What does it mean to be restored?
If you happen to ask Google you will be told that restore means to bring back (a previous right, practice, custom, or situation); to be reinstated. I would say that it means to be brought back to wholeness.
One of the themes of Mark’s Gospel is that of restoration – and the text for this coming Sunday is truly a text about restoration. We hear about the healing of Jairus’ daughter and the woman with a flow of blood (or the hemorrhaging woman). Be on the lookout for an announcement about the next Biblical Literacy class being taught at St. Stephen’s – Women in the Gospels. To even the most casual reader it is not missed that the women in the Gospels go unnamed. Further, they are associated typically with men:
The daughter of Jairus.
The wife of Zebedee.
The mother of …..
All associated with a named male figure. Even if the male figure has no role to play in the story.
So what is unique about this Sunday’s story?
We know that the young girl who died is the daughter of a prominent man named Jairus. But the other woman – the other woman is neither named nor associated with a man. She happens to be associated with her medical condition. “A woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years.”
We have two women in the story – one young girl that is dead and another suffering from a debilitating disease. A lot of preachers and writers like to talk about the hemorrhaging woman’s flow of blood and how that might have made her an outcast in Jewish society. They will talk about ritual purity and purity codes, many times not realizing they are nearing the line (if not completely crossing it) of anti-Judaic sentiments. Sometimes it is best to stay in our lanes and look at only what is handed to us and only speak to what we know.
We know that women in the Greco-Roman world had expectations place on them to bear children. It was a societal expectation of the time. We know we have two women incapable of child bearing (one due to the fact she is dead and the other due to the fact of chronic blood loss). We know that these stories are parts of a Gospel that raises up the theme of restoration of the House of Israel by the coming of the Messiah.
The stories in Sunday’s scripture are stories of restoration. Restoration to life so that life may be given. And given abundantly. This is a story of a child restored to life and a woman restored to wholeness. We may not necessarily agree with these societal demands – as we express our Lutheran identity through the ELCA we cannot ignore the historical and literary contexts of our scriptural narrative. We would do a disservice not just to the scripture itself but to the writers and characters contained within. The question we need ask is not if these demands are relevant in our time, but what it is we need to do to restore wholeness to those around us? Who needs the restorative touch that the church can offer now? How do we restore fullness of life to a world that is walking in the shadow of the valley of death?
Even a child and unnamed woman were able to direct us to wholeness – the church can also find wholeness in unexpected and mysterious ways.
Yours in Christ,