No Touching!

This week has been quite a roller coaster hasn’t it? We are in uncharted territory. Many are anxious, some have already been laid off… businesses closed… gatherings of all sorts cancelled… schools shuttered… the list can go on and on. By some reports, it’s been hard for some people to change their routines and stay home. I am not talking about those who have to go out to work. I am talking about those who put their own desires above the good of the community.

Church feels strange without gathering in person. And we are going to screw some things up. There is no question about that. Or at least I am.

Are you feeling overwhelmed? I was doing okay… or at least I thought I was… until someone said something to me in passing, something that normally I would just let roll off my shoulders, and it played constantly on my mind… And Friday night I didn’t sleep very well… that’s when I know I am feeling anxious.

However, yesterday’s sunshine and wind beckoned me to my God place, Conrad’s Beach. I have gone to this beach for 30 plus years… it’s one of the places I connect with God easily. Apparently it beckoned to a lot of people, because only in the middle of summer, have I seen so many cars parked. There is lots of room to practice physical distancing.

That’s the term I am starting to use, because we should be practicing physical distance, not social distance. We have many ways to remain connected and not just through technology, we can pick up the phone and send a note. We, the leadership of Stairs, are doing our best to make sure everyone remains connected to this community.

This morning’s reading is about a woman who is disconnected from her community. The story about the woman who touched the hem of Jesus’ garment speaks loudly and clearly to our present circumstances. Something you might not realize, is that for her, in that time, she would have been excluded from normal day to day activities and the community. She’s been bleeding for 12 years.

We don’t know if she was married, or had children, or what sort of social status she had.
As so often is the case in our Bible, she isn’t even named. What we do know is tried everything, many doctors, probably some better than others, every possible way of stopping the bleeding, to no avail. It may be hard for us to imagine the taboos and restrictions that were associated with blood in those days. Coming into contact with any sort of blood made one ritually unclean, and menstruating women were excluded from everyday activities and contact with others. And so, in the customs of that time, unclean and not fit for human interaction. This unnamed woman would have not been touched by anyone in those twelve years.

Imagine, twelve years without the comfort of a hug, of social activities, of conversation.
She may have become the object of pity and ridicule, and again, in that time, sickness was considered to be punishment for you sins. So there would be no compassion for her, or her family, if she indeed had any. In effect, she would have been quarantined or at least physically distanced.

Imagine her desperation… Imagine her loneliness… Imagine her courage… Yes, courage!

She had heard of this Jesus, one who had healing powers. Even though there always seemed to be a crowd around him…Some of whom would know her and try and force her away. She was determined to try and get to him. And hoping just to be able to touch his clothes. She crossed boundaries, the socially constructed boundaries of her time, which forbade her to come into contact with anyone while she was bleeding, and that forbade her from speaking with or touching a man who wasn’t of her family. As soon as she touched his clothes, she felt the healing begin…

You KNOW that I am not advocating this kind of barrier breaking. I am NOT suggesting that we ignore the instructions that we not gather or go out for coffee with friends and it we have to go out, that we stay 6 feet apart from each other. What I am suggesting that in this time of physical distancing, we don’t have to be socially distant. And those of us who are lucky enough to live with family can still hug and touch and get on each other’s nerves all day long! AND, we can reach out to those who live alone, and who may not have family close by. AND, we can connect with Jesus and his healing ministry

We have NEVER been able to touch Jesus himself, but perhaps our hearts and our lives have been touched by his ministry. And if we have been touched by his ministry and the healing stories that have been passed down to us, we can pass that healing on… even when we are apart from one another.

So, what might healing community look like in the context of Covid-19? Checking on your neighbour? The one next door and perhaps the one across town. Calling those who don’t have access to technology? Continuing to support the food bank financially.
I have this dream/vision that Stairs could start an on-line Neighbours Helping Neighbours group, a Caremongering Group, but I can’t do it alone. Is this a time to put legs under our statement: Community That Matters? Can one or two of you join with me in monitoring a Facebook group to make this a reality? Do we have the courage of that unnamed woman to reach out?

Jesus’ healing offers a light in the darkness….companionship on the journey…an abiding presence, in the good times and in the bad. And we are the hands and feet of Jesus, even six feet apart. Thanks be to God for the challenge and the opportunity of following his example. Amen.

Mark 5: 24-34
March 22, 2020 – Stairs Memorial United Church

Image taken from one of the prayer booklets we’ve been sharing this Lent.

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