Why do you make a commotion and weep? The child is not dead but sleeping,” the people who had gathered to grieve laughed him out of the room. 

Let’s reflect together. Feel free to write, reflect silently, or share in the chat your answer to these questions: What’s something or someone you or the people around you have decided is a lost cause? Is there a situation in your world where you have given up hope that healing or wholeness could be possible?

Reflection time…

As you hold these various situations in your mind’s eye, and in your heart, consider this: Jesus resisted the narrative that anyone is past the point of healing. When the woman who was bleeding reached out to touch him, he immediately stopped and tended to her, believing in stubborn faith right along with her that it was possible for her to be whole. 

And when Jairus’ community laughed out of the room the possibility that his daughter could once again live, Jesus persisted to her bedside, and lifted her up with a touch and a word and made sure she got something to eat. Jesus is embodying what Black liberation leader Angela Davis was known to say: “You have to act as if it were possible to radically transform the world. And you have to do it all the time.” Even if healing or wholeness don’t look like what you expected, what would it look like for you to join Jesus in resisting the narrative of hopelessness in the situations that the Spirit brought to your mind? What would it look like in your life to act as if it were possible to radically transform the world? If it feels too hard to resist hopelessness in this moment, rest in the knowledge that Jesus will resist for you, until you feel ready to take up hope again.

Another expectation facing Jesus in this story is the idea of scarcity, the idea that there’s not enough for everyone. Sure, this woman who was bleeding reached out to touch Jesus, but Jesus was on the way to another house to help somebody else. In this frenzied, hectic, crowded moment, almost no one there could imagine that it would be possible for everyone to get what they needed. There wasn’t enough time. There wasn’t enough of Jesus to go around. There wasn’t enough. 

Time to reflect again. Put in the chat, write on your paper, or reflect in your heart on these questions: Where does this idea of scarcity show up in your life, in our community, or in this world? Where have you encountered the idea that there’s only so much healing and wholeness and sustenance and provision to go around and that there isn’t enough for everyone, for those you love, for you? 

Reflection time…

Jesus met these moments of perceived scarcity with abundance. He could have rushed away from the woman who reached out to touch him. He could have said, “there’s not enough time, I have to keep moving to help this other person who needs me.” He could have simply gone with the flow of the crowds pushing him and pressing him, telling him that he had to choose one person’s wholeness over the other. But Jesus would not be locked into either/or thinking. Instead, he immediately stopped. He tuned into this woman who had reached out in stubborn faith. He rooted himself in the abounding creativity of a God who never runs out of ideas, who never runs short of time, and he allowed the present moment to be everything. 

As you consider the ways that scarcity has its hold on you, your loved ones, or our world, what would it look like to join Jesus in resisting that scarcity with the reality of God’s abundance?

And the final expectation that faced Jesus in this story is the idea that the only changes that matter are the big ones. You’ll notice that none of these miracles take place with fire descending from heaven or the earth quaking beneath their feet or with great flashes of light to say, “Hey everyone! A miracle’s happening over here!” Don’t miss the fact that the means of these miracles were simple, unremarkable, and steeped in the everyday. The touch of the hem of Jesus’ robe. Jesus slowing down to give the woman who was bleeding his undivided attention. Jesus holding the little girl’s hand and telling her to get up. Jesus making sure someone got the little girl something to eat. Jesus’ acts of resistance to the lies of hopelessness and scarcity were not grand and sweeping. They were ordinary and simple, even in their revolutionary resistance. Perhaps Jesus knew that the grand realities of liberation God longs for in this world start at the smallest scale, in our consistent, faithful, everyday actions. Maybe what mattered wasn’t the size of the action, but rather Jesus’ steady, unwavering commitment to resist the expectations of the status quo. Maybe the miracles of this passage were birthed from the simple, small ways that Jesus chose to resist at every juncture. And maybe, this can also be true for us. 

Think back to those situations you’ve reflected on or shared about in this time, the places you’ve felt hopelessness, the places you’ve felt trapped in the lie of scarcity. Put in the chat, write down, or reflect on this question silently: How is God calling you, calling us to tiny acts of resistance in our lives right now? What, in the most concrete words you can find, do those little ways of resisting hopelessness and scarcity look like for you? 

Reflection time…

Pray with me…

God of hope, Source of abundance,
We bring to you the ways we have been wounded, 
And the places in our hearts that have been locked in the cages of despair and fear. 
Thank you that you resist expectations and meet us where we are with tenderness, care, and power. 
Show us how to join you in the resistance, the birthplace of miracles.
Amen.

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