July 24, 2011: Touching Jesus

Posted on : Jul 22nd, 2011 | By | Category: This Sunday's Service

Israel had some pretty awful “holiness laws.”  Leviticus is the book that is full of them.  Leviticus 18: 22 is the infamous “clobber text: “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman.”  And Leviticus 20:13 adds “the punishment:” If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall be put to death, their blood is upon them.”  In the same book, women get put down as well.  There are countless decrees against women in the “holiness codes” and an awful lot of them have to do with menstruation.  For a people of faith whose entire existence depended on having babies – and preferably MALE babies, they were awfully hard on the very folks who made that possible!

You can rationalize this stuff till you’re blue in the face, but the bottom line is that Judaism and Christianity are patriarchal religions.  That means they gave power and privilege to men and the men created a “legal system” (“holiness codes”) whose primary purpose was to keep women subordinate to their power and control.  It is that same horribly abusive use of patriarchal power that is at work in Christianity today in all the debates about homosexuality.

A couple weeks ago I was watching one of the Sunday morning talk shows.  It was about a week after New York State voted to allow same gender marriages.  The host was interviewing one of the right-wing Christian Social Conservatives from Focus on the Family.  The poor guy ran out of reasons in support of his assertion that same gender marriage was destroying the institution of heterosexual marriage.   Finally, he just blurted out, “The problem is, equal marriage blurs the lines between male and female roles!”  Yup, he named the unspoken truth.  This “battle” isn’t about same gender marriage it’s about supporting heterosexual male power and privilege.

The woman in this Sunday’s gospel is victimized by this same system.  Like so many women in our story of faith, she isn’t even given the dignity of being named.  She’s just “a woman….”

This woman’s story is that she had suffered from menstrual hemorrhaging for twelve years.  She, like many today, went broke going to doctors and trying to get well but after long and painful treatment, she was not any better.  In fact, she was getting worse.  Her condition was made worse by the fact that Levitical Law labeled her “unclean.”  Leviticus 15: 25 says, “If a woman has a flow of blood outside her menstrual period, or if her period is prolonged, as long as the flow lasts she shall be unclean, the same as for her monthly period.”  That means this woman was considered “unclean” for twelve years!

One day, this woman saw Jesus preaching and teaching and HEALING folks.  She so wanted to be healed, but no Jewish Rabbi was going to touch a bleeding woman!  If he did, he’d be considered unclean and would be ostracized just like her.  But this woman had more faith and courage than most, so she came up behind Jesus and touched the tassel on his garment.  Jesus immediately shouted, “Who touched me?”    Peter was with Jesus and answered, “What do you mean, who touched you?  Everybody is touching you.  The crowd is pressing in on us.”  But Jesus says, “No, somebody touched me. I felt power go out from me.  I want to know who touched me!”  The unnamed woman came forward and threw herself at Jesus’ feet.  And Jesus said, “My daughter, your faith was the source of your healing.  Be free, and go in peace.”

Wow, imagine the strength and courage of that woman!

A couple weeks ago I was back east attending my nephew, Josh’s, high school graduation.  Josh attended Tapestry, a Bill and Melinda Gates funded Charter School.  It was a school that was founded around a different core value system.   The value system of this school was that no child fails.  Josh’s was only the second graduating class in this school.  The high school was founded because the K-8th grade school was so successful that the parents wanted the same educational commitment and opportunity for their kids. The high school graduation rate for African American students in their city is about 25%.  At Tapestry the graduation rate is 90%. The school is probably 80% African American.

Each student when they enter the school is placed in a small group of nine students and assigned one teacher who follows them, supports them, intervenes for them and journeys with them from the very first day of school to the day of graduation.  At graduation that teacher personally speaks two or three sentences about each child, their life, their talents, their struggles, and their victories, before the principal hands them their diploma.  I’ve attended an awful lot of graduation ceremonies in my life, but I’ve never attended one as meaningful as Josh’s.

These were kids who experienced “healing touch.”  They were given the support, tools and resources to be able to reach out and touch the hopes and dreams that are there for them, just like our unnamed woman in Sunday’s gospel.

This Sunday we’re going to look at how we can reach out and touch Jesus; how we can experience the power of Jesus’ healing in our lives.  Enough of religion’s abusive power.  It’s time to tap into Jesus’ healing power for our lives.

Blessings!

Dan

This Sunday’s Scriptures

Mark 5: 25-34

 

There was a woman in the crowd around Jesus who had suffered from a flow of blood for twelve years.  Various doctors were unable to cure her. After long and painful treatment, she had spent all her money and was not any better.  In fact, she was getting worse.

“If I but touch Jesus’ clothes,” she told herself, “I will be well again.”

She came up behind Jesus, reached out, and touched the tassel on his garment, and she was instantly cured.

“Who touched me?”  Jesus shouted.

“The crowd is pressing upon you,” said Peter.  “What do you mean, ‘Who touched me?’”

But Jesus searched the crowd, insisting, “I felt power go out from me.  I want to know who touched me.”

Trembling, the woman came forward and threw herself at Jesus feet.

Jesus said, “My daughter, your faith was the source of your healing.  Be free, and go in peace.”

 

Leviticus 15: 25

“If a woman has a flow of blood outside her menstrual period, or if her period is prolonged, as long as the flow lasts she shall be unclean, the same as for her monthly period.