July 1, 2018, 6th Sunday after Pentecost YR B, Proper 8
And a large crowd followed him and pressed in on him. Now there was a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years. She heard about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak. Immediately her hemorrhages stopped and she felt in her body that she was healed. Jesus turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my clothes?” He looked all around to see who had done it. But the woman knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling, fell down before him, and told him the whole truth. He said to her, Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace and be healed of your disease.”
Our bold woman reaches out and touches Jesus.
Without words, she asks for a healing.
She immediately admits to reaching out, she does not say, as some have in the past, that the snake told her to do it or the woman did it. She blames no one.
She tells Jesus the whole truth.
She comes with no worldly goods, only a sense, a belief that Jesus can help her, Something within her tells her to go where she has never gone before.
She doesn’t wait until she is well groomed. She comes in an open and weakened state. She may be afraid but moves nearer to Jesus and touches his cloak
I will try to imagine what being in the presence of Jesus was like. Being in the presence of the Word made Flesh. The presence of the Divine and Human united as one. The air must have been full of God’s Love and Spirit and power. It was also filled with noise, smells, pushing movement.
She tells Jesus the whole truth. She seems self-aware and honestly reveals herself to him.
Julian of Norwich, our 15th century Christian mystic, writes in her book titled Revelations of Divine Love, that knowledge of self and humility (understanding our failures) allow the Holy Spirit to fill us with his presence without the interference of the false self. She continues to say that, we must come to know ourselves truly and clearly in order to know the Lord more truly and clearly. Our bold woman does just that.
Julian goes on to say, the more we understand our failures, the more grace will prompt us to long for and be filled with joy. Filled with a transformation. The Holy Spirit dwells in our soul, protects us, gives us peace through grace and reconciles us to God. This is Gods mercy. Mercy protects, gives life, and provides healing in all the tenderness of love.
Can this same Spirit be alive in today’s world, in our community, in our families. in our own individual lives? Can we recognize it? Is it possible? Are we capable of this same honesty, boldness and reaching out?
We are, as you all know, created in the image of God. That is certainly a miracle in itself. Many years ago a Quaker friend of mine, a Friend, mentioned the “Spark of Jesus”, a Spark of the Divine which exists in all of us. I believed it immediately. Maybe I recognized the Spark within Myself. Maybe I knew that this was my connection to God. Maybe because of this Spark we still walk in the same crowd as our bold woman walked. We can learn to reach out for that cloak. The power to transform us is right there waiting to be connected to our very own Divine Spark.
Our Christian teachings, writings, tradition and practices speak strongly to the belief that we do hold the divine within our being..
Our very own Bishop Michael Hanley, when he last visited us, talked about the Spirit of God being given to all. This spark never dies. After the service I confessed to him that I found it difficult to imagine the Divine in some folks. He replied that he too found it difficult at times. Difficult yes, but true nonetheless.
Our woman was unconventional. She knew that she was seen as unclean. Woman’s blood was thought of as especially unclean. She may have also seen and heard that Jesus was also unconventional. He did not turn away from those seen as outside of acceptable society. I picture him with a motely group. This makes me smile and this gives me and our woman courage to move forward. Her divine spark certainly connected with his Divine Self. This led to her transformation.
Many years ago when I was in my early forties, I returned to University to study religion and philosophy. For many years I did not attend church and at school I avoided Classes in Christianity. I instead studied eastern religions, Judaism, the history of Christianity. After a while my family and I did attend Quaker Meeting where I taught first day school. Much happened during this time.
It was a late afternoon on a Friday after a long week of tests, writings reports and studying. I wanted to go home to my family and relax, I had Friday afternoon impatience My last class was the History of Religion. I usually sat next to a young man who seemed quite shy and we would exchange greetings of , “Hello, how are you.” On this day, for some unknown reason I was sitting back a ways. He entered and looked my way with what I thought was discomfort at my being in an unusual place. This of course could have been my imagination. I didn’t want to move. The desks were the ones where the arm comes down in the front to hold books and notebooks. I felt quite jammed in and slightly irritated. I did though decide to move next to my nameless young man. The fifty minutes passed slowly but finally books were put in backpacks and I said my usual, “Good byes, enjoy your weekend”. In a moment, an indescribable moment, I saw the Christ in him, the spark of the divine in him.
I didn’t tell him. I couldn’t. I just said, “goodbye”. And went home.
This was pure gift. I had not been in a prayerful mood nor a patient and caring mood. I had been hungry and tired and wanted to go home. This was a sacred moment and I held it close.
While sitting at my computer wondering where this sermon was going next, this experience came to mind. Then I realized that you, all of you, were and are included in that moment of revelation. You are part of that moment. We worship God together, pray together, share joys and worries, laughter and tears, cookies and watermelon and are truly the Body of Christ together. We bring all of our past experiences, our histories with us as we gather. Without explanation we allow who we are to create One Body. We are like our Bold Lady because we come to God in our vulnerable, imperfect condition and are transformed. Our past and present are shared usually without words.
Thinking beyond this, I knew that Our very own church’s Body of Christ, included it’s 50+ years. It contained all who worked , played and prayed before us. All who walked through our doors and stayed for a moment of prayer and those who stayed longer. All those “sparks of Jesus” were still with us in our present life.
Then I realized that we stay united to each other, in and through Christ, as we go out into the world. And then that portion of life also becomes the Body, and on it goes.
Evelyn Underhill ,our Anglican 20th century writer known for her works on religion and spiritual practice, was the first woman to lecture to the clergy in the Church of England and the first woman to officially conduct spiritual retreats for the church. She believed that all of life is sacred, as that is what the “incarnation” is all about. In her book, The Spiritual Life, she writes that the church is in the world to save the world. It is a tool of God for that purpose. Our contemplation and our action, our humble self- opening to God and our fellow creatures is the way to the kingdom on earth. It isn’t conversion to dogma but to recognizing the spark of the divine within all. Our actions must be peaceful, gentle and strong. This is what our being within the Body of Christ supports.
In ou post communion prayer we say that the God of abundance has united us with Christ and one another and made us one with all people in heaven and on earth. Here we recognize our part, our being united with the seen and unseen, all that has gone before and all that is now.
The reality of the world and engaging with all those “sparks of the divine” can seem complicated.. We enter our everyday life with the intention of being fair, gentle and strong. What do I say to the person standing on the corner asking for food or how do I react to another’s anger and disillusionment? How do I stay honest in my interactions? How do I bring God into my reality? There is a lot for me to learn. How do I stay bold and see life through God’s eyes? A sense of humor is essential when looking at our attempts at living and moving towards God. How healthy to laugh at our failures. Teilhard de Chardin tells us that all life is evolving towards God. We can try to be included in that evolution.
I end with a poem by Rainer Maria Rilke, 1875 – 1926
God speaks to each of us as he makes us, then walks with us out of the night
These are the words we dimly hear:
You are sent out beyond your recall, go to the limits of your longing.
Flare up like flame and make big shadows I can move in.
let everything happen to you: beauty and terror.
Just keep going. No feeling is final.
Don’t let yourself lose me.
Nearby is the country they call life. You will know it by its seriousness.
Give me your hand.
Bless the Lord my soul and bless God’s holy name
Bless the Lord my soul who leads me into life.