I have returned from an 8 day sojourn with our sister congregation in El Salvador. Many of the stories of the week (by me and others in the group) can be found on our ECLC in El Salvador Blog.
I include this one here since it is relevant to today's lectionary.
This morning's Gospel lesson from Mark brought me back to the morning we spent with the Salvadoran church leaders at Concordia, singing, celebrating and sharing the lectionary texts for the week. Bishop Medardo Gomez presided over the gathering and offered a reflection on the two healing stories of the Gospel text.
I have heard and preached many a sermon about the contrasts between these two supplicants to Jesus: Jairus, a rich man who sends for help for his ailing daughter, without encountering Jesus face to face; and the woman with a hemorrhage, whose only plea is to reach out and touch him, believing even that might bring her healing. But something about encountering these texts with our Salvadoran brothers and sisters, who know all too well the gap between the rich and poor, who struggle to give witness to healing in a nation still suffering daily violence -- there is no substitute for that kind of face-to-face encounter with the Gospel.
That same power of face-to-face happened on Thursday afternoon, when at our last stop of the day we gathered around the subversive cross in Resurrection Lutheran Church in San Salvador. I already had seen pictures, already had heard the story of this cross, which is marked with the confession of the sins of the Salvadoran nation. During some of the most harrowing days of the civil war, it was literally taken prisoner as evidence of the church's subversive activity, traveling from prison to the President's house before it was returned to the church.
It's a remarkable story, but we were privileged to hear it directly from Bishop Gomez, who stopped what he was doing that afternoon to sit with us. (Tim Muth told us he had never, in his 10 years of work in El Salvador, heard the bishop tell the tale directly). Medardo Gomez spoke of the danger to his own life in those days in 1989 when six Jesuit priests were slaughtered, of his exile for many weeks until he could be escorted home by a group of international bishops, and of his request to the President to have the cross returned.
Probably the words we heard the most often in our six days of visiting were "hermanos y hermanas" -- brothers and sisters. We heard them so often referring to our unity in Christ that we occasionally misunderstood when people were talking about actual blood relatives. But the welcome we received in every congregation, in every home, in every meeting, matched this testimony that we are indeed brothers and sisters in Christ. We are in relationship -- not because we are North Americans and in a position to "help", but because we are one, because we need one another, and because our witness to Christ is incomplete unless we know one another and share our joys and sorrows together. My brothers and sisters in Christ in El Salvador have been the face of Christ to me. We have touched his garment and are healed.