Tuesday, June 30, 2015

A Subtle Moment Jesus Won't Let You Miss

Pastor McCarty's Sunday Sermon
Christ Lutheran Church, Staunton, VA
June 28, 2015  A Day of Remembrance and Mourning in the ELCA
Scripture: Mark 5: 21-43
Tags:  Mark 5; Day of Repentance

(This sermon was preached with descriptive sentence fragments and at least one really long run-on sentence that I rushed through in speaking. My English major friends will cringe at these grammatical choices. My friends in rhetoric and theater will recognize the practice of rhetorical tropes and figures in public speaking.  I tried to clean some of it up for posting, but it became less the message that I proclaimed on Sunday.  Consequently, I left much of it intact even though it looks awkward in written language.)

Chapter 4 of Mark begins with Jesus teaching beside the sea. He teaches in parables to a crowd so large that he needs to stand in a boat and lecture while the very large crowd listens on the shore.

Chapter 4:35, the reading for last week, begins with Jesus telling his disciples, “Let us go across to the other side.” Jesus and his disciples in boats on the sea at night are almost swept away by the wind and the rain. Jesus sleeps in the stern of the boat and the disciples, frightened awake him, and he asks them have you no faith.

They finally arrive on the other side of the sea at the beginning of Chapter 5, but that only lasts until today's reading when Jesus crossed again in the boat to the other side.

And in Chapter 6 after today's lesson Jesus will leave this place and go to his hometown.

[The scripture is full of] Movement, coming and going and back and forth and crossing over and crossing back and going home.

Even in our lesson this morning, not only is Jesus moving, people are moving around him. Jairus comes, and Jesus goes, and the crowd follows and presses in.

Even in our life of faith, the life of Christ the congregation, we have people being sent out this week and new members joining. And [we have] people who weren't here last week coming back, and people who were here last week, not here, and my nephew visiting from Dubai sitting with his cousins, but only for a little bit because after lunch we are taking him to Pennsylvania. And for all these lives, coming and going and traveling, we surround them and support them with prayer.

So much movement, Jesus crossing over and back, and over again; the people coming to him; and he goes to people; and the crowd swarms and presses in. And our movement happens on top of that.

You almost might miss it. And really does it matter if you miss it. It would be quite natural for you to overlook, or not stop, just keep on moving. So much power. Jesus has so much power, what does it matter if a little bit of that power goes out from him in a touch amongst the pressing of the crowd and the movement of the people and the urgency of Jairus whose daughter is dying.

[The woman offers] A bold touch, a bold and yet discreet touch with all of Jesus coming and going and the frantic crowds surrounding him. This woman in need. This faithful woman. One might come close to missing this faithful woman in need. A faithful woman, who for a really long time, twelve years has been considered unclean, like a leper, dirty. Imagine being told, you cannot come to church and you need to stay away from those people who do go to church. For twelve years, you have no church and no Christian people in your life. Sin will do that to you, make you feel unworthy. [Keep you,] keep people away from this place because they feel unworthy, even if it is exactly the place [you] they need to be. She, the unnamed woman in our Gospel, lived like that, or at least with those instructions, to keep your distance. She boldly and yet discreetly reached out to Jesus from the camouflage of the crowd and touched Jesus. Perhaps her touch is like our prayers. Boldly and yet discreetly, we pray for ourselves and what ails us, and we reach out to God, with everything going on in the world and here in the church. Praying like this woman and how she reaches out to touch Jesus.

You almost might miss it. With the comings and the goings, the back and forth and Jairus daughters and funerals in Charleston and attacks in Tunisia and France, and the Women's World Cup. And really does it matter if you miss it. [Of course it matters.] It would be quite natural for you to overlook one woman, or not stop, just keep on moving. So much power. Jesus has so much power, what does it matter if a little bit of that power goes out from him. A touch amongst the pressing of the crowd and the movement of the people and the urgency of Jairus whose daughter is dying.

Jesus stops. Actually he doesn't stop, he turns about. “Who touched my clothes?” His cloak. If the governor was in Staunton, would you put your arm around him to have your picture taken with him. Probably not the best example, some of you wouldn't think anything about it. If the president was in town, or the former president, how close do you think you could get. Pope Francis, can you picture the masses lining up wherever is caravan might be driving just to catch a glimpse. When he was cardinal in Argentina, he would ride the bus. Not anymore. What was it like when the Statler Brothers brought Johnny Cash or Reba McEntire to Staunton for the 4th of July and people crowded the city for a free concert and celebration. They estimated 92,000 for Reba, which is almost 4 times the normal population of the city all crowded in around Gypsy Hill Park.

Jesus turns about and searches out for one person in need, for one lost sheep among a thousand. And with everyone looking around, this woman takes another bold and yet humble action. She comes forward and confesses what she has done. The Lutheran Church does not boldly practice confession, putting people on the spot, like this woman has been singled out. We trust in the act of confessing at the beginning of worship that people will be repentant. We trust that they will recognize their sin and perhaps give reflection regarding what sin in their own lives they need to change.

This woman boldly comes forward to acknowledge that she who is unclean, whom scripture and society would have forbade contact with a priest or Levi or a man, has touched Jesus. She was like the wounded man on the side of the road in the parable of the good Samaritan. The Levi and the priest passed on the other side fearing contact with the man who was as good as dead to them. She has touched Jesus en-route to a potential miracle and taken some of his power from him.

She comes forward boldly and humbly when it would have been easier to stay back. And Jesus pronounces her well. Just like he pronounces you well when you sincerely confess your sins. And this woman needs to be pronounced well. This faithful woman who for 12 years has faced this disease needs the assurance that she has been healed and that she can continue to reach out to other faithful people and be in fellowship with them.

You almost might miss it in the goings and the comings, the crowds and the pressing, and Jairus' daughter dying.

You almost might miss it with the comings and the goings, the crossing over and back again, and Jairus' daughter and funerals in Charleston and debate over an old symbol that Southern states dusted off to protest the Supreme Courts ruling in Brown verses the Board of Education, and the Supreme Court this week making marriage of same gender couples the law of the land and attacks in Tunisia and France and Kuwait, and the Women's World Cup, and prisoners escaped in New York, and shark attacks in North Carolina.

It would be easy to miss, the discreet practice of boldness lost in the crowd. [It would be easy] to just move on. A faithful person confessing and being pronounced well. Except it is not just one woman. This is about more than one woman. Here today in this worship someone, or someones, or all of you, have confessed and reached out to Jesus. You have boldly yet discreetly confessed. And by the command of our Lord Jesus Christ, I pronounce the entire forgiveness of all your sin.

God almighty has made you well.