Materials for Worship at Home on June 11th

Moira writes: In preparation for this morning’s worship, you might like to light a candle and reflect on this image of the woman who touched the hem of Jesus’ garment. See how crowded the area is around Jesus as he walks through the crowd. It’s amazing how this woman who had suffered for so long, actually managed to get through the crowd and close enough to Jesus to touch his robe.

This morning the thread which links all of our readings, is faith. In the first reading from the book of Genesis, (chapter 12 verses 1-9) we see the faith Abram (which means exulted father), later to be known as Abraham (meaning father of a multitude), and in Paul’s letter to the Romans (chapter 4 verses 13-25) we once again hear about Abraham and the changes to his life. Can you imagine what faith it must have taken to listen to the call of God, to take his family and possessions, and move to what was to Abram a foreign land?

Today we think nothing of travelling to the four corners of the earth and everywhere in between, because it is so easy to jump on a boat or a plane and know that we can return at any time. But what about Abram and his family? For many years Abram had lived in his native country of Chaldea in the city or Ur. He then travelled 300 miles north to Haran and lived there for fifteen years because of a call from God. While they lived at Haran, Terah, his father died when he was 125 years old. After this, Abram received a second and more definitive call, accompanied by a promise from God, which we heard in our reading this morning.

As a result, he left Haran at the age of 75, taking his nephew Lot with him and not knowing where he was going. He trusted God implicitly. In Paul’s letter to the Romans, we again hear about Abraham and his great faith. This time Paul emphasises that it is not just by strict adherence to the law that we inherit the kingdom, but it is by faith that God’s grace comes to us. Paul points out one major problem with trying to adhere strictly to the Law; and that is that humans are incapable of keeping it perfectly. Something that I’m sure we all know only too well! Throughout the Bible, the presence of the Law ultimately leads to the wrath of God because humans break it. Don’t get me wrong, we need laws and we need boundaries to be set, otherwise the world would be in anarchy. However, following the Law, God’s Law, to the best of our abilities, give us a way to work around the problem of sin and our distance from God; but it does not solve the problem. So what is the solution? If following the Law of God isn’t going to draw us closer to God, what is? How can we fix it once and for all? Paul tells us that the answer is faith! This seems like an obvious answer since we’re here in church. Churches are supposed to be places where faith is nurtured and encouraged, where faith is lifted up, and where faith is restored when it lapses. Paul says that the righteousness of following the Law, any Law, will not bridge the gap between us and God; that we can only rely on the righteousness of faith.

As we move on to our Gospel passage from Matthew,  chapter 9, verses 9-13, 18-26, Jesus is shown as the great ‘healer’ or ‘physician’ who in his ministry searched out the lost and abandoned, the outcasts and those on the margins of society. Here in this passage, Jesus and his disciples are sitting having a meal with ‘tax collectors and sinners’ and the Pharisees cannot understand why Jesus is doing this. They are so caught up in their rituals and strict adherence to the law, that they cannot understand Jesus’ message that it is the ‘sinners he has come to save and not the righteous.’ The story then moves on to Jesus, the great physician, who was on his way to make an emergency house call. There was a little girl who was in a grave state and her father had pleaded with Jesus to come and heal her. We are told that a large crowd of curious people followed, some hoping that he would succeed, others that he would fail; most probably just got caught up in the excitement of the crowded procession. In this throng, there was one woman who was there for quite a different reason. Here in this large crowd, how could the woman possibly get the attention of Jesus? Her problem was of a very personal nature, and she did not want to discuss the issue publicly. According to Levitical Law, a woman who was bleeding was considered unclean and under that Law could touch no one. Having heard the stories of Jesus’ power she declared, “If I only touch his cloak, I will be made well.” She then reached out from the crowd and touched the hem of his garment. In Mark’s version of this story, Jesus’ reaction was immediate! He asked, “Who touched me?” The disciples were taken aback. Was this some kind of rhetorical question? Who touched you? Why master look around, everyone is touching you. In Luke’s version, Jesus replied with one of the most mysterious lines in the Bible. He said, “I felt power flow from me.” Whatever happened the important matter of course is that in the midst of the crowd, Jesus felt the touch of a single person. “Take heart daughter,” said Jesus, “your faith has made you well.”

Immediately she was healed! The desperation of this woman’s faith became the channel that led to her healing. When Jesus called his disciples, he didn’t call them to merely observe what he was doing, or so that he could lecture to them. Jesus called his disciples to active practice. When Jesus called his disciples, healed those in need, and taught those who listened, he always asked for some active response. Matthew, and before him Simon Peter, Andrew, James and John, were all asked to make a move in order to accept their new status as followers of Jesus. They got up, left their established routines, their families and friends, and they stepped out onto a new road, just like Abraham. All of this was underpinned by their faith. Their faith that Jesus was the one to lead them, the one to teach them, and the one who would bring them closer to God. Like the woman who reached out and touched the garment of Jesus and was healed by her faith, we too need to reach out to God in prayer and receive his healing touch when we need it. Whenever life feels difficult, whenever we fell as though things are not going well, we must stop and take a moment to pray, and more importantly, have faith and listen for God’s answer. It might not happen immediately, like it did for the woman in today’s Gospel passage, but if we pray hard enough and with faith, things will happen to change our lives for the better.

In your prayers you may wish to pray for:

• Those you know who are ill at this time – for healing, for faith and for strength.
• Those in our community who are struggling in any way – for faith that God will lead them to people who can help their situation.
• Peace in our world – for faith that one day all will know God’s peace and love.
• For all at St. Mary’s – for faith that God is working in and through their lives.

Heavenly Father, as your Son Jesus healed the woman who had suffered haemorrhages for so many years, help us to reach out in faith to you for all our needs and to reach out in love to others who need our help. Amen.