Fourth Sunday after Pentecost / June 28, 2009 / Resurrection Lutheran Church
Text: Mark 5: 21-43 / Rev. Carol Haynes Kniseley / Title: Crossing Boundaries
One of the things I love about the Resurrection family…is our openness to diversity. Having grown up in the South at the foot of the Great Smoky Mountains in East Tennessee, I can honestly say that diversity hasn’t always been a part of my life’s experience. Until I entered High School, I had never encountered a person with skin color different from my own. Not once. Everyone that I knew spoke with the same East Tennessee nasally slang that I did…sounding a great deal like one of the characters on the Andy Griffith Show.
Now that I think about it, Mayberry could have been my home town. Aunt Bea reminded me so much of my own Aunt Grace who loved to can everything in sight. And the rest of the gang…Andy, Barney, Thelma Lou, Helen, and little Opie Taylor…could easily have lived right across the street from where my sister and I grew up…and where my mother still lives today. Just like on the hit TV show, life back then was really pretty simple when it came to knowing one’s place…and which lines to cross or not cross.
For better or worse, I was never told that life could have been any different…that is, until much later. It was only when I became intentional about forming personal friendships with folks different from myself that I was able to “see” what the world “could be like”…if only…we had the courage to stop playing it so doggone safe all the time. Apparently, Jesus…had no problem doing just that. And here’s why.
In recalling the story of the woman who dared to reach out and touch the hem of Jesus’ cloak, we are reminded that Jesus could have ignored her completely. Like so many of us when we see someone whom we really don’t want to be bothered with…or simply don’t have the time nor the energy to deal with at a particular moment, He could have pretended that nothing had transpired between himself and this woman…and simply kept on walking.
Even Jesus could have played it safe straight down the line and no one would have known the difference…except for just one person. And you can bet your bottom dollar, she wasn’t about to draw attention to herself and tell another living soul. So why did he stop the parade?
If we think that Jesus stopped the parade in order to discern “who it was that touched his clothes”…then, like the disciples in today’s story, we don’t understand this story at all. The reason Jesus wanted the woman to publicly acknowledge what she had done…was so that all of the other folks (her neighbors…her faith community…even her own family who had been keeping her at arms distance for all those years) would then hear with their own ears what Jesus had done for her.
They…would be the ones to bear witness to what Jesus and the woman already knew had taken place. Allowing her to once again be brought back into the community…which in essence…gave her back her life.
And if we stop and think about it, playing it safe…always knowing exactly where the boundary lines are drawn so as not to offend or intrude upon another person’s “space”…wasn’t exactly what Jesus was known for. On the contrary, Jesus was one who constantly redefined the boundary lines and challenged folks to rethink what they assumed could never be changed. Even Jesus understood the danger of assuming too much…and not relying on the facts at hand.
For two individuals who were basically worlds apart in terms of stature in the community (one being a respected leader in the synagogue…the other having been pronounced ‘unclean’ by those same leaders), there was only one truth that mattered at the time. The truth that they had either seen with their own eyes or heard with their own ears…that this Jesus, could do what no other Jewish rabbi at the time would even attempt to do.
If there was a need that could be met by his simply stepping out of the prescribed ‘safe zone’…then apparently, that is exactly what Jesus did. Not once. Not twice. But countless times, including those folks who neither looked like him or even spoke the same dialect. All that mattered, was that God’s kingdom had drawn near…and in the person of Jesus, not one person would be considered beyond the saving reach of God.
In case you haven’t noticed, the folks sitting in our pews these days come from all walks of life…many who may or may not look exactly like us…or even speak the same language…or dress with the same sense of flair. And that, dear friends in Christ, is a very…very…good thing indeed.
God has called us in the church to embrace our differences…as human beings made in the image of God…with the clear and certain hope that we are united solely by the blood that now courses through every single one of our veins. It has nothing to do with skin color…or how we speak…or even what clothes we like to wear. Like the woman in today’s story…every single one of us has been labeled ‘unclean’, that is...at least in the eyes of the Law. Which is probably why Jesus did what he did…and in no uncertain terms, had no trouble crossing over to the other side.
Bottom line: it has everything to do with Him and the crossing of boundaries with the sure and certain hope of transforming lives. It began with one person daring to step out in faith. May we be the next to go…and do the same.
Thanks be to God…Jesus…is still crossing boundaries today. Amen