March 1, 2015
I want the world to dance for you; for words to spin out of my mouth, to pirouette into your ears, to leap over your shoulder, into the heart of the person behind you, while your own thoughts ripple and shimmy up, telling you more important things than another person ever could.
I want the words of scripture to touch you, to change you, to challenge us, to open up new possibilities for following Jesus, together.
I want us to know, deeply in our bones, that God loves us, that God touches us all the time, because we touch each other. Because we look each other in the eyes. Because we sit on carved wooden pews, carefully crafted from old trees, once grown from the soil of the earth, nourished by the elixir of sun and water; how divine is that?
God touches us all the time. Because we move about in this brilliant created world.
Psalms 104 verse 32: “God looks at the earth, and it trembles; God touches the mountains, and they smoke.”
Jeremiah 1 verse 9: “Then the LORD stretched out His hand and touched my mouth, and the LORD said to me, “Behold, I have put My words in your mouth.”
Isaiah 6 verse 7, “God touched my mouth with it and said, “Behold, this has touched your lips; and your iniquity is taken away and your sin is forgiven.” God touches us. Can we touch back?
Sometimes we hear, “Don’t touch that- it’s for display only, wash your hands, sanitize your hands,”- go ahead, you can do it now, it is in your pews- this stuff doesn’t expire.
God touches us all the time. But we have boundaries about what we touch. This is an old story.
Leviticus 5 verses 2-3
‘if a person touches any unclean thing, whether a carcass of an unclean beast or the carcass of unclean cattle or a carcass of unclean swarming things, though it is hidden from him and he is unclean, then he will be guilty. ‘Or if he touches human uncleanness, he becomes unclean.”
Human uncleanness? What is that? The woman with the flow of blood, the hemorrhaging woman, for 12 years, as told in the Gospel of Mark- she is considered ‘human uncleanness,’ and she knows it. But she reaches out, anyway, to Jesus. Maybe in the crowd he won’t notice. Jesus, rushing to heal a 12 year old girl.
Brushing up against everyone, he stops: “Who touched me?” Jesus says. His disciples said to him, ‘You see the crowd pressing in on you; how can you say, “Who touched me?” But he felt it, the exchange of power.
“Who touched me?” Her flow of blood stopped and became regulated and his flow of power, began. Their flows started to mix up in each other; her power mixed with his. She felt it in her own body; that deep wisdom we have access to inside our cells and organs. She came forth in fear and trembling and fell down before him, and as it says in Mark, told him the whole truth.
And Jesus learned something from her. He gained wisdom and insight from her touch and from her truth. Maybe even her blood, the thing that madder her unclean. Why would Jesus need insight and wisdom from this bleeding woman?
The Gospel of Mark has this literary technique, where it begins a story, and before the story finishes, Mark throws another story in the middle, that brings attention to the first story, or the sandwiching story.
Jairus and his sick daughter is the first story. Jairus, a local leader, sought Jesus out, to heal his 12 years old daughter, but Jesus is sidetracked by a woman with 12 years of bleeding. 12 years old, 12 years of bleeding. What happens around age 12 to young girls? They start bleeding. I doubt that is a coincidence.
When Jesus encounters the woman with the flow of blood, he is on the way to heal the 12 year old daughter of Jairus, who is very sick, just as she is entering womanhood. After his encounter with the bleeding woman in the crowd, people come from Jairus’s home, where Jesus is headed, and say “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the teacher any longer?”
Jesus learned something from the boldness of the bleeding woman’s touch. He told her, “Your faith has made you well! Go in peace, and be healed from your disease.” So he tells the crowd, ‘Do not fear, only believe.’ He gathers only Peter, James, and John, to continue traveling to the house.
When they got there, people were weeping and wailing loudly.‘Why do you make a commotion and weep? The child is not dead but sleeping.’ And they laughed at him.
Jesus 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, I say to you, arise!” And she does. At this they were overcome with amazement.
Is it possible that something in the exchange of power between the woman with the flow of blood and Jesus made it possible for the young girl to come alive again? Did the interrupting touch, of the woman with the flow of blood, allow Jesus to learn how to heal this girl child, about to become a woman? Perhaps there was power in her touch.
Touching means changing. Jesus was changed, after this bleeding woman touched him. Touch is powerful, when we choose it, and use it responsibly.
When we touch or allow ourselves to be touched, we are changed. The cells in our bodies are always dancing; the particles around us are entangled with the world, with our God, with one another. We are always in touch, and God is in touch with us.
The way our bodies touch the world, the way the sun touches our faces, or a harsh wind, the way our feet touch the floor, the way our organs touch one another within our bodies, the way our tongue touches the top of our mouth. We are always in touch.
Are we brave enough to recognize that God is touching us, that God is all around, in all the things we encounter, in each other, in the ways our body touches and interacts with space and objects around us? God touches us all the time. Can we recognize it?
Can we touch back, respond with dance, respond with delicious movement that honors the divine? God is in touch, with us. When we touch we are changed, when we are touched, we are changed. The world is already dancing with us, touching us, can we responsibly and boldly touch back? It could mean our own healing, or it could mean the healing of others. Touching back means responding to the world as if God is in it. Responding to our bodies as if God is in us. Responding to each other as if we all house the divine.
Touching, changing. Come, practice this, after church with Eiko. Movement in this world, charged with God, is delicious. She may not call this being touched by God, but I know it is. I feel God flow through me most powerfully when I dance. So let us take up tambourine like Miriam the prophet, and touch Jesus like the woman with the flow of God. Amen.