Thursday, June 27, 2024

For Only $19 a Month...

 



For Only $19 a Month…

 

Mark 5:21-43
5:21 When Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a great crowd gathered around him; and he was by the sea.

5:22 Then one of the leaders of the synagogue named Jairus came and, when he saw him, fell at his feet

5:23 and begged him repeatedly, "My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well, and live."

5:24 So he went with him. And a large crowd followed him and pressed in on him.

5:25 Now there was a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years.

5:26 She had endured much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had; and she was no better, but rather grew worse.

5:27 She had heard about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak,

5:28 for she said, "If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well."

5:29 Immediately her hemorrhage stopped; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease.

5:30 Immediately aware that power had gone forth from him, Jesus turned about in the crowd and said, "Who touched my clothes?"

5:31 And his disciples said to him, "You see the crowd pressing in on you; how can you say, 'Who touched me?'"

5:32 He looked all around to see who had done it.

5:33 But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling, fell down before him, and told him the whole truth.

5:34 He said to her, "Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease."

5:35 While he was still speaking, some people came from the leader's house to say, "Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the teacher any further?"

5:36 But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the leader of the synagogue, "Do not fear, only believe."

5:37 He allowed no one to follow him except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James.

5:38 When they came to the house of the leader of the synagogue, he saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly.

5:39 When he had entered, he said to them, "Why do you make a commotion and weep? The child is not dead but sleeping."

5:40 And they laughed at him. Then he put them all outside, and took the child's father and mother and those who were with him, and went in where the child was.

5:41 He took her by the hand and said to her, "Talitha cum," which means, "Little girl, get up!"

5:42 And immediately the girl got up and began to walk about (she was twelve years of age). At this they were overcome with amazement.

5:43 He strictly ordered them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat.

 

 

St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital is one of them. Wounded Warriors and a number of pet rescue organizations are also examples. Of what? Maybe this will jar your memory: “For only $19 a month, you can…” Ever wonder why it is always “$19 a month” in those ads for charity fundraising? The “Negative Nellies” will tell you the $19 a month, for a total of $228 a year, “flies under the IRS radar” of $250, when they require charities to send a written receipt for contributions. In fact, all responsible charities—and ones that want to be successful in raising the funds they need—already DO send acknowledgements of ALL gifts, along with countless mail or email appeals for more. The real reason? Psychology. “For only $19 a month” is like why things on sale are “$9.99” instead of $10, and gas is priced “$3.79.9” instead of $3.80. Sounding “less,” sells. I don’t mean to disrespect legitimate charities like St. Jude’s, or others, for that matter, but you must admit, it’s an interesting introduction for a message about healings from the Gospel of Mark.

 

“Healing” is one of those heart-grabbing topics, isn’t it? The St. Jude’s ads grab you because they picture very sick children and their heavily-emoting families; the veteran’s and rescue-pet ads do the same, aiming at our heart strings. The reality is that these charities MUST raise funds to survive and to fund their mission. Guess what? Your church has to do the very same thing. Have YOU bitched about your church “asking for money” more than what makes you comfortable? Do you turn off the “movie of the week” or favorite sporting event on TV when the St. Jude’s ads come on? I doubt it. Neither would you if your church’s stewardship campaign letter and pledge card arrives in the mail the same week your beloved mother dies, who will be respectfully laid to rest by her pastor, and you will be embraced by volunteers from the congregation. Human nature being what it is, we all need our “heart strings” strummed, from time to time, to get in touch with our “better angels.” 

 

In this week’s text, we have two touching, healing stories. The first is a bit “political”: Jairus, a “leader of the synagogue,” is losing his “little daughter” to some disease that would be quickly eradicated by an antibiotic in our day. He pleads with Jesus to do something about it. Jesus, who needs to get his message past the “filter” of the synagogue, would be predisposed to use his divine power to heal the young woman, so he accompanies the official on the way to his home where the sick daughter is. Along the way, Jesus is “accosted” by someone else in need of her own healing.

 

A woman “who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years” does a little figuring of her own. The “code” in the text would cover what was probably a “female-related” issue of blood, most likely from fibroid growths in her uterus. Not only was this a dangerous (rendering her anemic) and inconvenient situation, but for a Jewish woman, it would render her permanently “unclean,” behaving like a 24/7 menstrual period. Probably based on other divine healings she has seen Jesus perform, or possibly from stories heard about them, she decides that all she has to do is “touch his clothing” and she will be healed. This was a common superstitious notion. We see it in the Book of Acts, where handkerchiefs “blessed” by Paul or one of the other apostles transmitted a “healing touch.” Of course, her scheme works, and she is healed, instantly. What the “doctors” of her generation could not do, touching the “hem of Jesus’ garment” did in seconds. (I’m not sure how she knew that she was healed so quickly, but let’s go with the text.)

 

Jesus responds by asking the disciples “Who touched me?” Incredulous, they reminded him he was in a PRESSING CROWD, and hundreds of people had touched him, as he tried to make his way. But Jesus was somehow aware that “power” had gone out of him, and that something wonderful had happened, due to it. The woman who was healed ‘fessed up. Interestingly, Jesus addresses her as “daughter,” in a parallel story construction to the fact that he was headed to Jairus’s home, where HIS daughter was dying. So, here we have another parallel—two people who desperately needed a healing, and who had prevailed upon Jesus to be the agent of that healing—one who asks him directly, and one who, in her attempt to “fly under the radar,” sort of “steals” the power of God he represents, to affect her own healing. Both, in their way, “asks” for help.

 

The inference in the story is that the woman whose hemorrhage is healed delays Jesus, and during the delay, Jairus’s daughter succumbs to her illness, turning her “healing” into a resurrection story, eventually. Once at Jairus’s house, Mark gives us much more detail than he usually does. Typically, he would just say something like “Jesus healed her IMMEDIATELY, and went on his way.” Instead, we get more of the story, possibly because the famous “trailing teenager” was fascinated by all of it? There was the mourning and “wailing,” the grieving parents, a dead twelve-year-old, and the mystery of how Jesus would handle the situation—lots of fodder to pique a teenager’s interest. The text gets curiouser and curiouser…

 

We know that the little girl is healed, or resurrected from the dead, we just don’t know which it was. Death back then wasn’t quite the same “science” it is, today, hence the testimonies of Lazarus being “in the tomb three days,” and similarly, when Jesus dies. The writer of these stories wants us to know these two men were dead, dead, dead. It was not the same thing with Jairus’s daughter. What was important, in this author’s mind, was the actual words Jesus spoke to her: “Talitha cum,” which he then translates for us. Some scholars say that a better translation would be, “Little lamb, arise.” If this is true, does this, then, become a foreshadowing of Jesus’ own coming resurrection? Maybe. Other commentators have pointed out that Mark gives us this “rising” phrase to show that Jesus didn’t do any “mumbo-jumbo,” or incantation, but simply told the little girl to “get up.” I like this assertion, as throughout the Bible, we have “necromancers” and magicians replicating some of God’s miracles with their own legerdemain, but they obviously cannot top the genuine results of what God does with God’s power. And then, as seems to be the “proof” of the fact that the resurrected one is actually alive, they are given something to eat. Ghosts don’t eat, and neither do people who just recover from being passed out, as they continue to be woozy for some time. They may receive a container of water, but no food, as no one wants them to choke to death in their weakened state. Lazarus, Jesus, and Jairus’s daughter all eat something as a sign that they are truly alive and well.

 

Healing stories always catch our attention, as all of us have been deeply touched by illness, and aggrieved by loved ones and friends who have succumbed to it. We all want miraculous healings, and pray for them almost every day, for someone, don’t we? We modern people should direct more of our prayers toward gratitude for the great gifts God gives the healers of our time—the doctors, nurses, PTs, and mental health therapists who are most often the agents of our healings. The last thing Christian people should do is eschew these healing practices and medicines in “deference” to wanting God to heal, as some do. (It’s like that story about the drowning man who prays for God to save him, and who drowns after refusing aid from a helicopter and a lifeboat, saying, “No, GOD is going to rescue me!” After arriving in heaven, the guy asks God what happened, and God says, “I SENT a helicopter and a lifeboat, what do you want?”) Don’t wait, friends, take whatever healing first comes along!

 

Another lesson from this story is, ASK, or in the case of the hemorrhaging woman, REACH OUT to God. Actually the two stories work well together, if you put the pieces together: ASK God for healing (Jairus, for his daughter) and then DO what you know is best (the woman). Pray, then go to the doctor, or the emergency room. Either way, God will touch you. Of course, this is the flaw in the story—both figures ARE healed. This is not always our experience, either with divine intervention and/or the best efforts of gifted medical personnel. My late home pastor used to say, when someone succumbed to a disease or illness, “They received the ultimate healing,” meaning they were now fully in the presence of God. It was at least a comforting thought.

 

Bringing us full circle back to St. Jude’s, we are reminded that it is HOPE that drives our prayers as well as our philanthropy. Those who send $19 a month to St. Jude’s (or Wounded Warriors, or one of those pet rescue outfits) sincerely hope that their contribution will be the “tipping point” that will make a difference for those who suffer. While the sentiment is certainly one we find in the pages of sacred writ, God’s people are urged to “be careful” to make sure the charities they support are honest and worthy of our support. Consult “Charity Navigator,” or one of the other two ratings non-profits who police this. Incidentally, St. Jude’s passes muster, according to them, as does our own United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) that was again recently give Charity Navigator’s top rating for using almost every sent given to aid its clients. 

 

And in all of these HOPEFUL stories, we may do well to adopt “Talitha cum!” as our encouraging rallying cry! In the name of Jesus…Amen.

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