Tag: Community

Something to Eat

2 Corinthians 8:7-15 Jesus-touched-woman-touching-Jesus-Divine-Healing
Mark 5:21-43

What lengths would you go for healing?

For yourself?

For your child?

For today’s unnamed woman, she was willing to risk everything. She’d already paid all her money. She’d lost all her dignity as doctor after doctor and healer after healer failed to help her. Twelve years ago – maybe from childbirth – she began to bleed from below the waist and for twelve years the life has leeched out of her. This has meant for 12 years she has been dead, cut off, unable to attend religious functions or be among the community because any woman who is bleeding is supposed to stay home until she stops. It was customary – a way to keep the community clean. Much like today day cares say you should you’re your kid home for 24 hours if they have a fever, or hospitals ask if you’ve traveled out of country recently, and if so, isolated. These are preventative measures to keep the community clean.

But imagine if that temporary cleansing time wasn’t a few hours or days… but lasted months… years… over a decade of isolation. Over a decade of people avoiding you so they wouldn’t be contaminated and need to be in isolation too.

And here this woman is. In the crowd. Contaminating all these people, per se. She doesn’t tell them. She sneaks. Who would let her through to embarrass the rabbi with lady problems? Who would let her make him ritually unclean?

If caught, what will happen? Will they stone her, kill her, for violating the social rules? Will they cast her out of the city and make her a beggar, or made to wander the desert until she died of thirst? Will they arrest her, take her from her family, and deport her?

She risks it all just for a chance at a better life.

Just for a chance of healing.

Chance of grace — unearned favor.

She touches just the hem, the barest edge, of Jesus’ clothes and feels — FEELS — the change in her. Just that smallest touch has brought her back to life and among the living!

Jesus FEELS the change, too.

“WHO HAS TOUCHED ME?”

“Everyone is touching you, what do you mean ‘who has touched you’? It’s a crowd! It’s crowded!”

And Jesus glared at the crowd.

So much for not embarrassing the rabbi. So much for keeping his honor intact. So much for sneaking in the crowd and not letting them know of the unclean, unwelcomed one among them. So much for getting away with her newly given life. What will the crowd do to this woman – now that she’s stolen from the rabbi AND contaminated him? Death will be merciful.

She so easily could have ran away then. Saved her life. But she chooses to give in, and in giving her life away, saves it.

She falls down before Jesus and tells him the whole truth – every gory detail – every failed doctor, every penny spent, every place she’s been not welcomed. She tells him way, way too much until the people around him are uncomfortable. She confesses her theft, and guilt, wholly to the one she offended, the one she is indebted to.

And he forgives her debts. Forgives her sins. Her trespasses. “Daughter, your faith has made you well.” Faith – trust – confession – reconciliation –has cleansed her of her sins. It is well with her soul. “Go in peace and be healed.”

With a full confession, this woman is given more mercy than she ever dreamed was possible. She is not just physically healed, but spiritually, too. And directly forgiven by the one she did wrong to. She is wholly returned to life after 12 years of dying.

But that’s not the whole story today.

Jesus in this crowd had been heading to Jarius’ house where his 12 year old daughter is deathly ill.

How far is Jarius willing to go for healing for his child? What will he risk?

Everything.

He comes to the folk healer Jesus, whom Jarius’ own peers are ridiculing, to save not his first son or any son — but a daughter, a child that is considered not to have much worth in society. And not any daughter who has given him grandsons… but his 12 year old daughter, who is just ready to begin her menses, not even a full woman. See the ties to the previous woman, here? Jarius will risk his job, his reputation, and therefore his livelihood and life to save the life of his little girl.

But it is too late.

Jesus paused, helped an outsider, a stranger, a thief… and now the little innocent girl is dead.

Can you feel the crowd’s anger? Don’t bother the rabbi.

Over at the house, the crowd is crying. Hope is lost. The miracle was stolen by that dirty woman.

Jesus, however, tells them there is no need to weep – the girl is only asleep. He tells Jarius “Do not fear, only believe!”

But the crowd laughs him out.

To the sound of their jeers, Jesus takes the little girls’ mom and dad, and his closest friends, into the house. Over the sound of the crowd mocking, maybe getting angry with that woman, or angry with Jesus for being too late, over all that chaos Jesus goes into the quiet room with the dead child. And he touches her — breaking the social taboo of not touching the dead. Making himself unclean. An outsider. And he whispers to her not in some strange language, but in their native tongue – their own dialect – little girl, get up!

And she does. Back from the dead. Healed. Alive.

Oh death, where is your sting?

Oh God, who truly has endless grace — no one can steal another’s place with you!

God is so generous, so full of life, so extravagant that there is healing enough for all. There is love enough for all. There is life enough for all.

Don’t fear. Only believe.

Don’t be stingy, don’t doubt, don’t jeer. Be generous. Be optimistic. Be encouraging.

Paul’s letter to the Corinthians is telling them that the reason they are so affluent, so well off, so that they can help others. Gifts are meant to be shared! Talents are meant to be shared! Miracles are meant to be shared! Food is meant to be shared.

Around this table Jesus sets for us, we share. We share our joys. We share our woes. We share our hopes. We share our shames. We share a body – that is old and young, healthy and unhealthy, saintly and fallen. We share extravagantly and proclaim it is open for one, and all, and everyone who wishes to begin anew their life with Christ and with one another in the name of Christ. We proclaim every sin confessed is wholly forgiven for God’s mercy’s are endless. God’s welcome is endless. God’s love is endless.

How far are you willing to go for healing?

For a clear conscious and a well soul?

Are you willing to apologize to the ones you have wronged?

It’s something to chew on, to eat.

Amen.

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Come to the Water

Isaiah 55:1-51d126d3b6847e371ad47b1ce001f1437
Matt. 14:13-21

There was a farmer with a problem. A problem you may have too – his barn was full. It wasn’t rubbish and trash, it was things he needed. Like… there was the tall ladder. He needed it five or six times a year to clean out the house gutters, replace some light bulbs, and do minor repairs. And there was the post hole digger. Every time the septic got funky, he needed that to dig down to the cap. And what if he ever needed to replace one of the fence posts? The leaf rake. Needed every fall. And another leaf rake – it was a good deal on clearance last spring. The first rake might break. And a good lot of other little things you and I both know are just needed to keep a farm going. But all together, it filled up his barn.

And he had a neighbor who had a problem. His neighbor’s barn was full. And it, too, wasn’t rubbish! No, there was a tall ladder, a post hole digger, two leaf rakes, and lots of useful little things.

And the neighbor’s neighbor had a problem… you guessed it! Their barn was full…. with a ladder, and a post hole digger and…

I have a problem. My barn is full.

You know, if any one of us lived all alone, on a homestead, in the middle of no where… with no neighbors… I’d suggest building a second barn. Useful things should be kept!

But… that farmer had neighbors… I have neighbors… you have neighbors… and there’s really little reason for four houses side-by-side to have eight leaf rakes unless someone is starting a lawn care business; or four large ladders that are only used a few hours each year.

It makes a lot more sense for them to share. Maybe they only need one ladder, or two. It’s thinking in terms of scarcity, rather than generosity, that has made their barns full.

See, I super empathize with the man in the Bible Jesus speaks about who finds his bumper crops fully fill up his barn, and so he has to build a second. I mean, that’s what I think when I look at my full barn and know each thing is useful. I know I am going to need that ladder and that rake. I think in terms of rarity, scarcity, not having enough. I think like I am on a homestead where my nearest neighbor is a ten hour drive away.

I empathize with the disciples today who see they have five loaves and two fish among the twelve of them, and are looking at a crowd of 5000 hungry men, and their wives, and all their kids.

I empathize with people who say it is hopeless to start conserving water or resources now, when they look at how little they use versus a McMansion or heavy industry.

I empathize with people who ask ‘what will my two dollars do if donated to world hunger?’ when two bucks barely covers a loaf of bread, and it sure isn’t getting you milk and bread.

Scarcity is real. Needing things is real.

But it is also in our heads. How scarce, how needed, is all up here in our minds.

The Isaiah prophet and messiah prophet Jesus challenge us to change our minds.

Everyone who thirsts, come to the waters! Everyone thirsts. That is a real need!
Jesus saw the crowd and had compassion on them. He cured their sick. They have real needs!

But everyone is invited. To both of these events.
You who have no money, come.
You who are weary, come.
You who are rich, come.
You who are healthy, come.

Not just the basics Jesus offers – but RICH food. And SOUL food. And extravagant abundance. Thinking in terms of abundance, rather than scarcity, the Isaiah writer proclaims money is useless. Worthless. God has so much to give to people and money can’t buy any of it. Thinking in terms of abundance, rather than scarcity, Jesus says and then demonstrates God’s way of working miracles in the world: where the smallest things become the largest, and enough for everyone.

Like the mustard seed.
Like the least of these.
Like the widow’s two pennies.
Like five loaves and two fishes.

Thinking in abundance means there is enough for everyone.

The four neighbors, if they think in abundance, they will realize they can share their tools and everyone will have the tools they need, and have space in their barns.

If I and my neighbors thought in abundance rather than scarcity, could we even reach the point where we share gardens? Homes? Lives?

What a challenge God sets before us. God demonstrates it again and again. But it is against our culture. Against our survival instincts. We are greedy because greed tends to get us ahead in life… but we don’t live on bread alone. We need more than food and water, shelter and space. We need these things, yes… but they alone do not satisfy.

Satisfaction comes from meeting our basic needs for health, security, nourishment… and then meeting our spiritual needs of steadfast love, rich soul food, mercy, hope, forgiveness, COMMUNITY.

When I think in scarcity, I think ‘I only have enough canned up for a month or two,’ ‘I only have a single paycheck in the bank’ ‘I only have 24 hours in a day.’

When I think in abundance, I think, ‘I have more food than I can eat in a meal. Join me.’ ‘I have more money than I need. I can share.’ ‘I have 24 hours in a day. I have plenty of time for you.’

The first places me in worry and fret, fear and anger. The second places me in joy and gratefulness, generosity and love.

The first is seeing the cup half empty, and fearing God will not provide.

The second is seeing the cup half full, and knowing God will provide. Overflow the cup, even.

Come. Buy. Eat. Listen. Delight. See. This is Life.

Thinking in scarcity isn’t living. Isn’t satisfying. It is existing, but it isn’t living.

Living is delighting in God. Seeing God in action. Listening to God. Coming to God, buying without money all that God offers, and eating the Bread of Life. Taking God’s wisdom and ways and forgiveness and love into our bodies, and living The Way of Jesus.

Extravagant welcome, outrageous abundance, ever-renewing life — these are the signs of the New Creation. These are the signs Heaven is near.

Come this morning, taste and see, listen and live!

We are given in abundance.

Amen.

What I see…

cygnusTo be published in the Towne Crier, Aug 2016.

Hebrews 11:1-3 NRSV
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Indeed, by faith our ancestors received approval. By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was made from things that are not visible.

Every fall, I go out and really watch the stars. I lie on my back and watch long enough to see the Cygnus constellation rise and fall; and I get lost in the wonder of the universe. I lie there and think: this sky is made of molecules which I can’t see, but which I breathe. And a single molecule is one-billionth to one ten-billionth of a meter, impossible to see without some kind of magnification. Those molecules break into atoms which break into a nucleus and electrons, down to protons and neutrons, and further still into quarks- the smallest things we can measure right now. When I watch the night sky I see the great huge universe, and what I see is made of far, far more of which I can’t see.

In Hebrews, I don’t think Paul had molecules and atoms in mind when he wrote about a universe made of invisible things. Paul was writing of other invisible things God joins together to make up the universe. Things like the relationships that bind us: one quirky friend to another; and friends join as lovers to make nuclear families and households; and households gather to make atom-like communities; who make the molecules we call churches, and these tiny pieces together make the Body of Christ.

I can’t see or measure the great scale of the universe; nor the Body of Christ. But I am convinced the invisible hand of God is active on all scales big and small.

Who Are We?

Psalm 8

Hebrews 1:1-4; 2:5-12

Our Psalmist asks — who are we that God would care for us?

James Taylor paraphrased our Psalm today into common English. He wrote,

“My God, my God,
how wonderful you are!
There is nothing like you in the whole earth.

I look up to the skies, and I see you there;
Babies and infants open their mouths,
and I hear them cry your name.
Compared to you, our weapons, our bombs,
our power to destroy,
dwindle into insignificance.
On a starry night, with your glory splashed across the skies,
I gaze into your infinite universe, and I wonder:
Who am I?
Why do I matter?
Why do you care about mere mortals?

We humans are less than specks of dust in your universe.
We have existed less than a second in the great clock of creation.
Yet you choose us as your partners.
You share the secrets of the universe with us;
you give us a special place in your household;
you trust us to look after the earth, on your behalf—
not just the sheep and oxen,
but also the wolves that prey on our domestic animals;
the birds, the plants, and even creatures we have never seen
in the depths of the sea.

My God, my God! How amazing you are.”

Sometimes, I wonder the same things the Psalmist and Taylor do –

Who am I?
Why do I matter?
Why do you, God, care about mere mortals?

If we’re raised thinking humans are de facto rulers over the earth, this question doesn’t really bother us. Who are we? We’re humans – that’s what! Rulers. We have dominion.
But if you stop and think about it… like the author of Hebrews does… we humans don’t actually have dominion over the earth.

Hurricanes ruin our homes and take lives.

Floods take our crops and homes and lives.

Wild fires, tornadoes, bitterly cold winters — even the melting ice caps — we influence a lot, but actually having dominion? Actually having full control?

No. We’re powerful, but not all powerful in the least.

None of us can stop the sun from rising or death from coming. We are mortal.

Our mortality really strikes home when I look at a time-line of the Earth. If earth was a 24 hour day, life began here around 4 in the morning. It’s not until 2 in the afternoon cells develop. Seaweed shows up around 8:30, land plants at 9:52. Dinosaurs begin to roam the Earth around 10:56 pm. Mammals around 11:39. The very last minute and a half — 11:58:43– humans appear. My own life of 28 years is .0000268 seconds on this 24 hour clock. Over ten thousand times than a blink of an eye which is .3 of a second. On this scale, even the pyramids are young. Stonehenge was made a blink ago. One blink ago people learned how to grow crops for the very first time and to make pots out of clay.

We humans, on the scale of this earth, are mere hundreds of seconds. Dinosaurs are minutes. God spent hours and hours on rocks! Hours and hours on making the moon! We… aren’t even a blink yet.

… and our planet it young. Our planet isn’t a blink to the universe.

… Who are we, that God — God who has spent more time than we can wrap our heads around on ROCKS — on planets we’ll never see and stars that were born, lived, and died before life even existed on earth — who are we that we matter to God who created all of this?!

How can the Psalmist say we’re in control of all of this?

The authors of Hebrew is looking at the world about 60 years after Jesus died. He sees a world much like our own – waiting on Jesus’ return, continue on as it always has, bad stuff still happening, people still sinning, and a whole lot of stuff outside of human control. We cannot even control the results of our actions! How often has a good intention caused really bad consequences?

Yet our psalm says God made us in charge of all of this; and in Genesis we’re told we’re stewards of the Earth… but the author of Hebrews argues we clearly aren’t in charge. There’s so, so much that happens we’d rather not happens. I mean, if I were in charge, there’d be no more cancer, there’d be peace among all the nations, and no one would have too much or too little.

So the Hebrews author argues the mortal who was made lower than the angels for a little while who will be in full charge in the future is Jesus. Clearly he was mortal, argues the author of Hebrews, for Jesus suffered and died. People are still alive – very elderly at this point – but when Timothy or whoever writes this, there are still people alive who remember Jesus dying. They were kids then, but they remember.

So Jesus was mortal. Yet clearly he was also more than mortal, since Jesus is the reflection of God’s glory, and a exact imprint of who God is, and sustains us with his powerful word.

Why a mortal? Why not send Jesus as an angel, or a spirit? Why a lowly mortal? Who are we that God would have God’s own spirit and image in our tiny little fragile frame?

Neither author in today’s reading – the author of Hebrews or the Psalmist—answers why us. Instead, they end in praise that we are the children of God. We never earned this, but we can respond to it.

We don’t have full control over all of the world. We do not yet see the master plan, the reason God notices and made we tiny, tiny humans.

What we do see is Jesus.

And in Jesus, we see God.

And we see that God made all things, sustains all things, and loves all things.

We see we all have one creator, one parent, one source whom we all come from.

The rocks and trees, the fish and birds, the distant galaxies and stars and moon — even the angels and our beloved Jesus… we all have one Father.

Or mother, or parent, or grandmother, or grandfather, or whatever human term you use to think of the one who loves you the most like a parent loves a child: a perfect love, a deep love, a love that only God contains but which we try to explain in human terms.

How limited we are to explain our encounter with God. We are babes. Infants. And yet, God listens. Listens and loves.

How befitting is this passage on World Communion Sunday. Today we affirm we share a single faith with Christians everywhere. Those who have passed, and those who are yet to be, those who are here and those who are scattered about the world.

We all have one sacrament. We are a community. We commune together. We all have one God we know through Jesus. We all share one Holy Spirit. Let us come in humbleness, in joy, in great worship and love to this holy meal with our God, our Sovereign, and our brother Jesus, and all our brothers and sisters around the world. Amen.

Given to St. Michael’s United Church of Christ 10-4-15