From the Pastor's Desk
Contact information for Rev. Dale Schneeberger:
Telephone: (518) 207-6867
“Samantha Reaches Out”
Mark 5: 21 – 35
My name is Isaac. My friends call me Izzy. I’ve been fishing The Sea of Galilee out of Capernaum since my dad grabbed my ten year old ear one day and said, “Son, it’s time your sisters carried the water and tended to the cooking fire. You’re going to crew my boat today.” That was twenty years ago.
Zebedee has the largest fleet on the lake: four boats. It helps that he has all those sons to captain and crew for him. My dad just has the one boat, but we do all right; well enough to keep food on the table. Zebedee’s been down to two boats for the last six months. The other two sit idly moored beside their friend Simon’s boat, the nets rotting in the noonday soon. One day Zebedee’s two eldest, John and James, along with their buddy Simon, just up and left with that Rabbi fellow, Jesus from Nazareth, the one they say John the Baptist was talking about when he told that a man was going to come after him who would really shake things up. I don’t know about that, but I know Zebedee’s pretty shook up about it, as is Simon’s wife, though she won’t admit it. I leave fish for her every day so her family can eat. She says Simon’s doing the right thing; that this Jesus is the One. If she didn’t look so worried when she says it I might believe she means what she’s saying.
A couple days ago I saw Simon, James, John and Jesus leave in Simon’s boat. They weren’t going fishing because they left the nets on the shore; probably off to spread their message to the pig farming gentiles across the bay; at least that was their heading. They were back today though; must not have gone too well; I mean, come on, what’d they expect? Pig farmers; all that mess running down the hill into the lake. It’s gotten so bad you can’t even fish that shore any more.
They landed back here just as dad and I were coming in for lunch. The four of them headed up toward the village. They looked haggard. Who knew preaching could be so hard?
I yelled to dad to grab some lunch for me at home and bring it back to the boat for our afternoon run. Meanwhile I followed the fishermen-cum-preachers, keeping a good distance between us. I knew if I met up with them face to face I’d ask them what the heck they thought they were doing to their families. I knew it wasn’t my business, but I also knew I’d ask them.
Approaching the town center I heard the ruckus; plus, kids were jumping out of windows and yelling to their friends to follow as they made a beeline for the well at the center of the square. A large, noisy crowd had gathered there. I’d lost sight of my prey, and wondered if they’d turned down a side street. The crowd’s attention was on the well. I made my way there and finally saw the four men I’d been tailing resting on the lip of the well, drinking and dousing themselves from its bucket. I heard snippets of conversation: “It’s him. I know it is,” and “Do you think he’ll perform a miracle today?”
The crowd continued to grow; so did the buzz. A ruler of the synagogue approached the men at the well. The crowd melted a path before him. He is a man of great honor in our town. I attended synagogue as a child. I read the Torah like the others. The day my dad tugged on my ear was the end of the synagogue for me. We honored the Sabbath by not fishing; instead, we mended the nets. The rabbi told my dad that too was work. My dad told the Rabbi to go to Hades.
The Rabbi walked proudly up to Jesus. Then he surprised me. He laid down prostate at Jesus’ feet, as one would do before a king. He then humbly asked Jesus to heal his daughter, who, he said, was deathly ill. I felt sorry for him. No matter who you are or who you think you are; no matter if you are full of compassion or anger; if your child is ill, you do whatever love would have you do.
Then Jesus and his friends and the whole crowd walked with the rabbi toward the rabbi’s home. I join the crowd. I was closer to my old friends James and John than I wanted to be, but they were completely taken up in the moment. I could have stood directly before them and they would not have seen anything but the next miracle their teacher would perform. After a few minutes’ walk I felt a sudden push in the back. When I turned to look the person was already by me pulling the next person aside, and then the next, while at the same time leaning her weight into each of the persons she passes, as if, were it not for them, she would fall over.
I recognized her right away. It was Samantha, my Cousin Jared’s wife. I visit Jared and Samantha’s home at least once a month. Samantha used to cook for us. For the last few years she has been too weak to do that. My father and I give what we can of our catch to Jared and Samantha. They’ve spent all their money on finding a cure for Samantha. It’s been twelve years now; twelve years that she has been stricken with the flow of blood; twelve years since she has stepped foot outside her own home. You see, she’s religious, so as long as she’s bleeding she believes, like the scriptures and the rabbi tell her, that she is unclean. My father used to try to get her to let him sneak her to our home by the sea at night; and then the next day onto his boat. “Samantha,” he’d say. “This thing is killing you. What do the doctors and the rabbis know? What you need is some fresh air. When you’re out there on the waves you’re like a bird soaring in the sky. It’s like the Spirit of God is lifting you and pushing you onward.” Ever so politely she would let my father know that God is in the scriptures, not on his smelly boat. “I must follow the law,” she would reply.
Now here she was, bouncing through the crowd like a ship tossed at sea, yet somehow holding its course toward port. I watched, fascinated. She was right behind the teacher now. She reached toward him with one hand while hanging onto Simon with the other, as though he were a great rock. She grabbed the teacher’s robe, where it starts to flare outwards from beneath his arm. Immediately she released her hold on Simon; a split second later she released Jesus’ garment. She stood straight up, even rose up onto her toes, as if to peer over a neighbor’s fence, but her head was arched back at the neck and her arms splayed out and back. She was an angel about to take flight. Then it was over. She started to collapse. By now I was directly behind her. She fell into my arms, eyes closed; a beatific smile upon her face. She opened her eyes. “Hi, Izzy,” she said. “I’m all better.”
Before I could respond to this I heard the teacher shouting to the crowd, “WHO TOUCHED ME?” He moved in a flawless pirouette, as though he were not attached to the earth at all, but floated just above it. “WHO TOUCHED ME?” This time it was not a question, but a command. By now Samantha stood beside me, looking as strong as when we stood together as children on the shore of the sea throwing stones into the waves.
“I’m going to tell him it was me,” she said to me.
“He sounds pretty angry,” I warned her.
“You’re right,” she said over her shoulder as she broke away from me. “It doesn’t matter. I have to tell him.” Like the rabbi, she fell before him, and then proceeded to tell him that she was the one who touched him. His countenance changed. What seemed like anger turned to, well, all I can say is love; like the way I remember my mom looking at my sisters when they were babies. He reached down and touched her shoulder: “Daughter,” he says. “Arise. Your faith has made you well; go in peace.” Then he turned toward the rabbi whose daughter was ill. He waved his hand. The whole crowd moved forward, as if one body. We stood there, watching dust motes dance in the sun as hundreds of feet shuffled off toward the periphery of town.
Samantha turned to me. “Let’s get Jared,” she said. “Let’s go throw stones into the sea….like we used to.”
“I’ve got a better idea. Dad and I are going back out on the boat this afternoon. Why don’t the two of you come with us? Dad would love that.”
“Yes. Yes. That is what we must do. I better feel like a bird soaring on the wind, or your dad gets it,” said Samantha.
“Dad tends to exaggerate. The way the chop on the sea is today, you’ll probably feel more like a sick chicken than a bird on the wing.”
“I don’t care, Izzy. Today I don’t care about a thing. C’mon…. I’ll race you.”
By the time she got the challenge out of her mouth she was already to the street that leads toward the sea. I watched her run. I ran after her, finding my way through the tears that filled my eyes.
“The Way of Insight”
“Wisdom…. calls from the highest places in the town, ‘You that are simple turn in here!’ To those without sense she says, ‘Come, eat of my bread and drink of the wine I have mixed. Lay aside immaturity, and live, and walk in the way of insight.’”
The Book of Proverbs’ primary concern is encouraging humanity to forsake its foolish ways and seek the wisdom of God.
Today’s passage, from chapter 9, is one of many that personifies Wisdom as a woman intent upon saving the human race from its own senselessness: “Lay aside immaturity,” she tells us, “and live, and walk in the way of insight.”
In the first chapter of Proverbs we read this:
“Wisdom calls aloud in the street, she raises her voice in the public squares, at the end of the noisy streets she cries out, in the gateways of the city she makes her speech: ‘How long will you simple ones love your simple ways... The simple will eat the fruit of their ways and be filled with the fruit of their schemes, but whoever listens to me will live in safety and be at ease, without fear of harm.’”
So, okay; maybe Ms. Wisdom’s bed-side manner leaves room for improvement. I mean, you start by calling someone simple there’s a good chance that’s the last word from you they’ll hear.
But it appears Wisdom cares more about our eternal souls than about our tender egos.
Traditional religions often depict Wisdom as being disseminated from a mountain top, far removed from everyday life and difficult to access – think Moses and the burning bush, or the white-bearded guru sitting cross-legged at the top of the mountain, or the Buddhist monk living in a monastery high in the hills.
But the Book of Proverbs brings Wisdom down to the streets of the village for all to hear: “Wisdom calls aloud in the street, she raises her voice in the public squares, at the end of the noisy streets she cries out, in the gateways of the city she makes her speech,” which sounds something like this:
“You will find a babe wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger, Emmanuel, God with us.
“The abyss has been breached, God has made His move. And so I ask you, how long will you stick to your misguided ways? God no longer hides on the mountaintop. God is here with you, beside you, before you, behind you.
“The true light that gives light to every person has come into the world. Many, in their self- absorbed foolishness, do not recognize him. But all that do recognize him are received by him as children of God – children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision, but born of God. This, my children, is the true Wisdom which has come from God and lives now in your very midst, even in your heart. And now there is only one thing given for you to do; that is to say, ‘Thank you.’”
Listen to the similarity between the words of Wisdom in today’s lesson in Proverbs 9 and the words of Jesus in today’s lesson in John 6:
Wisdom says: “Come, eat of my bread and drink of the wine I have mixed. Lay aside immaturity, and live, and walk in the way of insight.”
Jesus says: “”I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever.”
Jesus is the Wisdom of God from of old. He calls out in the streets, “The Realm of God is at hand, turn from your worldly ways that lead nowhere and believe the good news:
I am the bread that has come down from heaven. Feast upon the life that is in me and you will know the wisdom of God, which is simply this: ‘Not my will, O God, but thine be done.’
Many of you have forgotten this simple prayer, which I have given you, and have strayed, like sheep from their shepherd; and yet, you do not even know you have wandered off.
Maybe one day you will look about yourself, the life you have made, and say, ‘Where am I? I do not even recognize this place.’
Is it any wonder you often experience undue worry, doubt, fear, regret, and resentment?
Is it any wonder you so rarely experience peace of mind and spirit?
Come to me all who are weary and burdened by life. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me. Set aside immaturity and walk in the way of insight, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your soul. My yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
The Wisdom of God is neither difficult to know nor need it be difficult to practice; it is but choosing God’s will over our own. But, as The Bard notes, “there’s the rub.”
In order to put on the yoke of Christ and learn from him, we must put aside our own burdens, the emotional baggage we lug about with us, from the shoulder bag filled with small slights and ego-desires to trunks full of personal hurts and pains that weigh down our souls, souls made to laugh in the sunlight and dance under the light of the moon, but sometimes can barely drag themselves from the front porch of our house to the front seat of our car.
Such burdens do us no good.
We are the monkey who reaches into the jar in order to steal a fistful of figs and then cannot retrieve his hand through the narrow neck of the jar because he will not let go of the figs. His greed is his undoing….as is ours.
We hold onto old hurts and new slights as though our lives depended on it, when, in fact, it is the opposite: “Lay aside immaturity,” Wisdom tells us, “and live.”
Let go of the figs. You don’t need them.