July 1, 2018 Reflection (Canada Day)
Mark 5:21-43/ 1 Samuel 1:17-27
Healing of the Nation, Grieving of the Past
Recently, I discovered a new TV show on Netflix. It’s called “An Hour to Save Your Life.” It is a British documentary series of emergency medical staff, both paramedics on the site and the doctors and nurses in the hospital trauma centre who try to save the lives of trauma patients. The title is “An Hour to Save Your Life” because for trauma patients, the first 60 minutes are crucial to whether they will survive or die. It is more captivating than fictional medical dramas because these are real medical professionals trying to save real people. Every episode shows three patients fighting to survive. Some survive and make full recovery, some survive but with some permanent damages in their body such as partial hearing loss, and some don’t survive at all even after the medical effort that looks pretty much like a battle scene. This procedure of trying to save a trauma patient’s life is utter chaos like in a war; it’s a life and death situation, and there is fear, desperation, mustering up of hope, tears, and one can easily imagine, desperate prayers. It is highly emotional.
Reading today’s gospel story is very similar to watching one of the episodes of my new medical show. There is chaos, desperation, healing, and death; and unlike our real life medical show, there is resurrection too. Boy, wouldn’t it be nice if all our real life ‘life and death’ dramas can end with either healing or the resurrection? Anyway, in this sandwich story, we meet two patients. The first one is the daughter of Jairus, leader of the synagogue. The second one is a woman who has been hemorrhaging for 12 years. Her condition got worse after all the money and effort she spent trying to heal. We call this story a sandwich because it starts with Jairus and his daughter, goes on to the hemorrhaging woman, and then goes back to Jairus and his daughter. The woman was so desperate after 12 years that she grabbed Jesus’ clothes hoping that some of his power would have rubbed off on them. This is the hope and act of a truly desperate person. She touched; happy ending. Then the news came that Jairus’ daughter died, and it was too late for Jesus to go there. “Don’t trouble the teacher any more,” the messengers said to Jairus. But for Jesus, it wasn’t too late. People laughed at him when he said she was only sleeping, then boom! She was alive again!
Let’s take our attention away from these happy endings for a minute and think what it would feel like, the waiting period; the period of not knowing whether one would heal or die. My Korean ancestors said it feels like blood is getting dry. It is something a parent would feel if his or her child has gone missing for a long period of time, or a loved one fell into a coma and nobody knows if or when they will wake up from the coma. The psalmist who wrote today’s Psalm (Psalm 130) said, “My soul waits for God more than the watchers long for the morning.” The watchmen, who are on guard on the walls of a city find the hours of the night especially long. They get more impatient waiting for the morning than the guards who work during the day surrounded by daylight, people and noise. Have you ever been so impatient, you keep checking the clock and find out only 5 minutes have passed since you last checked? Waiting can be brutal. One of the episodes of “An Hour to Save your Life” was about three babies trying to survive the birth. In all cases they needed a planned C-section, which led immediately to a neo-natal doctor to try to keep them alive and strong enough to go home with their parents. Now think of the parents who have to spend 2 to 10 days while their newborn babies are struggling to survive, a lot of whom were born prematurely. Their blood would dry, I would think.
In this kind of chaos, fear, hope, and desperation, especially if we don’t get a happy ending, it might be difficult to feel that God is at work. We might ask, “Where was God when my premature baby was struggling to survive?” All three babies in the episode survived and are thriving, but not all babies in that situation survive. We don’t understand why God takes them away. We may never understand, until maybe we meet God after our earthly body dies. But even in these moments of extreme pain, doubt, and anger, it is important for us children of God to look to God as our source of comfort and peace. It may not give us a satisfying answer to our questions but trusting God and walking with God in all circumstances will give us peace and courage. Now let’s turn our attention to a less tragic death than that of new born babies. Our parents, grandparents, relatives, and friends pass away. Grieving and mourning is essential to move on. This is why parents whose children are missing, and their bodies have not been found go through a more painful experience than the parents whose children are found dead because they cannot grieve and move on. Last week, I had a tour inside a funeral home because one of the funeral directors we work with became a friend. He said a lot of families postpone the memorial service for a lot of months because maybe it is difficult for them to all gather on short notice due to their busy lives. He as a funeral director doesn’t recommend it because it means the family is postponing grief. To move on and move forward, grieving for our dead and the act of burying them or scattering their ashes somewhere is an essential step. King David wrote a song of mourning for King Saul and Jonathan; we give a memorial service for our loved ones.
Today we celebrate Canada’s birthday. Just like in our personal lives, our history as a nation is full of joy, pain, chaos, and death. There were invasions, oppression, negligence, and discrimination; pain from the marginalized groups starting from but not limited to our First Nations peoples. It has been 151 years since confederation, and we should move towards the future of healing and reconciliation. Healing of the pain and journey towards reconciliation between the different groups of people making up this nation should come with burying the ugly part of our past. When I say “bury”, I don’t mean “sweep it under the rug and don’t talk about it”; it means we should abandon the ugliness of domination and oppression from our past and not repeat it. We should move forward to creating a nation that is ruled by the principles of compassion and social justice. As we cannot move forward after the death of a loved one without the process of grieving and burying, we as a nation cannot move forward to a future of equality and justice if we don’t do the funeral of our ugly past and let it go.
Our First Nations people need healing from what has been done to them. Our marginalized groups of people need healing from sexism, racism, homophobia, and more. We as the people of Canada should commit ourselves to building a nation where differences do not result in discrimination and oppression; a nation where people get to know each other and educate themselves so they can live in harmony in the midst of different cultures and ideas. Let us dream of this future for our nation. Let us participate in the nation’s and the United Church’s commitment for peace and reconciliation. Let us start by learning about each other’s cultures and ideas. Let us make an effort to get to know our Ktunaxa neighbours. Let us go to their cultural events to learn about them and get to know them. If we have Muslim neighbours or Buddhist neighbours, if we have Middle Eastern neighbours or Asian neighbours, let’s make an effort to get to know them. On this Canada Day, let us all make a commitment to participate in the healing process of this nation and its people.
Rev. Sunny Kim