Sun, Jul 01, 2018

A healing touch

A story sermon on the woman who touched Jesus' garment

It's the loneliness that's the hardest to cope with.

Especially at night.

When there's no one to talk to anymore.

No one to ask, "how's your day been?"

And no one to listen.

It's easy enough to keep fairly busy during the day:

cleaning the house;

mending clothes;

doing some work in the garden.

But night time... that's hard.

Mostly, I just go to bed early...

and hope that I can sleep through the night.

I don't get out much nowadays.

Couldn't really. 

Not after I got sick.

It only made the loneliness much worse.

I missed being able to do all the things that I used to do.

Things I used to take for granted just a few years ago.

Things that I just couldn't do:

long strolls alongside the seashore;

browsing through the stalls at the local market;

catching up with old friends and the latest news;

organising big family celebrations, when I'd spend days preparing and cooking;

even going to worship.


Being a widow is difficult, especially when you get sick.

Jonathan was a good man and I miss him awfully.

I've struggled since he died.

Not just with the loneliness and the tedium. 

But also having to cope with things that I never had to do before:

balancing the budget;

paying taxes;

minor repairs to the house.

And it's been a huge strain financially.

Every spare penny I had went on medical bills--

but to no avail.

My extended family tried to help... when they could.

But they all have their own lives--

and their own families...

which keep them busy...

and some of them are battling to keep their farms and businesses going too.

What, with the lack of rain and everything.

So I didn't want to be a burden to them.

Especially when they were struggling to make ends meet.

I don't see much of them now.

Now that some of them have left the village...

and moved to the city looking for more work.

They do visit... 


when they can...

not as much as I'd like...

but that's the way it is, I suppose.

And it wasn't just because they were busy.

In reality, I suppose... because... they were embarrassed by my illness.

Since it made me unclean;

a social outcast;

unable to go out in public.

It meant when they did come to visit, they couldn't touch me...

or touch anything that I'd touched...

otherwise, they would've had to go through an elaborate cleansing ritual.

Being a sick widow in Galilee is a dreadful thing.

Struggling to make ends meet.

Enduring loneliness and isolation.

Feeling cut off from the world.

Feeling like you're of no use to anyone or anything.

Just a burden...

or a nuisance...

or an embarrassment.

Worthless... less than human.

I couldn't go on like that.

It wasn't a life... it was an existence.


That's why I went to find that Jesus-fellow.

I knew I shouldn't have.

I knew I wasn't supposed to go out in public.

Just in case I touched someone and made them unclean.

But I was desperate.

I had to try something... anything

I had to change my situation... somehow.

I couldn't just go up and ask him to help.

Not in public.

After all, I'd been treated as useless, worthless, and an embarrassment for so long...

that I didn't have a good opinion of myself.

So I wasn't sure that he'd want to help someone like me.

And if I asked, and he said no...

Besides, a Hebrew man isn't supposed to talk to a woman in public;

certainly not a woman who isn't a close relative;

and especially not a woman who's an outcast.


So there I was, fighting my way through this huge jostling crowd.

A great noisy rabble thronging around him.

People from all walks of life:

grotty peasants;

smelly fisherman;

wealthy toffs.

and self-righteous religious types. 

All of them pushing and shoving...

yelling and badgering...

pleading for help...

or merely striving for a glimpse.

It was like a carnival... or a circus.

Squeezing and straining my way through...

from the back of the pack... 

I managed to get close enough to see the back of his head.

But he was still a little distance away...

while the push and swell of the crowd was growing...

threatening to swamp me.

And, try as I might, I couldn't get any closer.

It wouldn't have taken much for me to go under and be trampled.

So I just lunged towards him.

Momentarily grasping the hem of his sleeve.


He stopped. 

Dead in his tracks.


Looked about purposefully.

And asked, "Who touched my clothes?"

His followers responded with rude ridicule.

But he didn't pay any attention to them.

He just kept looking around.

But I could've sworn he was looking directly at me.

I don't know why, but I started to edge forward.

Somehow... the crowd just seemed to part.

And next thing I know, I was kneeling before him.

Terrified and trembling.

What was I going to say?

What could I say?

If I explained why I'd done it...

he might announce it to the whole crowd.

And I'd be humiliated.

Or worse.

What if he laughed at me?

Or yelled at me?

What if he told me I was a good-for-nothing so-and-so?

How I had no right to do what I did.

How I shouldn't even have been there.

What if he abused me for touching him and making him unclean?

And everyone else?

I don't think I could've coped.


But he didn't.

He put his hand on my shoulder. 

And spoke with a warm and gentle voice, telling me to get up.

And he called me "daughter".


As if to say... 

your family might be embarrassed by you.

they might avoid you...

or reject you...

but I accept you.

As if you're part of my family.

To me you are clean.

You are whole.

You are worthwhile.


After he helped me to my feet, I went back home...

scarcely believing what'd happened.

It's like... he had called me out so that everyone could see his response.

So they could see that someone important in the community actually valued me.

Thought I was worthwhile.

Welcomed me with open arms.

Told me I was clean and whole.

And maybe... he was trying to teach them something as well;

about how they saw and treated others;

that in welcoming the outcast...

the embarrassing... 

and the seemingly useless... 

we're all made whole.


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