Hunger, Yearning and Being Fed!

Hunger is something that often surfaces as an issue in our lives.  For most of us, we get hungry having not eaten much for a few hours.  Whilst we do not really need to eat as much as we usually do, we feel hungry.  When hunger becomes fierce, we can be desperate and grab at any food we can find, whether good, bad or in between.  Hunger can drive us to all manner of binge eating, grabbing at fast food and satiating the hunger we feel any way we can.  For those who are truly hungry, it can drive them to quite desperate responses to feed themselves and their family.  After all, many of those who populated this new British colony were desperate people who stole as little as a loaf of bread to satisfy their family needs.

This morning I awoke feeling tired having lay awake for a bit through the early hours of the morning pondering some issues that wouldn’t go away.  I felt the intensity of some of these issues and the restlessness that comes from being out of balance as things around me in the wider feel somewhat out of control and I cannot resolve them.  As I wrestle with some of these issues, big and small, I become worn and weary, tired by the stress of thinking through them whilst feeling somewhat powerless to change them.

As I sat in bed drinking my early coffee I turned to the passages for this week and read through them.  At first my mind was too chaotic to engage, and I had to focus down on what I was reading.  One of the stories (John 6:1-21) was another version of the story of Jesus feeding a large crowd.  The image of being fed sat in my mind as I contemplated the story.  Being fed.

What does being fed mean for me this day?  I don’t really feel like much food – I probably overdid it last night.  It wasn’t feeding my body with food – eating.  I needed to be fed in another, perhaps deeper manner, in my spirit.  I needed something to quieten my mind and open me to the beauty of the day and the wonder of life – the grace of God.

When I got up, one of our dogs was quite insistent that it was time to go for a walk – he wants to walk whenever possible but always first thing in the morning if we are around.  I confess I wasn’t feeling overly energetic and it was still quite cool but he was insistent, looking me in the eyes with his pleading big brown eyes, so I dressed for a walk.  As I put my walking shoes on he got the point and started jumping in circles.  Our older dog awoke and slowly joined the activity.  Susan and I and our two dogs, Nico and Nebo went for the morning walk.  There are a few routes we take, all around Toongabbie Creek.  Nico was insistent he wanted to go to the dog park (an off-leash park a couple of kilometres away).  When we arrived we were the only ones and he ran around chasing the old footballs in the park.  Nebo, the elder dog, wandered aimlessly sniffing and enjoying the park.

As I chased the ball or stood awaiting Nico to bring one back, I felt the sun warm on my face.  The trees all around were drenched in the early morning golden rays of the sun rising in the sky.  The air was cool and fresh, and I began to breathe deeply.  There was a still beauty in the morning, a beauty that touched my spirit.  God was in this place for those willing to look and listen and feel.  The sacred and holy in our midst – playful dogs; a still sunny morn; trees, tall and delightful.  In the quietness and beauty of the morning there was something that fed me, fed my spirit and being.

I have pondered this deeper feeding of spirit and being over recent times – not only in my own life but in the world around.  People I speak with and whose stories I listen to, reveal the deeper yearning we all have for something that touches us at a deeper level, a hunger for that which is more real than some of the superficiality of life.  I hear news stories of violence and anger, of people who lash out at those they claim to love because that love is not reciprocated.  Others feel anger or shame at having been put down by another and seek revenge.  There are the tragic stories of people who take their own lives as things seem to come unstuck and they cannot go on.  Other people are lonely and alienated from friends, family or even society.

There is a hunger that is not satiated by eating enough food, a deeper hunger that pervades the Developed World as we have too much to distract us, too much materialism and individualism that deny us community and a satisfied spirit.  We don’t see nor hear the eternal, the sacred, the holy that pervades our world and our lives.  We don’t stop to ponder and contemplate the beauty and wonder of life.  We don’t recognise God in our midst, a Reign of love, grace, justice, hope and peace that wants to draw us into the place of life and joy and satisfaction.  This is also a place of community and generous sharing with each other.

In the story I read this morning, Jesus responds to people who are seeking him.  They are drawn to Jesus and his teaching and ministry of healing, which is as much about embracing outcasts and marginalised people back into the community of God’s love and grace, as making their bodies well.  John forms this story as a sacramental meal where people are fed in body and spirit.  There is no ‘Last Supper’ in John’s Gospel.  It is this story that presents a meal to which all are welcomed and there is enough for all people to eat, with some left over.  The story reveals the hunger of the people in body, mind and spirit but the disciples react to physical hunger.  Jesus invites them to feed the people and they cannot – there are too many people and they are overwhelmed.

Jesus gathered the little they had and blessed it, broke it and gave it to the people to eat – there was more than enough.  It is a story of grace and feeding from God.  There is enough for all to share and eat.  All are welcomed into this community of God’s grace.  When we share a meal with others, along with conversation and community, God is mysteriously present in our midst.  When we wander through the sunny morning, being touched by warm sunlight through trees and accompanied by birdsong, God is there, a mysterious, wondrous presence.  This morning I was fed through word and Spirit.

Too often we rush through life seeking the next thing we must do or have or…  We rush right by the sacred waiting for us to stop, look, listen and experience – to touch our spirit and fill us with peace and life.  Even in the church we become so focussed on doctrines, beliefs, music, property and we argue and struggle against one another.  We can become exclusive and resistant to change or a deeper experience of God’s grace that might challenge us.  When we hunger, in our desperate desire for food that fills our yearning we will reach for anything, even junk food that feeds exclusivism, individualism and a need to ‘be right’.  God invites us to another meal that expands and fills our being with life.  It is a feeding story that will change everything and draw us into deeper, richer community!

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By geoffstevenson

Being Inclusive in an Exclusive World!

One year at high school I decided to try out for the school tennis team – I had played for a few years previously and decided it might be fun.  The process involved all those trying out coming together over a couple of Wednesday afternoons and the teacher selecting those who would comprise the 6 members.  After week 1, the first 5 were obvious – the only dilemma for the teacher was the order of the top 3.  Position 6 came down to 2 boys, me and another fellow.

So, on a cold, windy Wednesday afternoon to were required to hit it out and play a set.  The winner would be in the team.  The court was poor asphalt with small stones spread across parts of it and a greatly uneven surface.  The net was too high at the sides and tool low in the middle.  The 2 of us tried hard and played our worst games of tennis ever.  I am surprised the teacher didn’t give up with either boredom or despair at the thought of either of us playing competitively in his team.  Anyway, I emerged triumphant (although somewhat overstates the reality that I stumbled across the line) and was handed the 6th position in the team.

On another occasion in year 11, I put my name forward as a nomination for the 5 positions of junior prefect.  This time the vote went against me – I believe by 1-2 votes and I just missed out to another boy.

The experience we all have is of the exclusivity of much of life.  Sometimes we are chosen and other times we miss out.  Sometimes there is no rhyme or reason, sometimes it is fair and other times unjust.  These experiences of being chosen in the exclusive processes of life are tough.  I also remember the various times in sport when we would have to select 2 teams and the teacher would name 2 people to be captains and take it tin turns to choose their team.  Everyone dreaded being the last chosen, or even far down the list, because everyone knew that neither team really wanted you or believed in you – but someone had to have you.

There are other places in our world where being chosen, selected or experiencing a ‘blessing,’ of having or receiving something, sets us apart from others.  I have never been invited to an A-list party, one of the ones featured in the social pages of the weekend papers of glossy mags – I doubt I ever will.  Only to famous, beautiful, wealthy, powerful people get those invitations and the rest of us do not.  We, in Australia, by virtue of little more than the privilege of birth have access to services, wealth, resources, education that many, many people in the world will never see.  In this, the world is unfair!!

There are many ways in which we acquire wealth, prosperity, positions of authority or importance and are included in some way, are unjust and exclusive.  These processes and assumptions behind them exclude many others and cause suffering and discrimination.  I, as an Anglo, middle-aged male am more privileged than other people in the world simply because of my gender, skin colour and place of birth.  I have had access to many opportunities that simply aren’t available to other people in our world.  Whilst I have had to work hard, that doesn’t diminish the reality that I had a large head-start on many people.

In our world there are many people who are considered disposable, whether the agents of terrorism and suicide bombing, soldiers at the front of war, the poor who produce our cheap clothing and other goods across the world, Developing World farmers who are ripped off for their produce and barely scrape together a living, indigenous peoples the world over, those who are caught up in modern slavery and many other poor people.  These are the excluded and marginalised, whose plight is overwhelming and difficult.

This week’s Gospel story is from Mark 6:30-56 (although some will read less of this in church).  Within this wonderful passage that contains the return of disciples from their mission and the crowds who seek Jesus, is a story of a multitude being fed.  It comes on the back of an earlier story in Mark 6 where the local king (Herod Antipas) holds an exclusive party for the high and mighty of the region.  It is a gluttonous, drunken orgy that ends in death – the murder of John the Baptist.

The story of Jesus feeding the people begins with their yearning for life and hope and seeking his words and the love of God he proclaims is available to absolutely everyone!  After speaking with the crowds and filling their spirits with hope and life and the love of God, his disciples point out that they are hungry, and he should send the people away to get food.  Jesus told them to feed the people themselves, but they complain they have very little – far from enough.  Jesus asked them to gather what they had.  He took it, blessed it, broke it and gave it to the crowds to eat and there was enough, with 12 basketsful left over!  It is said that 5000 men have eaten.

The story occurs on Jewish territory and the 5000 is more about the number ‘5’ than actual number of people who may have been there.  ‘5’ is about the foundations of Israel – the Law of Moses called the Pentateuch (5 books of the Law).  This story is about the Jewish people being fed and the 12 basketsful left over indicate, again, the people of God through the number ‘12’.  This is an inclusive story where anyone and everyone who gathers in this diverse, inclusive gathering is fed equally and there is more than enough for everyone and much left over.  There will be another feeding story in chapter 8 and that will occur on Gentile or pagan territory.  It will involve different symbolic numbers that refer to the whole world – God has enough for everyone with some left over.  It is, once again, an inclusive gathering where everyone is invited and included, and everyone is fed regardless of who they are or their station in life.

These stories stand in stark contrast to the exclusive, gluttonous, drunken orgy of an affair described earlier as the party of Herod.  In the exclusive choosing of our world, many miss out and struggle.  The result is a spiral of despair and desperation and ultimately death through impoverishment, hopelessness or marginalisation.  This is not the way of God, who welcomes everyone into the people of God’s grace and love.  In God’s Reign, there should be enough for everyone as food and resources are shared and people include one another and share life together.  Everyone contributes what they can and no-one is considered greater or lesser but everyone remains a unique person created in the image of God who is love!

I really love this vision for our world.  I also think that most people are drawn to this concept, even if we can’t see how it could become a reality in the complexity of life.  It is a vision to draw us into a different, inclusive, gracious loving way of life in God!

By geoffstevenson

When Powers Clash with Love and Grace!

This last week or so it seems the world has been on edge looking on, hoping, praying or willing a positive outcome to the boys and their coach from the Thai soccer team who were stranded deep in a cave in Thailand.  The world stepped in and sent resources, personnel and expertise to help the Thai authorities save these people before the expected monsoon rains arrive.  News coverage spent much time and resources on this story of pathos and desperation.  Many prayers were offered around the world by people watching from afar, helpless and hopeful.

This story reveals the goodness in humans, when there is a situation that is desperate, and we work together.  The collaboration and support from across the world, along with the prayers reveals something of the best in humanity.  It also echoes what God’s Reign is ultimately all about – peace, love, compassion, justice, inclusion, mercy and relationship that reaches out into desperate places to bring life and hope.  Some of the reporting of this event included:

‘The Chiang Rai governor said he had never seen such cooperation as had been witnessed over the past heartstopping 17 days, adding that it boded well for Thailand’s development.  This was “mission possible”, he added.’

‘The navy posted on their Facebook page: “We are not sure if this is a miracle, a science, or what. All the thirteen Wild Boars are now out of the cave.”’

‘It’s an extraordinary conclusion to a terrifying mission many said was impossible. Rescuers saved a group of children trapped almost four kilometres underground and taught them to dive their way out of flooded caves and tunnels.  The constant threat of rain meant the situation in the Tham Luang Nang Non cave system could have got far worse.  And yet, the impossible was achieved.’

This is a wonderful story and the tears, joy and relief on the faces of parents, friends and Thai people is wonderful!

This story stands in stark contrast to other stories in our news, such as the two people who were contaminated with the nerve agent, Novichok.  One person died from the exposure and the other is recovering.  This is after the poisoning of the former Russian spy and his daughter a few weeks ago with the same agent.  There appears no rhyme or reason to the latest poisoning – except accidentally coming in contact with a contaminated container used in the attempted murder of the former Russian spy who collaborated with the British.  It is something straight out of a James Bond movie and demonstrates the lengths that some powers will go to exact revenge or silence people.  Across the world various powerful people use their power to silence voices of dissent or remove opposition.  They do it in many different ways that range from imprisonment to more brutal and violent means of silencing voices that they don’t like or people who oppose their purposes.

Two stories – one of compassion, teamwork, mercy, love, peace and giving of life.  The other, one of hatred, violence, brutal power and death.  These two stories find expression in different events and stories across our world each day.  There are places where inclusive love, grace, community, relationship, peace, justice and life are lived and proclaimed in words and action.  There are also places where hatred, jealousy, the need to be in control, ego and ambition-driven megalomaniacs use violence and the full extent of their power to silence, oppress or remove their opponents.

These realities of our world are reflected in this week’s Gospel reading (Mark 6:14-29).  It is an awful story where the local King had John the Baptist beheaded.  He initially refrained out of fear of the people who loved John and imprisoned John.  When he threw a lavish, gluttonous, drunken party and invited the powerful, wealthy elites of the region, his daughter danced for the gathered guest and so captivated everyone that Herod Antipas offered her whatever she wanted.  Her mother, Herodias, was Antipas’ second wife and originally his brother’s wife.  Antipas had an affair with her and took her as his wife, sending his former wife away.  Herodias hated John because he had spoken out against Antipas and her – she wanted him dead.  Her daughter asked her advice and she told her to demand John’s head on a plate, which Antipas had no choice but to deliver after his public promise.

The story is awful, and I am curios to ask why Mark, in a short, to-the-point Gospel would include it.  It comes in the midst of another story where Jesus sends his disciples out to proclaim the Good News that God’s Reign is present for all people, to heal sickness and cast out unclean spirits.  They go and live out the reality of God’s Reign, which is about embracing those who feel and are excluded and marginalised through illness or mental illness.  They proclaim Good News that God’s Reign is readily available for all of us to participate in.  It is about inclusive love, grace, relationships, justice, mercy, compassion, forgiveness…  The healing of sickness and casting out of unclean spirits is a practical enactment of this because such people were excluded from the communal and religious life of the people and believed themselves beyond God’s love and grace.  Jesus welcomed the sick, the poor, the outcast, the marginalised, along with all people into the gracious Reign of God.

John preached along these lines and stood up to the powers, challenging their way in the world.  The powers struck back through Antipas and had him killed.  As Mark’s story of Jesus unfolds we will discover that Jesus will meet a similar end – death at the hands of the violent, fearful, hate-filled powers of the world.  In this story, Jesus’ followers are warned that those who take up the challenge to live in the way of Jesus will not be treated well if they cross the powers and authorities of the world.  Many of Jesus’ followers have met similar fates as they have stood for love and justice in a difficult world – Martin Luther King jr, Joan of Arc, Oscar Romero (Archbishop of El Salvador) and many others.

The story also contrasts how Herod Antipas gathered people for his party.  It was exclusive to powerful, wealthy elites and became a gluttonous, drunken orgy.  Jesus’ table fellowship consisted of inclusive meals shared with people across the breadth of society.  It was a shared meal that was relational, gracious and inclusive of all people.  In the early church people gathered to worship and shared a meal.  At this table men and women, young and old, slaves and masters, Jews and Gentiles and any other category, gathered and barriers were broken down.  They became equals around the table, shared the same food and were inclusive, gracious and offered a profound alternative to the world.

I think the story of the rescue of the Thai soccer team in its collaborative, caring and generous spirit, is an example of God’s Reign, God’s way in the world – all are welcome!

By geoffstevenson

Letting Go of the Baggage Weighing Us Down!

I remember hearing a story of a woman in her mid-60’s who had recently returned from mission work overseas.  She had spent most of her life serving as a missionary in difficult places in the world.  Throughout her life she had been plagued, at various points, by an illness that made her life difficult for a time.  On her return and retirement from mission work, she settled into her new life.  After a brief time, the illness came upon her once again and she sought medical help.

The church she attended had a range of medical and psychological services attached to it and so she made an appointment.  The GP who attended her took her full history and gave her a battery of tests to establish once and for all the basis of her symptoms.  After a few visits, the doctor prescribed some medication to alleviate these symptoms and settle things down for her.  Then her asked her to visit his colleague, the psychiatrist, as he believed that some of the origins of this particular illness were in her mind.

She visited the psychiatrist for several sessions and they gradually worked their way back through her life to identify a possible cause.  Eventually the psychiatrist asked her about her young adult years and if anything significant had happened.  At first, she couldn’t think of much.  Her family life was quite stable.  She grew up in a narrow and strict religious family.  There were lots of rules and many things she was not allowed to do.  She never thought too much about it until…

…Until a carnival came to town and one of the young men was exciting and full of life.  He liked her, and they went out several of times whilst the carnival was in town and he encouraged her to do things that her parents were very much against – and she went with him.  The relationship flamed into a brief affair before he had to leave for the next town.  He promised to write and come back for her, but she never heard from him again.

As the days and weeks went by her guilt grew deep and dark.  She held her secret within her and never shared it with another soul.  She buried the incident so deep that after a while she lost conscious thought of it, but the guilt blossomed in her innocent, naïve mind and being.  It grew so strong that she felt a hatred towards herself and that she had let down her parents – and God.  Eventually, as part of her deep desire to earn God’s forgiveness and love, she gave herself to the mission field and poured everything she could into helping people in poor nations.  Her work was wonderful, dedicated and generous.  But, the guilt flourished and from time to time flared up into illness that seemed to remind her of her failures and unworthiness.

As she told this story to the psychiatrist, the first time she ever expressed it to anyone, it all came back to her and the overwhelming guilt was revealed in all its pain and ugliness.  The psychiatrist spoke to her about how this incident had buried itself into her mind and being as a negative force that worked against her to express her failure – it was a daemon that possessed her being.  He made another appointment and this time with the Minister of the church.  The woman shared her story again with the minister and he spoke of God’s grace and love and of the forgiveness that she needed to receive for healing to come to her.  She had confessed her guilt and pain and was ready to receive forgiveness.  The minister prayed for her and blessed her, and something happened in the woman’s mind and being.  She felt everything lift from her and a sense of peace and freedom she had not experienced before.  She was finally free and there was a joy in her mind and heart she had not fully known before.  The symptoms disappeared over the next few weeks and never returned.

The woman lived with the daemons of her life that haunted her spirit and being.  Guilt had buried itself so deeply into her being it turned to self-hatred and was experienced in serious illness.  She carried that load throughout her life.  It became heavy and overwhelming, breaking out in illness and feelings of unworthiness.

We all carry extra loads around with us – emotional baggage that bogs us down and gets in the way; daemons of life that intrude and lead to obsessive behaviours and addictions, fear and depression.  We hold onto old hurts, grief weighs us down, shame and guilt tie us in knots, anxiety grips us and fear of all kinds has us hiding away from life.  We are also bound down by the accumulations of possessions.  We own far more than we need and everything takes up space or time to maintain or use to justify its existence.  The weight o ownership means we install security systems and all manner of defence mechanisms to keep everything safe.  We accumulate so much and live as if we have a deep and desperate need for the latest gadget or a new ‘something else,’ a bigger and better version of the thing we bought last year until our lives are governed by what we own.  We are owned by what we possess.

This week’s story of Jesus (Mark 6:1-13) therefore challenges me and confronts me at so many levels.  He encounters resistance in his home town, people who will not let go of the past and the expectations they had of people growing up as kids in their village or town.  Friends, adults and family all try to squeeze Jesus back into his box, the one they had for him as a child – after all isn’t he the one who tinkered with wood (a lowly role in 1st century Galilee).  Jesus moved on and sent his followers out in pairs to other villages to share the Good News that God’s Reign of Love is here, now and all are invited to share in it.  He sends them to share good news, heal those that are sick and cast out demons.  In going, they are not to take anything extra for the trip, just enough to get going.  They don’t need the extra baggage.  They don’t need to pack, as I often do, for every contingency and then some.  They are to simply go and in going to trust in the hospitality of people who live by the command to welcome the stranger in their midst.  If people don’t welcome them, shake the dust off their feet and move on.  They are to go in God’s Spirit and love.

We are all on the journey of life and this story invites me to consider how much stuff I need for the journey and what things hinder me living now and gaining ‘life’ out of living?  How much guilt or grief or fear or anxiety… do I carry around that drags me down?  How much of what I possess, possesses me and distracts me from the life I am offered?  How much time and energy do I spend in trying to get more and keep up with what I’m told elsewhere I really need to live and be satisfied?  As I ponder this reading I wonder if it is only those who unburden themselves and travel light who are able to cast out the daemons that restrict and oppress other lives?  Is it only as we let go that we can look up at the sky, the trees, hear the birds sing or see the sacred wonder that imbues everything – for those who have eyes to see and ears to hear?  Jesus sent the disciples out to live in faith, seek relationships, share love and peace, cast out the daemons that afflict us and be people of healing and grace.  It is a wonderful mission – will you join in?

By geoffstevenson

Inclusive, Relational Love – Healing For the World!

I have had several conversations over the last week that focussed around relationship.  This followed the reflection notes last week in which we considered ‘relationship’ as the essential element in our lives and at the heart of the universe (quantum physics speaks of the relational nature of the universe, for example).  Through some of those conversations I have come to understand that relationship can be more important than being right or expressing my opinion.  When I/we uphold the letter of law or hold to particular ideology above people and relationship we are apt to mess things up and create systems of injustice.  I once saw a bloke in court and heard him tell his story.  He was charged with stealing a $12 belt from a store.  He didn’t know why he did it.  He had never done anything like it before and it was so out of character he seemed embarrassed.  He had the money in his pocket and could not explain his actions.  All he could say was that earlier in the morning he and his wife had a terrible argument and he was under significant stress, upset and even angry.  The result was that he was fined $120 (a lot of money at the time and for him, I suspect), admonished and sent away – feeling more shame.

I wondered if, in listening to his story, what he really needed was to talk to someone at the time, make restitution and apologise.  A relational approach that helped him through his stress, to restore his relationship with his wife and deal with the things behind his odd behaviour, might have been more significant, effective and useful.  But, the law is the law is the law.  So, we continue to lock particular asylum seekers away on Pacific Islands and isolate different types of people away from general society – the aged, particularly those with dementia, some who live with mental illness or serious disability or the poor or sick…

Many people who need the experience and life that comes from loving, engaged, relational community, are excluded or pushed to margins.

The story(s) I have been pondering this week is one I know well.  It comes from the life of Jesus and appears in Mark 4:21-34.  Mark inserts one story into another and blends them such that they speak into and interpret one another.  This sandwiched story challenges the way 1st century Judaism isolated and excluded people based on the law and various accepted codes of behaviour.  There was the system of shame and honour that elevated some based on positional authority or wealth, power…  Others were shamed and cast aside by their circumstances or behaviour.  There was also a purity code that determined some people as ‘clean’ and others ‘unclean’.  If a person was in an unclean, impure state, they were required to remove themselves from public places and they existed on the margins of society.  Often this meant a downward cycle into deeper poverty and despair.

The story:  A wealthy, honourable man, a leader of a social institution, the synagogue, rushed to Jesus with all the confidence of someone who is honoured and respected, who has power.  This man is named in the story – Jairus.  He fell before Jesus, a proper action of respect and honour, and begged him to come and lay hands on his desperately ill daughter.  Jesus accedes to the request and they set off.

Mark then introduces a second story where a crowd (representative of the poor, ordinary people who thronged to Jesus for life-giving words and actions) gathers around him.  From within the crowd an anonymous woman reaches out to touch his cloak in a desperate hope that even this will provide her with relief, healing and life.  This woman risks everything (which for her probably isn’t much) in being amidst the crowd.  She has a chronic bleed, probably a menstrual bleed, and nothing she has done has brought a cure.  She has visited many physicians who have taken her money but done nothing to cure her – she is worse than ever and utterly desperate.  This woman has had her illness for 12 years.  After she touches his cloak she feels well in her body and Jesus feels something in his and asks who touched him.  The disciples ridicule him – there is a large crowd, and everyone has touched him!  Finally, the destitute woman falls at his feet and tells her pathetic story.  Jesus reaches out to her and calls her ‘My daughter – your faith has made you well.  Go in peace.’

We return to the first story after this slight delay, when one of Jairus’ servants tell him that his daughter has died.  Jesus has broken the agreement by stopping to deal with the destitute woman.  In the culture of the day and according to the codes, he should have ignored her and focussed only on Jairus and his daughter. In that culture one is more important than the other!  One is disposable, forgettable and irrelevant whilst the other is privileged and deserves honour.  Maybe not so different from our world!??!

Jesus waves off the servant’s words suggesting the girl is only asleep.  They go to the house, through the wailing crowd and into the girl’s room.  Jesus takes her hand and calls her to sit up then tells them to feed her something.  Those who witnessed this were amazed!

Mark frames this story to juxtapose two extremes of Jewish society – a girl who has had a life of privilege for all of her 12 years (the time of the woman’s illness).  She lives well and has a powerful father to do her bidding and protect her.  He is honourable and respected, and this demands an appropriate response of privilege, honour and respect.

The destitute woman is at the bottom of the social structure, is relegated to the very margins of life and has no-one to stand up for her or protect her.  She has also been ripped off by the physicians whom she payed for treatment.  She is helpless, desperate and anonymous.  It took much courage for her to disobey the law and venture into the crowd.  It took desperate hope to reach out and touch Jesus’ cloak.  She did all this, and Jesus commends her for her faith – a very high call, that even the male disciples do not receive.  He calls her ‘daughter’ so that in the end of the story these two very unequal people are brought into the same place, being daughters and received into the grace of God.

There is so much in this story to challenge and confront our world.  Who is valued and who is rejected – on what basis?  How do we treat those who are desperate, poor, marginalised and anonymous?  How do we include people and welcome them into a relationship that is built on mutual trust, respect, honour and love?

Jesus preferred relationship with people over religious, social or legal codes.  All were welcomed into the mysterious Reign of God to experience life and he demonstrated the relational love that exists within God and reaches out to all people.  I wonder how things might change if I/we valued relationships above law, opinion, ideology and so on?  I wonder how our world would be different if we were able to look into the eyes of another and see the Divine image implanted within them and then reach out to form relationship rather than live with suspicion, condemnation, exclusion or misunderstanding.  God is love and we are invited to live in loving relationship that brings healing and life to the world.

By geoffstevenson