Sermon by Revd Sabelo Mthimkhulu (Mark 6:30-34, 53-56)
Two weeks ago, before all this chaos started, Mark whom we read today narrated two stories of healing (which I preached on).
One of the stories is the story of a bleeding woman which Mark also seems to be drawing from as he narrates the story of the crowd begging to touch Jesus’ cloak.
This Chaos has reminded me that Musa Dube, the Biblical scholar, reads our continent’s history through the story of this woman who bleeds and bleeds.
As we might have heard on my previous sermon, Doctors can’t heal her. They just take her money but she never gets better. Dube describes some of these doctors as Dr Colonial Master, Dr Struggle for Independence, and Dr Global Village.
Every doctor tells Mama Africa he will heal her but every one of them leaves her weaker and still bleeding. Her children get taken in by these doctors and join liberation armies and lose their lives in war. And her children join the Global Village multinationals – Kentucky and BP and CNN and Hyundai – and lose their souls and then their jobs.
And then comes HIV/AIDS. And Mama Africa is now so sick she can barely move and so poor that she has no more money for doctors. But like the woman in Mark, she thinks that if only she pushes through the crowd, just to touch the clothes of Jesus, she will be cured.
Musa Dube wrote her reflection twenty-two years ago. Those who are older than me, would probably remember that time. A t time where most people in Africa lived with the terror of the diagnosis: HIV+. There was no cure. No ARVs. That time when people watched one friend or relative after another wither away, when people attended funerals week after week.
Isn’t that what we also see today?
One of the turning points in that time of fear and despair was the imagining of the Body of Christ as HIV+. HIV not “out there”, but every one of us HIV+. The body of Christ living with the virus. An artist depicted Jesus on the cross covered in Kaposi sarcoma – the sores that a person with AIDS often develops. Many were scandalised by that image. But that simply shows how little we have understood the cross. The cross as an instrument of torture and death was a scandal, as Paul points out in 1 Corinthians.
At this time in South Africa, I wonder if we might depict Jesus as a person with sore throat, suffering from COVID, an anxious shop keeper, a person standing for 12 hours in a long que to a supermarket trying to find something to eat, only to be told they must go back home all the essential goods are finished, or the shop closes in about a minute?
The body of Christ is hungry, vulnerable, humiliated, empty, the vessel on which all our hatred and fear is poured out. The body of Christ carries in it, or on it, every pain of those infected and affected by COVID, the pain of all those affected by the looting, the anxiety of all those whose jobs are at risk.
I’ve seen on people on social media justifying these looting incidents, we seem to think they affect the privileged (rich shop owners) and forget that our economic system is designed in a way which will always favour the rich over the poor. When we think we are destroying the economy, the poor suffers the most.
Who wake up at 2 am searching for food?
Who are stressed about their jobs?
The marginalised (the poor).
Every one of us is challenged to look into ourselves and see that same vulnerability that plays out when what use to be our source of food and income is no more; that hot anger that rises in us when we feel we are not taken seriously; that desire to attack and put down someone we feel is our competition; that easy blame that it is someone else’s fault. There is so much pain and fear and anger right now. All those feelings are appropriate. But simply to re-act out of fear and anger and pain will only bring us more of the same.
Can we like the crowd in today’s gospel reading, who ran throughout the whole region carrying the sick on mats to wherever they heard Jesus was also carry our “sick” nation to Jesus through our own actions and prayer?
Can we like this crowd beg Jesus to do what the bleeding woman has done, just to touch his cloak for the healing of our sick nation?
Let’s us touch one another, as gently as the woman touched Jesus’ clothing, and find healing.
Let’s us touch one another through Checking on our neighbour or friend who might be struggling at this time.
It is when we love, care and carry each other through prayers that we may find healing.
Healing is not far from us; healing is just midst of this storm. This too shall pass.
An audio version of the sermon is available.
A compressed version is available for distribution on messaging apps like WhatsApp, Signal, Telegram etc.
Services: They are suspended for Sundays 18 and 25 July 2021 at 7.30am and 9.15am.
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