Message of the Week: Better understand others
We are encouraged to "put yourself in their shoes" to have a better understanding of a situation. In the fifth chapter of the Gospel of Mark there is a healing story about a woman who has been suffering from bleeding for 12 years and believes that Jesus can do what the doctors of her day could not. Today, let's walk in the woman's and in Jesus' shoes.
The woman has been labeled "unclean" in every way. It is assumed her condition is her fault, and she does not deserve the same rights as "normal" people in society. The fact that she started out as "normal," contacted a medical condition and spent all her money paying doctors who treated her illness by bleeding her was overlooked by those "good people." She was supposed to stay at the edge of town with all the other "losers."
She figured out that Jesus was her best hope for healing. Her intent was to touch Jesus' robe, but not him — which meant she took the risk and protected Jesus' reputation. She was right about the healing, but when Jesus asked, "Who touched me?" it became obvious that worrying about his rep was not an issue for Jesus. Just asking the question made him look silly in a crowd where all sorts of people were bumping into him. Jesus didn't want to just "heal and run." He wanted a relationship with those he healed.
The woman realized the healing was not just of her physical condition. People's perceptions would have to change, which might bring discomfort. The story reads, "The woman knowing what had happened to her, fell at his feet." She didn't know if she was in trouble with the religious leaders or Jesus, or even if her healing could be revoked. Jesus responds by saying that the people who hurled insults, who tried to shame her, who treated her as an outsider would be asked to see her as "normal," as an equal. That's a pretty large piece of humble pie to eat for those who had set themselves up as her judges, but now were pressured into accepting her as an equal, and as a close friend of Jesus!
Jesus knew this woman's re-entry into society would be a process. First came the initial healing. Then came his proclaiming that by exercising her faith, she was an important part of her own healing. Then, in everyone's hearing, Jesus declared her, "at peace and freed from her suffering." His declaration meant more than just saying she was free of worry or pain. This was a public declaration that she was now a "complete person," (which Jesus already considered her, even before the physical healing).
Our community, like others, has a group of people that is considered unclean by many because they are homeless. Actually, many of them are "houseless" people who have made themselves at home in a variety of outdoor settings.
Many of the homeless struggle with addiction, health care and stereotyping by society, as do many who are not homeless at this time.
There was a heartwarming story in the paper this week about a homeless man who, because he acted like and was treated like a valuable contributor to our community was given the role of watchman for the Marysville Cemetery. In a Jesus-like manner, the labels of clean and unclean were reversed. The unclean people were those who had no respect for the sacred historical ground upon which we walk when we visit the cemetery. It took a houseless man to remind us how to treat our community as our home. Reading about the man's life story, it sounds like he was an active participant in his own healing, like the woman in the Bible. I am pretty sure that Jesus would say to him, "Your faith has cured you. Go in peace. Be freed from your suffering."
Not every homeless person has his or her life as together as this gentleman, but then neither does every indoor person. The woman was physically bleeding and socially and spiritually at dis-ease with her life. She wasted a lot of time and money on the wrong kind of cures. All of us are now or have in the past experienced our life-blood hemorrhaging, have felt at dis-ease with ourselves, our jobs, our relationships, our faith. We have tried a variety of less-than-effective ways to try to stop the bleeding, some of which are just as crazy as letting yourself get bled to stop the bleeding. Here is the Good News.
The woman came to Jesus with great fear and trembling. That means you and I don't have to spend time pretending to be more together than we are. Jesus takes us just as we are, desires to heal us face to face, protects us against those who would judge us, and restores our self-worth. Jesus wants our healing to be a complete makeover of our lives. Isn't that the kind of good news worth risking everything for?