31 Maple Street
Bristol, Connecticut USA
January 31, 2016
Rev. Kristen J. Kleiman
In the 1980’s, when we were first learning about HIV and AIDS, our sister church in South Glastonbury was doing healing services for those affected. They were actually laying their hands on people for healing, which was quite remarkable because at that time, many people still believed the myth that HIV and AIDS spread through casual contact. So to have a church community, to have brave loving souls saying, ‘come, let us touch you. Let us offer prayer through the laying on of hands’. Well, that was pretty momentous.
While many Protestant congregations reserve the laying on of hands for ordination and Confirmation, the laying on of hands for healing is an ancient Christian practice. Jesus laid hands on people to heal them (Luke 4:40), and so did the Apostles (Acts 8:18). A few summers ago, our own congregation laid hands upon a young woman before her surgery, asking for blessing and healing.
The laying on of hands is an ancient Christian practice and a powerful Christian practice, going back to Jesus, but Jesus is not the one laying healing hands on this morning. In an unusual turn of events, it is the woman who is ill, the woman with the hemorrhage, who is laying her hands upon Jesus to receive healing.
Twelve years she has been suffering. Twelve years!
She has been to every doctor imaginable. She has spent all of her money. And she is no better! She has found no relief from her ailment, and in addition to the pain, she is a social outcast because according to the purity rules of Leviticus, her disease is “religiously” contagious. If you touch her, you too will be ostracized from worship and community.
This woman is overcoming huge obstacles to approach Jesus. One, she is overcoming the obvious pain and discomfort of her illness to even be out in public. Two, she is risking the ritual purity of Jesus, and every single person in that large crowd as they all jostle about to be close to Jesus.
The woman has never met Jesus, has never heard him teach, but she has heard about him. Has she heard about the leper, who also was ritually unclean, and yet Jesus touched the man and healed him? Has she heard about the paralytic whose friends removed the roof to get the man to Jesus for healing?
She has heard about Jesus healing people that no one else would touch. She has heard about Jesus performing miraculous, impossible healings. So despite twelve years of trying and getting no relief, despite the fact that someone else in her position might have given up all hope, the woman reaches out to Jesus. Literally, reaches out to Jesus, believing that if she could just but touch his clothes, she will be made well (Mark 5:28).
She has been through every treatment. She has spent all her money, seen every doctor. She has exhausted all her resources, and yet, here she is, reaching out to Jesus with such faith, with such belief, that she is immediately healed upon touching his cloak. Immediately! Amazing!
Jesus feels it too. He feels the healing power of God go out from his body. He sees the depth of her faith, and he tells her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well, go in peace, and be healed of your disease.” (Mark 5:34)
What are you struggling with in your life right now? Have you been struggling with it for a year? For twelve years?
Is it a physical illness like the woman with the hemorrhage? Or is it psychological? Emotional? Are you struggling with loneliness? Depression? Addiction?
Are you just struggling with change? Are you frustrated with technology? Do you wish we could go back to the way things used to be?
What are you struggling with in your life right now?
Whatever we are struggling with, whether today or for years, we need to reach out to Jesus and ask for healing, expect healing – just like the woman with the hemorrhage whose faith made her well.
This is a bit different from my typical sermon style however I would like to lead you in a guided meditation, from the book, The Cup of Our Life, to help you reach out to Jesus and God with your struggles.
I invite you to get comfortable. Put aside anything in your hands and settle as best you can into the pew. Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths.
Picture yourself on a path at the edge of a forest.
You walk forward into the deep, soothing darkness of the trees.
You notice the sunlight streaming through the openings in the canopy.
You hear the peaceful rustling of leaves and animals.
You keep walking and find yourself at a spring of water, a clear pool.
As you look around, you notice the beauty of the forest and the water.
Then you see Jesus in the distance. He is walking towards you.
Jesus greets you as a long, lost loved one.
Together, you find a place to sit down by the pool of water.
Jesus asks about your life and listens to your responses:
What is your greatest joy now?….. (longer pause)
What is your greatest difficulty?……(longer pause)
Jesus nods in understanding, truly hearing both your blessings and your struggles.
Jesus holds out his hands and asks you to share with him your joy.
You reach out and put your joy in Jesus’ hands.
Jesus then holds out his hands and asks you to share with him your struggles.
You reach out and put your struggles in Jesus’ hands.
Jesus looks you in the eyes, truly seeing you, and thanks you for sharing both your joys and struggles with him.
Then Jesus lays his hands upon you and blesses you.
As you prepare to leave Jesus and journey out of the woods, Jesus hands you back your joys and keeps your struggles.
Jesus embraces you and says, “Your faith has made you well, go in peace, and be healed.” (Mark 5:34)
As you slowly walk out of the woods, you slowly come back to this place with a sense of utter peace and joy.
In hope, in desperation, in frustration, in faith, reach out to Jesus. Share with him your struggles. And know that your faith will make you well.