Monday, June 29, 2015

Healing Relationships

28 July 2015
Proper 8B

O God, the foundation of the world rests in you; grant us a firm foundation in all our relationships, encourage our hope and faith in you, and wrap us in your familial love, through the presence of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Last summer I attended my cousin’s wedding. Now my cousin has unfortunately been very sick off and on most of her life. She has had normal illnesses, cancer, and some uncommon ones, like Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. About every six months, she ends up being hospitalized for something. During the wedding, during the exchange of vows, her very soon to be husband started giggling. “For better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, giggle… to love and to cherish, until we are parted by death.” When he started giggling, we all started giggling. Someday we all hope that he will know what life with my cousin is like when she is healthy. 
Good, loving relationships are healing. There is healing in relationships, especially healthy relationships. While my cousin has still not been terribly healthy in the last year, her spirit and her ability to endure her illnesses has become better because of her new healthy family relationship. Being part of a family, especially one in which you are known to be loved, can be tremendously healing. 
The Gospel passage from Mark this week is rhetorically very well set up. Mark sets forth two moments of mockery to highlight relationships that are not quite healthy and in turn highlights two moments of joy in healthy relationships. He presents two stories of restoration of family, encouragement of faith, and support of hope founded in God.
The moments of mockery, cynicism from the world, are immediately overturned by Jesus restoring relationships, empowering the faith and hope that enabled the people in the story to try for what they were doing. In the first part of the story, the disciples mock Jesus by asking him about who is touching him in a crowd. “And his disciples said to him, "You see the crowd pressing in on you; how can you say, `Who touched me?'" They seem to think that this is a silly question, there are lots of people touching Jesus at the time. However, when the woman comes forward and tells Jesus the whole truth, he lifts up her faith and calls her daughter. He shares with everyone her place in the kingdom of heaven as a daughter. He restores her relationship in society by giving her a place and a role. Not only has she been physically healed in this encounter with Jesus, her faith has been encouraged, her relationships and place in life have been restored. 
In the second story, the moment of mockery is when the professional mourners simply laugh at Jesus when he says that the girl is not dead but asleep. However, Jesus does not give into the cynicism of the world. He takes her hand, calls her to stand up, and restores her to life and her family. I can only imagine the joy of her parents when their daughter is restored to them. As before, not only is she physically healed of whatever caused her to be sick to death, but she is also restored to her loving relationships with her family. 
In Mark's gospel, Jesus has been walking around the countryside, teaching his followers about the kingdom of God, and now he is showing how it works. Both of these events are miraculous in the lives of the women. One has finally been cured, the other one raised from the dead. And both stories are restorations of relationships. Good, loving relationships are healing.
One way in which we can be in good, loving relationships is through our beliefs. The kingdom of heaven is a family. We call ourselves a church family for a reason. God calls us his sons and daughters. He loves us, he heals us, he wraps his arms around us, he gives us the ability to make our own choices and then sits with us through the consequences and saves us from ourselves. God, in Jesus, has made us family. In the first part of the gospel passage, Jesus calls the woman, names her as, “Daughter.” We are related to each other in Jesus Christ. The apostle Paul in his letters addresses the communities as brothers and sisters. In the Old Testament, God is referred to in a familial way. The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of a family, our family. Our ancestors. In Hebrew, names have meaning, and interestingly in meaning, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob means the God of a multitude, of laughter, of overturning the systems of the world. All of which we see at work in our passage in Mark today. Jesus cares for the multitude of people around him, Jesus brings joyous laugher in healing the woman and the girl, and in doing so overturns the system of the world which mocks him and does not believe him. 
There are many ways the kingdom of heaven is at work in our midst through our relationships. I am reminded of the book, The Help, that was popular a few years ago. What truly starts the whole book off is the feelings that Skeeter has for her household’s former maid, Constantine. Constantine had been fired while Skeeter was off at college and no one would tell Skeeter why. But Skeeter loved Constantine, felt her to be part of her emotional family and tried to find out the whole story. Along the way, she was able to give a voice and healing to many household maids in the community through writing a book about their stories and their experiences. The good, loving relationship that Skeeter had with Constantine is the catalyst for healing for many other women and an overturning of the unhealthy relationships that had ruled the community.
Jesus offered both woman in the gospel passage this morning this kind of healing relationship with him and they both accepted the opportunity. Jesus comes to us, offering a loving relationship with the power to heal us, physically, emotionally, spiritually. And when we accept a relationship with Jesus, we are better able to have those kinds of relationships with each other. When we are in loving relationship with God, we can be in loving relationship with other people. We can lift them up in prayer, with dignity, be open to listening deeply to their stories and experiences, and to bringing reconciliation to unfortunate divides. 
Good, loving relationships are healing. Jesus offers us such a relationship with him. I hope we are all open enough to take a chance on a good, loving, healing relationship with Jesus.