During the Sundays of Lent, we are focusing upon Jesus' ministry by using the image of his clothing, his robe. Last week, our theme was the shining robe of the Transfiguration. Jesus is a reflection of God's glory and we can also reflect God's love by our actions of kindness.
Today, we are looking at the healing robe. In the Gospel accounts, Jesus is well known as a healer. He is seen as having great compassion for people and a desire to lift them out of their suffering. People are not left in the condition that he finds them.
Here is a general description from Mark:
“That evening at sundown, they brought to Jesus all who were sick. And the whole town was gathered around the door. And Jesus cured many who were sick with various diseases. All who had diseases pressed upon him to touch him.”
In the Gospel story for today, we have an unnamed woman who is part of a crowd that was gathering around Jesus.
We are told a few things about her: she has a persistent illness and for 12 years she has sought medical help. Her health has not improved. Financially, she has little resources left.
If you have been sick or taken care of someone sick, you know what this means.
One's daily life changes: your schedule revolves around appointments, and medications, and tests, and waiting for answers. You lose touch with what is happening outside. People have told me: “the only time I go outside the house is to the doctor.” For this woman, because of the nature of her sickness, she would not be welcome in certain places. Every day she would have to deal with the debilitating fatigue of chronic anemia. Illness can isolate us from our neighbors, and add to our loss of hope.
In the early 1940's I had an aunt who had tuberculosis and was sent to a sanatorium in the mountains of N.C. She was some distance away and her family did not have a means for visiting her. My aunt felt very alone and neglected during the many months she was away.
Even after she returned to our community, she had problems reconnecting with the family. Illness effects many areas of our lives, not just our bodies.
The woman in the story must have used all her energy in order to find Jesus.
She has a bold faith. Desperation could have spurred her on but she is courageous. She doesn't ask for permission but she takes hold of the edge of Jesus' robe believing that something would happen if she could just make contact.
She touches his clothing, and her medical problem is resolved. She may have been known as “that sick lady who lives on the corner” and now she is well!
Jesus turns, acknowledges her,and wants to hear her story .
In a very tender way, he breaks down barriers to make her part of the community again: Jesus calls her “daughter.”
If this woman has been shunned before, she is accepted now by Jesus. Everyone around has over heard the details of her pain, but they have also heard about her faith.
To be well was important to Jesus and it is important to us also.
W e offer prayer every Sunday for those in need. Our hospital visitation team visits daily in the hospital- offering prayers for wholeness. Today children in the pre-school Sunday School class are making get well cards for those who are sick. We have a prayer group connected by email who pray for expressed concerns. In small groups and on our own, we call out someone's name and ask for their healing. Out of faith and with empathy (and sometimes with anxiety) we pray.
I cannot explain the hows or whys of prayer for healing.
When the outcome is not what we wanted, when we wonder “why not me” , I can't say it was because we did not have enough faith or we didn't pray in the right ways.
I do believe that there are always changes because of prayer: for those who are praying, and for the situation. Even when we are disappointed, we can receive God's peace. Even when we are heartbroken, we can realize that God is still with us. We may not be able to see the many ways that God's love was realized in our lives or in others' lives.
Kayla Mueller was a young woman from Arizona who worked for human rights thru a variety of organizations in many countries. In 2013 she was taken hostage in Syria ; she died in captivity during this past month.
Recently her family released a letter that Kayla had written to them. She stated in the letter her great appreciation for their support. She wrote: “I remember mom always telling me that all in all in the end the only one you really have is God. I have come to a place in experience where, in every sense of the word, I have surrendered myself to our creator b/c literally there was no else ... + by God + by your prayers I have felt tenderly cradled in free fall.”
To me that phrase “tenderly cradled in free fall” captures the essence of the experience of prayer. As we pray for someone else, we become part of their story, we offer our love and our support. We become part of God's wide net of compassion.
We will take time today to pray for ourselves and for others. Everyone of us hurts in some way or knows of the heartache of another. We may need the healing of a broken relationship, the release from an addiction, the lifting of a burden.
A doctor was writing about this Gospel passage and he commented that when Jesus healed persons, it appears to happen very quickly. In the doctor's experience, healing may be a slow process, and patience and prayer are part of that process.
We will have two stations for prayer here in the front of the sanctuary and two in the balcony. When you come for prayer, you will be anointed with oil and a blessing offered.
You may not have a pressing need, but wish to come in recognition of Christ's care for you. You are welcome to come representing the need of another person. You may want to pray for a family or a neighborhood. You may feel led to come because of your concern for a situation in our world that is overwhelming. There will be no asking of why you came , only a claiming of God's grace for you and for whatever is on your heart.
Our choir will be singing an anthem of invitation before we pray.Through our prayers, we are in faith touching the healing robe of Christ.