Saturday, 30 June 2012

The desperation of love

Mark 5: 21-43
2 Corinthians 8: 7-15

Mark’s gospel tells us a story of desperation.
It’s a story full of illness and death and desperation.
Of a desperate father who longs for Jesus to heal his daughter before it’s too late. Of a desperate woman, who has tried everything to find healing, and is grasping her last chance.

Jarius comes and says to Jesus ‘My little daughter is at death’s door. I beg you to come and lay your hands on her so that her life may be saved.’
It’s the use of the word ‘little’ that’s so revealing somehow. And it’s the use of the word ‘beg’. Many of us know at first hand what it means to love another human being so much that we would beg, we would give up anything, we would do anything to save them. You don’t have to be a parent to know what this feels like. But of course we all know how deep human love can go and how much we’d do to keep those we love alive.

Meanwhile the woman is alone and her desperation is for herself. We know that she’s on her own because she’s been bleeding for 12 years. That means not only that she would have been anaemic and perpetually tired, but she would have been ritually ‘unclean’. No-one could get close to her, for years. Impossible to sustain a marriage or work or worship. She’s an outsider even from her own family. She’s alone. She reaches out to the strange rabbi in the hope that he, unlike all the doctors, might be able to heal her.

And Jesus, far from recoiling from her touch, or chiding her for doing the wrong thing, congratulates her for having faith that its possible to be saved and he sends her on her way in peace.

Two stories of people desperate for healing form Jesus – stories of people so desperate that they fall over each other – the one story interrupts the other. Jesus is on his way to heal the daughter of the leader of the synagogue when he is stopped in his tracks by the older woman.

The story of the 2 healings is rich with similarities and differences.
There is a young girl/ an old woman
A request for healing from an important man / an attempt to gain healing without being noticed from a very unimportant woman
Someone who has suffered 12 years of bleeding and therefore of being considered untouchable & unclean/ 12 years of a privileged life as the daughter of the leader of the synagogue.
This is a very complex and beautiful story of healing.

And the story is amazingly told – with the tension of one story interrupting the other – you can sense the impatience of the disciples when Jesus stops and asks ‘who touched me?’…we almost want to shout at Jesus to get on with hurrying to Jairus’ daughter before it’s too late.

The question ‘is it too late??’ is a big question for both the young girl and the older woman. Remember it says that the woman had tried many forms of healing before – she has spent all her money seeking a cure. Is it too late? And if Jesus faffs about with her will it be too late for the daughter of Jairus?

But it’s all OK – because the answer is that with Jesus, it's never too late.
However desperate we are, however long we have left it, however much we have despaired.. it is never too late to ask God, in Jesus, for help and for healing.
I love the good news in this story – that is never too late to respond to God’s love – it will always be there for us. And that when we find it it comes with new life and joy and healing.

But, desperate as the story tells us that Jairus and the un-named older woman are, I don’t think their desperation is the most intense desperation in this story. There is the desperation of God. A God who loves his created children so much that he has come to be among them.

Paul, in his letter, tells us that Jesus Christ became poor so that we may become rich. This means that the barriers between God and humanity and the barriers we humans set up between ourselves, are all broken down, or perhaps it would be better to say are all healed, in Jesus Christ. God is so desperate to share his love with us that he comes to earth to live and die and rise, to tell his world that we are all loved and precious children of God - whatever our age, our condition, our status.

The healing love of Jesus is there for us throughout our lives – and is present in a visible way in this bread and wine.

When we eat and drink in communion we are accepting the place that God’s love has in our lives – a love that in Jesus heals and touched and then dies and lives again.

God’s love is here for you – whoever you are. God is desperate to share his love with you today – God reaches out in this communion, to touch and to heal us all.
Thanks be to God.

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