A United Methodist Pastor's Theological Reflections

"But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory (nikos) through our Lord Jesus Christ." - I Corinthians 15:57

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Sermon (February 22) by Rev. Cheryl Foulk - "Different Robes of Jesus: Healing Robe"

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.

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