Jul5ThuMark 5: 21-43 July 5, 2018 Pastor Sebastian
“Praying for sick people”
Grace and peace be unto you…
About a decade ago, I visited a church, a big, old church in Germany,
and at the back of the church there was a side chapel that was set up as a meditation space, with some chairs, candles and a carpet.
On a small table there was an open notebook, with a pen beside it.
I was interested to see what people had written in that notebook,
and I read through almost all the pages.
There were many personal prayers in it that people had written down,
most with a date scribbled beside.
There were prayers for healing, many with concrete details of the illness.
Some prayers were for others, for spouses, children or parents,
and some prayers were for themselves, the writers.
Some prayers had first names signed underneath,
others were anonymous.
There were prayers for mental illnesses, for example: depression,
or prayers for help after the loss of a job.
I read prayers for the healing of relationships.
One woman wrote:
“My husband and I have lost our way together. Jesus, help us,
that we might find our way back to each other.”
There were also prayers of people who were longing to find God again;
one of them had Jesus’ words on the cross:
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
Although infrequent, I also read prayers of thanksgiving.
In an anonymous notebook in a large downtown church,
people felt safe enough to describe the true reasons they had to come to church at that time.
They felt the need to pray for healing, and for help:
healing of body, of spirit and healing of relationships.
Today, just like in the time of Jesus,
health is at the top of most peoples’ list,
esp. if they’re sick.
And people, who want to be healthier, and in less pain,
will come to the places and to people where they believe
that they might get some help.
The Gospels describe Jesus as a miracle-worker:
someone who made the lame to walk, the blind to see
and someone who drove out the demons.
It seems pretty obvious why people would come to him for help.
Our story from our Gospel this morning tells about the healing of the woman suffering from abnormal and incurable menstrual flow and also the raising of the daughter of Jairus.
One scholar quipped that this story is one of many about
“Jesus the multi-tasker”
because Jesus performs two miracles almost at the same time.
At the same time: he has to heal the daughter and the woman.
—This reminds us that God is not too busy to listen to us.
God is everywhere and is not limited by our human boundaries of space and time.
Jesus cares here and everywhere about a wounded and broken humanity.
He cares about you and me!
The woman who suffered 12 years from an abnormal blood flow was ritually unclean,
according to the Jewish law:she was excluded from the normal population,
since if she would even just touch someone,
that person (esp. men) would become immediately ritually unclean as well.
She should have cried out to Jesus from a distance,
instead of going into the midst of a large crowd to touch his clothing.
She was smart and courageous, for sure.
But she was also fearful:
and this came from the realization that she was now in relationship with the living God,
she knew (now) that Jesus had God’s power.
It’s interesting to note that in this story
this woman who was ritually unclean,
poor and defenceless
at the margins of society,
is contrasted with Jairus.
Now Jairus is a priviliged man, rich, powerful
held in high regard by all,
a leader of the synagogue.
And this high and mighty Jairus, as well as the outcast unnamed woman,
both of them need Jesus.
Both the rich man and the poor woman need the laying on of hands, both need help and God’s blessing.
But then, differently than expected,
the important man is not helped first!
The poor woman is first healed
before the daughter of the rich, esteemed Jairus.
In God’s kingdom the needs of the marginalized and outcast are heard first!
And we discover here, at this double healing,
probably the most important Christian theme:
that death and illness do not have the final word!
Our measures of health and life are different than with God.
Life is stronger than death.
In this Gospel story we feel
-our own fears for our children
-and our own fears about our own health and dying.
And we ponder: “Will I be healed, from bodily, spiritual, relational sickness?
May I, can I, pray for healing?
Can I throw all my worries on the Lord?”
And then naturally comes the big question:
Do we keep our faith when these miracle healings DON’T happen?
is our faith all in vain, when these intercessions don’t become reality?
What happens if the sick woman for whom I am praying dies?
Most faithful Christians probably believe that a miraculous healing is still within the realm of the possible,
but: such drastic healings need not to be understood as answer to prayer!
Certainly all of us have heard this or that story of a medical miracle that cannot be explained by doctors, as these miracles don’t happen every day…a miracle is, all things considered, a miracle!
But our prayers of intercession usually don’t end with an answer that we were expecting.
Jairus’ daughter was raised, but many other daughters die every minute.
The hemorrhaging woman was healed, but many others, here and everywhere, are not healed.
I recently read the following story:
A pious Christian, was diagnosed with Parkinson’ in his mid-fifties. He and his wife prayed that he would be healed. 20 years later, he was in the last phase of this energy-devouring illness.
Nevertheless, he explained that his prayers had been answered. He said, in all honesty: I have not been healed from my Parkinson’s
but I have been healed from my fear of Parkinson’s”.
We must be clear:
Prayers are not just means to an end.
God is not a divine jukebox: where you put in 25 cents and you can choose your song.
God is not a heavenly ATM: put in your card, punch in your PIN, and out comes money.
With God you don’t just throw in your prayer and pronto: you get your healing.
That’s not the way it works!
But then, what can prayer for healing bring about?
Why do we pray for sick people?
I have a few ideas:
Firstly: we pray for the sick so that we do not forget the people who need our help.
We can be part of a common humanity because we are in relationship with other human beings.
Like the golden rule states:
treat others as you would like to be treated.
When we are sick, we would like to be remembered, so therefore, we pray for others who are sick as well.
We pray to remember.
we pray for healing, like in that story of the Parkinson’s patient…
because it helps us come to terms with our situation despite the disappointments.
We pray so that we can grasp a little more about all of life’s toils and tribulations: with its bacteria, viruses and cancers, with its disappointments, hurt and alienation.
We pray to understand.
when we pray,
then we become aware of God’s continuing presence and comfort.
God is a multi-tasker.
And God listens, even before we have uttered a word.
God is with us in the morning and in the evening, and each new day.
We pray to feel closer to God.
So when we pray for healing, whether for ourselves of for others,
we are connecting to ourselves, our neighbour and to God.
We are naming that which needs to be named.
We are acknowledging God, the source and ground of all being.
We are taking time to declare that God is more powerful than death and illness, and that
God is the light of each tomorrow,
who gives peace beyond our fear
and hope beyond our sorrow.