Your Faith is Your Salvation

Mark 5:25-34

Sermon delivered by Minister Shirley Lin on 31st December, 2006  (In Taiwanese, translated by Joshua Lin)

文見於台語信望愛《生活ê的台語,台語ê生活》

5:25 And a certain woman, which had an issue of blood twelve years,26 And had suffered many things of many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was nothing bettered, but rather grew worse,27 When she had heard of Jesus, came in the press behind, and touched his garment.28 For she said, If I may touch but his clothes, I shall be whole.29 And straightway the fountain of her blood was dried up; and she felt in her body that she was healed of that plague.30 And Jesus, immediately knowing in himself that virtue had gone out of him, turned him about in the press, and said, Who touched my clothes?31 And his disciples said unto him, Thou seest the multitude thronging thee, and sayest thou, Who touched me?32 And he looked round about to see her that had done this thing.33 But the woman fearing and trembling, knowing what was done in her, came and fell down before him, and told him all the truth.34 And he said unto her, Daughter, thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace, and be whole of thy plague.
 

5:25 那地方有一個女人患了十二年的血崩,26 看過許多醫生,受盡許多痛苦,耗盡所有的家產;可是她的病不但沒有起色,反而一天比一天沉重。27 她聽見過耶穌的事,所以雜在人群中,走到耶穌背後,摸他的衣裳,28 心媟Q:「我一摸他的衣裳,一定得醫治。」29 她的血崩立刻止住,感覺到身上的病已經好了。30 耶穌立刻知道有能力從自己身上出來,就在人群中轉過頭來,說:「誰摸了我的衣裳?」31 他的門徒回答:「你看,這麼多人擁擠著你,為甚麼問誰摸你呢?」32 於是耶穌環視左右,要知道是誰摸他。33 那女人知道發生在自己身上的事,就戰戰兢兢地跪在耶穌腳前,把實情都說出來。34 耶穌對她說:「孩子,你的信心救了你。平安地回去吧,你的病痛消除了。」
 


Good Morning. Welcome to the New Years Eve service.

New Years Eve is a bittersweet day, I think. We use this time to both look back on what we have accomplished this year and to look forward to what we hope to accomplish for the next year. Next year will be a new start: a new beginning for great things to come. Coming on the heels of Christmas, where we celebrated the arrival of Jesus, who changed the world as we know it, we know that there is great promise for the new year.

Today’s Gospel is a story about a woman who has been sick for 12 years. When we read about the plight of the hemorrhaging woman, there are many different ways that we can identify with her. Well, okay, it is highly unlike that any one of us has bled for 12 years, without finding a cure. We’ve also not been totally ostracized by society because we’re impure. We certainly cannot go and touch Jesus.

But there are several ways that we really CAN relate to this poor woman. First, we have all had experiences of or know someone who has suffered from an illness.  So we know what it feels like to be sick and we can see how desperate it can be to find a cure. Sometimes, we may even understand what it feels like to have a chronic illness or condition.

Unlike the hemorrhaging woman who had spent all she had on quacks who not only have not cured her but made her worse off, nowadays we go to the hospital when we are sick. Yet, going to the hospital can be an awful experience. In the hospital, we often lose who we are and we morph into just a person who has a specific illness.

How many times have we experienced or seen doctors coming into the room and doing their rounds, talking about you but not really to you? Sometimes, you wonder if the doctors even know what your name is or who you are. Sure, when we watch shows like Grey’s Anatomy, the doctors will all be gathered around the bed, being concerned about us. But is this real? Oftentimes, what really happens is that the doctors will simply ask the patients some questions, while the patient is lying in bed. There’s no acknowledgement of anything beyond our illness. The only thing that I have heard the medical staff discuss that is unrelated to a patient’s illness is their insurance information.

One of the biggest issues that arise from hospital stays is that we no longer feel like who we “used” to be. Now, we are just the home of a disease. When I work as a chaplain in the hospital, I have often walked by nurses who refer to their patients as a room number (23 A needs to be moved) or as the illness (the heart patient in 3). Just like we lose our name and identity in the hospital because we become defined completely by our illness, this woman in the Gospel of Mark is identified only as the “hemorrhaging woman.” She is nobody. She is simply her illness.

It is believed that this woman’s illness violated the purity laws listed in the book of Leviticus, which dictated that this woman was not only impure because of her illness, but her constant hemorrhaging would contaminate everything and everyone she touches. Because her society lived by these laws, she became an outcast. What all of us can understand is loneliness and isolation. More than just feeling invisible, many of us, I’m sure, have felt like we’ve been ostracized from where we are, maybe because we don’t fit in, in some ways, maybe because we don’t want to do what everyone else does.

When she had money to find a doctor to help her, there may have been people who were tending the woman’s health, but now, she has nothing left. Now, not even the doctors will care about her. She exists, but she is not really a part of the world or the society.

As a congregation, we understand this feeling all too well. We, too, have felt the sting of our difference from the society in which we live. For the last few months, we have been talking about social justice and how that is important to our ministry and mission as a church. This kind of ministry has been tricky for us in the past, because no matter what we seem to do, we don’t seem to be able to reach out and help our neighbors in Framingham. More than that, they don’t seem to want what we have to offer. Perhaps it is our difference that makes us unhelpful.

But we also had our problems. On our end, we as a congregation have been ill. We have had our own share of internal bleeding that we have had to find a cure for in Jesus. We have had to look within so that we could fix our own issues and to learn to become a healthy congregation again. Regardless of why it is we stopped serving our community, we all recognize how easy giving up is. It is easy for us to say, “let us stay within our community. We have things that we need to do for our Taiwanese community too. We have definitely continued to be a large presence in the Taiwanese American Association in Boston, so why help those who do not appreciate what we have to offer?”

This nameless woman was probably feeling pretty hopeless by the end of the 12 years. After all, wouldn’t you be hopeless, if you had spent all your money on cures and doctors and nothing helped? Instead of getting better, she had been getting worse and sicker than she was. But one day, she heard that this man, who called himself the Son of God, was coming around her town. The stories about him traveled far and wide. He was a miracle worker. She knew that Jesus had just cured a man who was possessed by demons. A large crowd had gathered around Jesus, awe-struck by what they had seen. Then, a ruler named Jairus had come up to Jesus to beg him to save his little girl. He agreed and the entire group of people began walking toward Jairus’ house.

The hemorrhaging woman was certainly not that brave. She was not a ruler, wealthy, or a man. Moreover, she was fearful that someone might notice her and call her out or she might accidentally touch someone and make that person unclean. But it’s been twelve years. This may be her very last hope. Desperate, she thought to herself, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.” So this woman blended into the crowd, reached out, and touched Jesus’ cloak. And she felt it. There was a power that she couldn’t quite explain. She noticed that the steady stream of blood had stopped. Excited, she stepped back and tried to fade into the crowd when all the sudden she heard him speak.

"Who touched my clothes?"

She froze in fear. After all, she was unclean. Impure. He is now contaminated. Son of God or not, he could very well be ostracized from society too. She heard the disciples say “You see the people crowding against you, and yet you can ask, 'Who touched me?'” But Jesus did not move on. Jesus looked around. He looked right at her. His gaze was piercing. She knew that he knows that she had touched him, so she fell to her knees and told him the whole truth, even though she didn’t really want to. Then the unexpected happened. Instead of looking at her as though she had done something wrong, Jesus looked at her with kindness. He had an important message to convey to her.

"Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering."

Rather than chastising her for doing what she did, Jesus not only forgave her, but rewarded her by freeing her from her affliction. He called her out, in front of the entire crowd to make sure that she knew and they knew that she was, in fact, not what she had been labeled. She was healthy, she was faithful, she was loved, and he, the Son of God, considered her, the poor, unclean, suffering woman a member of his family, and he did so because of only one reason: because she had faith.

She is no longer unnamed or unidentified. She is no longer the “hemorrhaging woman” 

She is now a daughter of God. And, as it turned out, she is the only person that Jesus calls daughter in the entire book of the Gospel of Mark. Jesus did not only accept the woman, but all faithful people into His family. The Good News is that Jesus does this for us, too.

Through our faith, we are healed and freed from our suffering. Through our faith, we join the family of Christ. Today, as a church body, we are not suffering from our internal bleeding any longer. We have stabilized our illness and we have blossomed, with God’s blessing; today, we are a thriving, worshipful congregation. But, we have not yet stepped up to the plate to declare to the crowd that it was we who has the faith to touch Jesus’ cloak; that it is we who believe that a simple touch will heal; and that we have no other choice but to seek out Christ.

Today, we are having trouble in reaching out to the community that surrounds us. In many ways, this is completely understandable. Sometimes, we feel like outcasts because we know we are not Americans. We prefer to speak our language, we deeply care about Taiwan and its political situation, and we don’t really approve of the materialistic American culture. Yet, we feel a call to serve our neighbors.

This dichotomy has proven to be somewhat challenging for our congregation, especially in the past when we have had our own internal problems to deal with. However, as with this week’s Gospel, we can take comfort in the ability of Christ to restore us because of our faith. It is easy to say that we want to do something for our community, but it is quite difficult to make social justice a lifestyle. Yet, we are encouraged, because we have strength in our faith.

There are many things that we have already begun to do. We must continue to reflect and brain storm on how this calling can be manifested, working together and reaching out to other leaders in the community to find our calling. The caroling last week that we provided the nursing home was much welcomed. It is so simple to give a few hours of our time to bring joy to all those around us. This is the true blessings of the holiday.

In less than 24 hours, we will be living in the New Year. This means that we have the chance for a fresh start. By allowing the woman to touch him and asking her to declare her faith, Jesus restored her, and allowed her to return to her society as a member of His family, which is an upgraded status, I would say. We, too, have been given a new start that we can begin to take advantage of, so that we can begin to live life declaring ourselves as the sons and daughters of Jesus.

So let us continue to work together, taking one small step at a time: starting with one idea, one project, involving everyone from our oldest to our youngest members to take up the call and to live our faith. “Your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.”