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Desperation Leads to Desperate Actions

A Guest Blog by Dr. Abigail E. Reynolds

Mark 5:21-43

When Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a great crowd gathered around him; and he was by the sea. Then one of the leaders of the synagogue named Jairus came and, when he saw him, fell at his feet and begged him repeatedly, “My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well, and live.” He went with him.

And a large crowd followed him and pressed in on him. Now there was a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years. She had endured much under many physicians,and had spent all that she had; and she was no better, but rather grew worse. 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.” Immediately her hemorrhage stopped; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. Immediately aware that power had gone forth from him, Jesus turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my clothes?” And his disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing in on you; how can you say, `Who touched me?'” He looked all around to see who had done it. But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling, fell down before him, and told him the whole truth. He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”

While he was still speaking, some people came from the leader’s house to say, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the teacher any further?” But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the leader of the synagogue, “Do not fear, only believe.” He allowed no one to follow him except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James. When they came to the house of the leader of the synagogue, he saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. When he had entered, he said to them, “Why do you make a commotion and weep? The child is not dead but sleeping.” And they laughed at him. Then he put them all outside, and took the child’s father and mother and those who were with him, and went in where the child was. He took her by the hand and said to her, “Talitha cum,” which means, “Little girl, get up!” And immediately the girl got up and began to walk about (she was twelve years of age). At this they were overcome with amazement. He strictly ordered them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat.

Have you ever been desperate? Have you ever been so in need that you would go against everything you believe to be true, every social norm, and travel to the ends of the world, to get the help you needed?   In Mark’s Gospel, we find two people in this position on the same day.

The first one is a religious leader.  He is known as Jairus, and Mark tells us he is a Leader in the Synagogue.

He is considered a holy man of God.  A powerful figure in the community.  He is one who will obey the Law of God to the smallest degree.  Nothing could possibly cause him to violate his standards of holiness, or belief.  

He will always pray at the beginning of the day and at the end, plus at prescribed times throughout the day.  No work for him on the Sabbath.  His tithe is down to the last penny.  He will engage in ceremonial cleansing before eating and say all the appropriate prayers.

He will follow the Torah with attention to every detail.   And this can not be questioned.  He will not become unclean before God according to his religion, tradition, and powerful position.  Until…

The second desperate person is a woman.  An unclean woman by the standards of her day.  She remains nameless to us.

She suffers from a chronic hemorrhage that has left her penniless because of all the medical bills and treatments that have yielded no cure.  She is an outcast of society because of her bleeding.

By the custom and laws of her day, she is not allowed to even enter the city, or be around people without crying out “unclean”.  She may not enter the synagogue.  She may not offer sacrifices because of her hemorrhage.  She may not touch anyone else less they too be rendered “unclean” and forced to go through a cleansing ritual that involves prayer, sacrifice, and money.

Yet she is here, in the crowd, seeking healing from one who promises life.  She cannot possibly address him, a Rabbi, a Teacher of the Law, a man  She could not really expect Him to see her, speak to her, heal her.  And yet…

Jesus, is first approached by Jairus, who is desperate for someone, anyone, who can heal, and save his daughter whom he loves.  Jesus has already been confronted by these religious leaders.  How can Jairus, who may even be one of those who have challenged Jesus, come now?  But he does.

He comes with a single request.  Come home with me and heal my daughter.  He pleads and begs with Jesus.  Jesus says yes and goes.

On the way, the woman, standing off from the crowd, sees this Rabbi named Jesus and knows in her heart he can heal her, if only…

If only she could touch the hem of his garment. She thinks to herself, “No one will even know.  Then I will be well, and be welcomed back into my community and home.  If I can only get close enough”, she thinks.

And then, at just the right moment, she reaches through the passing throng of people, through the mass of feet and legs, and just barely manages to reach and touch the hem of Jesus’ garment as He passes by.

She is suddenly free.  She is well.  She knows it. She is rejoicing in her heart and thanking God, and she got away with it.  No one knew except her.  Until…

Jesus stops, turns and asked who touched me.  The disciples said, who knows, there are too many pushing against you.  But Jesus knew who it was.  The question is, would she step forward?  And if she dose, what will Jesus do?  Will he take back the healing for having violated the law?  Will he condemn her or expose her to the ridicule of the crowd?

Tentatively, in great humility, she comes forward. “I did it”, she says.

With tenderness and compassion, Jesus calls her Daughter, and tells her, “your faith has made you whole.  Go in Peace.”  

With that Jesus is off once again with Jairus.

Jairus should have stopped him right then and there.  Jesus was now unclean because a woman, and no less a woman who had an issue of blood, had touched him.  He was now considered by the law to be unclean and unworthy to enter a home or synagogue without going through a ceremonial cleansing.  

If Jesus touches anyone else, they too are unclean, and must go through the ritual to be cleansed.

But for Jairus, the situation is too dire to worry about the law now.  Every second is precious as he leads Jesus to his home and his sick child.

They enter the home.  There is wailing and crying and they say that the girl is dead.  No further need of the Teacher, the Rabbi.  When Jesus suggest otherwise, their sorrow turns to ridicule of this one called Jesus.

Jesus throws the company out and takes the parents, along with his close disciples into the child’s room.  He tells her to get up.  And even in death, she obeys and begins to walk around the room.

We can picture this 12 year old girl.  She is probably excited to see her parents,  And who are these strange men in her room.  She most likely looked at Jesus, and with a smile and wink, they acknowledge each other and what has just happened.

“Give her something to eat”, Jesus tells them.

Jesus once again demonstrates the love of the Father.  The unclean, the outcast, the marginal of society, the wealthy, the prominent, anyone with need, is cared for by the Father, and named His child.  He called the woman on this story Daughter, with a capital D.  And He shows us that just as a earthly Father will go to whatever ends he must to save his daughter, our heavenly Father will also do, even to the point of death and the grave.

Allow me now to ask each of you.  What is your desperation?  What is your greatest need today?   How far are you willing to go to find God and engage the possibilities He has for you?  And you might ask, how far is God willing to go?

Jesus reached beyond the laws and religious beliefs of his day to care for those in need.  No one was unclean to Jesus.  No one was below his engaging.  No one had sinned too great for his care and compassion, and forgiveness.

Jesus loved the worst of sinners and ate with them.  He healed the outcast and invited them to follow him.  He welcomed the women, and called them friends and daughters.  The very ones who would never have been invited to sit at a table to eat with the religious leaders, were welcomed to his table.  Tax collectors, prostitutes, lepers, fishermen, and yes, women.

How far is God willing to go? To the ends of the earth, the depths of despair, even into the heart of suffering and death to find, heal, and claim you for himself.  Why will God do this?  For one, very simple reason, God loves you so very much, more than you can ever imagine or dream.  God will go to any length to claim you for His own, because God loves you.

Jairus had to go where Jesus was.  And Jesus was with those society had no use for.  The woman had to go where she risked even death should she be discovered, to connect with the one who could give her life.

We know how far God will go. God will go to the ends of His love for you. Now the question is, how far are you willing to go to encounter the love of God that Jesus offers?

And now Father Steven, in the words of Jesus, Give your sons and daughters something to eat.  Give them the bread of life.


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Wandering in the Wilderness

Hagar and Ishmael were victims of their culture.  An Egyptian slave girl belonging to Sarah, Hagar became the substitute child bearer, when Sarah believed that she was permanently barren.  Now that Sarah was a mother herself,  jealousy had damaged their already fragile relationship, and Hagar became an outcast.  Abraham, caught between the stresses of two women, each with her son (his sons also), chose to accept  the nagging of his wife and cast out his mistress.  You can read their story in Genesis 16-21. 

So Hagar and Ishmael wandered in the wilderness, frightened, hungry, thirsty, alone, abandoned, desperate. 


That is when the angel came, with promises of future prosperity and, more important, with present sustenance for the journey. (Genesis 21:19 “Then God opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water.”)    


Their story is our story, yours and mine. Just when we think that we are doing exactly what we are called to do, fulfilling the roles for which we have been chosen, life takes us into the wilderness, where we wander in desolation and despair.  We wonder what happened to our plans.   Has God forgotten us?  Did we misunderstand God’s leading?  Do we have a future?  Is this the end?

That is when the angels come.  They come to nurture.  They come to encourage.  They come to comfort, to allay our fears, to remind us that we can not see ahead, but God can.  And, where ever we are on our personal safaris, if we will open our eyes, we will see the water of life springing up to nurture us and renew our lives. 


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The Father Is Near


I was watching a family camping around the bend from us. The littlest boy, about two, was practicing his newly learned running skills. He raced across the road, in the half-shuffle, half-jog of the running toddler, then threw himself on the grass at the edge of the campsite. He let out a howl, and his father immediately turned and started toward him. As soon as he saw that he had his father’s attention, he leaped to his feet and raced across the grass.

I smiled to see the test that the father had passed so promptly and so lovingly. Little ones want to know that they are noticed and cared for, even when the crisis is a self-made one. This tiny boy felt safe and cherished, and was free to continue in his play.

How like our relationship with our heavenly father this is! We trip over circumstances, and howl, or throw ourselves down through our own choices, and wail.  Our Father sees. He cares. He comes to our aid. And we can get up and continue on our way, knowing that we are within the boundaries of his loving attention.

On your safari through this life, whether you are running in delight, or lying on the ground, wondering what comes next, may you always be aware of those loving eyes upon you and that powerful presence coming to gather you up and comfort you on your way.

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The Cassock Doesn’t Fit

 A guest post by Dr. Abigail Elizabeth Reynolds  

For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to be a priest, and  to wear a cassock. When I was about ten years old, my mother made for me priest vestments, and I would say the Mass in my room with my dolls all present.

I would walk around the house wearing my hand made cassock over a white turtle neck blouse, giving the appearance of the priest as he made his way through the sanctuary at Church.

Then, one day, my mother and I accompanied my brother to the Church. It was a Saturday morning, and this was his first day to begin training as an altar boy. The leader, a young man, started talking to the new class of four boys, telling them what was expected from them as altar servers.

I questioned my mother as to why I could not be an altar server as well. She just instructed me to remain quiet.

The boys were then led to the sacristy to find a cassock and surplice that would fit them for their time on the altar. My mother was asked to help with this, and I went along into that sacred place. While the boys were all trying on different cassocks for the right fit, I tried one on, too.

The leader smiled, and told me that there were no cassocks that would fit a girl, even a pretty one like me. I reluctantly hung the one I tried on back on the rack. The boys all snickered and said that this was a boys only club, no girls allowed.

The Sisters told me that it was wonderful to feel a call to a Holy life, but that as a woman, my role was one of submission to the Holy Church, and that since Christ was a man, only men could wear the cassock, and offer the sacrifice.

They encouraged me instead to think about donning the veil of Christ and becoming His bride, committing myself to life as a Nun in the service of God and His Church. I did not want a veil, I wanted a cassock. But none fit.

After college, and working in the world, I still wanted the cassock. My priest said no and demanded I stop pursuing this nonsense and line of questioning. I still questioned and asked why was it a boys only club.

I left the Church of my youth and started attending another Church, a holiness Protestant Church. The minster recognized what he said was a call of God to proclaim the Gospel.

I began to study and learn. I went to Seminary, and I pastored a small congregation for a year. There I wore the cassock, but it still did not seem to fit. Then I was told that we didn’t wear cassocks in this Church and I would have to go. I was still too Catholic to serve with them, they said, as they bowed and shook their heads in tragic condemnation.

But that was all right. I knew I would find a place where the cassock would be a good fit for service to God and His Church.

I was invited to become a part of another Protestant Church. This was a Wesleyan denomination with a large world wide community. There was room here for cassock wearing by a woman, so I was told.

After nearly ten years of service, I was again called in by the leadership of the Church. I was told I was still too Catholic, and too ecumenical, to continue in service with this community. I was told that the cassock never really seemed to fit, and I would have to take it off and leave it at the door.

And now, nearly fifteen years later, I am still searching for the place where the cassock will fit.  I have not worn the cassock for many years now. It seems that I just do not have the right build for the cassock. It seems that I do not fit nicely into any box designed by the world to contain the presence and essence of God.

So the cassock remains in the closet, old, worn, and moth eaten now. And I continue to engage the world around me, serving God and HIS Church in the world. And the world does not seem to care that I don’t wear a cassock. All they care about, is that I wear Jesus.

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God Used It For Good

Joseph could not have known, sitting in the bottom of the hole that his brothers had dug for him, how the story would end. Their jealousy had attempted to destroy him.  It is true that there were lessons that he needed to learn, about arrogance and humility, about when to speak and when to hold his thoughts. Yet, there is never an excuse for the kind of bullying that he suffered, and he was literally in the pits.

If there was ever a time for despair, this was it, and it was many years before he would look those brothers in their faces and declare, “You meant it for evil, but God used it for good.”  You can read the story here


…But God…

That seemingly insignificant three letter word…but…always turns things around.  Even today, when the people whom God has chosen for his purpose lash out in jealousy against their sisters and their brothers, attempting to silence that with which they do not agree or destroy that which they do not understand.  Even today,  God can turn the evil intention that causes such distress into a good and perfect gift. 

God can use the attempt to harm us to create a blessing for us and others.  No one can eradicate the person who trusts God and is willing to be used according to God’s purposes.  No one can alter the trajectory of the safari orchestrated by God.

Our paths may be diverted from the ones that we would have chosen, but we look back to see that God turns situations and circumstances around for our good and his glory.  We may be misunderstood, lonely, abandoned, misrepresented, ignored, underutilized.  But God…

God uses it for good.

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Too Many “Shoulds”


Wynne, one of my teacher friends, posted on Facebook a gentle admonition to parents, reminding them that summer is a time for relaxation and renewal for children.  Her words reminded me that freedom from scheduling and over-enrollment in activity is beneficial, not just for rest and re-creation, but also for the development of creative thinking and action.

As I read her post, I thought of you –and me – and the plans and projects that fill our thoughts and burden our days, in all seasons.  I suspect that you are much like me.  I so often drop into bed at night, weary, yet dis-satisfied, because I have failed to complete the self-appointed tasks that I had listed for the day.

Too often exhausted by the “shoulds”, I fail to appreciate the “coulds” and enjoy the “woulds” of life’s possibilities.  Who says I SHOULD do anything, except live love in every day?  What COULD I do, if I were not hounded by a list?  What WOULD happen in, and to, and through me, if I took the time in this safari to simply BE, instead of always trying to DO? 

And what satisfaction would grow up in my spirit, what peace could permeate my soul, if I were simply to follow the One who wants to lead me beside still waters, instead of racing down the white-water rapids of life?


Will you join me this summer in a slowing down of “should” thinking?  Will you accompany me in meditating on the “coulds” of opportunity that will occur if we allow the “woulds” of grace to lead us?  I will delight in reading your adventures, on your personal safaris, if you share them here.

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