In pm's words
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June 29, 2015, 12:00 AM

the one about touch...


Sermon from June 28, 2015

Text: Mark 5: 21-43

Grace and peace to y’all from God our father and our Lord and Savior Jesus who is the Christ – will y’all pray with me? Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord, our rocker and our redeemer; amen!

Let me tell y’all – this has been a whirlwind of a couple of weeks to start out in ministry with a new congregation. A huge full day of worship and Spirit last Sunday as we had three services – two ‘normal’ services and then the installation service later that afternoon.

Getting to be with so many different folks who have not been able to worship here in this space for a while because of illness or age or situation.

Traveling back and forth between Lexington and Newberry which – hopefully soon – will be a thing of the past once we officially settle here in this wonderful community.

Being with the family of the Haltiwangers as they grapple with the death of Harriett that has happened so quickly.

Continuing to move through and attempt to understand the events in our state the past few days and weeks. A shooting in Charleston where nine beautiful children of God were cut down by another child of God as together they studied and listened to the Word of God. A racist manifesto, images of symbols and flags, debates about how to view those symbols and whether they should or should not be displayed. Finally – for me – the participation in the viewing of a great and faith-filled man of God at the State House where thousands of people came to pay their respects to Rev. Clem Pinkney.

There has been a lot of pain in our state and country this week, and there is so much need for healing…

In the middle of all this we read this Gospel text which we heard today. A text where there is so much need and desire for Jesus to be in the midst of it all.

First we see a woman who is in need to be healed. She has been ‘bleeding’ for 12 years. Because of her condition, she has been ostracized from the community and more than likely her family as well. People during this time didn’t want to associate themselves with blood – especially human blood – in any way. It was considered unclean, impure, and more. She desired to be healed and had faith that only a brief touch of Jesus’ clothes would be enough for her suffering to end. In many ways, she is ‘dead’ to the world because no one will have anything to do with her.

In the second part of our story this morning, we have a distinguished and well-to-do man named Jairus who runs to see Jesus because his daughter is gravely ill. Well off individuals – especially men and especially during this time – didn’t run. They didn’t even bring themselves to ask for help, that’s what servants were for. But no – not Jairus. Not in this time of need. He runs to Jesus and falls at his feet, clinging to him and asking for his help.

Jesus agrees and follows Jairus. On the way they are told that it is of no use because Jairus’ daughter has died. Jesus doesn’t want to hear that sort of talk and insists on going forward to be with this young girl. As he comes to her, he grabs her hand and tells her to get up. And she does.

Healings and miracles have occurred and the one thing that I cannot help, but notice is the insistence of ‘touch’ that is so prevalent in this gospel reading.

The woman who is healed and restored seeks to just ‘touch’ Jesus’ cloak. She has faith that just the touch of his garments will be enough to heal her affliction. She was right, and Jesus sends her on her way healed and restored. Moving so much to restore her into the life of community by referring to her as ‘daughter.’ She is no longer an outsider in the community, Jesus welcomes her back into the family.

Touch. Touch welcomed her into community and into new life.

Touch was important in Jairus’ daughter’s healing as well. Jesus sits next to her as she lies in bed and holds her hand. Jesus lays his hands upon her, touching her and calling for her to get up.

Touch brought her back into the life that had left her in her death.

Touch.

Touch is incredibly powerful and needed in our healing. I’ve talked to many who have been sick and distraught and the one thing that they’ve always wanted is to be ‘touched’ in some way. Especially those who suffer from those diseases and afflictions that we do not understand.

Just hold my hand – touch my shoulder – hug me…

Touch has been incredibly powerful as we as a state mourn the loss of those beautiful nine lives and as we as a state and country begin to heal from this heinous act. We’ve seen the worst and the best of what makes South Carolina well known.

Our worst in the acts of an individual who harbored so much hate against his sisters and brothers because of the color of their skin. Where he clung to symbols and flags that represent that thought of hate to so many – not only in our state, but around the world.

But, we also saw the best of what identifies us as South Carolinians as well. The response that Charleston and the state of South Carolina has given has been no short of miraculous. Our response has not been one of vengeance or hate. We’ve not retaliated in any way, in fact we’ve dug into one another in hope and love instead. Last Sunday evening across the Ravenel Bridge, thousands clasped hands and linked arms as a sign of peace and love that connects us not only as South Carolinians, but more importantly as children of God.

In the images we’ve seen of Charleston after this act of racism and hatred we’ve seen a lot of ‘touch’ going on. There are folks hugging, there are folks clasping one another’s hands in prayers, holding one another up during their time of need and mourning.

While I waited in line at the viewing of Rev. Pinckney, touch was important as well. We shook hands, we held hands. We hugged. We stood with one another in blistering heat; holding water and walking with one another as we paid respects to a wonderful faith-filled man of God.

Touch is so important for us to hear of this day as we seek to be in healing with one another. Touch is how we show love, affection, and care.

All of us have been in the situation I’m sure where someone says that they care, but their touch is absent from us. Those actions speak louder than their words.

We are in need of healing in so many ways here in South Carolina and our nation. The last thing we need to be doing is distancing ourselves from those in need. We come close and gather close to one another – close enough to touch – so that all might know of our care and love in Christ for the world.

We grasp the hand of the mourning and hold tight the one who is sick. We clasp the hands of those around us as we strive to end injustice and racial hatred in our world. Standing with those in their time of need.

Touch. The women who was bleeding simply wanted to touch the garments of Christ. Jesus grasped and touched the hand of a dead girl. Both were healed and restored to life.

We are called to touch and be with those in need and there is a desperate need within our state now. We look to our neighbors around us – all of our neighbors – and we seek to be with them in their time of need. As we hold one another up as we all seek to bring Christ’s love to an aching world.

As I end this sermon, I would like to share our presiding bishop’s letter that she sent out as a response to the shooting in Charleston – these are powerful words that call us to mourn, repent, and to act…

Bishop Eaton writes:

It has been a long season of disquiet in our country. From Ferguson to Baltimore, simmering racial tensions have boiled over into violence. But this … the fatal shooting of nine African Americans in a church is a stark, raw manifestation of the sin that is racism. The church was desecrated. The people of that congregation were desecrated. The aspiration voiced in the Pledge of Allegiance that we are “one nation under God” was desecrated. 

Mother Emanuel AME’s pastor, the Rev. Clementa Pinckney, was a graduate of the Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary, as was the Rev. Daniel Simmons, associate pastor at Mother Emanuel. The suspected shooter is a member of an ELCA congregation. All of a sudden and for all of us, this is an intensely personal tragedy. One of our own is alleged to have shot and killed two who adopted us as their own. 

We might say that this was an isolated act by a deeply disturbed man. But we know that is not the whole truth. It is not an isolated event. And even if the shooter was unstable, the framework upon which he built his vision of race is not. Racism is a fact in American culture. Denial and avoidance of this fact are deadly. The Rev. Mr. Pinckney leaves a wife and children. The other eight victims leave grieving families. The family of the suspected killer and two congregations are broken. When will this end? 

The nine dead in Charleston are not the first innocent victims killed by violence. Our only hope rests in the innocent One, who was violently executed on Good Friday. Emmanuel, God with us, carried our grief and sorrow – the grief and sorrow of Mother Emanuel AME church – and he was wounded for our transgressions – the deadly sin of racism. 

I urge all of us to spend a day in repentance and mourning. And then we need to get to work. Each of us and all of us need to examine ourselves, our church and our communities. We need to be honest about the reality of racism within us and around us. We need to talk and we need to listen, but we also need to act. No stereotype or racial slur is justified. Speak out against inequity. Look with newly opened eyes at the many subtle and overt ways that we and our communities see people of color as being of less worth. Above all pray – for insight, for forgiveness, for courage. 

Kyrie Eleison

We are called – as brothers and sisters in Christ – to be with those in need. To speak out against injustice in the world, and to not stand idly by as our fellow sisters and brothers are cut down by words, jokes, thoughts, and actions. We are called to act – to touch in our healing with those in need.

To touch in our healing... Amen…

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