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A Love That Heals and Hopes

a sermon by Luann Yutzy, 2006 EMS graduate

Location:   Lindale Mennonite Church
Date:   January 9, 2005
Scripture:   Mark 5:21-43, parallel to Luke 8:40-56

Listen online:   http://lindale.org/info/sermons.asp

I have missed out on a lot of life.   I was a pretty good basketball player when I was younger.   I was one of those small, quick ones.   I played in 7 th grade and started to play my 8 th grade year, but it was a different coach that year and I was kind of afraid of him, so I quit.   My freshman year I wasn’t even going to try.   The high school coach came and asked me to consider playing, but I didn’t feel comfortable with that coach either and I was afraid.   “What if I turned out to be a really good basketball player, I mean really good?” That was too scary to think about.   So I didn’t play again, even though I spent hours playing basketball at home in our haymow.

Fear was a big part of my life and I let it cripple me.   I didn’t want to play at piano recitals so I mostly taught myself to play piano.   I was one of those kids who, when assigned an oral report, was nauseous for weeks until it was all over.   I wasn’t able to get out of doing those.   I didn’t go to camp when all the other eighth graders did and I didn’t go to Quebec with my French class, even though I really wanted to see Quebec.  

Believe it or not, I did take risks.   I climbed trees and walked on barn roofs and climbed high on grain bins just to see the view. I loved to see far.   I had a favorite spot on the peak of the farmhouse I grew up in and there I would sit with a book and the view.   Maybe I felt more free up there, I don’t know.

I spent a lot of my life hiding, hiding with my fears.   I was very good at hiding. I was good at hiding from myself.

We have two stories in the passage from Mark 5 today.    We find Jesus close to the Sea of Galilee in a Jewish community surrounded again by crowds of people.   First we meet Jarius, a prominent Jewish man, a synagogue leader.   He begs for Jesus to come and heal his dying twelve-year-old daughter.   In verse 23, he says, “Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well, and live.”   Made well. To be healed.  Of course, Jarius wanted his daughter to be healed. Wouldn’t all of us ask the very same thing for our child or someone we love?   Jesus responds by going with Jarius.   But then Mark lets us witness an interruption in this story.   We’re hoping Jesus will get to Jarius’ daughter in time and then Jesus gets sidetracked.   Jesus stops and asks an absurd question.   Amidst the pressing crowd, Jesus suddenly asks, “Who touched me?”   The disciples must have thought Jesus was acting a little strangely.   Everyone was touching everyone; it was a crowd of people!

But somewhere in that crowd was a woman.  A woman who had been an outcast because of a bleeding she had for twelve years that wouldn’t stop.   Jewish laws considered her unclean and unfit to attend services or other ceremonies.   Her money had been spent on doctors who couldn’t cure her of this shameful hemorrhaging.   She was a desperate woman and somehow she had mustered up the courage to venture out in the crowds to reach Jesus, the amazing man she had heard about. She may have waited for hours before she felt she could move closer, taking the risk of making everyone around her unclean her touch , as she pushed through to be next to Jesus.   This may have seemed like her last chance because Jesus was needed desperately somewhere else to heal a dying little girl.  With all the faith she had she reached out behind Jesus and touched his garment.   And instantly, she was healed!!   This is when Jesus asks, “Who touched me?”  

It isn’t that he didn’t know the woman and her condition or the healing that took place.   Jesus wanted to heal much more than her bleeding. He wanted her to be whole-physically, emotionally and spiritually.  Jesus met the woman where she was in her faith.   It was probably all she could do to go out in public and try to reach Jesus, but she had faith and Jesus met her needs.   But, he wanted so much more for her, more than she could even possibly imagine.   Jesus wanted her to experience an inner healing, that included being loved, accepted and affirmed for who she was — a child of God, a beloved child of God.   With this kind of healing she could be free to be who God hoped for her to be, free from the prison her community had kept her in, free from her own perception of herself — an unclean woman who couldn’t freely glorify God with her gifts.  

When she comes to Jesus in fear and trembling and tells him her story, Jesus says in verse 34, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”   Made you well, healed, being made whole. Jesus didn’t ostracize her; instead he called her “Daughter,” a very intimate and loving name.

I have a similar journey to healing and wholeness.   I have always thought a lot about God. Even as a very young child I asked questions about eternity and how God began.   After high school, I didn’t go to college, that would have meant stepping out of the only world I knew.  I didn’t really know what I wanted to do anyway.   Not once was I shoulder tapped to consider ministry for my future. How could I have even known that was what my passion was?  

So, I married and stayed on our home farm and raised a family.

This all took place in a Conservative Mennonite community that had rules about a woman’s place and accepted roles she could have.   A woman couldn’t have a position leading men that gave her authority in spiritual matters.   I knew this and I didn’t really fight it, although it became another thing for me to hide behind.   Only through my husband’s position could I be on leadership teams, where vision and spiritual guidance of the church were discussed.

             Sometimes I think God uses life as divine revelation.   With God’s prompting, we found ourselves on our way to Hesston, Kansas in 2000, for my husband to attend the Pastoral Ministry program.    There in a land that most people try to avoid, my soul was released as I drank in the space and sky (you can see far in Kansas).   My heart responded to the free spirit and the love of the people.

 In Kansas, I began to see a whole new world. Freedom was stirring within me as I watched women teaching and preaching and attending pastoral ministry classes. I still didn’t claim that freedom for myself, but the winds were changing.

 In our two years in Hesston, I felt loved by so many people without the conditions or prescribed roles I had grown up with. I wasn’t even related to these people and they loved me for who I was. For the first time I realized what being God’s “Beloved” meant. My healing began with the overwhelming love I was finally able to see and accept from God. That’s the love the woman in our passage today must have felt when Jesus stopped on his way to an important task, looked her in the eyes and called her, “Daughter”.

We left Kansas and entered my husband’s pastoral position in Ohio. It wasn’t long before I realized I was again in the barriers that had once bound me.   Women could not have titles in this church and I would only be the pastor’s spouse, not even enjoying the unhealthy liberties our former church had given to pastor’s spouses earlier in my life.   I knew I had hit a brick wall and there was no place to hide. I knew now that God had given me gifts in leadership and ministry and I had to decide to be faithful to God with my gifts.   This was the moment my soul had been longing for and God had been preparing me for.

 It turned out to be a dark and painful birthing process with many spectators along the way. Our overseers suggested an open-ended interim which was a gift to me to pay attention to the changes that were happening within me.  I was tired of hiding. I had glimpsed freedom in Kansas and that’s what I really wanted. This is when I needed help; I started the hard work of counseling and I had to be painfully honest with a disappointed congregation.

As I accepted God’s immense love for me, and  embraced the woman that had been hidden inside of me, the words of the men in my upbringing of describing women in leadership as “women with an agenda who should be put in their place” receded into the background.   That was the healing which started with my journey to Kansas and then to the birthing of a call; a call that wants me to let go of being afraid of becoming who God hopes for me to be. This is a call I could see when I realized that I was a beloved child of God. I still deal with fears, but I have experienced grace and I want to respond with my life, helping others be aware of God’s love and the call God has for them.

The healing process continues.   I find it difficult to return to my home community now. I feel a lot of silence and confusion from people about who I am becoming and what I am pursuing.   But God provides others who walk with me.   You may not realize it, but you are a part of my journey towards wholeness.   By being a congregation that allows a woman to do an internship and bring a message on Sunday morning, you are helping in my healing process and I thank you.

I didn’t share part of my story just to encourage women in leadership, but to show how Jesus was for the person, whether they were women, men, children, outcasts, demon-possessed, blind, rich, and poor. Jesus hopes for us and wants us to experience healing and wholeness.

              Jesus takes time for what’s important.   He took time for an unclean woman even as he was hurrying to an important task for Jarius, an important man.   It’s also a reminder to us about taking time for people in our busy schedules.   Those little tugs we feel on our arms or the phone call from someone in a crisis just when we were getting some work done could be opportunities for us to be an example of Jesus’ healing touch. What if we would stop and really listen to someone when they talk to us or give up our lunchtime to help someone in need? A teacher once remarked, “You know…my whole life I have been complaining that my work was constantly interrupted, until I discovered that my interruptions were my work.” PAUSE    Jesus stopped and gave the woman a personal touch and blessing even when other things were calling him.  

We don’t know how Jarius felt during this interruption.   While waiting on Jesus, he may have seen all his dreams for his daughter flash before his eyes.   Parents have hopes and dreams for their children: to have friends, to find meaningful jobs, to be happy and healthy and follow God.   Jarius may have remembered the way his daughter laughed when he tickled her or the first steps she took as a toddler. His hopes and dreams came crashing to the ground when people from his home rushed to tell him his daughter was already dead.   If only Jesus could have gotten there sooner!   Jesus turns to Jarius in verse 36 and says “Do not fear, only believe.”   This is an extreme case, but how many times do we let our fears choke out our belief?   A lot of us fear the future and what it holds for us.   Our country lives in a state of fear especially since 9/11.   Jesus is inviting us to be whole, living expectantly, believing that God is working in our world and in our future.  

Jarius had shown great faith by asking for Jesus to heal his daughter who was at the point of death.  It isn’t the quantity of faith that we have that determines the kind of healing.   His daughter had died while Jesus was on his way to her. Where was the hope in that situation?   It is never too late for Jesus. In this case, the healing Jesus brought to Jarius’ daughter was restoration of life. In verses 41 and 42, he gave her life again, “Little girl, get up.” And immediately the girl got up and began to walk about.

I had my first close encounter with death when I was in third grade.   I never really knew what was wrong with my friend.   He wasn’t my closest friend, but he went to my school and he went to my church.   I watched when he was made fun of because he couldn’t run as long as the rest of us.   I noticed his face turned blue when he ran and his veins showed through his thin skin on his skinny arms. He did his work just like the rest of us.   He had a family to go home to at the end of the day just like everyone else.   One morning his seat was empty. PAUSE I didn’t know he would die in the middle of third grade on an operating table in an attempt to heal the hole in his heart.   Where was the healing and hope?   PAUSE

God will heal in ways we may not think of.   Healing may continue even after death.   What we do know is Jesus will meet us where we are if we will just reach out and acknowledge our need to be healed.   It is never too late for Jesus.   He will heal us in ways we never knew we needed healing.  

Being made well and a journey to wholeness is an ongoing process.   The crowds longed for healing. We too long to be whole.   Sometimes it takes a community to work towards wholeness.   We can be agents of healing for others even as we recognize our own healing process.  

We can often learn from the children around us.   Not too long ago when I was in the grocery store, I noticed a woman roughly rebuking her little girl as she waited in line. Any of us could have been that woman. We have all said harsh words.   But this little girl was devastated.   Later, as I left the store I saw the little girl sitting on a bench being held tenderly by her older sister. The older sister was gently rocking the sobbing little girl who wasn’t much younger than she was.   PAUSE  We can be a part of the healing process of others.   A couple chapters back in Mark 2, we find a community effort of healing when four friends brought a paralyzed man to Jesus, lowering him through the roof, knowing that he couldn’t do it on his own.

Each contact we have with another person is an opportunity for healing and hope. If you were the only person someone met today, would they have experienced Jesus’ healing touch through you? PAUSE  We can be people of healing and hope. Be observant and pray that you will notice pain and suffering within you and around you and let others experience healing and hope through you.  

Where are you in the crowd that is following Jesus?   Are you up close trying to catch Jesus’ eye? Or are you lingering in the back of the crowd watching very carefully, trying to get the courage to reach Jesus in spite of what others think of you or what you think of you? PAUSE

  What part of your story would you like to bring to Jesus and touch his garment and be healed? PAUSE

And then can you stand before Christ honestly revealing your need for wholeness, that deep inner healing that brings peace? PAUSE

What part of you has been dying that needs to be restored to life? PAUSE

If you have gotten to a point in your life that seems beyond all hope, remember that Jesus didn’t leave a seemingly hopeless situation hopeless.   He brought healing, wholeness and hope. Do not fear, only believe and Jesus will bring the healing you need. I am living proof that Jesus heals in ways we would never dream of.   When seminary was first mentioned to me, I turned that person off right away. But a year later, I was a student at Eastern Mennonite Seminary.   I have been healed and continue to be healed and it’s all because of Jesus Christ, Jesus, the Healer.   My healing began with the love of Jesus. You are a beloved child of God.   You are loved just as you are. Tell that to yourself everyday, every hour, every minute that Jesus Christ loves you more than you can even imagine.   That’s when the healing will begin.   Let’s pray.

Thank-you, God that you let us know who you are through your Son, Jesus, and the work of the Holy Spirit.   Help us to remember how much you love us and want us to be hopeful people who are expectant, having faith that Jesus will heal all areas of our lives, leading us on towards wholeness.   And in our healing, help us to release others to be healed.   Help us to not keep them outside the circle, making it hard for them to reach Jesus.   For Lindale, God, I pray that healing would take place within our hearts and would extend to the community, so that others would know your love for them. Give us faith, God.   In the precious name of Jesus we pray, Amen.

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