The Issue of Blood
By Rev. Andrena Ingram
August 3, 2012
"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." Mark 5:25-28
Last week, we talked about Jesus and the disciples crossing to the other side of the sea ... remember that boat ride? Well, they have crossed over to the other side in our gospel lesson today, and it seems as though Jesus is quite the celebrity: "when Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a great crowd gathered around him". A crowd of people is waiting, and they are waiting expectantly. They want to see the man of miracles, this man who heals.
Within the crowd, is an unnamed woman, who has been suffering with an issue of blood for twelve years. From what we are told:
We know that she is poor, because she has spent all she had to physicians who were not able to find a cure for her.
This woman's "issue":
Trying to deal with her problem for so many years has probably left her feeling hopeless and lonely, her self-esteem is shot, at some point she has probably been bitter and angry,
at first feeling alienated by God -- and at some point she probably just resigned herself to her predicament, and *waited silently for the salvation of the Lord*
One might wonder why this woman has not given up completely.
Perhaps she has heard these words from the book of Lamentations:
... "it is good for one to bear the yoke in youth, to sit alone in silence when the Lord has imposed it, to put one's mouth to the dust (there may yet be hope) ... to give one's cheek to the smiter and be filled with insults ... For the Lord will not reject forever, although God causes grief, God will have compassion according to the abundance of God's steadfast love, for God does not willingly afflict or grieve anyone"
She has been bearing this particular for yoke, (the issue of her blood), for 12 years. It has choked and silenced her. She has given not only her cheek, but her identity ... she has been filled to the brim with insults -- the most draining of insults being that she has been rendered unnamed, unclean, and impure ...
I can certainly identify with this woman on many accounts. I have my own "issue of blood". I am living with HIV for over 23 years. There is still not a physician who can heal me from this disease. I too have felt unclean, and contaminated. In the beginning I have spent all I had looking for unconventional cures (juices, tonics, ionization treatments, I even got caught up with some charlatans -- who bled me dry of my money, feeding on my fear -- promising me cures).
Initially, my particular issue of blood -- (my HIV status) had me bleeding all over the place:
I found myself in the crowd of many people (who chose to remain unnamed) suffering in silence from this particular "issue of blood".
But back to our unnamed woman ...
On this particular day, this woman comes out of her house. We may wonder, has she heard that Jesus is coming? Has she been waiting on the "other side" watching as the crowd moooves along, following Jesus. In an earlier verse, a man named Jairus, fell to his knees in front of Jesus, begging Jesus to come to his house to heal his daughter.
Does she begin to think that maybe, just maybe he can heal her too?
But, unlike Jairus, who faces Jesus and falls to his knees in front of Jesus, begging, this woman cannot even bring herself to do that.
To do so would draw attention to herself, and she has certainly bought enough attention to herself for the past twelve years.
She was the woman with the "issue of blood". *Stigmatized*
She feels that she has to hide in the crowd. *Stigmatized*
She is untouchable.. *Stigmatized*
Even so, this same crowd that is pressing in upon Jesus to be close to him, is probably pressing in upon her to push her aside, as she has been pushed aside so many times in her life. *Stigmatized!*
But wait ... not this time; she will not be pushed away again!
She may well be at her lowest point, so she took a chance and reached out. She was healed instantly! I didn't say she was *cured* instantly ... It's important to note that for those of us living with HIV and AIDS, there is no "medical cure" -- yet. But we can be made "well". We can be healed ... .We can become "whole persons"..emotionally and spiritually. Our faith in God, through Jesus Christ is able to quicken our spirit and lift us up out of the depths of despair.
At her touch, Jesus feels the power go out of him, and he stops in his tracks to ask who had touched him, which must have been strange for him to say, because as the disciples remarked he was being touched from all sides, there was a crowd pushing him around, what did he expect? Jesus said, "Someone touched me".
And yes, the crowd was touching him, but they were not receiving any power from him. They have not touched him as this woman has.
Jesus is waiting for the woman to come out of the crowd, and she does. She comes before him trembling, and publicly proclaims the whole truth. No longer is she hidden in the crowd.
Jesus says to her: "Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace".
... ... and now, just by reaching out and touching the fringe of his garment, coming forth, and proclaiming the whole truth, she is called his "daughter" ... He has named her as his own. No longer, "the woman with the issue of blood". Glory be to God ... Amen?
But what about the rest of us ... ..who are still dealing with "the issue of blood?
Yes ... ... there is yet another crowd.
Shall I proclaim the whole truth?
A crowd of people:
I am saddened and pained that many churches suffer in silence with this particular "issue of blood" ... (Pause)
We can sing "the blood that Jesus shed for me ... way back on Calvary, the blood that gives me strength from day to day, it will never lose its power"
... in some churches, those words go right out the window when it comes to people who are living with "the issue of blood", with HIV.
Some of the church's "issue", is
Some of the church's issue may lie in how our "issue of blood" came about.
(shall we proclaim the whole truth?) (Pause)
There is stigma in the church attached to the "issue of blood". (Pause)
It has always been my prayer and has been my challenge for all people to get tested and know your status. This holds true for those in the faith community as well. Get educated about this "issue of blood". Are you at risk? What about your community? Can your church building be used as a resource for HIV testing? Are you preaching about it, and talking about it? Have you partnered with an organization that will come in and hold workshops on HIV Education? Is your congregation a safe haven for those infected and or affected? Does your congregation have an "issue of blood"?
The woman in our gospel today had an "issue of blood" ... and for 12 years, it was everything to her ... .but as we heard, it was nothing to Jesus. She reached out and touched him and he felt the power go out of him.
There is power in Jesus' blood!
Power that caused Jesus to stop in his tracks. (PAUSE)
Jesus will stop in his tracks for you too!
If you are living with HIV, if you are caring for someone with HIV, if you have been hurt by ridicules and taunts or people talking behind your back. If you have been stigmatized or are afraid:
Take a chance: reach out and touch Jesus and allow his power to surge through you, trust that the Holy Spirit will guide you to the place you need to be ... a place of welcome, a place of sanctuary, a place of caring, a community that walks together through it all, as I found in my early days. I no longer "bleed" from issues of fear, uncertainty, self-stigmatization, self-loathing or guilt.
There is power in the blood ... of Christ.
Jesus IS quite the celebrity ... . The crowds have been following him during his journeys, watching him, pressing in upon him. Now they follow him as he carries his cross, spilling his blood along the way. No longer is the crowd pressing in upon Jesus. Jesus is now set apart from the crowd, HE is now the object of ridicule and taunts. Will you touch him now? The crowd is yelling for his blood as he is nailed to the cross. Will you make your way through this yelling crowd, to be close to him as he is lifted up for all to see and experience "his issue of blood?" his pain? Will you touch him now?
The blood that Jesus sheds is shed for the forgiveness of our sins.
Our sins and our issues, kept hidden have the power to kill us, -- if not a physical death; surely we will die spiritually.
There IS power in the blood. There IS a healing in the blood that only Jesus can provide.
Yes, the body of Christ has an "issue of blood", and as the faith community we must stand together -- and take action together faithfully and prayerfully, throughout the "global village" -- speaking truth to power, respectfully recognizing our differences, while working toward turning the tide of together. Amen?
It is through the "issue of this woman's blood" that she is resurrected into the community, and through the spilling of Jesus' blood and HIS resurrection that we are resurrected into the body of Christ ... into the body that knows all our issues and will not keep us hiding in the crowd, but hopefully, hopefully reaching out to touch Jesus, the healer -- through one another ... through the body of Christ.
Is the Ribbon Enough?
Rev. Andrena Ingram
Reverend Andrena Ingram (also known as "Pastor Andrena" or "Pastor Ingram") has become a strong advocate for those living in the margins, as she once was. She is an activist in the HIV/AIDS arena, herself living openly and unabashedly with the HIV virus for over 22+ years.
Raised in South Jamaica, New York, Reverend Ingram served seven years of active duty in the U.S. Army. She would later move to the South Bronx, where she attended Transfiguration Lutheran Church with Pastor Heidi Neumark as her pastor and mentor -- empowering her to rise up out of herself and her life challenges, which seemed to her, at the time, insurmountable.
Reverend Ingram is a graduate of the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia, with a Master of Divinity. She has been the pastor of St. Michael's Lutheran Church on Germantown Avenue, Philadelphia, Pa., for the past four years.
Reverend Ingram can frequently be found speaking about HIV/AIDS, encouraging everyone "to know your status, get tested, and be informed." Silence = Death.
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