That pesky uncleanness

Mark’s gospel is a stunning piece of writing.    It’s the first of its kind.   Not only the first gospel but the first of the genre of “gospel” And it is written so that we read it at least at two levels all the time. It’s a gospel that is written for a community of believers. It is not so much trying to convince people that they should be followers of Jesus but how to live now that they are

As we looked at, at Easter time, the gospel ends in a weird way and sends the reader or listener back to Galilee  there you will see him And that takes us back to the beginning of the gospel, set in galilee  and asks us to head through it again (and again, and again) to see where it is that we will discover the Jesus that has risen from death.

3 times in Mark’s gospel, we are told that if we are going to be a follower of Jesus, we have to “pick up our cross and follow him”, or “go to Jerusalem with him” or “drink the cup that he is baptised with”

If we are followers of Jesus,  Mark’s gospel makes it clear that we are to be right in the very same footsteps as him.

That’s a pity in many ways, because some parts of Mark’s gospel take Jesus to places where I don’t particularly want to go all that often. Like chapter 5

In the first part of chapter 5 Jesus heads off to a country outside the promised land and heals someone who is described as being possessed by a legion of demons When he gets back, he is grabbed by a church leader whose daughter is dying And then on the way to doing something about that,  he is accosted by a woman who has been unwell and unclean for 12 years.

Mark sets up this part of the reading as a sandwich.   We’ve seen them before. The two parts of the story on the outside are pointing to the story on the inside. The two parts of the story about Jairus daughter point to the story about the woman She is the centre.   Her life is the key one in this.

Jairus is the right person for Jesus to be helping.   A church leader.  A man of faith Jairus’ daughter has all the emotional elements to top it off:  young, frail, sick. If ever there was someone who was deserving of being healed, it was her.

And on the way to doing the right thing, on the way to restoring a life Jesus is accosted by a nuisance.    And not just a nuisance, but a nuisance who threatens who Jesus is    This is a weird and desperate faith by a wacky unhelpful and threatening person. Her actions, her desperation has left Jesus in a pretty invidious position. He has now been touched by an unclean person And that makes him – unclean.  

Now, he cant eat with people, he cant be with people, he cant go into their houses It’s the pinnacle of what you see in primary school yard – “girl germs”

But there is something that is absolutely desperate that is happening in her life. We miss it a bit in the tidy English version of the bible that we have.

But it goes something like this:

And a woman-having been bleeding for twelve years,  and having suffered greatly from many physicians,  and having spent all she had,  and having benefited not one bit  but rather having gone from bad to worse,  having heard about Jesus, having come in the crowd from behind-touched his cloak.

Desperation leads people to unusual actions

This week I heard from 2 friends my age who are the children of refugees and who both talked about the way their parents desperately sought a better life here One of them via a boat and a dangerous voyage.    In Parliament this week we heard emotional, passionate speeches about what to do and a great many speeches were about how do we stop those boats coming how do we discourage the people from making that trip, because they might die.    How many speeches did you hear about ways to bring a wholeness of life to the people who are in Indonesia? I wonder how much we would feel better if we could stop the deaths at sea even if it meant that the deaths just happened in Indonesia instead?

I wonder what it means for us  to be wandering in to the middle of those pesky people who make us unclean  those people who are desperate and who have exhausted their options.

You may not have heard quite as much this week about the “Stronger Futures” legn That’s because it snuck through Parliament around 3am on the last sitting day. We didn’t manage bipartisan support during the politicking with asylum seekers but we quickly managed bipartisan support with the Stronger Futures legislation

It’s the legislation that has set up the continuation  of the Northern Territory Intervention for 10 years.

This is the Intervention that is based on no evidence of success yet. This is the Intervention that is based on a punitive top-down approach  This is the Intervention that has simply done little           to improve people’s lives in the Indigenous communities In fact during the Intervention over the past 5 years,  Indigenous suicide rates have increased dramatically. and rates of incarceration have increased 41%

We are creating a new group of people who by the end of this legislation will have been suffering for 15 years,  and will have been suffering greatly from many experts will have spent all they had and will have not benefited from the experts, but instead will have gone from bad to worse.

Mark 5 tells us that the way that Jesus lived put him right in the middle of these sorts of situations and Mark’s gospel sets us up that as followers of Jesus we will do the same. Right in the middle

What does it mean for us to be right in the midst of situations? What does it mean for you to wander into the middle of pesky uncleanness?    Rather than leave you with a heaviness and a question, I want to leave you with an story of something that can happen when a group of people delivering services because of their faith  get into the messy middle of situations of people who are desparate.

Listen to the story of someone  who has been assisted here at UnitingCare Kippax

 

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