…since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us. Hebrews 11:32-12-2 In honor of Black History Month, this sentence of scripture has great meaning for me. I am reminded of my own personal cloud of witnesses first and foremost my mother. While my own struggles could not possibly compare with her experiences through the latter part of the civil rights movement, she faithfully forged her way through. It’s because of her and so many others in my own heritage and ancestry that I understand what it means to be a part of that cloud. My eyes have seen what my mother’s eyes did not get to see. Prayerfully, my children’s eyes will see what I may never see. For me I believe we live to share the stories, the hopes and the dreams of the Kingdom and with God’s help one day we will find ourselves walking with them among the clouds. Praise be to God! Whose in your cloud?
To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 1 Corinthians 12:1-11 I remember the day I started this blog, April 3, 2011. A friend of mine had started a blog and I was so empowered by it, I knew it was something I needed to do. Initially, to a great extent it’s purpose was for self preservation as I struggled to find my “place.” I felt alone, bitter, and in desperate need of healing. Much like the woman who reached in faith, breaking through the wilderness of the crowd to touch a piece of Jesus’ cloak (Matthew 9:18-26), this outlet was my reach in faith towards Christ, in order that my own “hemorrhaging” would be healed. I’d like to say that all of my anxiety went away immediately the day I wrote my first post, but as we know healing is a process. What I can say is that the achievement of that first post was the manifestation of the spirit within me that desired to reach and refused to give up. In return, Six hundred fifty posts later, not only has God’s grace preserved my life, he has allowed me the joy of sharing his Word with a community larger than I could have imagined. Truly, faith in God is meant to be shared. I praise, bless and thank God, for you all for sharing it with me.
How many storms must we go through before our faith breaks through and we are not concerned about what other people say about our weaknesses? If the truth be known, we are weak in various ways that all too often we are afraid to admit, because we fear that we will be scorned, rejected, or taken advantage of somehow. But that’s not what needs to happen, and normally it doesn’t. Rather, if we allow our faith in God to break through, God’s power will come to us and help us in the way that we need help. Most of the time that help comes in the way of changing our way of thinking, from a physical point of view to a spiritual one. Pauls’ letter to the Romans (12:2) encourages us that we should “not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God…” Recently I had a dream about a previous event that caused great pain in my life. When I awoke for a moment I thought I was still in the dream. I looked around and realized that I was safe, but I also realized that the event would forever be like a thorn in my side, except without the fear, without the frustration, without the power it seem to have in my life. My weakness remains, as Paul’s thorn remained, but with God’s power inhabiting that weakness, he has turned it into his strength to do what I was meant to do and in fact need to do, that I may inherit the joy, the love, and indeed the very life, that God wants to bestow upon me. The dream served to remind me to depend on and have faith in God’s mercy and his grace. Understanding that this is very different from depending on one another, which as we all know can be risky, particularly since we are all imperfect in some way; the good news is that because of our relationship with Christ, God takes on that risk if we just allow him by our faith to be in control of our lives and we learn to forgive one another as God has forgiven us.
The event of the unnamed woman is of course told in between the story of Jairus. Aside from the fact that he is a leader in the synagogue, the culture allows him as a man to boldly approach Christ and plead for the life of his daughter. However, many leaders are not convinced of Jesus’ authority to heal in the name of God, but having come to this point, Jairus does what any father who loves his child would do. I believe what is at risk for Jairus is much more than the death of his child. He is not totally free from misperceptions of generational sin and consequence. Perhaps in his mind is fear of his family and future generations of living with the consequence of a misplaced sin. In other words, living without forgiveness from God. Of course we know that today even after we’ve done all that we could do we don’t always win the battle over physical illness. But the culture of the day doesn’t allow Jairus the freedom to accept that his daughter’s death at the age of twelve has a greater purpose and fulfillment. Therefore, breaking through the culture for Jairus was inevitably necessary. However, Jesus, having been interrupted by a touch is delayed in reaching Jairus’ daughter and the child does in fact “die”.
She had heard about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, for she said, “If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well.” Mark 5:21-
Do we as Christians take the time to understand what it means to have independence? Is it not the freedom to worship in a way that allows us to build a personal and independent relationship with God – a relationship of love, faith, and hope, separate from any controlling body – a relationship where we trust God’s love, have faith in his authority over all other ruling “authorities”, and hope for our children and our children’s children? However, in this day of valued independence, how do we dare to become dependent? Mark’s Gospel tells of two events surrounding two separate individuals, one an unknown woman suffering 12 years from constant vaginal bleeding and a named synagogue official, Jairus whose 12 year old daughter is nearing death. Both, at some point had the means to seek help from physicians and elsewhere, but the woman has now spent all she had and Jairus, perhaps reasoning that spending more money clearly will not heal his daughter. What ever the reason it seems clear that both are at their wits end, and both are now seeking Jesus and for good cause. If Jesus is whom others say he is, their efforts are not in vain. If he isn’t then neither is any worse off. Except, that the quality of life for the unnamed woman, perhaps never reaches its fullest manifestation, not because she is any less of a woman, but rather because of the expectations surrounding the role of women in biblical Palestine. In fact what we do know about her and the particular situation in which she finds herself, I believe expresses her desire to fully participate in that role but is limited by misperceptions of the purity laws within the culture of her time. Ultimately she has two choices, accept and live in the misperceptions or seek her independence from the misperceptions, begin to believe in what God has promised and break through towards a new life.