October 10, 2021

Sunday Worship,Where Does It Hurt?

 “I’ve been meaning to ask…” a series for curiosity, courage & connection

Prayer for Peace— 

God of light and love….
God of deep connection and peace.
Come and move among us.
Give us fresh glimpses of You.

WelcomeThis morning we find ourselves in the second week of our fall series, “I’ve been meaning to ask….”. It’s designed to lead us into deeper reflection on questions such as, “How can we listen to one another? How do we find connection despite our differences? How do we create space for compassionate dialogue and for seeking the holy in one another?” Last week for our first week in the series, Christy and Leslie led us in considering the question, “Where are you from?” We heard of Leslie’s dialogue with Bob over many months, an authentic conversation over several months that originated from significantly different views they each had on important matters of life. We looked at the passage in John 1 regarding Nathaniel, and his willingness to engage, courageously, sticking with Phillip in following after Jesus despite his preconceived assumptions. Today for our second week in the series, we are posed the question, “Where does it hurt?” Foundational to this week’s question, the creators of the Sanctified Art series offer the belief that every person carries hurt, and has the capacity to acknowledge the pain of others. That God draws close in every moment of suffering. And we commit to vulnerability and compassion. May it be so.  

Call to Worship—

Here in this space, we wear our hearts on our sleeves.
There is no use in filters or walls.
This space is an authentic space.
This space is a brave space.
For when it comes to God,
we are always invited to bring our full selves into the space.
So we come with hurt and with joy, prayers and dreams.
All of God’s children are welcome here.  

  –  Adapted from a prayer by Rev. Sarah Are / A Sanctified Art LLC / sanctifiedart.org

Gathering Song— Could It Be that God is Singing, VT #42

Scripture— Mark 5:21-43

Children’s Gathering Song—Come and See, sung by CMCL on Jan 26, 2020

Children’s Time— Making Heart-Bread, by Matthew Lin, Sheila Fabricant Linn and Dennis Linn — this is a recording found online — if you just want to see the story read out loud, start at 0:40 and stop at 9:10. The rest of the video is an introduction to the practice of the Examen, if you want to share that with your children, as well.

Offering—Thank you for your continued support of your congregation.  Our budget supports our staff, our building, our congregational care, and our outreach commitments. We are grateful that this community can be a place to seek and give mutual aid and to reach out beyond our community, too. Thank so much for being the church and giving to the work of the church.

God of extravagant mercy, with hand outstretched
you have poured out wonder and pleasure and delight,
goodness and beauty and bounty.
So take these offerings we pray
as our protest against all that is evil and ugly and impoverished,
trivial and wretched and tyrannical,
in our world and in ourselves –
that we, too, may be poured out for the world.  Amen.

  -VT #1020

Offering Hymn—Be Still and Know, by the Fray, sung by Samantha Lioi

Sermon— “I’ve Been Meaning to Ask … Where Does it Hurt?” Susan Gascho-Cooke

    There’s a trend in American English in recent years about answering a question in which you’re given a choice between several things. In order to give emphasis, or just create a moment of surprise and then a laugh, you just answer, “yes.”

    For example, “Would you like the pie or the cake for dessert?”

    In English, we know we are supposed to match an answer to a question. So, in this case, you should know the multiple choices available to you:

  •         “I’d like the pie.”
  •         “I’d like the cake.”
  •          “I’d like both.”
  •         “I’d like neither.”
  •         or a relevant fill in the blank, such as “do you have banana pudding?”

    You arenotsupposed to say to your dinner host or server, when being asked whether you’d like the pie or the cake for dessert: “Yes.”

    It’s a hilarious way to imply that you want both, or that you’re simply not capable of choosing at the moment, or perhaps that you’re hard of hearing. It’s like answering the question, “What is the square root ofpi? with “False.” Clearly you haven’t read the instructions.

    Answering a question with a non-parallel answer is disconcerting to the person asking the question, and kind of absurdist.

    We give a lot of power to questions. We’re trained in schooling that how we answer questions will largely determine our success in life. It’s one of the reasons that focus on testing is so controversial, and after all, tests are more often than not a series of questions.

    We’re also socially expected to answer questions. We expect it of one another. Think of the ping on your phone when you get a text. Think of your email inbox, and the pressure you feel to respond to the questions there.

    Imagine someone you know walking up to you and saying, “Hey, how are you?” You may not feel like talking, you may not feel like answering honestly, or you may not even know how you’re doing. Nevertheless, you’re expected to saysomething.And it shouldn’t be “yes, no, true, or false.”

    And yes, thereisa reason for this long, odd sermon preamble. It’s because when I first heard the question for this Sunday’s worship theme, “Where does it hurt?” my instantaneous first reaction was: “yes.”

    Looking out at the world, looking back at these recent years, thinking of the pain and heartache and sickness and loss so many have endured and are enduring, I havenodesire to follow the rules of social convention or propriety. Iwantan answer thatisabsurd; absurd enough to match the absurdity around us. I want an answer that says itall, and yet signals that I know there is no way to say it all.

    So, where does it hurt? Yes!

    Don’t get me wrong — I had a hand in choosing this worship series. I think the questions are great, and I feel like the overarching theme, “I’ve been meaning to ask… It reflects a lot of what I feel about so many of you … There’s so much I want to know about your lives, how you are … Because our ways of seeing one another have been so limited.

    I’m curious. I care. I want to know … I’ve been meaning to ask you, each of you, how you are, I want to know where it hurts, what you need.

    Questions, limited as they may be, are our starting point.  Our signals to one another that we want connection and communication. But I also want us to see questions as just that, and give ourselves the freedom to answer however we want to, whether that means giving an essay in response to a true/false question, or saying yes to an essay question, or “true” to a multiple choice, or simply, silently giving the peace or namaste gesture and walking away.

    What are answers that arise within you, when you imagine being asked the question: “Where do you hurt?

    The gospel story today is about hurting people: a man hurting because his daughter is deathly ill; and a woman hurting because she has been hemorrhaging for 12 years.

    When I was on a short retreat earlier this month at the home of a spiritual director, I read a series of invitations left out in the space for retreatants to consider. One was: choose a Gospel story to ponder and re-read throughout your retreat.

    For some reason, the story that came immediately to me was this story in Mark about the hemorrhaging woman. I found myself drawn in to her story — to the idea of being in a situation where the very essence of your life — your blood — is leaking, pouring out of you, nonstop, every day.

    In the pandemic it has often felt my energy was hemorrhaging out of me. It almost didn’t matter how much I did or didn’t do, simply being alive and awake seemed to turn a faucet on in me that I couldn’t turn the tap off of.

    This woman knew that what was going on within her couldn’t continue; that she couldn’t survive this continual pouring out of herself. She seemed to believe that she could and should be healed, and that Jesus had thepowerto heal her. But she clearly didn’t expect that he wouldwant or chooseto heal her.

    So she didn’t ask him to. She simply reached out and touched the hem of his garment. She couldn’t afford an answer of “No” to the urgent essay question of her life at that moment. So she went the forgiveness route instead of the permission route.

    It says that she came to him in fear and trembling when he turned around to look for the person who had drawn power from him. But she had decided that her healing was worth it. And, delightfully, he answers the questions she doesn’t ask, with: ‘Daughter, your faith has made you well;  go in peace, and be healed of your disease.’

    So, she got an answeranda solution, a healing, a miracle

    I was feeling all sorts of gratified by this story as I pondered it on the first day of my retreat. But in my years of seminary and preaching, I, too, was trained in question and answer. Which is to say, there are certain questions you are supposed to ask of the text when you do exegetical work. One of the first is, “Is this story complete?”

    What you’re really asking is, am I taking the story out of context? Is there anything going on before, after or during this story that might color its meaning, or give it context? It’s one of the strategies to combat proof-texting, and turning biblical study into bias confirmation.

    In the case of this story, I went to the chapter, and checked to see what came before and after it. Asyoualready know, because Matt just read it for us, this story is precededandfollowed by the same story.

Crap, I thought to myself when I read that on retreat. I’m going to need to look atbothstories in order to get a full understanding of the story of the hemorrhaging woman’s healing. And I liked where I was landing with the story by itself.

    This is actually a writing convention the writer of Mark is known for: making what are (oh-so-formally!) called “Markan sandwiches” (taking one story, splitting it in two, and inserting a totally different story between the parts). It’s a way of forcing the reader/listener to deal with both stories at the same time; to know that the meaning of one will likely not be clear without the context of the other.

    So here we have the story of Jairus, a man and a leader of the synagogue, falling at his feet before Jesus, begging him to heal his dying daughter. Jesus says, “Take me to her,” and off they go.
It’s on the way to Jairus’ home that the crowd presses in on Jesus and the bleeding woman reaches out for healing. Her healing was not the intention of the story. It was aninterruptionto the intended healing. And it’s clear that the crowd sees it that way, because after Jesus heals her and hears her tell her truth, friends of Jairus come to him and say, “It’s too late. Don’t bother bringing that Jesus guy. Your daughter is already dead.”

    Having identified myself so happily with the bleeding woman, I didn’t want to hear that her healing was seen as an impediment to others. That her healing was less worthy of Jesus’ time than another person’s.

    But Jesus surprised me. By quickly, decisively putting a stop to the speculation that one person’s healing robbed another person of healing.

    “Don’t be afraid. She’s not dead — she’s sleeping.”

    The crowd had decided that the girl’s story was over. Nothing could change her situation now.  But Jesus said, as he often said, and as his life and death and resurrectionshowed:“If you think you know the end of the story: think again. Because there canalwaysbe another chapter. Not even death ends the story. Even if you think the ink is dry on the “The End” at the end of your story, Jesus is ready with a P.S. (post-script) and a pen.

    God’s answers are often a “yes” to a multiple choice. God’s answers, as we attempt to identify them, are often seemingly irrelevant to the questions we ask. For Love isn’t bound by propriety and social convention to shape their answer to the proscribed limits of our questions. Limits that are, I believe, primarily the limits of our imagination, our hope, our faith. Our desire to preempt rejection and disappointment by not making an “unrealistic” request.

    Love doesn’t compute that way. Thank God.

    The “sandwiching” of this story helps us to clearly see Jesus’ refusal to answer the people’s implied question: Which person deserves healing more? Jesus just said: “yes.”

Where does it hurt?        Yes.
    Which hurt within us or around us deserves healing?        Yes.
Why should I deserve healing if others suffer more than me?    Yes.
What are the ways I can participate in the healing of creation?    Yes.

    The beautiful, confounding, comforting, frustrating answers of God.

    This would be a great opportunity to insert a reference to the current Jeopardy game show contestant on his impressive winning streak; since Jeopardy is all about starting with answers and coming up with the question that leads to it. (I guess I just did!) Because maybe our job is to start with God’s yeses and work backward:

  •     if it canallhurt (we don’t have to pretend otherwise)
  •     if we are right to expect boundaries, not hemorrhaging, of our spirit and energy
  •     if wealldeserve healing,
  •     if God taking the time and power to heal one of us doesn’t mean God doesn’t have the time and power for another
  •     if death is not the period at the end of the sentence
  •     if God really is love and love never ends,
  •     if the options are limitless for the ways we can shine our particular lights on the shadows of the world

    If … if … if these are the answers, what new questions might we be freed to imagine and ask?

    Or what permission might we give ourselves to answer questions (our own and those of others) with beautiful and absurd answers, when we know the answer should be yes?

Song—There Is In Every Person, VT #751

Communion— Make ready whatever communion elements you have at hand.Our Loving parent spreads a meal before us
whenever we come home.
The bread broken for us is the body of Jesus Christ,
the embodied heart of God.
Here Jesus is remembered.
Here the repentant heart is received.
Here we celebrate
fullness of belly and quenching of thirst.
Here we taste and see
that our past, present and future
are held in the arms of Great Love:
May this simple meal, and the Extravagant Love
and grace and mercy of God,
nourish, strengthen and sustain us
for just and faithful living
with neighbor, stranger, and enemy.

Amen.

Song— Healer Of Our Every Ill, VT #644

Sharing TimePlease email your prayer requests or reflections this morning tosusan@communitymennonite.org. They will be sent out by email by Monday.

Announcements—

Closing Hymn—Draw the Circle, VT #802

Benediction— 

May the Christ who walks on wounded feet walk with you on the road.
May the Christ who serves with wounded hands stretch out your hands to serve.
May the Christ who loves with a wounded heart open your hearts to love.
May you see the face of Christ in everyone you meet, and,
may everyone you meet see the face of Christ in you.

  –VT#1066


Worship Leader: Matt Krebs
Sermon: Susan Gascho-Cooke
Song Leader: Marty Kelley
Children’s Time: Susan Gascho-Cooke
Tech hosts: Monte Garber