Healing in the marketplace

 Text: Mark 6:30-34, 53-56

I am something of a news junkie. In the mornings, I listen to the news on my radio app while I get ready for work, and my phone lights up several times a day with notification of breaking stories from the Times or the Post. I read a lot of those stories and check out other news outlets as well.

There’s so much going on in this big wide world, and while I know I couldn’t possibly keep up with all of it, I am deeply interested in trying to stay connected at some level with the world’s events and people and stories.

If I were reading about today’s Gospel in the newspaper, I might find the story in the entertainment section. Huge crowds of people are following this guy Jesus around! They are looking for him to come to a place near them, and they rush out to meet him everywhere he goes, they recognize him easily and flock to him, as if he and the disciples were the Grateful Dead or something.

Or I might read it in the lifestyle and wellness section. The world is so busy, and there are so many things pulling at us from this side and that. Our spirtual leader Jesus reminds us that we need sometimes to get away, to refresh, to rest, to sit down and eat a healthy meal and recharge. 

Or the health section. People are desperate for healing, times are tough and they are helping one another the best they can, volunteering to take their family, friends and neighbors to a place where they might receive help from Jesus who is a great healer. That’s certainly a relevant topic these days and the health section is in great need of an uplifting story.

Heck, it might even be in the education section. Jesus, the teacher, mentor to many disciples, sends them out to teach others and then brings them back to talk about their experiences to help them be better teachers themselves. He not only teaches the few but also the many. He is that rare kind of teacher who is spurred on by compassion, especially for those who are struggling and scattered because of their circumstances, and his teaching is all about the healing power of love.

These are all good ways to look at and think about this story.

But frankly, the part that really jumps out at me from the Gospel today is the word marketplace. “Wherever Jesus went, into villages or cities or farms, they laid the sick in the marketplaces, and begged him that they might touch even the fringe of his cloak; and all who touched it were healed.”

The marketplace. I listen to the marketplace morning report on NPR. I read in the business section about what’s happening in the world of, well, business. For many of us, marketplace is the word that describes the the place that is at the center of the it all, the engine that makes our economy go.

In the old days, too, of course, the marketplace was the physical center of everything. The marketplace was not just where you acquired your horse and vegetables but also it was the public square, the ground zero intersection of commerce and culture and conversation.

And in this story, oddly enough, that’s where the people brought their sick. Right into the marketplace. Not to the synagogue; not to the leper colony or other enclave of the unwell, off to the side somewhere; not even to the village healer’s house. They brought them into the marketplace, the place that is also the center of public life and the heart of the whole economy, and begged for Jesus’s attention there.

And so I am wondering. Maybe the message from the Gospel today is asking us to bring the poor, the hungry, the imprisoned, the sick, the dying, the desperate right into the marketplace, right into the center of things, the place where much of our focus is, and beg for the world’s attention. Maybe the lost, the least, the grieving, the sad and confused should be right there in the center instead of off to the side, out of view, and maybe out of mind as well. 

Remember in the early months of the pandemic, somehow the message became an either/or thing in terms of importance and focus - either the economy or the health and safety of the people? And folks were fighting each other to the death on this issue - and maybe still are. But what if we bring health and well-being into the marketplace, too? What if we bring poverty and racism and loss of hope? What if we invite those who are hurting to bring their pain, those who suffer things we are not aware of, those who need to be seen and understood right into the middle of that all important center? What if we bring all those things in together instead of compartmentalizing them (or worse yet shifting things off to the side) and broaden our view to see that the marketplace cannot thrive if the people are suffering? 

And maybe the message from the Gospel today is that Jesus walks through the marketplace, too, just like we do, and when he does, he walks with compassion and leaves healing in his wake. What would the world be like if we all did that, if we all left healing in our wake as we walk along our own journeys with compassion, just as part of our every day life and work?

What if we did that?