- Readings for June 28, 2015, 5th Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 8/Lectionary 13
- Lamentations 3:22-33 and Psalm 30
- 2 Corinthians 8:7-15
- Mark 5:21-43
Jesus Interrupted, by Pastor Kinsey
That’s a long gospel reading! But it’s also a compelling story. I think, if it were a movie, or a TV show, or a YouTube, it might be up for an award! It could be for Best Drama, with its portrayal of life overcoming death, or for Best Actor, for the pleading anguish of the rich ruler, or the poor widow, struck with a mysterious and chronic illness.
Mark is often hailed as the simple, straight forward Gospel, short and to the point. But Mark also uses a rather sophisticated technique in his work, which we see in this story, and at many other junctures in the gospel, called interlacing, or sandwiching one story within another. In this case, healing Jairus’ daughter is the outer bread, if you will, and the woman whose doctors couldn’t heal her hemorrhaging for 12 years, is the Sub of the Day filling!
But what raises the tension in this story is how Jesus is unexpectedly interrupted. The story begins with Jairus, a leader of the synagogue, coming to plead for help for his seriously ill daughter, who is presented as the properly sanctioned petitioner. And on the way to his house, this unsanctioned, un-named woman, sneaks up on Jesus and steals away some of his healing power without his permission. And “how” Jesus reacts to this interruption is what draws us in. What will Jesus do, or say?
President Obama was interrupted this week as well. You may have missed it amongst all his many appearances in the news. I mean, as President, he’s in the news every week, right. But this week was a bit more noteworthy! Three major cases were decided by the Supreme Court, that he reacted to, all falling in his favor, including, Marriage Equality, which was made the law of the land, on Friday! Whoohoo! And, interlacing the release of these weighty decisions were yet other notable events, like President Obama flying down to SC on Friday, to give the Eulogy at Pastor Clementa Pinkney’s funeral.
But the interruption I’m thinking of was on Wednesday at the White House, when President Obama hosted a dinner for dozens of leaders in the LGBT movement honoring Pride month. He was not reacting to the week’s exceptional news cycle, but simply fulfilling an obligation that was prearranged, in a proper and formal setting. The Marriage Equality decision by the Supreme Court was still two days away, but there was still lots to celebrate. The President is perceived as a friend, for the most part, in the lgbt community, ever since his positive, public, though somewhat ponderous decision, to both personally and politically support marriage equality, and most other gay civil rights for the LGBT community. And so, going into Pride Weekend, this was a well-choreographed affair, and President Obama was in control, and doing what he does best. He is an eloquent speaker, and a leader who wants to bridge divides: between the two political parties, between peoples of all races, between the LGBT and straight communities. And in this sense, we may even see him as a healer, of sorts.
And so, As he delivered his remarks on Wednesday to the appreciative crowd, suddenly, out of the packed room, a voice rang out, interrupting him. “President Obama, release all LGBTQ immigrants from detention.” And, “I am tired of the violence we’re facing.”
President Obama paused and looked her way, and said, “you know what?” Pause. “Listen,” he said. “You’re in my house,” hoping to quiet her down. And the crowd chuckled, before she was escorted out.
The interrupter was Jennicet Gutiérrez. She was invited to the gathering because she is a Latina leader with a group called FAMILIA TQLM and for her courageous work against lgbtq deportations. Immigrant trans women, it turns out, are 12 times more likely to face discrimination because of their gender identity. “I have spoken with my trans immigrant sisters who were recently released from detention centers,” said Gutiérrez in a statement the day after the White House event. And “With a lot of emotional pain and heavy tears in their eyes, they [described] how they’re greeted in this country [by ICE officials, and] the horrendous treatment they all experienced: at times misgendered, exposed to assault, and put in detention centers with men.”
So, the woman in the crowd, Ms. Gutiérrez, was determined. “Release all LGBTQ immigrants from detention and stop all deportations,” she demanded. And she was able to steal just a little power away from the President. Her interruption was impolite, but far less offensive than the violence of the injustice she brought to light!
Though Jairus is presented as the main-line, acceptable character, in the gospel story, and Jesus agrees to go to his house, the un-named widow in her poverty, with her secretive approach, is actually given just as much of the story line in this sandwiched, interlacing, by Mark. Her illness is quite detailed: the pain and embarrassment she endures, the oppression she lives every day as an outcast, the desperation she feels being exploited, and that drives her to act in this risky way. We learn much about her, as well as how Jesus and his disciples react to her.
When the woman secretly touches just a portion of Jesus’ robe, immediately Jesus was aware that power had gone forth from him, and he wheeled around, asking, who did this?! Who touched my clothes? Is Jesus angry? His disciples seem perplexed. They tell him, oh, it’s nothing, don’t worry about it. And anyway, in this crowd, there’s no way to figure out who it is. And that may have been true. But the woman’s conscience compels her to confess. And falling on her knees before Jesus, she tells him the whole truth. And Jesus just listens. He is not angry. He is filled with compassion, knowing her poverty, her oppression, and her courageous act. Jesus calls it faith: daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.
No one plans for interruptions! They don’t follow the script we have for where we want to go in our lives. But as Alice prayed here in our assembly last week, sometimes the interruptions are messages from Jesus, and if we pay attention, lives may be changed.
Tomorrow, at our next Moral Monday, we will be interrupting normally sanctioned business, to shine a light on the laws, and a Budget, that protect the already rich, and which come at the expense and exploitation of working families and the poor, and are therefore immoral. And that we forget or ignore what is happening, at our own peril, and risk losing the values that give life to our society – values we hold dear as a people of faith.
Ms. Gutiérrez interrupted a lovely White House banquet on Wednesday, in the spirit of Pride Month, with a reminder that a whole population in the lgbt movement is still at risk, and experiencing violence, daily.
The woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for 12 years, interrupted Jesus. And Jesus declared that her faith made her well. And after Jesus was interrupted, he went on to Jairus’ house and lifted up his 12 year old daughter from her death bed.
Twelve is a highly symbolic number in the scriptures, especially symbolizing the 12 tribes of Israel. And by the end of this gospel story, we know there is still more going on here. Jesus is healing the nation, and restoring the people of God. Not by imposing order from above, but rather by lifting up the people who are in pain and oppressed, those who have been impoverished by an exploitative government, and been made to feel outcast. Jesus lifts up the next generation of leaders from their beds of slumber, and even listens compassionately to those who are, interrupters, and citizens without credentials.
This is the world that Jesus creates! This is the kingdom and realm of God that is at hand, and has arrived by the spirit of the 12 tribes, the people of God. And all who witnessed it, according to the Gospel of Mark, were overcome with amazement! Let the daughters and sons of the kingdom of God arise! Our faith has made us well, and set the oppressed free! Be healed, and go in peace!