Now there was a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years. She had endured much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had; and she was no better, but rather grew worse (Mark 5:25-26; NRSV).
For the second time in the span of a generation, the United States Federal Government has shutdown. In actuality it is only a partial economic shutdown - many governmental services remain open for business, and governmental employees remain at their post: the active military, air traffic controllers, the postal service and, yes of course, elected political officials.
While a large number of average Americans have not yet felt its direct effects, many others, however, have. Many will not feel the effects of this latest governmental drama simply because they have, in effect, long felt a shutdown of governmental resources and support in their personal lives. Many have already been part of the working poor - living from pay check to pay check - while others have been caught up in the unrelenting cycle of joblessness or lack of health care.
These are the thousands that we see at the supermarket, riding on the public transportation system, or sitting next to us each week in church service. These are the ones (of which many of us also belong) struggling simply to keep their head above the torrential resource-strapped storms and gale-force winds of economic challenge.
I recently heard from a friend and former colleague who had been laid off from her teaching post at an HBCU (Historically Black College/University). She reminded me that despite holding a Ph.D. in the science field, that this was her third time being laid off (three separate institutions) in the past decade. Now living in a one room space with her daughter and granddaughter, she not only grapples with limited resources and shared space but, more importantly, her identity.
In light of the latest government sequestration and now partial shutdown, she has, as have many others, exhausted her unemployment benefits and is now being questioned about her legitimacy as a candidate for receiving food stamps. Even before the government shutdown which began the early part of October, she (and many others) already experienced a seemingly sanctioned shutdown of resources. In our Markan passage, which also appears in Matthew 9:20ff and Luke 8:42ff, the woman suffering from hemorrhages was marginalized and disenfranchised because of something which was no fault of her own.
The religious establishment and political officials governmentally shut-her-out because of a physical malady. Derided as contagious and subject to quarantine, her unexpected crisis restricted her to a governmental sanctioned life of isolation, loneliness, psychological disorientation and physical depravity. Despite her fate, though, she models for us a type of faith, courage and 'can do it' attitude willingness to challenge unjust strongholds, to reach out to Christ – the author and finisher of our faith. Because of her faith and action plain, Jesus declared her whole.
[Jamal-Dominique Hopkins (Ph.D., University of Manchester, U.K.) is C.E.O. of the non-profit Christian think tank, the Institute for Advanced African American Christian Thought (IAAACT). A graduate also from Howard University and Fuller Theological Seminary, he is the author of Thinking Out Loud: Thoughts and Reflections on Life, Faith, Culture and Crisis (Journal Publication, 2013), and "Duty or Responsibility? The African American Evangelical's Identity" in the Journal of African American Christian Thought (2009). Hopkins is available for preaching, speaking or conducting workshops or seminars. To contact him or to contribute to IAAACT visit www.iaaact.weebly.com.]