Some days you have a sense of history.
Having just come back from vacation, part and parcel of visiting any new place is to get a sense of its history, what are the forces that have made this place the way it is?
So you cannot visit Halifax, Nova Scotia without understanding that it was “New Scotland.” It was a place shaped by the sea, and proud military tradition, its history of being a waystation for military forces, from the early days of the Revolutionary War to the pivotal roll it played in WW1 and WW2 for the Atlantic convoys.
You also can’t understand the culture there without learning about the “Explosion of Halifax” in 1917, the largest explosion in the history of humankind up until the development of the atomic bomb, and the devastation wrought.
You have a sense of history, this is what shaped this place, and you wonder what life must have been like for those people who had to live through those events of the past.
In the gospel for this day, we are given a glimpse into a moment in time, a sense of history. This is a carefully constructed and tightly balanced story meant to give us a feel for that time.
The events revolve around two women, one with an infirmity that has excluded her from community for 12 years.
Another, who is just about to enter the community, nearing puberty, also 12 years, but who may not ever get there because of her illness.
And thrown into this mix are the details of Jesus now coming back from gentile territory, back amongst his own people, surrounded by crowds, sought out by a synagogue leader because of the controversial healing he had done there earlier.
We get this “slice of the moment” of that day.
We can sense the desperation of a parent wanting to save his daughter.
We can experience through this woman with the blood flow both the desperation to be healed, for she’s spent everything on doctors who have only made her worse; and the sense of despair of her knowing that there is no way she can simply come to Jesus, as Jairus has done, and just ask, given her unclean condition.
We get the details of a crowd that is confused about what to make of this. We have disciples who think Jesus is crazy for stopping. We get a “moment of truth” face down between Jesus and the woman when she comes clean and confesses, and wonder what Jesus’ response will be?
We get the grief and agony of things poorly timed. The news, “Your daughter is dead, why trouble the teacher any further?”
We get the disbelief and dismissiveness of mourners who laugh at Jesus when he says “she’s only sleeping.”
We get the shock of our lives when the unbelievable happens, and Jesus calls the little girl back to life, and then does the equivalent of saying, “give her a cookie” at the end. Life goes on, make sure the poor girl has something to eat.
This is a moment in time, a slice of history, and we are given the opportunity to enter into it through Mark’s Gospel, where we can turn it over and look at it from various sides, making sense of it as best we can.
We know that at the center of this story is Jesus.
Jesus is moving.
Jesus is acting and directing things.
But, we also recognize that Jesus is also being acted upon. He finds himself having to respond, and really, make up a few things as he goes along here. His intention to help Jairus is interrupted by the woman in need.
For me, that is the gospel, the “good news” in all of this.
I could spend all day analyzing what I think each of the characters in this story might have been thinking, feeling, experiencing. There is value in that for it lets you enter the story.
But in the end, what I really get is a sense of this moment in time; and an assurance that Jesus is sometimes mysteriously and sometimes clearly in the middle of it all as it unfolds.
That is good news for me this week, because my friends, it has been quite a past couple of weeks! Some days you have an opportunity to live into history, and to experience it as it unfolds, and to ponder what this moment will mean for you. Just look at the slice of history into which we are privileged to experience together, to “live into.”
We have mourned the loss of our own in the events of Charleston, where an ELCA Lutheran entered Mother Emmanuel AME and shot and killed nine people, one of whom was a pastor who had been trained at our ELCA Southern seminary. They were shot in the middle of a bible study.
We ask, “How could this be?”
We look at the pictures of Dylan Roof holding that confederate flag, and think to ourselves of the other pictures that must be out there. There must be pictures of him at bible camp. There must be pictures of him at the annual Christmas program, VBS, and at his confirmation.
Pictures of one who attended our sister church, and who attended Sunday school using our curriculum, and who had heard the story of Jesus and yet still somehow succumbed to another message than that of the Gospel.
We feel in these events the weight of the truth of John’s Gospel, where Jesus commented to Nicodemus, “And this is the judgement, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil.”
We wonder aloud what could have been done, and then in the midst of that wonder what it is that we need to do right now ourselves?
We have watched how in the wake of this event how the old sin of racism raised its ugly head and revealed itself to us, and through us. We are living into a time when old symbols are being rejected, or battled over, or poo-pooed by those who currently enjoy stations of privilege in our society. We are made poignantly aware of the truth that we regularly proclaim here in worship. We are indeed “in bondage to sin and cannot free ourselves.”
We have watched as healing words were spoken, and challenges were made, and we marveled at a community that could open its arms to our Bishop to be there to mourn and grieve with them, recognizing we all need to come together.
We have been eye-witness to two Supreme Court decisions that have changed the landscape of the nation.
Health care really is a fundamental right, and not just a privilege for those who can afford to pay.
Marriage equality under the law is now the law of the land, so that those who lived under the tyranny of being second class status and the uncertainty that it brought with it can now breathe free, at least on the note of legal recognition.
We are, in short, living into history, and like the events of the Gospel, it is a bit uncomfortable.
For some there is great rejoicing at what has taken place.
For others, there is disappointment and confusion and difficulty.
Still others are bewildered at how any of this really changes anything. How it affects them, or how to respond to it all.
I would really like a world where things are clear.
I would really like a world where injustice was easy spot, easy to address, and where my own complacency, collusion in it, or culpability could be dismissed or absolved.
Make it easy for me, would you Jesus?
But in this slice of history that we have from the Gospel of Mark, it is clear that the presence of Jesus does not bring suddenly clarity.
If anything, it brings more confusion.
How can the dead be raised to life?
How can the one who has no right to touch his clothing be rewarded and restored, while the disciples are left out of the conversation?
How could Jesus assent to the privileged, go with Jairus without question, given the reception he’d had at the synagogue earlier? Wouldn’t Jesus have been entitled to a little rubbing of the nose? We surely would have wanted our pound of flesh before doing any favors for a synagogue leader we know is plotting to kill us!
These are the mysteries of what it is to have Jesus walking with you.
No one is in lock-step in these stories, all have to figure out what to do with the events, the actions, and the reactions of God to the events as they unfold.
Everyone is trying to figure out as best they can what this grace of God that now walks amongst us is all about, and how it works. Where it calls us to partner with it in action, and where we have only to accept it and let it flow over us.
This is the good news when you are living into history, or living in historic times.
There comes to us in this Gospel story the assurance that somehow Jesus is striding with us on the road, and into the house, and across the sea, urging us always just a little bit further than we are comfortable, and meeting us in our need, pressing us with questions, and surprising us with resurrection.
It’s been quite a couple of weeks, and Jesus has been in them.
Sometimes we see him plainly.
Other times, I’m still trying to figure out what he’s doing, as I’m constantly surprised by his actions and really have to wonder at what he is thinking.
This week I’m just content to trust that Jesus is walking with us.
This week, I’m curiously comforted by that, and also with that last little promise and directive. “Give her something to eat.”
Life goes on, for all of us, and we all have miles to go.
So, “Go have a donut.” Make sure you’ve got something to eat, the journey ahead as we walk with Jesus together will be long, and full of surprises, and resurrections, and challenges