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.
A friend of mine told me that during the early 1940’s she 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. Her aunt felt very alone and neglected during the many months she was away.
Even after she returned to her 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.
We offer prayer every Sunday for those in need. Our Tuesday morning prayer team faithfully prays for each and every one of the joys and concerns that we provide through Sunday worship and our outdoor prayer cross. Our children make encouraging cards that are given to our homebound members.
Our Stephen ministry offers one to one peer support for those who are experiencing brokenness in their lives. We offer the anointing of oil whenever we celebrate the Sacrament of Holy Communion. And we will be offering a time of healing in worship today as well.
Now, I cannot explain the hows or the whys of our many prayers 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 three years ago.
Following all of this, 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 because literally there was no else … by God and 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 stations up front where we will offer the anointing of oil. When you come for prayer, you will be anointed with oil and a blessing will be 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.
Just as the woman from our scripture reading emerged from the crowd and touched the hem of Jesus’ robe, we too, are invited to come and receive God’s healing comfort and presence.
As we sing several hymns about healing, come as you feel led. Come and touch the robe.
Come, Touch the Healing Robe of Jesus
Small Group Discussion Questions
Psalm 25:1-10 & Luke 8:43-48
February 18, 2018
Our Gospel reading provides the story that probably best sums up our season of Lent sermon series on the different robes of Jesus. We are told that a woman who had been ill for 12 years, “came up behind him (Jesus) and touched the fringe of his clothes…” During these weeks of Lent, we are invited to come, touch Jesus’ robe.
What helps you to be bold in your faith like this woman who was willing to reach out and touch Jesus’ robe?
In addition to physical healing, Jesus’ also offers emotional, mental, relational, and spiritual healing and many times, these kinds of healing overlap.
How has Jesus brought healing in your life? Are you in need of a particular kind of healing now?
The woman in our Gospel reading who needed to be healed probably experienced social isolation because of her illness and being considered “unclean” by the people around her.
Share a time when you felt renewed and strengthened thanks to the care, support, and encouragement from others. Why is being in community and relationship with others an important part of our health and well-being?
Some of our church’s healing ministries include our prayer ministry, the anointing of oil during our Holy Communion Sundays, and Stephen Ministry which offers one to one peer support for people who are going through a particular challenge or transition in their lives.
Share any prayer needs for people who need healing in their lives.
Close your time together by offering this prayer for healing:
Almighty and everlasting God, who can banish all affliction both of soul and of body, show forth your power upon those in need, that by your mercy they may be restored to serve you afresh in holiness of living, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.