In Isaiah, amidst judgment, we hear how now is the time to hear new things, things once hidden. Paul, in Galatians, starts out firing. He attacks his readers for abandoning the gospel and following a different one. “Am I now seeking human approval, or God’s approval?” he asks. And in Mark, Jesus feels power leave him when the hemorrhaging woman of 12 years touches his cloak. He witnessed to her faith, and declares her well.
The readings illumine disconnects. One is isolated from the community because of her condition. Jesus remedies that. Paul is in the midst of the convulsions of the early church, which are experiencing much discord amidst the unity in Christ. Isaiah, as well, has a disconnected people, who are one day going to learn of the new way of God, which is the old intention of God to be connected to his people.
It becomes very clear, as the New Testament progresses, that God is doing a new thing, and that “thing” is the dissolution of the barriers between people. The sick are made clean. The rabbis like Jesus are eating with sinners. The Son of God goes to a cross to break a barrier between sin and death.
There are so many barriers in this world of ours. There are barriers of language. Barriers of mileage. Physical barriers, or the temptation to build more.
I experience these and other kinds of disconnects all the time in ministry. Personal pride and ego sometimes get in the way of Christ. People get their feelings hurt. Fear takes hold of a people. We build barriers to feel safe. But it rarely (if ever) has that effect.
The diversity of this country and our world is both a benefit and a curse. Many languages. Many cultures. Many walks of life. They all seem to collide, creating this longing for homogeneity and simplicity.
But is that really what we want? We saw what simplicity and homogeneity got us – in the Old Testament the Chosen People were still fighting within themselves for power and prestige. Unity in the midst of diversity is a far trickier notion.
As it turns out what God wants for us is to look beyond ourselves – beyond the simplicity of our own cultural narrowness. This is the point of the healing of the hemorrhaging woman. She looks beyond her illness, to a place where few can go – to faith – knowing that if she could only get within reach of Jesus, she would be healed. Who she is gets lost in the shuffle, because what is important is what her focus is.
Let us look beyond the barriers that separate, and dream of a world where all follow the Way of Christ.