When We are in the Grip of Anxiety — Mark 5:21-43 — June 28 2015

Mk 5:21-43 “Do not fear; only trust.”

Sunday June 28 2015

This gospel reading can be summed up by the few words of Jesus to the head of the synagogue:  “Do not fear; only trust.”  One writer said Mark chapter 4 and 5 urge “A simple faith in God, a trust that triumphs over natural dangers, demonic powers, disease, and even death” (Wood).  Those are words to savor!

The Gospel today includes two accounts of the healing ministry of Jesus which calls us to engage fully with God and open our hearts and lives to divine grace in our lives and community.  

On that theme of healing, I remember when my niece Leigh Anne became sick with multiple sclerosis when she was 19 years old.   It was very shocking, especially at first.  At first we of her family thought that she would become severely disabled or worse.  But slowly, through prayer, through medical care, through love, and through hard work she has made her way through.   She completed her college degree and worked in the financial industry for many years.  Today, over 20 years later, Leigh Anne is in her early 40’s.  She has married and has two adopted children.  This is one good example to me of what healing means… a miracle in progress.  It involves some unusual or unexpected things like prayer and God’s grace; and it also involves some ordinary things like love, sacrificial love by family, friends, and colleagues; knowledgeable health care; a positive attitude, and hard work.

We are not always given a cure in response to our prayers for healing.  Even St Paul experienced that, when God’s response to Paul was, “My grace is made perfect in weakness.”  Even these people Jesus healed in the accounts in the New Testament eventually died.  This very week in the shooting deaths in Charleston we saw the dreadful effects of a poisoned mind and spirit. So Christian healing is ultimately about something beyond the cure of illness.  Christian healing is accomplished in the resurrection from the dead.

Our Gospel reading portrays Jesus as the power of God.  We see here as elsewhere in this Gospel of Mark the figure of Jesus as the power of God.   Here, this theme appears in Jesus healing the woman with the flow of blood.  We see this theme also in Jesus raising from death the daughter of Jairus.

In the last line of the Gospel reading (Mk 5:43) we see another continuing theme in the Gospel of Mark, namely, fear, uncertainty, or amazement of the people there and then.  There was shock, fear, amazement, or a kind of paralysis at least at first.  We all have an inclination to fear.  At one moment, we feel distracted and busy and worried.  Then we remember to trust God.  And a few minutes later, we feel worried again.

But Jesus says, “Do not fear; only trust.”  In the end, even if we die like St Paul ultimately did, still God’s purposes are greater and they work out to the whole goal and thrust of salvation history.

In the Sistine Chapel there is Michelangelo’s wonderful portrayal of God reaching out to touch Adam’s finger and bring life to Adam.  In Genesis it says that God breathed life into Adam.   In our Gospel reading today there is that wonderful, evocative word, “Touch”. “If I but touch his clothes,” said the woman with the flow of blood, “I will be made well.”  In the Greek, it is almost poetic: ei aptomai…sothesetai.  “If I touch him… I will be healed or rescued or saved.”  For this woman, through her history, her finances, her health, her presence and pushing through the crowd, there is a full engagement of life, of breath, of emotions, of touch, of belief.   There is here a similarity to my niece Leigh Anne:  There is a full engagement. There is faith, and there is a positive attitude.  There is love, and it has a sacrificial quality to that love. There is hard work.  There is healing.

I am the first to praise medical professionals for all the marvelous advances of the last few hundred years.  Yet we live in a world in which many diseases are inadequately understood, in which medical care is not available to everyone, and at times, medical care may cost every last cent that one has — and still not result in healing.  I suppose all of us have loved ones who have suffered and who have not recovered.  I am grateful for any and every way that health care is provided for poor people in any nation on earth.  That is another aspect of a healing miracle in progress… the extension of health care to everyone.

This Sunday “Forward Day by Day” says, “God’s work is about bringing wholeness out of brokenness, bringing joy out of sorrow, bringing life out of death…. God has promised abundant life to us, even in the midst of death.  That life often comes in surprising and creative ways.”  Those are words to meditate on.

“Do not fear; only trust,” said Jesus.

Let us each and everyone not be disillusioned, or isolated, or uncaring of others.  Rather, let us engage fully and open our hearts in faith to God’s grace and healing; persist in loving care, sacrificial loving care of those in need of healing; and summon a positive attitude to work hard towards those goals that bring healing to all God’s people.  In this way we will see miracles in progress in our own context.

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