Denied Coverage, High Out of Pocket Expenses-July 24 2016 Sermon

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Luke 8:40­-56

“Now when Jesus returned, the crowd welcomed him, for they were all waiting for him. Just then there came a man named Jairus, a leader of the synagogue. He fell at Jesus’ feet and begged him to come to his house, for he had an only daughter, about twelve years old, who was dying. As he went, the crowds pressed in on him. Now there was a woman who had been suffering from haemorrhages for twelve years; and though she had spent all she had on physicians, no one could cure her. She came up behind him and touched the fringe of his clothes, and immediately her haemorrhage stopped.

Then Jesus asked, ‘Who touched me?’ When all denied it, Peter said, ‘Master, the crowds surround you and press in on you.’ But Jesus said, ‘Someone touched me; for I noticed that power had gone out from me.’ When the woman saw that she could not remain hidden, she came trembling; and falling down before him, she declared in the presence of all the people why she had touched him, and how she had been immediately healed. He said to her, ‘Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.’

While he was still speaking, someone came from the leader’s house to say, ‘Your daughter is dead; do not trouble the teacher any longer.’ When Jesus heard this, he replied, ‘Do not fear. Only believe, and she will be saved.’ When he came to the house, he did not allow anyone to enter with him, except Peter, John, and James, and the child’s father and mother. They were all weeping and wailing for her; but he said, ‘Do not weep; for she is not dead but sleeping.’ And they laughed at him, knowing that she was dead. But he took her by the hand and called out, ‘Child, get up!’ Her spirit returned, and she got up at once. Then he directed them to give her something to eat. Her parents were astounded; but he ordered them to tell no one what had happened.”

This is the word of God for the people of God. T hanks be to God.

Let us pray: Almighty God, pour out your Holy Spirit on us gathered here, illuminate the holy scriptures, open our eyes that we might hear your call, and be living witnesses of your healing grace in the world. Amen.

We are in our third week of a worship series on Healing and Wholeness. In week one we focused on the story of the Good Samaritan and in week two, we looked at the healing of the Centurion’s servant. Both have demonstrated the healing effect of community and neighbors willing to advocate on behalf of those who facing immense suffering. This morning’s text focuses on two healings: one of a woman with a 12 year hemorrhage and the restoration of life of a 12 year old girl.

Jesus had crossed over the Sea of Galilee with his disciples in a tumultuous storm. As Jesus slept, gale force winds began to stir and the disciples began shouting for Jesus to awaken and save them before the boat went under. The disciples and Jesus were making their way from town to town and Jesus met a certain man who was quite ill and isolated. The man’s demonic illness was called Legion and it possessed him causing those around him to bind him up in arm and leg restraints. He had no community, and lived naked and homeless far away from his neighbors.

Jesus frees the man from this haunting possession and restores him to relationship with his community telling him to go back home and share the story of what God had done for him. The man begged Jesus to let him accompany the disciples in their journey but Jesus insisted his calling was to return to his people and proclaim the power and grace of God. It is on the heels of that healing that Jesus returned to the other side of the Sea of Galilee where he was met by anxiously waiting crowds.

From amongst the crowd, a man of high religious esteem named Jairus begins pleading with Jesus to visit his home and see his sick daughter. The twelve year old girl was critically ill. As Jesus continues moving, implicitly toward Jairus home, the plight of an unnamed woman takes focus. The woman has been bleeding for 12 years making her unable to participate in the religious life of the community because of purity laws regarding ritual uncleanness. Anyone who would have encountered this woman would have also become ritually unclean. Any house she entered would have become ritually unclean. No one wants this woman around until her condition is gone. Her desperation to have Jesus heal her, pushes her past the community’s expected code of conduct that would have kept her far away from contact with anyone else, and she presses right through a crowd of people to touch the hem of his robe.

Each time I’ve read this text recently there is a part of this woman’s suffering that catches my attention, probably because I know the names of our neighbors who could be the unnamed person suffering in this story. Tina. Tamara. Linda. Lindsey. Patricia. Danielle. Donald. Steve. Bruce. Jane.

The woman has spent her entire livelihood. Her life savings is gone and she’s too sick to work. The retirement funds are tapped out and there’s not another dime to pay the doctors. She’s as sick as she has ever been and there’s no one willing to help look after her. I’m sure you could add names to my list of our neighbors who are in this condition of life.

In Cheatham County alone, over 1900 of our neighbors live without health insurance causing many to suffer unnecessarily, some unable to afford cancer treatments and others unable to cure treatable diseases. Each one of those names tells a story of desperation, of a family who knows no way forward for they lack access to healthcare.

I want to share Jane’s story with you­it is one among many that the Tennessee Justice Center has prepared so that we might know the plight of our neighbors.

Jane Hopkins is alone and in the dark.

With a work history as long as her list of medical issues, Jane is a hard working woman. From waitressing to seamstressing to removing asbestos from buildings for 30 years, Jane never really knew a time in life when she didn’t work. Even once her deteriorating health wouldn’t allow for cleaning out asbestos anymore, she continued working by cleaning nursing homes and motels. When rent became unaffordable, she found an arrangement at a Days Inn: she could live there free of cost in exchange for cooking, cleaning, and laundry services. She’s been there nine years now, but working is no longer an option.

Among other ailments, Jane has COPD, three blood clots in her brain, stage 3 kidney disease, and was recently diagnosed with lung cancer. In fact, the doctors told her that without radiation, she might die in a few months. But the issue most affecting her ability to work is her eyesight–she has developed cataracts and can’t see. “I just want to be able to see,” Jane said through tears. “I could face all the rest of this if I could just see. I’m tired of being a burden on people.” She has a friend who gives her rides to the doctor, but those can take so long she fears her friend may pull away. Jane said her own sister won’t help her out. In November 2015, Jane was approved for social security benefits, but Medicare won’t kick in until November 2017. With all her illnesses, though, she may not make it until then.

Jane is already several thousand dollars in debt from emergency hospital trips. Her anxiety and depression are rising even quicker than her bills, though, as she watches her support systems drop rapidly, leaving her alone, stumbling through the dark.

In the spring of 2015 I worked with other clergy, members of congregations across this state, and people of goodwill to help end this crisis of physical and emotional suffering taking place in our communities. As I read the gospels, the Son of God, Jesus the Christ is the fullness of God’s love and grace at work in the world. Living with the teachings of Jesus and the presence of the Spirit of God, there will be visible markers of the church’s ministry: the sick will be healed, the homeless are offered hospitality and called home, those without food sit down and dine at a feast, and the oppression of the underside of society and those who live in the shadows comes to an end. If those things aren’t happening, then the church has probably lost its way and its first calling from Jesus the Christ.

Because the Triune God is one that promises abundant life and heals the sick, this network of clergy and congregational advocates urged our state representatives to create conditions of healing by extending health insurance coverage. I have met people along the way that don’t want the church and its clergy involved in advocacy. Having met folks like Jane, heard their pleas of desperation in the midst of major diagnoses, and believing in a God that demonstrates healing for the sick, how could I not labor to create conditions of life?

The hope of the gospel is that all who encounter the grace of God in Jesus Christ find alleviation from their despair and restoration to right relationship with their community. As the unnamed woman reaches out to touch the hem of Jesus’ robe, she knows that her hemorrhage has stopped. ‘Who touched me?’ Jesus asked and the disciples point out the almost ridiculous nature of his question. There are so many people pressed up against him like walking around at the fair that he’s getting elbows and pushes and shoves and grabs from every direction. But he knows that his power has brought an end to this particular woman’s suffering and he wishes to see her.

The anxiety of the woman is palpable ­as mentioned earlier, her touch of Jesus’ garment is grounds for ritual uncleanness. But she is not scorned­ instead she is called Daughter, Child of God and praised for she has trusted that the power of God in Jesus Christ could do what no other could do. She is sent forth with a blessing.

In the second episode of this morning’s gospel reading, Jesus restores Jairus’ daughter to the fullness of life and she is given back to her parents. This occasion of restoration is cause for great rejoicing in the home for the family has experienced the life giving grace of Jesus Christ. Looking back over these two healing stories, we see the full miraculous demonstration that Jesus Christ has power over life and death. Like the Gerasene Man, all who experience the healing and restorative grace of God have a story to tell back home.

Theologian Edna Banes puts it this way: “The miracles of healing are never to be enjoyed by the recipients alone, but are to be shared in the community to which they return. Jesus trusts the communities of his day, and ours to welcome those who have been outcast and to aid in the recovery of those who have been ill or disabled.”

We are a people called and sent forth by Christ to heal the sick, bind up the broken­hearted, soothe the soul of our neighbors, and create conditions of life. Even as we aid in the healing of wholeness of those God entrusts to our care, there is already great suffering in this body. It can be a challenge to go forth to give ourselves for others when the pain and suffering in our own families is great.

This morning as you come forward for Holy Communion, I want to invite you to a time of prayer at the chancel rail for healing and wholeness for yourself, a spouse, a family member, or a neighbor who has spent their livelihood on care and live in desperation. If you would like the sign of the cross made on your forehead or hand with oil as a sign of God’s grace in your life, come to the station after receiving communion.

Bless you in the name of the Everlasting God. Amen.

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