June 25, 2018

O Lord my God, I cried to you for help, and you restored me to health.
[Psalm 30: 2]
The assigned lectionary readings for this coming Sunday, the Sixth Sunday after Pentecost, are as follows:

Greetings from Houston, Texas!
MYLE Opening Worship, University of Houston
I am here for the Multicultural Youth Leadership Event (MYLE), which began Sunday, June 24 and runs through Wednesday, June 27, when the ELCA Youth Gathering gets underway. The MYLE empowers young people of color and those whose primary language is other than English to claim their story as a part of God's story. 
Alongside the MYLE is the tAble, an event that blesses and empowers young people who live with a wide range of physical, cognitive and emotional disabilities so that they might grow as faithful, wise and courageous witnesses. 
I attend the MYLE because I feel it is important for young people of color to see that there is a place for them in this church. So often the adults they see in leadership don't look like them or speak their language, and it's easy for them to feel that they don't belong. Belonging is the common thread that runs through the themes of all three gatherings, which will entertain a total of 30,000 youth ranging in age from 14-18, for the next several days.
You can learn much more about these events, which are held every three years, on the ELCA website.
It is also in Texas where the eyes of our nation have graphically been witnessing the ongoing crisis of immigrants at the border, seeking entry into this country, only to have their children taken mercilessly away from them.
As we watch these actions unfold, the gospel reading for this coming Sunday tells us two stories; one in which Jesus heals a woman who has been hemorrhaging for twelve years, and the other in which he raises a young 12-year-old dead girl back to life.
In between last week's reading and this week's, we miss the story of Jesus' trip into Gentile territory, where he was not universally welcomed. During that time, Jesus healed a man with many unclean spirits. Now, he returns to Jewish territory. So it is important to note that Jesus crosses borders, despite whatever reception he may receive.
Jesus not only crosses physical borders, but societal boundaries as well. The hemorrhaging woman, unknown to Jesus, by virtue of her bleeding, is ritually unclean. Being unclean meant that you couldn't enter the temple to worship God. If you were unclean, you had to go through a rite of purification or cleansing in order to be welcomed back into society and into the presence of God. According to Jewish law, it was a sin to touch such a person, because one would be made unclean as well.
Likewise, it was a sin to touch a dead body. If you touch a dead person, you also become unclean. Yet this means nothing to Jesus. He walks in, takes the little dead girl by the hand, and says, "Little girl, get up."
This woman and the young girl are not named, which is characteristic of many gospel accounts involving women. They are nameless, with no social standing, unimportant - except to Jesus.

People and situations that others reject, Jesus welcomes and embraces!!!
Jesus acts out of his compassion. His healing is more than physical. It is a life-changing encounter.
Sometimes our lives may seem full of rejections. We may think that we are terrible, rotten, ugly people. Jesus doesn't think so. To him, there are no such folks. Whomever he touches becomes clean and holy and beautiful. You were made clean at the waters of baptism. From that time on, Jesus welcomes you at the table of mercy, the banquet of grace; where he continuously offers you healing and wholeness in the sacrament that we share.
As disciples of Jesus, we, the Christian community, are called to do the same. Who are the unclean in your communities? Who are those who feel rejected? What is your congregation's relationship to such people? Are there people whom you wouldn't want to touch?  
We are called to alter the conditions of people's lives, to bring healing into troubled circumstances. We are also called to cross boundaries - whether they be related to politics, ethnicity, gender, race, sexual orientation, or any other boundaries that divide our society - and advocate life-giving meaning and change. May God grant us the courage to do so!
This week and always, may God make you strong as the mountains, turn your wailing into dancing, and clothe you with joy.
+Bishop Abraham Allende