For the past week, I have been thinking about community: not surprising you might think for a Minister! But it would seem the more I am drawn into silence and solitude, the greater my awareness of others- those I seek to serve.
There is a mystical element to Jesus, something intangible, yet entirely rooted in his personhood that seems to hold the threads of this and / or, that if we choose to merely glance, we might miss. What appears opposing can be the very space in which our faith is birthed: beyond the simplistic language of healer and healed, sinner or saint. There is a river of wonder and beauty that flows through all created matter, connecting us to the divine and all of creation, but that does not mean that we have no agency: over our lives, our loves, our interactions with our environment in the broadest sense of the word.
Just as Jesus appears to take great pity on some, others (as is the case in today’s reading from Mark) seem to have to fight for their healing – almost grappling it out of his hands by force! Resting in this unknowing, we can reframe the notion that questioning leads to faith and explore that which we cannot define, letting our faith lead to questions and searching of a greater depth.
When we begin to unlatch the door and turn the key to our human made secure room, designed to contain God/ the divine/ supernatural, we at last see with first sight clarity that this ‘other’ could never be contained.
How foolish are we who think we can limit the creator!
In Mark’s account of two separate healings (Mark 5: 21-43), we see the stories interwoven into a narrative that recalls how even Jesus, the man, could be found questioning and perplexed. It is a staggering tale of love and loss, and it sits at the very heart of community life. We hear of both the anguish of a parent fearful for the life of their daughter and a woman who was so desperately ill and isolated she felt she had nothing to lose. Both women represent to me the stark divide that society (that’s us) has constructed within our communities;
the seen and the unseen
the known and the unknown
the supported and the unsupported
… “If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well.” Immediately her haemorrhage stopped; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. Immediately aware that power had gone forth from him, Jesus turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my clothes?” … He looked all around to see who had done it… He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.” (NIV)
I think this is one of my all-time favourite bible passages, as it speaks radical truth to the shaming and degradation of all women. It legitimizes and upholds the sanctity of our heritage and bodily worth: when those around the woman tried to force her into invisibility, she extended her faith into the unknown and surrendered herself to a power much greater than her own. Even Jesus could not at first see her amongst the crowd, but by choosing to actively pursue her healing she was restored. I wonder if it is the fear of not knowing- this unknown – that limits our ability to see God in spaces and places outside of our secure room?
Whilst I was away on a course this week, I had to stay in a very built-up area, on an industrial estate no less! and it occurred to me that my way of being has changed: to have no access to trees, rivers or green felt to me like I was being robbed of a connection to my Lord. Now that may sound extreme, but to find God in the wildness of creation has a rightness to it that mere words cannot explain, for we can never seek to Rewild God; we have never had the power to tame. Our minds hold onto the strands of knowledge that make us feel secure and we construct theology and doctrine around our limitations, but when we choose to lose ourselves to the wildness of the land, our encounters transcend the now. Just as the woman reached out to Jesus, God is all around us, but we must seek that engagement. I challenge us all this week to see what we can learn of the God who sees us, even when others do not.
What does your local area offer to your contemplation?
What does it mean to be part of a community?
What would happen if we started to include all of creation in our community building/ vision?
From wood pigeons to pollen on thistles, I believe Jesus is waiting to be shocked again by our insistence on connecting to the intangible presence of God, everywhere and anywhere.
May God be with you all this week and wherever we roam from the city to the village, may we stay ever close to the heart of Jesus.