Mark 5:25-34, NRSV
Now there was a woman who had been suffering from haemorrhages for twelve years. She had endured much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had; and she was no better, but rather grew worse.She had heard about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, for she said, ‘If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well.’ Immediately her haemorrhage stopped; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. Immediately aware that power had gone forth from him, Jesus turned about in the crowd and said, ‘Who touched my clothes?’ And his disciples said to him, ‘You see the crowd pressing in on you; how can you say, “Who touched me?” ’ He looked all round 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.’
Preached Sunday, October 1, 2017 at Westfield Church by the Rev. Jonathan Chapman
They were all looking for a miracle. Every last one of them who was following Jesus wanted to see a miracle, an exorcism, a healing—something. They’d heard of the one who could do such things, and they were all clamoring to see it for themselves. Which is why they were all there when Jairus fell at Jesus’ feet begging for help for his near-death daughter. You can almost hear the crowd thinking, “This is it! Here it is!”
And so, they follow Jesus—jostling for position, trying to get as close as they can to the One who heals. And in the chaos, as they’re bumping up against each other, Jesus feels a Divine spark leave him. It was quick, but he was sure he felt it. It wasn’t the kind of thing that happened every day. It was something that took belief, that took faith.
We don’t know the name of the woman who touched him, the woman who’d tried everything to heal her bleeding—who’d spent all of her money and visited every doctor around trying to find a solution. Mark doesn’t give us her name. He just tells us of her desperation, of her desperate need for healing and of her desperate belief that if she just touched the hem of his clothes, that she would be healed.
So she crowded him, along with the others, but down toward the ground where the others couldn’t really see, and she reached and stretched. Just a bit further, she was almost there. She almost had him. Then, finally, she felt the rough weave brush against her finger and gave the fabric a quick tug. And in an instant, she could tell it had worked, that something was different, that she was healed. She had pulled on his cloak like a child trying to get her parent’s attention. Jesus spun on his heel. It wasn’t anger, more shock. “Who touched me?” he asked.
His disciples, ever stating the obvious, rolled their eyes and replied, “Uh, Jesus? There are lots of people around here. Lots of people have probably touched you.”
But the woman, the one whose name we don’t know, knew what had happened to her. She approached Jesus in fear and trembling, Mark tells us, and she told him the whole truth.
And after hearing it, the story of her pain and exclusion, the tale of how no one wanted to touch her impure body, of how no one thought she was good enough to be a part of their faith, much less their community. Jesus looked in her eyes, into the eyes of the woman who had tugged his clothes like a child, and said, “Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace, and be healed of your affliction.”
Not many saw it, the miracle that happened there on the street outside Jairus’ house. Everyone was looking for something bigger, something showier. Sometimes, we miss the important stuff that’s right in front of our eyes when we’re too busy looking for what we think is important.
If they’d paid attention, if the crowd had kept their eyes on Jesus, not where they thought Jesus was going, but on where Jesus was, they would’ve seen three miracles. They would’ve witnessed a woman afflicted for twelve years with menstrual bleeding healed. That’s the first miracle.
And they would’ve seen that woman who, for so long, had been considered ritualistically impure because of her condition, made clean so that she would be reconciled with society. She could be touched again. Can you imagine not being touched because of religious law? No hugs, no pats on the back, no comforting hand on the shoulder. In healing her, Jesus restored her to her community—to right relationship—which is really what Jesus is all about. That’s the second miracle. He gave her a way to belong.
But the third miracle, that’s the one that gets me. Jesus gave her permission to tell the whole truth, everything, all of it. And he loved her still. And he healed her still. That’s the third miracle: The whole truth.
We, of course, think of the whole truth as in the whole truth and nothing but the truth so help me God as a precursor to sworn testimony. We expect it in courtrooms, but we fail to expect it in church. What I mean is, so often people feel like they have to segment out their lives, like they should leave bits and pieces of themselves at the door of the church because those bits and pieces, those parts of them won’t be fully welcomed or understood or loved in church. Too often, people feel like their whole truth—the messiness of their human condition—makes them unlovable, unwanted, and unholy.
That’s one reason we made the commitment as a congregation to be Open and Affirming. While that designation within our denomination means we specifically welcome LGBTQ folks, it also extends a welcome across the board. Have you ever read our statement? It’s on those little cards in the pew pockets—the ones we use when new members join. Here’s what it says:
God created all things and called them good. Acknowledging the brokenness of the world and the ways the Church has condoned that brokenness through its own silence, we trust in God’s abiding love and extravagant welcome.
At Westfield, we welcome everyone as full participants in the life and sacraments of Christ’s church. Everyone includes people of any age, economic status, gender identity, gender expression, marital status, race, sexual orientation, faith background, life experience, or physical, emotional, and mental capability.
Simply put: everyone, everyone, everyone is welcome. No matter who you are or where you are on life’s journey, you are welcome here.
What we’re saying is we want you—you-to tell the whole truth about who you are and who you love. We want the good, the bad, and the ugly. And don’t just want you to tell the whole truth, we want you to know that your whole truth won’t exclude you from anything in this church.
Did you notice the line at the beginning of the second section? “We welcome everyone as full participants in the life and sacraments of Christ’s church.” We added that in because too many of you, of people sitting in this very room, have been excluded, not just from the day-to-day life of the church, but from the very cornerstone of our faith—the grace we share around this table—because your marriage didn’t work out or your family doesn’t look like some think it should. We added that because we don’t believe anyone in this room, regardless of who they love or who they used to love, is unclean. We believe you are loved and holy and whole. And what’s more, we believe Jesus believes you are loved and holy and whole.
And that’s the whole truth.
The first time I preached to you as your new pastor five years ago was on the first Sunday in October—World Communion Sunday. I had just moved nine states away from everyone I knew and loved. I was homesick and lonesome and scared I’d blow it.
Here’s the whole truth about that day: I didn’t have a clue what I was doing. Here’s the whole truth about today, five years later: I still don’t. I try to show up and be kind and love. And I do. I do show up and I am kind (most days) and I do love. But, if we’re speaking the whole truth, then I’ll confess that I’m awful at it, too. I get irritated and impatient. I don’t visit our shut-ins enough; I spend entire weekends worrying about six lines exchanged with church members on Facebook messenger.
The whole truth is I’m flawed, which is to say, I’m human. And so are you. But the good news is that God’s grace isn’t dependent on our success—on our goodness and faithfulness. God loves us because of who God is, not because of anything we did or didn’t do—that’s the whole truth.
So, we gather around this table—and tell the story not of our own goodness, but of God’s goodness. And we tell the story of how God makes plain, everyday things holy—not just bread and juice, but people, too. And we tell the story of his love for us, not just as some feel-good tale set a millennia ago, but as the whole truth that beats in the heart of this congregation that has been through so much and has come so far.
And so, when it’s time for us to share this feast, I don’t want you pass the bread to each other afraid that you aren’t good enough, and I don’t want you share the cups—those hundreds of little cups—fearful that who you aren’t holy enough for the task at hand.
You are good enough. You are holy enough. You are enough.
And that’s the whole truth.