Good morning Christians, Seekers, and Friends!
How are you? For those of you who came to keep me company here in person, I want to thank you. On days like this, most of us either want to be in the water or thereabouts or near an air conditioner or a fan! I know I do. So, God bless you very much for being here today! For those of you listening from a cooler location, I send you blessings as well and hope that God will bless you and those in our city without a cool place to be during this time of EXTREME and record-breaking heat and know that we are here praying for you and cooler weather!
Now, I know, some Christian folks tell me they feel bad praying about stuff like this when there are always folks facing bigger problems and challenges. And while it is true that most of us are blessed with a gifts and blessings, and yes, even problems that any number of folks would like to have, it doesn’t change the fact that God isn’t offended when we pray. God truly cares about us all the time—even when we are uncomfortable and overheated. You see, our God of love doesn’t need to ration out love and blessings and miracles—God is ever creating and expanding love in our world and, believe me, God has enough love for everyone. I think that is what I love most about the Jesus that we read about in Mark’s gospel. Jesus in the first chapters of Mark spends a lot of time teaching and healing both in Jewish and Gentile regions. As the anointed one—the Messiah—of the Jews, a lot of folks who believed in him probably thought that he shouldn’t be wasting his time with non-Jewish folks. But Jesus cares for and listens to folks regardless of their heritage as a child of Israel or the empire. Regardless of their standing or importance in society. He heals and addresses issues and illnesses both big and small regardless of what those around him might think. His response is determined only by the needs and the faith of those who come to him.
So, believe me God, doesn’t mind us praying for cooler weather. And me and a lot of Seattlites would appreciate it because I have to tell you that I really dread hot days and humid days. And in spite of what Lionel Richie sang in that Commodores song “Easy like a Sunday morning” I especially dread hot Sunday mornings when I know I will have to wear all the layers of vestments and robes that Episcopal priests and lay ministers wear at church.
Now I would guess that NO ONE here likes it to be too hot or too humid – that is why we live in Seattle, right? And believe me I am with you on that. I also have a condition called hyperhidrosis. Any of our medical professionals out there will tell you that, as far as a physical conditions go, it is not all that bad—it doesn’t make me sick or shorten my lifespan and I can live a healthy life without any kind of treatment. Yet, I have spent more time worrying about and ‘suffering’ from hyperhidrosis than any other aspect of my physical health. For those of you who might not know what hyperhidrosis is – it is a physical condition characterized by abnormally increased sweating in excess of that required for lowering body temperature. Hyperhidrosis can affect folks all over or in localized areas of the body such as hands, feet, neck, back and face/head. And the sweating doesn’t just occur when it is hot, like today, or when one is exerting oneself but it is pretty much constant and just gets worse on days like today. Now know sweating a lot is, in the larger scope of things, is hardly tragic. But hyperhidrosis affects my quality of life psychologically and socially. It makes me uncomfortable and self-conscious because everyone knows you should “never let them see you sweat.” However, with my hyperhidrosis affecting mostly my face and head, even when I am calm, happy and well, I rarely can pull off looking calm, cool, or collected. Truly. For years, I have carried around cloths to constantly pat my face and fans. It is a condition I cannot hide. I usually tell yoga instructors and fitness folks about it because I don’t want them to needlessly worry about me. A favorite exercise of mine for years was Bikram yoga which is done in a room heated to 105 degrees because in that temperature EVERYONE is sweating as much I do! Super nice folks will come up and ask me if I am feeling okay and I sometimes worry about what conclusions folks might be making about me. Let’s be honest, outside of the gym, our society does not like sweaty folks. We Americans are all about hygiene. We don’t like sweat and we have all sorts of ideas about sweaty folks ranging from body size and fitness level to dishonesty and anger. It is decidedly ‘uncool.’ Yet here I am in this pulpit today melting into a puddle like the Wicked Witch of the West
I guess I am thinking about all of this today both because it is hot and because our gospel reading today really speaks to those of us with uncomfortable and embarrassing conditions. In earlier chapters in Mark, Jesus has already been accused of all sorts of stuff by the Jewish religious and social authorities: They accuse him of blasphemy for telling a paralyzed man that his sins were forgiven and judge him for eating with tax collectors and ‘sinners. They scorn him for not enforcing the observance of fasting with his disciples and for not refraining from working on the sabbath (Jesus has, after all, healed on the sabbath). However, Jesus speaks clearly about God’s laws which were made to guide and help humanity rather than to harshly judge them. The sabbath, for example, was made for humankind—a day of rest—but that didn’t mean that God would stop doing wonderful and miraculous things on the sabbath. Rather God’s love was constantly moving, including and growing. And Jesus is clear that the good news — his life and ministry is for all of God’s children—both Jews and Gentiles– including those marginalized by society and women.
Today Jesus heals two women – one a woman who has been suffering with hemorrhages for twelve years and another –a twelve-year-old girl who was sick and dies before Jesus makes it to her house. Now, many you might be wondering about the significance of the number 12 in our story. And I think it is important to note, in light of our current conversation, that twelve signifies fullness—completeness. And just as
God’s chosen people, the Israelites, were divided into twelve tribes, as Jesus calls out a new people for himself, he starts with twelve disciples/apostles who will begin the work of spreading God’s kingdom through the Good News. In today’s story, Jesus is highlighting the fact that he cares about all aspects of our life. And while Jesus has done many other miracles before, these two are especially meaningful to me because Jesus not only heals and saves these two women, he does it with his usual grace and goodwill—meeting folks where they are at and refusing to let others proscribe to him how his miracles and healings should or would occur.
Having just arrived back on the Jewish side of the Sea of Galilee again, Jesus is met by a crowd filled with excited folks waiting to meet and greet Jesus when Jairus, a leader of the synagogue comes up to Jesus to ask him to come to his house and lay [his]… hands on his daughter so that she would be made well and live.” Jesus agrees to accompany him but as they began to walk towards the house, a large crowd followed him and were pressing in on him from all sides. In the midst of it all, Jesus feels healing power going forth from him. And he asks who touched him. I love how the disciples answer. Because of Jesus’ unexpected question about this unforeseen healing, the disciples don’t know how to respond. And truthfully their reply comes off almost defensive: “Uh Jesus, it is a big crowd how can you ask us who touched you?”
And then we are told that the woman, knowing in her body that she had been healed just as Jesus knew in his that he had healed, comes forward and tells him the ‘whole truth’ about her healing. And Jesus’ response to her was as unexpected as the miracle itself. Instead of mansplaining to her about what had happened and how and why and how grateful she should be that he healed her—an unclean person—as her issue of blood had made her unclean for 12 years, he empowers and affirms her by giving her credit for her own healing. He says “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.” Right after this, folks come from Jarius’ house to tell Jesus that he is too late, but Jesus continues on his way assuring Jarius that he need not fear—only believe…and once again, Jesus miraculously not only heals this young woman but brings her back to life by inviting her to rise up. In both of these cases, Jesus invites the other into the healing process and refuses to be bound by the pronouncements and limitations set by others. Jesus may be Lord but he does not lord it over folks when it comes to healing and saving folks. He’s got enough love and miracle juice for everyone.
While the raising Jarius’ daughter from the dead is definitely a bigger, if you will, miracle in our gospel for today. I find great comfort in knowing that Jesus doesn’t shy away from responding to women’s health issues or embarrassing conditions like my hyperhidrosis as well. We’ve all heard that we shouldn’t sweat the small stuff but Jesus knows for some of us that isn’t possible. So today I am telling you the whole truth. I do not like hot weather, overheated and humid spaces and drastic fluctuations of temperature. I get chilled easily too. And as silly as it might seem, I know God cares about me and every single one of us who is suffering in the heat—even those of us in our belovedly temperate Seattle. .
It is hot out there my siblings in Christ so be kind and patient with one another because as the temperatures rise, so too can our tempers. Being overheated can not only work our last nerves and make us grumpy and short with one another, it can also be dangerous to our health…. Stay cool, stay hydrated, and stay healthy please. God loves you and cares about you just as much during a heatwave as during a pandemic.