Imperfect Faith

(Snapshots Session 5)

Mark 5:21-43

The Sick Woman

12 years. One little girl 12 years old. One woman sick 12 years. Their two stories collide on a road in Galilee.

The young girl sick, near death. Jairus rushes to Jesus asking for help. “My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well and live.”

And so Jesus comes.

While he makes his way along that dusty, dirty road, the crowd crushes in around him. And that woman. . . .the one bleeding for 12 years gathers up every ounce of courage, every moment of desperation and reaches out her hand.

Perhaps believing the superstition that the robe of a great man had power. “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.”

She touches the cloak. And in an instant she is made well. Her body is freed from the suffering.

———

The suffering.

Physical: a woman bleeding 12 years leaves one anemic, weak, broken.

Social/religious: a Jewish woman bleeding leads her to be an outcast.

Emotional: hopeless. She has spent all she has on doctor after doctor. They don’t know how to fix her so they try potions and odd things boiled in wine and sitting over trenches and hopeless means that lead to just more suffering.

_____

Jesus stops. He turns. “Who touched my cloak?’

For the disciples this is impossible. So many people. How would you know?

For the woman, this horror filled moment- she tried so hard to be anonymous, to sneak up behind, to not allow him to peer at her face, to just stick out a hand and touch.

For Jesus, he knows. He felt the power go out of him. He wants to see her.

She comes forward. Kneeling. Trembling. Explaining.

“Daughter, you faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.”

Her imperfect faith. Freed. Not just her body but all her suffering. No longer an outcast. No longer hopeless.

She reached out a hand in imperfect faith and she was given hope.

_______

Meanwhile, Jairus’ daughter dies. Just like that. But Jesus goes anyway. He reaches out and takes her hand. “Little girl, I say to you, get up!” And she does.

Two stories. One trip.

Jairus coming to Jesus religiously clean. Boldly. In the open. And Jesus moves and gives hope.

The woman coming to Jesus unclean. Quietly. In secret. And Jesus moves and gives hope.

For that is what he came to do:

“to proclaim that captives will be released” and that “the oppressed will be set free”  (Luke 4:18-19)

_______

Freed when in desperation a hand is held out. Released when an imperfect faith acts.

Imperfect faith.

Coming to him just as we are. Without it all figured out.

Come to him with an imperfect faith.

_______

Take a moment or two to experience  Addie Zierman’s  “Come Weary”

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Distracted by the Unnecessary

Distracted by the Unnecessary

(Snapshots Session Three)

Luke 10:38-42

Location: Bethany

Place: Martha and Mary’s home

Martha opens the door. She welcomes Him into her home. Welcomes Jesus not as a casual guest but as someone she is taking under her personal responsibility. Someone she is receiving under her personal care to see to His needs.

Meanwhile, Martha’s sister, Mary, sits at the Jesus’ feet. Which is just another way to say that she is being taught by Him.  Something quite phenomenal for a woman to sit at a man’s feet to learn. . . And she sits there- entranced- listening.

Listening not as one who turns on the television or music for background noise. Listening not as one who takes in knowledge from a lecture or a funny story told. No, a different kind of listening. One that leads to faith being birthed inside.

Romans 10:7: Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard from the word about Christ.

Mary is hearing the message right from the words of Christ. And faith is coming.

Meanwhile, Martha continues to care for Jesus. Serving. Willingly with a giving attitude. Her attention on Him.

Until that moment. The one where we can’t really put a finger on. It just happens.

Distraction.

It takes hold of her. Drawing her attention away.

And then this.

“Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.”

Oh, yes, that. Cringe.

Whining- Do you not care?

Martyr-I am all alone doing this because my sister will not help.

Bullying- Tell her to help me.

She tells Jesus what to do. And so do we. Often. We pray telling Him. We live lives that tell Him. We want Him to join us in our plans. Not so much would we want to join Him in His plans.

—-

Those dishes. Those dirty, nasty dishes that take me down that road.

Serving dinner to my family- sorta nutritious but nonetheless food. And then they get up. Walk away. Leaving dishes on the sink. Pots on the stove. Crumbs on the cabinet top.

And I start.

Whining: Look at all these dishes. Does no one care about these dishes?

Martydom: I work so hard to make dinner night after night after night. And here I am alone left to do these dishes by myself while everyone else is enjoying themselves.

Bullying: (Barking) Tyler, unload the dishwasher. Don, put up the food. Zach, clean the counters. Blaine, sweep the floor.  Someone load the dishwasher.

Serving with love.

Hardly.

What became an act of love turned with a distraction. Taking my eyes off the love act and placing them on the dishes and myself.

I understand Martha. Such good intentions. One distracted moment. I become someone I don’t like so much.

– – – – –

Martha’s full attention on Jesus- her serving heart- all changes. And it becomes about her. About the work. About her sister.

And what does Jesus say?

“Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things. But one thing is necessary.”

Anxious: to be divided, distracted, drawn in opposite directions, divided into parts

Troubled: confused noise, disturbance

Martha, divided into parts and giving into the confused noise, all starting with her attention taken off Jesus. One distracted moment and this.

One thing is important. Among the confused noise- one thing. One thing is necessary. Him. His Words. Faith. Welling up within us, changing us.

He says that Mary has chosen the good portion and it cannot be taken away from her. The Words spoken into her soul can never be taken away. It burrows deep within us and stays.

Martha’s distraction reminds me of a parable. The Sower. The ground. Thorny.

“And for what fell among the thorns, they are those who hears, but as they go on their way they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature. “ Luke 8:14

And yet there is a different ground where His Word might fall.

“As for that in the good soil, they are those who hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience. “ Luke 8:15

And how do I hear the Word? And what difference does it make?

When I scan back over decades. . . of once upon a time thinking the Bible was boring and weaving through years of reading it for knowledge and teaching it for knowledge and then that place. The one where I fell in love with the Word.

This I know. For certain. With all my being.

In those hard years. Those ten most hard years. Everything could be put in one category or another: Thorny ground. Good soil.

And those things that transpired in the thorns. . . I didn’t handle so well.

And those things that took place on good soil. . . I did.

Working through the distractions to keep our attention on Him won’t change the circumstances. Not usually.

But it will change me. The way I react. The choices I make. The peace I have.

And that is the difference I seek.

—————————

Be intentional. Work through those distractions. Make a plan.

Five things to try:

Read Scripture one verse a day. A week. And think about it.

Journal five things each day that brought you joy or that you are grateful for.

Type your prayers on your computer then hit delete.

Listen to Scripture as you commute each day.

Sit in solitude and listen.

What have you tried that works for you?

Going through the Suffering to see the Resurrection

Mary Magdalene, Susanna and Joanna:  Luke 8:1-3

(From Snapshots Session Two)

Jesus traveling through the cities and the villages. Proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. Through Galilee one foot in front of the other.

And with Him? The 12. And women. Not just any women.  Some who had been healed of evil spirit and infirmities. Dr. Luke even lists them for us:

>>>Mary, called Magdalene

Seven demons had gone out. What does that even look like? Can we wrap our heads around what that must have been to live that way?

This woman whose life has been changed so dramatically now follows with the group. We don’t know a lot about her. We assume she is single at this point- possibly widowed but wealthy. We can make these assumptions from the scripture provided.

What we can’t assume are things that have woven their way into tradition or popular literature:

>No, she is not married to Jesus. Neither did she have His son.

>No, she is not a prostitute.

>No, she is not the woman who poured ointment on Jesus’ feet.

She is from a fishing village, Magdala. It was known for the dried-fish industry and the urban character of the village. It was also known for the immorality of the inhabitants- a place strongly Hellenized (Greek influence) and quite prosperous by 60AD when a hippodrome found its way into the city to provide a venue for horse races. From such a city, Mary emerges.

>>>Joanna

Wife of Chuza. Probably lived in Herod’s palace- after all her husband was the household manager. She was wealthy.

Seems odd that one so important in Herod’s palace would allow his wife to travel with Jesus. Shocking almost. But then much about Jesus and those who traveled His path were shocking.

This Herod- not to be confused with the Herod of Christmas story fame. This was Herod Agrippa, the son of the Christmas story Herod. We could perhaps call him the Herod of Easter story fame as he would play a role in that drama to come.

 >>>Susanna

Probably wealthy and single. And that is all we know.

And other women. Unnamed. Some scholars speculate they might have been disciples’ wives.

Then we have the phrase that burst forth.

“Provided for them out of their own means.”

Another version puts it this way

“Helping to support them out of their own means.”

To serve. To minister. Actually, where we get the word “deacon.” These women did what the first deacons did.

And I suppose we pause here. Jesus valued women. Highly. He believed in them. In their ability to minister. He allowed that. For them to minister out of their own means. Out of their own generosity. Meeting the needs of Jesus and His band of followers.

Literally this phrase means “kicking up dust” because they are “on the move.” It is an active, practical way of caring for the needs of others as God guides. It is ongoing. Not a single generous move. But one that continues and continues and continues. . .

These women left behind lives of privilege and wealth to follow the one who had transformed their lives. They left behind the worries of what people would think. What they would say. They left behind the unnecessary baggage and instead their load became lighter.

When your life is changed what seems necessary changes.

We don’t hear from these women again until the cross.

“Many women were there [at the cross], watching from a distance. They had followed Jesus from Galilee to care for his needs. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of Zebedee’s sons” (Matt. 27:55-56).

There they stayed at the cross. While the disciples dispersed, they stayed. Watching. Waiting.

If there ever was a time to run this was it. Did they wonder what had become of all of this they believed? The money spent, the miles traveled, the heart given. . .

They didn’t run. They stayed. Through the suffering.

And when He died. They stayed. They watched as Joseph carried Jesus’ body to the tomb and they watched to see how his body was laid in it.

Only then did they leave. To observe the Sabbath. To prepare spices and perfumes.

And they came back.

Mary Magdalene. Joanna. Others. When they arrived- the tomb was empty.

These women who stayed through the suffering. . . saw the resurrection.

Mary Magdalene, of who seven demons had scattered at the word of Jesus, heard his words once again. And she saw. Him.

She ran to the disciples uttering the words, “I have seen the Lord.”

———–

Truth be known we all want to run. When we see the suffering before us. The suffering- a character flaw that should be fixed- a marriage rift- a kid out of control- an unhealthy friendship-a financial decision. We want to push it away. We want to curl up in a ball and pretend we never saw it.

And if we do. If we give into the pushing away, we will never see the resurrection. The deeper faith that comes from following through the suffering. The resolution one way or another to the crisis that looms. The character molded and remade to reflect Him. The chiseling and perfecting of our faith.

Embrace the suffering. Wait. Watch. One foot in front of the other. The resurrection, the hope, will come.

Life intersects Death

(From Sojourn Snapshots Session 1)

Luke 7:7-11

Traveling that road on that day. Jesus. 12 Disciples. A great crowd.

The road from Capernaum to Nain.

As He came toward the gate there was another procession coming toward Him. A funeral procession. Of an only son. The mother leading it. Overwrought. Uncontrollable grief spilling out.

The son had died. The mother’s hope had died with him. He was carried in a typical Jewish way. The mother in front with no man beside her. No other sons behind her. Just her dead one lying on a slab of wood. The bier, they called it. He had been prepared in all the right ways. Washed. Nails clipped. Hair cut. Anointed with spices. Eyes closed. Wrapped in linens. Face left free.

No professional mourners would be employed to mourn loudly and play flutes and tell of how much this mother loved her son. She probably, as a widow, lacked the funds for them. In fact, now with her son gone she lacked any funds. What would she do? Where would she go? But, not now. First she must bury her son. So she walked alone in front. However, behind the bier, a great crowd followed. Those with sympathy for her situation. Those who were considering this good work worthy of their time. This accompanying the body to its burial place.

Death marches out of Nain.

Life marches into Nain.

And they meet.

——————————

“And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her, and said to her, ‘Do not weep.”

Saw: Seeing that becomes knowing. Grasping the spiritual truth-the reality- from the physical plane. Comprehending what is happening in front of you. Looking into the eyes and seeing the soul.

Compassion: to feel in the inward parts. Deep, deep feeling that leads to action. Welling up from a place in the heart and spilling out.

Do not weep: There is hope. The grief that is flowing out. . . that can not be contained. . . in the midst of that. There is hope.

“Then he came up and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And he said, “Young man, I say to you, arise.”

Jesus is unconcerned about becoming ceremonially unclean by touching the bier.  His concern is the widow. The widow of Nain.

“And the dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother.”

Sat up and began to speak: Proof of the miracle

Gave him to his mother: Those words so familiar. Spoken in 1 Kings 17:23. Elijah. The widow’s son.

Jesus gives the widow back her son. Giving her hope. Trading her grief over the future to hope for a new future.

The people knew something had happened. They called out praises to God and recognized that this had come from Him. They called Jesus a great prophet. Yet, they stopped short of calling Him, God. That would come. One day. By a few.

A story that seems to be about a miracle, the raising of the dead and yet, in this male dominated society, it is actually the story of the restoration of a woman. She is, after all, the center of the story.  It doesn’t escape my notice that in a society that often regards Christianity and the church as those who would downgrade women. . . Jesus again elevates them. He always treats women with dignity and respect and honor so foreign in that culture.

In my mind I cannot seem to escape that point.  .  .  where life and death intersects. And what happens at that point? What happens when Jesus, who came to give us life, abundant life (John 10:10) comes face to face with uncontrollable grief?

———————————

Compassion.

Henry Nouwen, the man who left the prestigious job to go and work with the least of these said:

Compassion asks us to go where it hurts, to enter into the places of pain, to share in brokenness, fear, confusion, and anguish.

So into death- of any kind- chronic disease, financial ruin, friendship breaks, gloomy days- times when the death seems so real inside. Jesus goes to where it hurts. He enters the places of pain. He shares in our brokenness. Our fear. Our confusion. Our anguish.

And in those death places. . . He brings life. Because He is life.

And if we are in those life places. Those full places. What do we do?

Do we go and “be Jesus” to the world? How can we? We aren’t God. And yet we take up the Savior complex and try to fix everyone and everything. And we can fix no one and nothing. Because we are not life.

But we can be compassion. We can go where it hurts. We can enter into the places of pain. We can share in the brokenness, the fear, the confusion and the anguish. And in those places we can reflect His love. His life.

Life intersecting Death.