What is your favorite sandwich? Not the gospel-prompting question you were probably expecting this morning perhaps? So, what is it? Me – I like a turkey club – you know with the layers, which is kinda like a sandwich, within a sandwich – two for the price of one.*
There is a gospel reason I am talking about sandwiches. This morning, we have an example from Mark known by the scholarly term of intercalation – which means – to sandwich. We heard a story within a story- two for the price of one.
Both are about healing. Both model what God would have us do – reach out, cross boundaries, pay attention to the people the world casts off and doesn’t want to deal with. Yet the layering of the details surely matters. First we meet Jarius – a leader of the synagogue. We are told he is important and prominent. A man of standing. But on this day I would imagine he is desperate and scared and at his wit’s end because his daughter – his 12-year-old child, is dying. So no matter what anyone else thinks of him Jarius, throws himself at Jesus’ feet begging for his touch. Please lay your hands on her – he cries – please make her well.
And then story #2. An anonymous woman – who given her condition would no longer be considered anyone’s daughter – is also dying. While Jarius daughter was living her twelve years – this woman has been bleeding, her life draining out of her (not pleasant, I know, but very real and still in some third world countries, still in existence). And the hemorrhaging is just a part of her misery – for she would not have been treated well - she would’ve been cut off, cast out - ostracized – as a person who is unclean.
Perhaps she heard of the unclean leper Jesus touched and healed. Perhaps she heard of the unclean demoniac Jesus touched and healed. Perhaps she heard of the unclean blind man Jesus touched and healed. Who knows. We do know – she has spent everything she has, because like Jarius, she too is desperate, scared and at her end.
And maybe that desperation – as it often does – propels her too towards faith - towards the healing hands of Jesus.
But she has been shunned and despised for so long that – she is scared – and she only
dares to touch his cloak. And when she does we read - immediately, immediately – everything changes. She is healed. Even Jesus feels it – and wants to know who. Disciples get defensive – think he is accusing them – what? Us? How can we know? Do you see this mass of people? How would we know?
And the woman – well aware that Jesus could easily turn the crowd against her – like Jarius, she falls at his feet – with fear and trembling to confess. And she tells him, we read, tells him the whole truth.
The whole truth – why does the writer include that phrase? Well – you know at the start of each service when the priest prays the opening collect saying – almighty God to you all hearts are open, all desires known and from you no secrets are hid? You know how in a few minutes we are all going to confess that we have not loved God with our whole heart? Both that prayer and our confession name something very real and very human – on some level we do not believe God would love us, would be merciful, would even touch us – if God knew the whole truth about who we are and what we think – how we act – and how we don’t. And so we hold back loving and living with our whole heart.
But this woman, after what she has been through – isn’t afraid of the whole truth any longer. And that’s when Jesus honors who she always has been – Daughter, he says, your faith has restored you – your trust – your risk – you’re reaching out – that has made you well, he says.
Pardon my continued use of the metaphor – but that truth is the meat of our gospel sandwich - intentionally inserted into this first story – of healing a child. Then as of now, perhaps that is an easier healing story to take in. But the whole truth – we are meant to hear is that being a child of God lasts long past youth. That’s the way God sees all of us – all the time – created in God’s image. And despite the normalization of blame and casting out that took happened in Jesus’ time – or is happening in ours – People of faith are called to bear witness to the whole truth of God’s restoring and respecting the dignity of every human being - as we vow in our baptismal covenant – so that God’s family is made well.
One time – I was at a retirement home near hear after presiding at an afternoon Eucharist. There was leftover wine. So the thing is – we believe – we say we believe – that a priest consecrates the wine. The wine has changed not mind you solely because of the priest – but because the people gathered together consecrated the wine. In other words, I can’t consecrate wine by myself. Anyway – I had this large chalice of wine – it was not a simple task to pour it outside – and there was a lot of it.
So I went into the bathroom – and was just about to pour it down the sink. And then the voice in my head said – I guess you either believe this stuff – or you don’t. I could pour it down the sink – no one would know – who cares, right. Does it really make a difference in the scheme of things? And the voice said again – you either act like you believe this stuff or your don’t.
We read these stories and we see the ways in which Jesus acts in concrete ways to bring people into the fold. Especially the people no one wants. And the question that wedges itself into the context of our lives is the same – do you believe this stuff? Do you act as though you believe it?
Verna Dozier in The Dream of God, writes: "The important question to ask is not, 'What do you believe?' but 'What difference does it make that you believe?' Does the world come nearer to the dream of God because of what you believe?" (p. 105)
Sacred texts are living texts – that’s what we say the bible is – specifically the gospel – it is a revelation. It is not a rule book – a flat, one-dimensional – application to be layered on top of our life. We live within it – it lives within us – the word is very near to you – on your lips and on your heart (the exile Moses reminded - Deut 30:14). Our words matter – because they touch people’s lives – and our actions matter because they do the same.
Jesus crosses literal boundaries like the sea – and metaphorical ones like those imposed by the rulers and authorities – showing us all what we are all capable of. He is not swayed or bothered by the laughter and jeers of the naysayers such as the people around Jarius’ daughter. Ignoring it – he reaches out – holds her hand – and lifts her up. And then turns to all those who are amazed – just to say – its not that hard, no need to be amazed – just get her some food.
As we reach out your hands this morning – to share the peace with our neighbor – to open our palms and receive the bread – may we give thanks for the hands of God that hold us all the time – that press upon our hearts even when its hard to know. As we take in the Body of Christ – may be strengthened to live lives that bear witness to our beliefs. May we have the courage to live the whole truth that is the way and the light – may we be encouraged to live the faith that makes the whole human family well. Amen.
* Grateful Karoline Lewis' post for this inspiration (https://www.workingpreacher.org/craft.aspx?post=5184