Reach Out and Welcome Someone
Tony E Dillon Hansen
18 July 2021
Sermon based upon Mark 5:21-43, Psalm 23, and Lamentations 3:22-23
I sense a need to focus our next couple of weeks about gender issues in the scriptures. For this Sunday, this great story from Mark 5 about the woman reaching out to Jesus provides an excellent example of faith that heals. Yet, there is so much more involved here - plenty for us to unpack in this story, especially how this contrasts with Jesus coming home to Nazareth. This woman does not know Jesus at all but has heard about his power. Whereas hometown folks question Jesus’s power away. This woman gets it. She recognizes Jesus’s power and so do the parents. What does she teach us in this moment?
There is a lot of symbolism and a series of questions we can raise from this seemingly random action. A presumably, unknown woman suffering for years believes and recognizes Jesus’s power.
We can wonder if this was an act of faith or of utter desperation. For us, What would be the reason we would reach out to Jesus? What prevents us from reaching out?
We do not know how long she has been there, but we can presume she is in the synagogue to pray. We have to wonder how long has she suffered and for how long she has come to worship suffering. At any point, she could have gave up, but she did not. For how long, do we go to church looking for that moment, that spark, the healing moment? How many times do we pray and how many times should we pray ?
This is hope! We will find redemption and healing. When we reach out with our faith, we let God be with us rather than something else.
When the moments arrive, we know them, and we can live into them. These moments happen to us and for us. Question for us, do we acknowledge these gifts and remember to give thanks? Do we honor God’s gifts and miracles to us with our welcoming hearts? Or do we just walk about expecting more little miracles?
As I mentioned, this story reveals gender issues that were evident in her time as much as they are evident today. Laws have been passed down for ages that discriminate due to gender. I submit to you that some laws are just an excuse to exclude. We don’t have to be ok with that.
Yes we have a female governor and vice-president. We have had a black president and now vice president, but we well know that racism and misogyny both still poison our community. Case in point, there are people are so afraid of the vice-president becoming president. Is she demonized because she is black or a woman? How does that make people feel to hear this?
It took centuries for women to get suffrage, and we have yet to pass the ERA. What is the excuse? Incidentally, why are people ok with new voting restrictions? Will we reverse years of progress? When will my right to vote be taken away? How do we change this?
This act of reaching out turns into a public display of healing. Jesus presumably could have just walked onto the little girl, but Jesus makes a point to stop and publicly give witness to the woman and her healing. He does this not just for theater. Jesus does this because her “condition” means that for years she would have been excluded - left to fringes of the church - if she would even be allowed in the doors. For years, this woman has endured public shaming because of a bodily process – out of her control. This public act of declaring her healed is not just a physical healing but collective healing – an invitation to join the community.
This is a reminder to us here in this day. Who do we, and for what reason, exclude from the grace of God? How can we be more inclusive and encourage others to be inclusive instead? There are people that should be here that are not. A church that thrives invites not just us regular attendees but invites those in community to join us – wherever they are on life’s journey.
So individually and as a church, we ought to think beyond our perspectives and make sure they are correct. Do we in fact invite and welcome people? Nice thing about town this size, is that church is only a few steps away from neighbors. There are neighbors around us that could be here in the church with us. Ask, “are we inviting them”, and if not, let us start.
In order for us to reveal that extravagant welcome as a church, we individually and personally must also exhibit that invitation in our words and actions. In fact, “extravagant welcome” does not mean welcome “but only if….” Remove the preconditions and practice God’s love, God’s welcome, in our lives.
That love doesn’t happen just when you say the right words because we know the power of words - as Jesus declares publicly that she is healed. What words do we say publicly that lifts rather than tears down? Practice words of inclusion and lifting.
To the question of how do we change the issues impacting us. It starts with you and me. It starts with us being that extravagant welcome and encouraging others to be that. It happens in our words we use and the empathy we extend to others. When we are welcoming in our thoughts, words and actions, we extend God’s radical and extravagant welcome one person at a time.
So reach out and welcome someone! Then, hear the words, “Your faith has made you well; go in peace…”
Thanks be to God.