Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Something Someone Else Said (part 3)

This is an amazing little reflection on Old Testament and New Testament law and what it means for us today. I didn't write it, but I wish I did!
When the bible talks about “the Law” it is talking about the book of Leviticus. It is the book that the priests and the Jewish nation used as their sounding board to align themselves with God’s will. The words that the priests took literally…come from Leviticus.

Leviticus 15:19-33

When a woman has her regular flow of blood, the impurity of her monthly period will last seven days, and anyone who touches her will be unclean till evening. Anything she lies on during her period will be unclean, and anything she sits on will be unclean…When a woman has a discharge of blood for many days at a time other than her monthly period or has a discharge that continues beyond her period, she will be unclean as long as she has the discharge, just as in the days of her period.

So anything that comes in contact with her becomes unclean just as she is, she is almost contagious in a way.

Leviticus 20:18

If a man has sexual relations with a woman during her monthly period, he has exposed the source of her flow, and she has also uncovered it. Both of them are to be cut off from their people.

So she can have no physical contact, if someone touches her – they are unclean also.

Leviticus 12

1 A woman who becomes pregnant and gives birth to a son will be ceremonially unclean for seven days, just as she is unclean during her monthly period. 3 On the eighth day the boy is to be circumcised. 4 Then the woman must wait thirty-three days to be purified from her bleeding. She must not touch anything sacred or go to the sanctuary until the days of her purification are over

So Jewish law says that whether a woman has just given birth, or who is having her period she is unclean – she can’t go to church, she cant have sex, she can’t even be approached!

What happens to laws like this when people begin to take the bible/the law to its extreme literal sense? How does your husband treat you? Your family? Your church? Your community?

Matthew 9

18 A synagogue leader came and knelt before Jesus and said, "My daughter has just died. But come and put your hand on her, and she will live." 19 Jesus got up and went with him, and so did his disciples.

A Jewish priest is asking a Jewish teacher to touch a dead body, why? Because the rumors and the talk around town says Jesus is different. The cost of disobeying the Law is willing to be cast aside for the belief that he could have his daughter back.

20 Just then a woman who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak. 21 She said to herself, "If I only touch his cloak, I will be healed."

22 Jesus turned and saw her. "Take heart, daughter," he said, "your faith has healed you." And the woman was healed from that moment.

I read this story, and I think to myself that it probably took as long for this to happen as it did for me to read it. I don’t picture this event taking place for very long. It’s a brief encounter, it’s a story within a second story – the story goes on….

23 When Jesus entered the synagogue leader's house and saw the noisy crowd and people playing pipes, 24 he said, "Go away. The girl is not dead but asleep." But they laughed at him. 25 After the crowd had been put outside, he went in and took the girl by the hand, and she got up. 26 News of this spread through that entire region.

And I am sure that all this day, people were talking about the fact that Jesus raised a little girl back to life. What a story! What an event! But I want to go back to the woman who was bleeding. What about her?

The scriptures say that she was subject to bleeding for 12 years. (She could have had uterine cancer or a Cyst) And we don’t even know how old she is, she could have been as young as 25. And for someone who is not allowed to be around other people – she could have spent half of her life... alone.

Either way, she has spent 12 years away from people, she has spent 12 years of her life without the touch of another person, and she has spent 12 years not going to church. She has been in prison inside of herself. And then in an act of desperation – she pushes through a crowd – touches Jesus and is immediately freed. SHE RISKS also, if this does not work, she is an unclean person who has touched a Jewish teacher.

And now her whole life has changed. Her life today is completely different than her life was yesterday. The woman she has been for 12 years is gone and she has been resurrected from her own personal death. In fact, this story is a resurrection story within a resurrection story. Both of these women have been set free and been given new life by the encounter they have had with Jesus.

I love this story.

I love this story because it’s my story.

I wonder if it’s your story.

I am an outcast within my own mind. I look around at people who seem to have their lives together and I think to myself, ‘if they only knew what kind of a sinner I am.’

‘If they only knew the kinds of things that I have done, and thought and said…’

Or even more close to home, just knowing what it is like to be an outsider. Someone who has never been considered ‘cool.’ I am someone who always compares myself to other people wondering…

Well maybe I should dress like that
Maybe I should do my hair like that
Maybe more people would like me if I were more serious, or more funny….

I know what its like to not be invited in.

I know how it feels to be left outside.

And for 12 years of her life, this woman is cast away; living on the fringes of society, figuring out how to get by and how to live and how to make money. Until one day she can not stand it anymore and she reaches out in desperation to Jesus.

And then in an instant - she is born again…she is given a second chance; a new life…from this day on everything would be different.

For someone like me who has been a Christian for a long time, what is it going to take for me to reach out to Christ again? What is going to create that desperate feeling within me that brings me back to God?

How is this story of the woman relevant to me?

Have you ever taken a foreign language class?

When I was in Greek class, I did ok, but I only came to class and read the book, the teacher told us that if we were having trouble, we should talk to the T.A. I never did, and I did ok, but I never had that “a-ha” moment, that I probably could have got if I had allowed someone to sit down with me one on one.

Greek was ‘greek’ in class – but once I left the class I was just back to being myself. And now it has been a year since I had the class and Greek is getting harder and harder to read. I never made Greek a part of my life, so now I feel further from it.

But let’ say you took Spanish or French in High School and then one day you take a vacation to a foreign country and you find yourself unable to communicate, you can’t get around, you can’t find anything and you beating yourself up because that language has lost its relevance for you, but now…now you need it.

And this happens because you did not keep that language a part of your life, it has become a memory and now when you need it, it is harder to find.

And I wonder if the bible or church becomes a foreign language class to us. The lessons and the readings never really penetrate us until we need them. The words of Jesus never transform us until we in desperation reach out for them.

Maybe it’s the difference between your favorite song and the song on the radio. Maybe you know the words to “How to save a life” by the Fray, but it’s not because you love the Fray, or because you love that song, it’s just because it’s on the radio so much.

And once that song is gone and its replaced by the latest Justin Timberlake song you’ll have forgotten it and it will not have any further relevance to you.

But at the same time you have a favorite song, that every time you hear it, you stop and sing it, or it brings up memories or feelings, the song to you is more than a tune – it’s part of who you are.

Maybe that’s what I am asking….Is Christ part of who you are?

Is it how you define yourself? Or is he just the song on the radio…?

Is church just the repeating noise that you end up memorizing because its there.

Or do you need this place? Or do you reach out for this time?

How do we make Christ our favorite song?

How does our faith become the answer that heals us and makes us whole again?

I don’t know.

The woman doesn’t come to Jesus until she needs him.

I don’t feel the need to learn Spanish until I go to Mexico.

Maybe I need more times of crisis in my life.

Maybe I make my life so loud and so ‘perfect’ that I think that I don't need Jesus.

I’m hungry, I buy Taco Bell
I’m lonely, I go to a party
I’m bored, I go drinking

I am so good at making my own environment, my own entertainment; I can take care of all of my own needs.

This woman reaches out to Jesus because she comes to the point in her life where she realizes…there is no one else. There is no place else. This is it. I can’t do it on my own.

The world would have you believe that you can pull yourself up by your bootstraps and make yourself anything that you want to be.

If you have to ask for help – then you’re a failure.

The world says that it does not need a savior.

Acts 4:12

12 Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name given under heaven by which we must be saved."

I don’t want it to take a crisis in my life for me to realize I need Jesus.

I want Christ to be relevant in my life

Because I need healing and wholeness

I need to be raised from the dead

I need saving

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