Let us praise the God of life and death,
whose mercies are new every morning.
Let us wait for the salvation of our God,
who turns our sorrow into joy,
and sets our spirits dancing.
Living God, we thank you that you greet us and call us by name.
Touch us with your love,
and help us to praise and serve you.
A reflection on Mark 5.21-43 and Lamentations 3.22-33
- Are we going through the experience of the Israelites described in the books of Lamentations?
- Has our world become ‘like a widow who weeps bitterly with no one to comfort her?’
- Why is this pandemic calamity happening?
- Is God angry with us because of our sin? We’ve plenty to confess!
And yet the writer remembers ‘the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end’ (v.22), ‘although he causes grief, he will have compassion’ (v.32). The book ends with a heartfelt prayer ‘Restore us to yourself, O Lord, that we may be restored’ (5.21) Mark tells us about two women; they couldn’t be more different. The 12-year-old has a powerful and wealthy dad, willing and able to intercede for her. The older woman has no one to plead her cause. She has spent 12 years destitute and ostracised. She breaks religious taboos; she should not have been in the crowd, let alone to have touched the hem of his robe. She has contaminated him. But the kingdom of God doesn’t acknowledge that taboo. It’s just not how it works! Jesus breaks religious taboos too! In that brief touch, Jesus’ healing power restores her physically and socially to the community that had excluded her. When she bravely identifies herself, Jesus’ first word to her is ‘Daughter’ (v.34), a very public reminder to the crowds that she is a precious child of God, and he praises her actions in seeking him out.
Then we hear the news that Jairus’ daughter is dead. Arriving at the house Jesus declares ‘The child is not dead, but sleeping’ (v.39). Jesus breaks another taboo and holds the girls’ hand. He commands her to get up (egeirein) – same word that is used to announce Jesus’ resurrection at the tomb (16.6)
Jesus fulfils the image of being the ‘steadfast love of the Lord’ that the writer of Lamentations describes. He brings healing and hope to those who have experienced enormous suffering and loss. The older woman is restored to health; the younger woman is restored to life; and in the process, the ancient taboos of the law are shattered. In the kingdom of God no one is excluded.
We too will be restored. The Virus will be overcome. All will be well, and we will continue to receive the never ceasing, steadfast love of the Lord and mercies that will never come to an end’ (v.22). We are all subject to Jesus’ compassion.
Prayer for the Lord’s intercession
God, who welcomes all, we pray for those who are excluded or oppressed:
those who are pushed to the edge of society, because of poverty and debt, lacking the resources to make the choices
those who experience discrimination because of disability, denied opportunities for work, travel or relationship
those who are invisible through prejudice or fear
those with chronic illness or pain
those with dementia whose care is under-resourced
those whose loving relationships are denied because of their sexuality
those who are abused or suffer violence in secret shame
those who lack the security of home: refugees forced to flee by war or conflict,
those who live on our streets
those who work to overcome prejudice and fear: those who undertake the work of caring
those who make decisions about resources
those who break the silence to speak out against injustice
hose who campaign for change
God, who welcomes all, help us to reach beyond the limits that we impose, to offer your hospitality to those on the edge of our communities and of our compassion.
God, you have welcomed us as your people.
We have heard your words of love and we have been touched by your grace.
May we go on our way, reaching beyond the limits of our compassion to share your hospitality with friend and stranger.
Great Is Thy Faithfulness (Chris Rice) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t3sd1Z75j7A
Put Your Hand In The Hand (Larry Norman) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qFNGB_M2USM
Take my life and let it be https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gf11rReeWIs