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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Today’s Scripture Reading | Mark 5:21–43

When Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a great crowd gathered around him; and he was by the sea. Then one of the leaders of the synagogue named Jairus came and, when he saw him, fell at his feet and 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.”

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

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?” But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the leader of the synagogue, “Do not fear, only believe.” He allowed no one to follow him except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James. When they came to the house of the leader of the synagogue, he saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. When he had entered, he said to them, “Why do you make a commotion and weep? The child is not dead but sleeping.” And 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. He took her by the hand and said to her, “Talitha cum,” which means, “Little girl, get up!” And immediately the girl got up and began to walk about (she was twelve years of age). At this they were overcome with amazement. He strictly ordered them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat.  (NRSV)

Mark’s Gospel spares no time in plunging us into drama! In the verses preceding this one, there is a herd of swine that a legion of demons inhabits. They go off a cliff. Then there is a synagogue leader with a little daughter who is sick unto death. And if that is not enough, there is a woman who has had a flow of blood, likely menstrual blood, for twelve years. She does the taboo act of reaching for the itinerant rabbi, Jesus, as he passes by.

Like many of you, I have a feed on my phone from one of the global news outlets with “late-breaking news.” From the royal baby and the royal wedding to nuclear armament and efforts toward disarmament; from news of children doing heroic acts to legacy moments of elders giving their estates to peace organizations, so much is going off the cliff, reaching for our attention and healing. What is the call to discipleship that arises from this text?

Jesus’ major role in every one of the incidents is to be receptive, to pay attention, and to come face-to-face with each and every one of the people. The tender and touching moment with the child; the unaccustomed way of engaging a ritually unclean women; the radical act of calling out the legion of demons guide us as well—because it is not only the outcome of each of these moments, it is also the obedience to God’s new way as seen through Jesus’ actions. Step out; step up; step into life with radical obedience, and the promise “I will be with you” is not only a nice thought but an infusing reality.

Gracious and healing Presence, give us courage to come face-to-face with those who reach to us. And strengthen us to trust your infusing love though the power and love of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Written by Lucy Forster-Smith, Senior Associate Pastor for Leadership Development and Adult Education

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