Keeping Up Appearances: Third Sunday After Epiphany(Narrative Lectionary)

Keeping Up Appearances: Third Sunday After Epiphany(Narrative Lectionary)

Narrative Lectionary Reflection

February 2, 2020

Read: Mark 5:21-43




I recently read a news item about a small congregation and how the pastor was able to connect the church to the wider community bringing in more people to the congregation.

I really hate those stories.

It’s not that I want these churches to fail. I am glad to see how declining churches can be rejuvenated.  But serving a small church for the last few years, I’m jealous. We have done what we can to connect to the wider community and we aren’t getting an influx of visitors.

We never hear it much, but I think there are a lot of pastors that feel like a failure.  Many of us try to do what we can to put our congregation on a new footing. We plan events for the community where only a few people show up, or maybe no one shows up at all.

We don’t hear much because most pastors aren’t willing to share their shortcomings.  They want to appear like they are in charge.

So many of us try to keep up appearances.  I am remembered of the British television show of the same name where the lead character tries to show herself and her family as better than what they really are.  

But the text today in Mark has a number of people that can’t keep up appearances.  They can’t pretend things are fine.  They can’t put up a fake smile in hopes that they can fake it until they make it.  The woman dealing with gynecological problems can’t hide her illness. It’s probably very visible and very embarrassing.  She is considered unclean, which must have felt shameful to her.  The woman didn’t even want to face Jesus, she had faith that if she just touched his clothing then maybe something would happen.  She touches Jesus’ clothing and she knew at that moment that she is healed.  Jesus marvels at her faith in spite of all the circumstances.

Jarius was a high religious official.  Most of the religious leaders viewed Jesus with disdain, but Jarius falls at the feet of Jesus begging that his daughter be healed.  We don’t know what Jarius thought about Jesus beforehand, but we know now that Jesus was his last chance. He threw all decorum to the side and cast his hope on Jesus.

Sometimes we want to appear that we have it all together.  Most times though, we don’t have things all together.  More often than not, we are barely holding things up.  But we don’t want to show this to others, mostly because we feel failures and want to keep that part of ourselves hidden.  But Jesus has a way of having us rip off our false faces to reveal ourselves. When the mask slips and crashes to the ground, Jesus is there waiting to heal us, waiting to forgive us. We don’t have to pretend everything is okay.

At the beginning of Mark, Jesus tells religious leaders that the healthy don’t need a doctor, it is the sick.  Jesus tells us to stop keeping up appearances and let Jesus come and heal us.



Dennis Sanders is the Pastor at First Christian Church of St. Paul in Mahtomedi, Minnesota. He’s written for various outlets including Christian Century.


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