2 Samuel 1:1, 17-27; Psalm 130 Page 784, BCP; 2 Corinthians 8:7-15; Mark 5:21-43
There are those television shows that have such an effect on us, that the characters begin to seem more like real family, than mere actors. Names like : Hawkeye, BJ, Margaret, Colonel Potter, Radar, Frank, and Max for some of us, are household names. The characters of this television sitcom, between 1972 and 1983, brought into American homes each week, frequent satire, occasional slapstick comedy, and amazing drama. M*A*S*H was such a hit, that the last show in 1983 netted more viewers (125 million) than any other show in history.
M*A*S*H stands for Mobile Army Surgical Hospital. The TV series was based on the experiences of doctors and nurses who served in units such as these during the Korean War. Each week America tuned into a blend of comedy and sarcasm, infused with human drama, comingled with the horrors of war. In the middle of one the practical jokes, the childish rantings, or the strange parties, each week “Radar” O’Reiley (the company clerk) would suddenly stop as if an alarm went off that only he could here announce, and then he announced “Choppers.” Suddenly the whole camp was transformed from a rag-tag group of misfits, into a focused, committed, passionate group of healers.
When the choppers landed and the wounded were unloaded, the surgeons would go to work trying to determine which patients took priority. Some were mildly injured, some had life-threatening wounds, and others were close to death. “Triage was the process they used to determin the priority of patients’ treatments based on the severity of the patient’s condition.” (1)
The M*A*S*H units always had scarce resources of personnel, supplies, blood, medicine, and beds, so choices had to be made about who was to be cared for first, who was to be seen last, and who was not going to be treated at all. Imagine the weight of these life and death decisions; decisions about human need and how to dole out the healing necessary to save, sustain, restore, or release human life. People often have to prioritize. We allocate healing, grace, mercy, and hospitality based on an ethos of scarcity and when that happens, some folks get the care they need and others do not. If we consider for a moment Jesus’ healing miracles, we will find that the logic of God’s Kingdom is very different from the philosophy of scarcity we sometimes use when it comes to caring for each other .
In today’s gospel, the writer describes Jesus’ miraculous healings of two different women who suffered physically. One was an older woman whose hemorrhaging left her in a desperate plight. Her life had been spent chasing after many second opinions and multiple physician consults to no avail. The other was a very young woman (12 years old) who was at the point of death and her ailment, came on suddenly and without warning. One woman’s healing came about because she took the initiative to go and meet Jesus the Great Healer as he strolled among the crowds. The other woman was dependent on the love and generosity of others who went out and brought Jesus, the Great Healer to her.
Both women suffered from spiritual ailments as well. One woman was, because of her condition, was considered unclean and thus, she was untouchable and considered an outcast from society. The other woman because she was a mere child, was considered to be of less value than mere cattle. Despite their physical and spiritual ailments, both women shared similar outcomes once they were touched by the healing of Jesus.
See, they were not only restored bodily, the one woman’s bleeding ceased, and the other was brought back from near death, but both were restored in their spirit. Suffering, despair, discouragement, banishment, and depression, miraculously became hope, restoration, reconciliation, and love. The healing of the spirit and the healing of the bodily ailments are indivisible miracles. Both are visible signs of God’s grace, mercy, reconciliation and healing that is the Good News, the mission of God in the world.
The healing of the human spirit happens every single day if we but open our eyes to it. The other day, I ran across a video clip from Britain’s Got Talent, the precursor to America’s Got Talent. In this show, talented folks stand before three judges who sort the performers out and choose who gets to move up to the next round of the contest. It is a triage of sorts, in which the talented folks get prioritized for further consideration, and the not-so-talented folks get dismissed.
The video I saw was of the performance an unknown singer named Jamie Pugh, a warehouse worker by day and pizza deliveryman by night. Prior to his performance, he was so nervous. The stage fright for him was almost unbearable. His spirit literally shook because of the fear that stood between him and his dream. As he approached the microphone, the judges took one look at him and their pre-conceived notions of his talent shown on their faces. Here stood a nervous, shy, and unsure man. Then, with surprising voice, range and strength emerged the voice of an angel from within a broken spirit. The crowd could not believe their ears and they cheered. The amazement of the judges was apparent, and then came the decision. Each one voted yes, and then suddenly, a man was released from the prison of his own broken hope. During the interview after his spectacular performance he exclaimed, “I feel complete, I feel complete. For this brief moment, I feel complete.” His spirit soared, he was released, and God’s restorative healing was present, and the crowds cheered on.
Thinking back to Jesus miracles, you have to wonder what might have been the outcome for these two women had Jesus looked at them and said, “You’re not good enough for healing, you are unclean or you are a mere child.” What if Jesus, like the judges on “Britain’s Got Talent,” pre-judged their worthiness and then, dismissed them, but that is not how grace works. There is no triage logic in God’s Kingdom. Grace flows without discrimination, without judgment, without concern about scarcity.
Both women were made whole, both became complete, and both had the spark of God’s love in them revealed once again, simply because the Master saw them both as priorities. The available power of God’s love to heal the human spirit is sufficient for all and thus, there is no need for triage in God’s Kingdom.
We the church need to hear with fresh ears, our purpose in the healing stories of these two women, in the healing story of Jamie Pugh, and in our healing stories. Healing, restoration, reconciliation is the Missio Dei, it is the mission of God in the world. God’s mission is to bring about reconciliation, restoration, and Good News to a world that is fraught with incredible heartache, a scarcity of human dignity, unimaginable injustice, widespread poverty, dark loneliness, and spiritual unrest. The church’s mission is to join God’s mission in restoring all people to unity with God and each other in Christ. That mission continues because the Spirit moves like the wind and people come to know grace every single day. How are we doing in supporting God’s mission?
Sometimes we take the first steps as followers of Jesus. We find ourselves among the crowds suffering from our own brokenness, hemorrhaging from our own despair and hopelessness. We reach out, touch the Master‘s garment and we are restored, we experience grace but sometimes, we go about our way and other things take priority. Sometimes we experience God’s grace in our lives, and we recognize that by it we become partners in God’s mission in the world. Sometimes we become like Jairus, who went out and brought the Master to those who cannot make the journey. Sometimes the story of our own healing becomes the Good News to someone who is broken, lonely, and living in the prison of heartache. God’s mission in the world will and does happen. People will and are being restored. The Good News will and is being told every day whether we join God’s mission of healing, or not.
In the Kingdom of God, there is no triage logic, there is no story of scarcity of grace. In order for us to participate in God’s healing love, we must first let go of some of our notions of the perfection of Christian community. We need to re-imagine the abundant life of hospitality without the triage of who is welcome and who is not. We need to re-examine our priorities of mission and ministry and ask if they align with God’s mission. We need to act more like a hospital, a Mobile, Agile, Salvation, Hospital. We are mobile and agile because we go out into the world and declare that help is on the way. We are about salvation because we take the Master’s healing touch out among the people who reside in our own back yard. We are like a hospital but the mission in us is incomplete unless we decide to invite others to come and experience the healing, restoration, grace, and reconciliation of God.
At a pivotal point in each M*A*S*H episode, as the patients arrived in the compound, inevitably someone would yell a call to action, “We’ve got wounded.” The ironic beauty of this television drama was that the soldiers on the choppers were not the only wounded people at the 4077th. The characters themselves also were wounded in some way. There was “Radar” with his childlike naiveté, “Frank Burns” with his self-absorbed narcissism, “Hawkeye” with his inappropriate comedic attitude, “Margaret” with her stoic, military demeanor, “Max” with his unusual fashion sense, and “Charles” with his pretentious arrogance. Each character in their own way was spiritually wounded, but somehow by God’s grace, they were great healers of the wounds of others.
We are a M*A*S*H unit of God’s mission in the world, and must realize that we have wounded lives that are transformed by grace. We have to let go of the notion that we come before the throne of grace spiritually healthy. We all are imperfect and we all need healing. When we can accept that fact, and know that it really is okay to be broken, then and only then will we be ready to fulfill our purpose in the world. We are the patients healed by God’s abundant grace, and at the same time, we are called to be the healers.