Lord, open our hearts and minds by the power of your Holy Spirit, that, as the Scriptures are read and your Word proclaimed, we may hear with joy what you say to us today.  Amen.

Mark 5:21-42

Jesus heals two people

21 Jesus crossed the lake again, and on the other side a large crowd gathered around him on the shore. 22 Jairus (jeye russ), one of the synagogue leaders, came forward. When he saw Jesus, he fell at his feet 23 and pleaded with him, “My daughter is about to die. Please, come and place your hands on her so that she can be healed and live.” 24 So Jesus went with him.

A swarm of people were following Jesus, crowding in on him. 25 A woman was there who had been bleeding for twelve years. 26 She had suffered a lot under the care of many doctors, and had spent everything she had without getting any better. In fact, she had gotten worse.27 Because she had heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his clothes. 28 She was thinking, If I can just touch his clothes, I’ll be healed. 29 Her bleeding stopped immediately, and she sensed in her body that her illness had been healed.

30 At that very moment, Jesus recognized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and said, “Who touched my clothes?”

31 His disciples said to him, “Don’t you see the crowd pressing against you? Yet you ask, ‘Who touched me?’” 32 But Jesus looked around carefully to see who had done it.

33 The woman, full of fear and trembling, came forward. Knowing what had happened to her, she fell down in front of Jesus and told him the whole truth. 34 He responded, “Daughter, your faith has healed you; go in peace, healed from your disease.”

35 While Jesus was still speaking with her, messengers came from the synagogue leader’s house, saying to Jairus, “Your daughter has died. Why bother the teacher any longer?”

36 But Jesus overheard their report and said to the synagogue leader, “Don’t be afraid; just keep trusting.” 37 He didn’t allow anyone to follow him except Peter, James, and John, James’ brother. 38 They came to the synagogue leader’s house, and he saw a commotion, with people crying and wailing loudly. 39 He went in and said to them, “What’s all this commotion and crying about? The child isn’t dead. She’s only sleeping.” 40 They laughed at him, but he threw them all out. Then, taking the child’s parents and his disciples with him, he went to the room where the child was. 41 Taking her hand, he said to her, “Talitha koum,” which means, “Young woman, get up.” 42 Suddenly the young woman got up and began to walk around. She was twelve years old. They were shocked!

This is the word of God for us, the people of God.  Thanks be to God.

The Touch

Today, I ask you to use your imagination.  Imagine yourself sitting on a balcony looking out over a city market place.  There is a swarm of people in the market that day – a good day to people watch.  And there is all kinds of action going on down there.  We know a few of the people in the swarm.

We know Jesus – well, at least we’ve heard about him.  He’s getting a lot of attention these days for healing people, casting out demons and generally stirring up a lot of trouble.  Some people say he’s the Son of God.

We see Jairus (Jeye Russ), too – an influential leader of the synagogue – important, rich and part of the establishment.  He’s a part of the group of folks who don’t necessarily like, believe in, or even trust Jesus.  But today Jairus seems totally desperate.  He’s acting very strangely for such an important man.  Because we see Jairus fall at Jesus’ feet.  We can hear him begging Jesus to help his daughter.  She is only 12, just becoming a woman, and she’s dying.  “My daughter is about to die,” he says.  “Please, come and place your hands on her so that she can be healed and live.”

But all of a sudden we see Jesus spin around in the other direction.  The crowd is all around Jesus, but he wants to know who touched him.  It’s that bleeding woman – she’s been bleeding for 12 years!  We don’t know her name, but she is poor.  She has spent her money on doctors who failed to cure her.  She is a social outcast – because of her bleeding she is ceremonially unclean.  Under Jewish law, her bleeding has isolated her from most human contact – her family and friends don’t even want to be around her.  Not only is she unclean, but her touch renders unclean anyone she touches.  She defiles even the bed upon which she lies and the chair upon which she sits, and these things she touches can make us unclean, too, if we touch them.  She is not even allowed into the synagogue.  She is like a leper – she is an outsider – a person who does not count and a person who does not belong.  That poor woman must be as desperate as Jairus.  She chanced being among this crowd of people.  No unclean person would dare go to the marketplace around all these people.  And yet, can you believe it?  She stretched out her arm, reached out her fingertip through the crowd, and touched Jesus from behind.

What is going on here!  Both Jairus and the woman must have faith in Jesus.  Both seem to trust that Jesus can help.  Jairus seems to be convinced that Jesus’s touch will make his daughter well.  And the bleeding woman is convinced all she must do is touch the hem of his clothes for healing.  Somehow, somehow, they both think that the touch of Jesus is saving – healing – and life giving.  Their desperate words keep going through my head.  “Please come and place your hands on her so that she can be healed and live.”  “If I can just touch his clothes, I’ll be healed.”  There is something about that touch.  There is something about the touch of Jesus that we desperately need, now.

But there are lots of others in the marketplace that day –  a swarm of people – a huge crowd.  And as Jesus goes out to see Jairus’ daughter – there is a crowd there at his house too.

The crowd is really who I want you to think about as you continue to people watch.  You probably weren’t focusing on the crowd as you heard this story – you were probably watching the main characters – but there is a lot to be learned from the crowd.   You see the crowd almost missed it — the crowd almost missed the miracle that day.  Do you remember when the bleeding woman reached through the crowd and touched Jesus?  Jesus felt it.  He felt power leave him, and he knew someone had touched him.  It had taken something out of him.

But the crowd missed it.  The disciples said to Jesus, “Don’t you see the crowd pressing against you?  How are we supposed to know who touched you?”  The crowd almost missed something big!  Lesson number one that we can learn from the crowd in the market place – look around.  Be aware.  Be alert, because there is desperation all around us.  With Jesus, even though the crowd pressed around him, he noticed the individual in need.  One writer said that, “This is an important model for ministry even for us today.  We will seldom save people by the boatload.  We need to be ever-vigilant to address the needs of the individual person.”  (Dick Donovan.  Sermon Writer June 28.)

The crowd in the marketplace that day missed the desperation, and they almost missed the healing miracle that followed when the bleeding woman fell on her knees and told Jesus the whole truth.

There may be faces of desperation around us – sitting beside us, in line with us at the grocery store.  Let’s not walk through the crowd too quickly with our heads down.  Let’s not get so wrapped up in ourselves that we miss something big.  Let’s not get so busy in our lives that we miss the miracles that can occur with the touch of Jesus.

A couple of years ago, Ed and I went to Washington, DC.  And we were a part of crowds everywhere we went.  Crowds in airports, crowds in subways, crowds in museums, crowds walking down sidewalks, crowds waiting to see the Constitution, crowds waiting to get a chili dog – I felt over-experienced with crowds after that trip.  I learned to avoid running over people who are walking at the same time as they are looking up at airplanes hung from the ceiling at the air and space museum.  I dodged strollers and weaved in and out of groups with matching t-shirts.  It was exhausting.

And this idea of noticing human need in a crowd became very powerful to me when we were in DC.  I did begin to notice needs that were met with a simple touch.  The kind of miracles I saw were not physical healings, although God can certainly heal us physically.  In fact, the things I saw may have looked insignificant.  But sometimes the smallest touch of love can have a huge impact.  The hands of Jesus are no longer here.  But God sends people like you and me, to do God’s work, to be God’s touch of love when desperation abounds.

The miracles I saw among the crowds came from the touch of the hands of people loving and serving one another.  I attended Asbury United Methodist Church in downtown DC, an African American church established in the 1800s that was a couple of blocks from our hotel.  And I not only witnessed the love of Christ in worshiping there, but I witnessed United Methodist men and women handing out sacks of food to the homeless of DC, and I witnessed a hot meal being provided for the homeless at the church.  I witnessed the touch of love and healing in the midst of the crowd.

When I pressed through the crowd at the Vietnam Memorial, I witnessed the touch of volunteers.  You have probably seen the Memorial – at least in pictures – it is different than all the other many memorials in our nation’s capital.  It is a simple, black, granite wall inscribed with the names of all those who lost their lives in the Vietnam War.  Many who visit the memorial leave flowers, notes or photographs.  And the volunteers stand at the memorial with ladders, a big notebook, paper, and pencils.  The volunteers assist families in finding the location of their loved-one’s name which is listed in a notebook.  If the name is at the top of the memorial out of reach, the ladders are brought out.  And the volunteers carefully trace the loved one’s name onto the paper for the family to take home.  If you’ve been to this memorial, you probably felt the same deep emotion that I did.  There were many tears, and although you would expect lots of noise from the crowd, the crowd around the memorial was silent in honor of and respect for those who died.

There were so many people there that there was a line.  And standing in lines doesn’t have to be all bad.  Because I overheard the story a woman was telling to a volunteer as he made her rubbing.  She said, “My aunt never got over his death.  She never got over it.  Thank you so much for this.”  And one man said, “I had never even met my brother.  He died three weeks after he got to Vietnam.”  And the volunteers climbed the ladders in the hot sun, and carefully and patiently made the rubbings and listened to the stories of those still grieving their loss decades later.  I witnessed the touch of love and healing in the midst of the crowd.

I also witnessed a Christian man giving up his seat on the subway for a Muslim woman.  Surely this was a touch of love and healing in the midst of a crowd.

There are people in need of God’s love everywhere we go.  And there are miracles happening in the faceless and nameless crowds that we live in every day.  So let’s make it a habit to look around for miracles.  Let’s look around for those in desperate need of that touch.

Second lesson from the crowd – look ahead.  Look ahead for God’s miracles.  The mourners at Jairus’ house laughed at Jesus when he told them the little girl was just asleep.  They said there was no reason for Jesus to even come to the house.  Look ahead – don’t laugh off the truth that God works miracles.  Don’t forget that nothing is impossible with God.  The crowd who had gathered to mourn thought Jesus was too late to save the 12 year old.  But the power of God is more than we can comprehend.  Never give up hope in God’s power.  Just when we think it’s over – it’s not over.  Don’t underestimate God!  Don’t fear, just keep trusting.

Look ahead to what the world might become if a touch of kindness from us were to be multiplied.  Look ahead to a world where there is no more hunger or no more terrorism.  Look ahead to a world where there is no more homelessness or .  Look ahead to a world where there is no more racism or prejudice or hatred or suspicion or distrust because someone acts or looks or worships differently than we do.  Look ahead to a world where we comfort those who grieve – where we listen to those in need – where we only speak compassion to one another and we only show love to one another.

It’s easy to think we can’t do anything to change the world.  There are so many big issues facing us!  But we can do what Jesus did – noticing the individual in the crowd who is desperate, and sharing that most healing touch.

Teresa of Avila wrote a poem in the 1500s.  She said in the poem that Christ has no hands or feet or eyes but ours.  Jesus is not here any more.  But we are.  Teresa of Avila says that the hands and feet and eyes that are to show compassion to the world are ours now.  It is our job – to be the hands and feet and eyes and body of our Lord Jesus Christ.  It is our job to be the touch of Christ for others.

The poem goes like this:

Christ Has No Body


Christ has no body but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
Compassion on this world,
Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good,
Yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world.
Yours are the hands, yours are the feet,
Yours are the eyes, you are his body.
Christ has no body now but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
compassion on this world.
Christ has no body now on earth but yours.

Imagine what it would look like if you were sitting on the balcony watching a different crowd.  This time…….

imagine a whole crowd of people, doing nothing but using their hands and feet to show compassion to the world.

Imagine a whole crowd of people using their eyes to see individuals in need just as Jesus did.

Imagine a whole crowd of people using their brain power and their athletic ability and their musical gifts to show compassion to the world.

Imagine a whole crowd of people using the words of their mouths to show compassion to the world.

Imagine that!

Let us pray.  Father, Son and Holy Spirit, we fall at your feet and tell you the whole truth.  We confess that we are broken and need your touch.  We beg you to heal us and our world.  Heal us of our hurt and pain.  Heal us of our prejudices and hatred.  Heal us of our selfishness.  Help us to remember the words of Jesus, “Don’t be afraid, just trust me.”  Fill our hearts with your love so that we can put our fear aside and trust you.  Fill our hearts with your love so that we can be the hands and the feet and the eyes and the mouths through which you show compassion to the world.  May our lives be used by you to bless the world.  And let the church say, Amen.

Mighty and everlasting God, we praise your great name and ask that your holy spirit would surround us and live within us.  We come before you today with all our thanksgiving, and we recognize that from you all blessings flow.  We thank you for the people in our lives who love us and support us and encourage us.  We thank you for all the people in our lives who have shown us your love and who have helped draw us to you.  We thank you for this church –for this body of Christ.  May we journey together and support one another.  May we invite and welcome others to this church family.  And God we thank you for the gift of your son – who suffered for us and whom you gave as a perfect example of how we should live.

We come to you today with heavy and anxious hearts.  But you tell us Lord not to be anxious or worried one second of one day because you love us and you will care for us.  So we lift to you the names of those who are on our hearts – we ask for your healing and loving touch to be with those who were named aloud and for those we name silently.  There is great hurt and pain in our world and only you God can really heal us.  We pray for all those who are lost and in pain.  We pray that they would feel your presence and your peace.

We ask for your power to go out into the world and to make disciples.  We ask for the power to control our actions and our words – that everything we do will show that we love God and we love our neighbors.  We ask that our lives would only reflect you and that such an astounding reflection would draw others to come and experience the grace of God.

And now with the confidence of the children of God, let us pray…Our father..

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