Bridges

At confirmation camp there is a long, involved activity where the youth are divided up into groups in a large room.Each group is given newspapers, tape and paper towel rolls; with those items they have to build walls that conceal them from the other groups in the room.  After wall building is accomplished, then each group must construct bridges between the various groups to roll marbles from their group to all the others.  Imagine a room full of kids huddled behind newspaper trying to build bridges.

A good way to know if something is wrong for many people is when we don’t hear from them or see them around.  There’s something about serious illness, or job trouble, or divorce, or problems with children, or—well you name it—that causes many people to isolate themselves, to build walls around themselves…even from faith communities.  Why is that?

Perhaps because of feeling unwell, embarrassed, discouraged or hurt.  When we feel vulnerable,the walls we build around ourselves at least give us the illusion of protecting us from the outside world.  And in some cases, the world itself is party to building walls around people in trouble so we don’t have to deal with it.

In the gospel of Mark 5:24-34, there is a huge wall surrounding a woman with a hemorrhage for twelve years who comes to Jesus by stealth (at first) for healing.  Likely menstrual bleeding, that meant, first, she was probably unable to have children; in her society that made her a third class citizen.  (Women were already second class.)  Second, because of her bleeding, she was labeled ritually “unclean,” similar to a dead body or a leper, which meant that if she touched anyone, they too would be ritually unclean and have to go through a process to become “clean” again.  Third, her illness had been going on for twelve years, so long that her isolation had become permanent; her illness would have defined who she was.  Fourth, she had spent all she had for a cure; she was now poor, and we are aware of the stigma and walls that surround those in poverty.  <span”>Finally, no bleeding woman was allowed into worship in the temple; therefore <span”>permanent bleeding meant she was permanently shunned from her faith community.  She was a spiritual outcast on top of everything else she was going through.  Talk about walls!!!

<span”>So are there any bridges built in this account?

<span”>Well, the woman reaches out, even if secretly, to touch Jesus’ cloak, trusting that the touch could bring healing.  That was one silent bridge built.  And Jesus, so in tune that he immediately senses when someone is trusting him, is himself a  bridge to healing.  Yet he doesn’t stop with the under-the-radar physical healing.  Instead he makes a bridge to heal her isolation, not just her body.  He brings the healing out in the open so she can be restored to her community. Not only does she need to hear his affirmation, so does her community.  And to give her credit, when Jesus asks who touched him, the woman comes forward.  She admits her healing and faith.  All these things end her isolation and tear down walls.

If we follow Jesus’ way, we are called to build bridges, not divide with walls.  Why?  <span”>Because God in Christ has built a bridge to us.  We are never isolated because through baptism we are in relationship with the Lord Jesus himself.  We have been valued, loved, saved, healed, forgiven and made whole.  Jesus Christ is a bridge builder.

Is there a bridge I can help Christ build this week?