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13 OT B + Mk 5:21-43 + "Welcome to Iceberg Alley" ~ Susan McGurgan, D.Min.

Despite the abundance of healing stories in the New Testament, including the two we read today, about a woman with a hemorrhage and the daughter of Jairus, we know that Jesus was unable to heal everyone. We also know that each person he healed, even those he raised from the dead, eventually died.

And so, the healing stories are not primarily about a leper, or a blind man, or a woman whose body is consumed by demons. The focus on today's reading is not the bleeding woman or the dying child, as dramatic as they are.  

No, the healing stories are always about Jesus. Jesus is the subject, the object, the verb. Healing stories tell us who Jesus is. They offer us a brief glimpse of the Kingdom and send us out on mission. They invite us into a new and challenging world--a world where the lame run, the blind see, the unclean are cleansed, and the dead wake up and eat lunch.

Healing stories are disruptive stories. While they overflow with the Good News that God is with us, they also subvert and overturn. They are never simply the story of a painful condition cured or a life saved, no matter how precious the life or how tragic the condition. These stories have a way of sneaking up on us, tossing us abruptly into new and unsettling spaces—spaces where our internal gyroscope begins to wobble and slant. They confront us with issues that go far deeper than a medical diagnosis or a miracle cure. They plant us face to face with injustice, loneliness, isolation, poverty, shame, impurity, abuse of power.  

When we walk into the world of healing beside Jesus, we enter a world in desperate need of restoration; a jagged world where community relationships have been broken; a world where people toppling over the edge of disaster wander along the margins and long to be welcomed home.

Jesus reminds us that the fallout from illness and disease is never solely private. Suffering always carries a public and communal dimension, even if the person appears to suffer alone.

A woman bleeds for 12 years. A child on the cusp of adulthood dies, leaving a heartbroken father standing alone. A leper dwells in the shadows, his body lingering while his family already mourns him as dead. A man shrieks in a cave, shacked to the demons of madness and fear.

What has this to do with me?

Jesus points to them, then points to us, inviting us to see the connection.      


The Gospel healing world reminds us that our bodies matter. We are not simply dis-embodied spirits, floating in neutral space where mass and form and texture and shape have no meaning or value. We are embodied icons of the Living God, and our bodies are important to God. They bear testimony, even in their bleeding; even in their brokenness, even in their impurity. The healing stories remind us that our faith is a visceral, incarnated, crucified, resurrected, walked-out-of-the-tomb-stick-your-finger-in-my-wounds kind of faith.

So, how do we respond?

How do we bring an incarnated, embodied, messy faith into places that abuse, exploit, and dismiss the value of some human bodies? How do we re-embody a faith that has been spiritualized and abstracted and sanitized almost beyond recognition?

How do we embrace the risky nature of these healing stories—stories that persist in taking potshots at our notions of shame, prejudice, exclusion, value, purity?

How do we accept the challenge they bring to our ways of living in community? How do we continue to vie for power, once we have seen Jesus overturn, subvert, and re-envision power?

How do we turn away from women wandering on the margins; from children dying; from voices crying out for a healing touch; from hands grasping the fringes of a robe?

How do we respond?  

These are the questions Jesus asks us throughout his healing ministry. These are the questions we must lean into and explore together, no matter how hard, no matter how painful. I don’t have the answers, but I know we must face the the questions.

Each of these healing stories is like an iceberg.  The 10% that shows on the surface is about someone being made well.  Yea!! The woman with a flow of blood is healed, the little girl rises to have lunch, the leper returns home, the blind man sees, the demons are banished. Hallelujah, brothers and sisters, let us pray!  

But the 90% lying below the surface should come with a seatbelt warning, crash helmets, life rafts--- because when we enter Iceberg Alley of healing stories to see them through the eyes of Jesus, nothing, absolutely nothing, will ever look the same.

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