June 28, 2015
Pentecost 5 / Proper 8
The Rev. Kim Gilliland
SCRIPTURE: 2 Corinthians 8:7-15
At that moment Jesus felt power go out from him. He turned to the crowd and asked, “Who touched my clothes?”... The woman knew what had happened to her. She came shaking with fear and knelt down in front of Jesus. Then she told him the whole story.
Mark 5:30, 32 (CEV)
The people of Jesus’ day had some funny ideas about bodily fluids. Basically, they believed that bodily fluids were fine as long as they remained inside the body but if they came out of the body, they became unclean. It doesn’t really matter what bodily fluid we’re talking about. It could be blood or saliva or some sort of oozing from a sore. Even a booger. Once they came out of the body they were considered unclean. About the only exception I can think of is tears. I think they were okay but everything else was not. And here’s the kicker; if you touched unclean fluids you became unclean too. Basically, that meant that unclean people were the untouchables of the day because if you touched them you’d be untouchable too.
In Jesus’ day that was a very big deal to be unclean. If you were unclean, there were certain things you couldn’t do. You couldn’t worship at the synagogue or Temple because God didn’t want unclean thing in his house. If you were unclean, you couldn’t be around the public because if you accidently touched other people, they’d all be unclean too - it was kind of like getting the kooties when you were in kindergarten. To not be able to worship and not be able to be around your family and friends was a very big deal because family and the worship were huge parts of life.
The good news is that people who became unclean did not remain unclean forever. There were rituals that they could perform - often focused around washing and animal sacrifice - and there was a time limit to most forms of uncleanness. Usually it was for a day but there were instances where the uncleanness lasted much longer. A woman who bore a male child, for example, was unclean for seven days. If, however, she bore a daughter, she was unclean for fourteen days.
In some ways, we might think the whole idea of the uncleanness of bodily fluids to be somewhat archaic. We just don’t think about things that way any more. And besides that, God does not expect us to live by those Old Testament standards. Jesus put an end to all of that. Through faith in him we are cleansed by his blood. Besides that, isn’t there a part of all of us that thinks that we are just more sophisticated than those people were. We are far too mature and educated to be drawn into such archaic and quaint notions as uncleanness.
O maybe not... I think that deep down inside
, we still habour some inbred thoughts of uncleanness. We just see it differently and express it differently. Here’s an example. I’ve used it before but it makes a good point. Here is my favourite Montreal Canadiens mug. What’s in the mug? Water. That’s all that’s ever in the mug. It’s up here on the pulpit most weeks and every week I take a few sips out of it to keep my throat from getting too dry.
But what would you think if I spit in my mug? What would that do to the water? Would it make it unclean? How would you then react if I then took a drink of water out of the mug? Would it gross you out? Let’s give it a try and see what happens.
If I actually did that, there be more than one squeamish face in the congregation. Why? After all, the only thing in the cup besides the water was something that was previously already in my mouth. But something happens, doesn’t it, when that bodily fluid comes out of the body. We may not call it unclean but we react as if it were.
THE UNCLEAN WOMAN
In the story that we read this morning from Mark 5, there was a woman with a flow of blood. That meant that she was unclean. She was untouchable. How untouchable was she? She was always untouchable because she was always unclean. For the past twelve years, as long as she had experienced the flow of blood, she had been unclean. Do you remember what that meant? It meant that she had not worshiped in the synagogue or Temple for twelve years. She had limited contact with friends and family because none of them wanted to touch her and also become unclean. That was a horrible way to live in 1st
It seems she had tried everything. She had seen doctors. They had taken all of her money and caused her great pain but had not made her better. She no doubt had also seen the priests but they could not heal her. Then she heard about Jesus. She had heard that he was a healer. It says in Mark 5:28 (CEV) that in her desperation she said to herself, “If I can just touch his clothes, I will get well.”
Do you understand what she was about to do? This untouchable woman wanted to touch Jesus. Do you understand the implications of that? She was unclean. If she touched him, he too would become unclean. For her to touch Jesus was unthinkable in those days. And do you know the biggest irony of this whole situation? As she made her way through the crowd, this untouchable woman would have touched all kinds of people. And they would have touched all kinds of other people. And so on and so on and so on. The reality is that the woman’s uncleaniness would have spread through the crowd like kooties in kindergarten! According to the Law, every man, women and child in that crowd would have been unclean. They were all untouchable and they didn’t even know it.
The fact that she knew this and was still willing to go through with her plan only serves to illustrate how desperate she was to stop the bleeding and be clean again. She was willing to do anything to be restored to her family and her faith community.
How does that relate to our world today? We don’t think of people as unclean anymore. But we still ostracize them for various reasons. That’s the experience of many Moslems in our society. They have faced a lot of backlash since 911 and subsequent terrorist acts that have been perpetrated in the name of Allah. To be honest, I think that Moslems have a lot answer for. The reality is that most of the major terrorist attacks against the West have been by Moslem men of Middle East descent. And the Moslem community has not always been quick to condemn these attacks. I also want to say that most of the Moslems I know are decent
, hard working people who love their children and are doing the best they can to support their families and communities in positive ways. Sure there are good Moslems and bad Moslems - just like Christians - but on the whole they are just like you and me. Remember what it says in Romans 5:13 (NIV) which reads, “Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud but be willing to associate with people of low position.” I’m not saying that I agree with the Moslem religion because I don’t. But I also don’t think that makes them untouchable in our society. And yet they are often ostracized.
That’s one group of people that often gets treated as untouchable. The second group ironically is the Jews. Israel continues to come under the scrutiny of the world. I believe that there is a growing anti-Semitism in the world, even in the Church. Jewish synagogues are frequently attacked and defaced. I googled “Jewish synagogue attacked” and got over nine million hits. I also googled “Jewish business attacked” and got thirty-four million hit. The UN is clearly anti-Semetic. In March of this year, the UN declared the Israel is the worst human rights violator on the face of the earth. Not North Korea, not Syria, not Iran or ISIS. Israel. In the same month the UN also declared Israel to be the world’s worst violator of women’s rights. Not Saudi Arabia where women are still considered to be chattels, not China with its forced abortion policies, not Sudan where domestic violence is not prohibited and where there is no minimum age for sexual consent. Israel.
Why would the UN do this? Anyone with half a brain knows that it is simply a political move by Israel’s enemies to further isolate the only working democracy in the Middle East. In fact, it’s quite preposterous. It’s also scary because it also points to a growing anti-Semitism across Europe, Asia and even North America.
But there are those who say that Israel and the Jewish people are two different things. People can speak out against Israel and not be anti-Semitic. That’s partially true and there are some things that Israel needs to be accountable for because it’s not perfect and has done some truly ungodly things over the years. But while Israel and the Jewish people may be two separate things, they are also so intimately intertwined that they can never be completely separated.
What I can tell you is that as the tide of global anti-Semitism rises, Jewish people feel ostracized and untouchable. They feel that no one wants them, no one supports them and way too many people think that if we could just solve the Jewish problem, many world issues would just disappear. Sounds rather like Naziism, doesn’t it? It does and that is a real concern. Ironic, is it not, that two of the people that seem to be the most untouchable in this world are the Moslems and the Jews. For very different reasons
, they are both being shunned in different areas by different people.
NO LONGER UNTOUCHABLE
And then there are the Christian. How do we respond to these two groups of people? Let’s begin by not treating them as untouchable because that’s what Jesus would do. The unclean, untouchable woman with the flow of blood took a big risk when she touched Jesus. The result of her risk taking is written in Mark 5:29 (CEV) which says, “As soon as she touched [his clothes] her bleeding stopped, and she knew she was well.” She touched him and she was healed. She knew it right away. She knew she was healed. And because she was healed, she knew that she was no longer unclean and because she was no longer unclean, she was no longer untouchable, and because she was no longer untouchable she could once again attend worship and she could once again be a full part of her family and community because she no longer risked making anyone else unclean. The untouchable became touchable!
Now, let’s look at her reaction to being healed. Let’s hear about the overwhelming joy that she felt. Mark 5:33 (NIV) says, “Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at [Jesus’] feet and, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth.” What happened? Why was she not overjoyed? Because she was afraid and she trembled with fear. She knew that she wasn’t supposed to be touching men they didn’t know. And she certainly was not supposed to be touching Jesus. And yet she had touched him.
Jesus could have had her punished. He could have made her pay a very big price for touching him. Instead, in Mark 5:34 (CEV) he said, “You are now well because of your faith. May God give you peace. You are healed, and you will no longer be in pain.” I don’t think that’s what the woman expected but Jesus is often the master of the unexpected.
That which the Mosaic Law said was unclean and untouchable and that which was supported by man-made laws and traditions was overturned in Jesus Christ. That’s because he has to power to cleanse that which is unclean and he has the power to make touchable that which is considered untouchable. Jesus not only healed this woman, he restored her to her faith traditions and to her community of family and friends. No longer unclean. No longer untouchable.
REACHING OUT TO EVERYONE
What does that say to us? First of all, it says that no one is untouchable
; not Jews, not Moslems, not men, women or children. We should not look at them that way. We should not treat them that way or speak to them that way. As the woman showed us when she touched Jesus and as Jesus’ response to her actions confirmed, there is no one who is outside of God’s cleansing power. There is no sin so great, no character flaw so horrible and no error so awful that it can not be cleansed through faith in Jesus Christ.
That’s the first thing we learn from this story, that no one is untouchable. The second thing that we learn is that it is faith that makes us well and whole. Remember what Jesus said to the woman: “You are well now because of your faith.” Did you catch that? Jesus did not say, “You are well now because you touched me.” He said that she was healed because of her faith; not by her touch but by her faith. Never forget that. Even the person who is most untouchable in the eyes of the world can be cleansed by putting their faith in Jesus Christ. He said, “Your faith has made you well.” It still holds true today.
We learned three things. First, no one is untouchable. Second, that it is faith that makes us well. The third things that we must understand is that everyone deserves the chance to meet Jesus. Even the most unclean and the most untouchable person on the face of the earth needs to be given the chance to receive Christ. And that’s where we come in.
No one can put faith in Jesus Christ unless they are introduced to him. Romans 10:14-15 (CEV) says this: “How can people have faith in the Lord and ask him to save them, if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear, unless someone tells them? And how can anyone tell them without being sent by the Lord?” How true! If people are going to experience the cleansing power of Jesus Christ, someone has to be willing to introduce them to him. And that, my friends, is our job.
As brothers and sisters in Christ we have a duty and a responsibility to tell others about Jesus. But so many people say, “I can’t do that! I can’t talk about my faith to anyone else!” And to that I say, “Sure you can.” People make the mistake of thinking that they have to use big words and deep theological concepts. They think that they have to know the Bible inside out before they can witness to their faith. But you don’t need any of that. All you need is your story about what Jesus has done for you. That’s your testimony and that is your witness. That is what you can share with anyone
, even the most untouchable person in society so that they can meet Jesus and be healed.
When you do that, you are not only fulfilling one of God’s great commissions for you, you are also giving someone the opportunity to receive the same faith that you have found so helpful in your life. And don’t only say the right things. Make sure you also do the right things. Your words might be a powerful witness but so are your actions. Always remember that people see what you do and hear what you say. That means that your actions in life need to be consistent with what you proclaim with your mouth. That’s what Jesus did. And in doing, he shared his Gospel and changed the world. You may not be able to change the world but you can help to change a life. You can help the unclean to be cleansed and you can touch the untouchable with the Good News of Jesus Christ.
PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE
Heavenly Father, we walk this earth day by day receiving blessing upon blessing. We offer our thanks for your many gifts given freely to us out of your generousity and grace. We praise you and thank you for the beauty of summer, for bright flowers and rustling leaves, for clean water and refreshing swims, for lemonade and ice cream.
We thank you for our nation, for Canada Day which will be celebrated today. Thank you for family activities and fireworks. Thank you, especially, for the freedom and prosperity that we enjoy. And as we celebrate Canada Day later this week we would ask your blessing upon our monarch, Queen Elizabeth II as well as Governor General David Johnson, Prime Minister Stephen Harper, and Premier Kathleen Wynne. May they serve this nation well and may they lead us in your direction and give you all the glory.
Our life style and peaceful existence are the envy of much of the world. Help us never to take these blessings for granted for they can quickly slip away. Enable us, also, to be generous in our gifts to others. We have so much. Help us to resist the temptation to hoard and bless us with the gift of sharing.
We remember also this day those who mourn
, especially the family and friends of Sharon Hedge whose funeral was this week. Thank you, O God, that for her the pain is over and she is with you in your kingdom.
We lift up in prayer, also, those who are sick or recovering at home or in hospital, remembering especially Ron Raymont, Doug Montgomery and Gary Rawlins. Bless them and all others with your Healing Spirit for we believe that you desire to heal all people.
God of Life, regardless of what happened yesterday, your mercy is new today. Regardless of what happened last year, or any time in the past, your love is eternal! Enable us to move forward in the walk of faith with renewed hope for the future which you have prepared for us. We thank you that your mercy and compassion have no limits and that we can look forward with hope and renewed strength. We seek, every day, to trust in your great faithfulness and unfailing love. Our prayers, we pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.
WORSHIP RESOURCE PAGE
June 28, 2015 / Pentecost 5 / Proper 8
2 Samuel 1:1, 17-27; Psalm 130; Mark 5:21-43; 2 Corinthians 8:7-15
CALL TO WORSHIP
Out of the depths, we call to our God
who hears our pleas and answers our cries.
Out of the depths, we wait for our God
whose love is unfailing and mercies endless.
Out of our need, we seek the one who meets all need.
Into our lives, the Saviour comes.
PRAYER OF APPROACH
Holy God of Earth and Heaven, we come into your presence seeking words of encouragement and blessing. We are so thankful that you have extended your grace to us though we have neither merited or earned your favour. By your grace, we live life on earth to the very fullest. By your mercy, we accept the renewed hope of eternal life. Rain upon us with your unfailing love as we bow before your throne of glory. Amen.
PRAYER OF CONFESSION
In the midst of your blessings there is the reality of our sinfulness. We were made good but we fall far short of your perfection. As we grow more mature in you, we will not be deceived, for your truth will become ever stronger within us. Expose everything that we do to the light of your word, correcting any areas of sinfulness, and strengthening the rest. Help our lives to be lights and beacons of your salvation. Amen.
ASSURANCE OF PARDON
The great deceiver is set to bring us down from the grace of God. But nothing in heaven or on earth has any power to separate us from God's love given to us in Jesus Christ. Hear the Good News of redemption. Receive the life that only Jesus brings. We are forgiven. We are free. Alleluia!
DEDICATION OF OFFERING
The earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof. The heavens are filled with the wonders of God. Our lives are gifts given to us by God our Creator. Our offerings to God are in gratitude for the countless blessings that come to us everyday. We thank you, O God. Amen.
The great and wonderful love of God moves in our hearts. It shines through our words and actions. May we so live that all that we do and say will give glory to the One whose glory is everlasting. Let us go and live our faith to the fullest.
Pastor Kim Gilliland
June 28, 2015
THE UNCLEAN WOMAN
The woman with the flow of blood was considered to be unclean.
She was untouchable because anyone who touched her would become unclean as well.
She desperately wanted to get well.
If I can just touch his clothes, I will get well. Mark 5:28 (CEV)
As an unclean woman, she was no supposed to touch Jesus. This was a very risky move.
She was willing to do it in order to be healed and to be restored to her family and community.
We still treat people as untouchable today.
Two examples are Moslems and Jews.
Many people, in the wake of 911, treat all Moslems like they are terrorists.
Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud but be willing to associate with people of low position.
Romans 5:13 (NIV)
Israel and the Jewish people are also victims of a growing anti-Semitism in the world.
For different reasons and in different places Moslems and Jews are often shunned.
NO LONGER UNTOUCHABLE
Jesus was not afraid to touch the untouchable people of the world.
As soon as she touched [his clothes] her bleeding stopped, and she knew she was well.
Mark 5:29 (CEV)
But she was afraid because she knew that what she did was not right.
Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at [Jesus’] feet and, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth.
Mark 5:33 (NIV)
When he heard her story Jesus responded with compassion.
You are now well because of your faith. May God give you peace. You are healed, and you will no longer be in pain.
Mark 5:34 (CEV)
Jesus had the power to cleanse the woman by restoring her to her family and community.
He made the unclean clean, and the untouchable touchable.
REACHING OUT TO EVERYONE
There are three lessons for us today.
1. No one is untouchable.
No one is outside of God’s cleansing power no matter what there problem is
or what they have done.
2. We are healed by faith.
The woman’s faith in Jesus had made her well - not his touch.
Everyone can be cleansed through faith in Jesus Christ.
3. Everyone deserves a chance to meet Jesus.
But no one can put there faith in him unless they are introduced to him.
How can people have faith in the Lord and ask him to save them, if they have never heard of him? And how can they hear, unless someone tells them? And how can anyone tell them without being sent but the Lord?
Romans 10:14-15 (CEV)
As brothers and sisters in Christ, it is our duty and responsibility to tell others about Jesus.
We do that by tell our story about what Jesus has done for us.
That is your witness and testimony.
In doing this you help to make the unclean clean and the untouchable touchable.