I want us to feel the heart energy of our Scriptures today. We encounter a story in Mark 5:21-43, a story that is foundational to the Christian story and to our Christian faith and to us as a community. This story goes to the heart of the matter.
I draw your attention a dramatic curiousity in this drama .
A 12 year old girl is dying and dies. A woman has suffered terribly for 12 years. Jesus has just gathered about him 12 disciples as an individual who belongs to a nation made up of 12 tribes. The twelve matters.
The literary genius of the story couples or links the lives of two very different women into a common theme. This theme is about the kind of community God wants for our world, a community where all are valued and not just those of prominence and at the centre of life. The literary genius also presents us with God’s longing, Gods aspiration, God’s desire about the way life should be ordered. This is a story that proclaims the mutuality that God originally intended. This story is, in the words of Marcus Borg, stories that never were but always are. This “miracle” story is intended to show the oppressive social context Jesus challenged and his sacred intent on transforming this world, both personally and socially and it is fitting that we read this story on International Women’s Day.
Pause with with a moment and consider the story.
How many of you have ever played the game of hearts?
It is a very simple game. Hearts are bad, if you get a heart you get points, and you don’t want points. Mind you, hearts are bad except if you get all of them, then they are good because you get to give all the points to everyone else. I love playing cards, and hearts is one of my particular favourite games because of this wonderful twist of trying to get them all. To be successful in getting all the hearts, you have to be very strategic, always look like you are not trying to get all them all so as to provoke your opponents into playing what you need them to play because if someone knows your game plan, it is doomed to failure. It requires a certain playful provocativeness.
Now because I can be just slightly competitive, every hand has the potential to take them all. It is exciting tension.
I feel a little of that tension in the first part of our Scripture reading today, in all three sections of the reading (Mark 2:15-28). I feel in the text a playful provocativeness in the Holy One. Obviously, at stake in the text is something much more important than a game of cards, but there is an energy in this text that is both playful and provocative. There is a verve, an energy in the text.
We know best by heart.
There was a time when I had as a passion for memorizing as much Scripture as I could. This task was founded upon good intent but had woven into some false expectations. The false expectation was that if I memorized scripture it would keep me from doing “bad” things, would keep all “temptation” away. This false expectation was founded upon some faulty thinking that included misguided understandings of God, misguided understandings about the meaning of sin, all of which was associated with a denial of sensuality and a myriad other rather strange concoctions which I won’t bore you with.
What I have come to realize is that this task of memorizing scripture was actually a way of hardening my heart by reinforcing preconceived notions. It was a way to avoid being honest and being real. It was a way of putting a shell around the heart.