By Rev. Joan Kessler
Luke 8: 43 – 48
We don’t know her name. We don’t know her story other than she would have been ostracized because of blood issues that have persisted for some 12 years. What medical help and treatments were available to her we are not told, but she was getting worse instead of better.
Because of her hemorrhage, she was outcasted by her community; her condition was far more than physical blood loss. She was losing her vigor, her vitality, her personhood. She was cut off from practicing her spirituality and denied access to those things that brought meaning to her life. Her religious tradition labelled her unclean and ostracized her from her community. She confronted life and death every day.
She believed that if she just touched Jesus’ cloak, she had a chance to be made well again. What her definition of this was we are not told; I don’t believe it matters… we are left with the impression that this woman is healed.
Curing and healing are not the same. To be cured implies an absence of symptoms and a remedy provided; it signals a return to health. Healing, however, ushers in a restoration to wholeness, not necessarily the removal or cessation of particular symptoms of illness but rather an integrative process that transcends the physical body to improve one’s sense of mental, emotional, and spiritual wellbeing. Healing changes us and how we deal with our dis-ease.
It is the embodied experience that draws me to this story of the woman seeking out Jesus’ gift of healing. It is the touch, the exchange of giving and receiving, of hope and compassion for a return to a fullness of life. Today’s service is about celebrating the ways we extend healing to our community. The wrapping of a prayer shawl around the body of another with the warmth of the physical touch of wool against one’s skin and the prayers and loving intentions that were knitted by hand into each shawl. The prayers of the people that we offer Sunday by Sunday, naming our joys and our concerns with our voices because we believe prayer makes a difference and changes us. The healing Pathway ministry which has a history here at Winfield United; the practice and the discipline of sharing healing energy with another in their vulnerability and yet desire to be changed. And the coming together in Holy Communion where bread and juice remind us of our connection to Jesus’ life, the Loving Creator, and one another.
All of these expressions embody our desire to share healing with one another. It can feel most vulnerable to share our dis-ease of our physical illnesses, our messy family life with others, and yet, I believe what we do in the safety of this sharing brings honor, care, and compassion to our one-anothering. That is what we strive to do every time we gather whether it be in the building, in this sanctuary space or from our Zoom places: to feel human, to feel connected to someone and something, to place value on our spiritual, emotional, and physical wellbeing. A connection to the Spirit of God which is everywhere and longs for good health and the renewal of our beings. Curing may happen in isolation, in medications and in sterile environments, but healing happens in community, with one another.
I want to leave with you some beautiful words shared by one of you earlier this week from theologian and author, Walter Bruggemann, about this embodied way of being in community. His piece is entitled Touch and for me speaks to the healing we celebrate today:
“I HEAR YOUR WORDS. I see your face. I smell the rain in your hair, the coffee on your breath. I am inside me experiencing you as you are inside you experiencing me, but the you and the I themselves, those two insiders, don't entirely meet until something else happens.
We shake hands perhaps. We pat each other on the back. At parting or greeting, we may even go so far as to give each other a hug. And now it has happened. We discover each other to be three-dimensional, solid creatures of reality as well as dimensionless, airy creators of it. We have an outside of flesh and bone as well as an inside where we live and move and have our being.
Through simply touching, more directly than in any other way, we can transmit to each other something of the power of the life we have inside us. It is no wonder that the laying on of hands has always been a traditional part of healing or that when Jesus was around, "all the crowd sought to touch him" (Luke 6:19). It is no wonder that just the touch of another human being at a dark time can be enough to save the day.”