Woman with haemorrhages
Sermon at St James Colwall – Trinity 4 – 27 June 2021
Mark 5: 21-43
To listen to the recording of the sermon as you read:
Antibodies, hospital cases, infection rates, symptoms to look out for, mask-wearing – this wretched pandemic has forced us to think about health issues whether we like it or not. And for many people it has seriously affected their mental well-being. We think of the loneliness of those living on their own, right through to youngsters stressing over their GCSE and A level exams, plus anyone worried about cancelled hospital appointments for problems other than Covid. We have all been seriously challenged and disturbed, but hopefully we have not become a nation of hypochondriacs and remember the worst state of hypochondria is when you start to worry that you have become a hypochondriac.
Good health, healing and wholeness of spirit are rightly very important to us, and we know that physical health and mental health are closely connected. So, to have a Gospel reading about healing and wholeness this morning is rather appropriate. From St Mark we have the account of one of Jesus’s more unusual healing miracles. A woman, who had been suffering from haemorrhages for twelve years despite consulting many doctors, came to Jesus. She had presumably heard of his healing miracles but was shy about approaching him personally and came up behind him and touched his cloak. “If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well,” she said.
Jesus became aware of her, and she came forward trembling to tell him of her problem. Jesus simply said, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace and be healed of your disease.” The importance of faith.
In the Jewish tradition blood and bleeding complaints were seen as a defilement. Menstruating women were and are to this day regarded as ritually unclean and this woman was an outcast because of her haemorrhages. Not only was she desperately looking for a cure, but she was wanting to be accepted back into society. Her shyness, perhaps also her loneliness, shine through this exchange.
The importance of faith – “Daughter, your faith has made you well.” It is almost a refrain on the lips of Jesus when he brings healing and yet faith does not always bring good health. We have all known countless Christians with faith deeper than ours who have suffered considerable health issues. Even St Paul had a physical health problem, which he called his thorn in the flesh, which would not go away despite his being a man of faith. On the face of it, faith does not always bring healing, so how do we reconcile this?
One of Jesus’s great statements to his disciples was this: “I came that you may have life and have it abundantly” and it has always been a theme of Christians that, through faith in God and his Son, we can become full, whole human beings. Jesus exhorted us in the sermon on the mount to have faith rather than anxiety. When he healed one man who was paralysed, he said “your sins are forgiven” and so we must never feel guilty because we too are forgiven. We can have regrets perhaps but not guilt. We are accepted and we are loved as that anxious woman was accepted and loved.
So, you and I have faith even though we know it falls short. We have a humble confidence in the One who is all sufficient, God himself and his son and it is this faith and confidence which is a channel for God’s grace. It is the channel through which healing can flow. It is the channel through which forgiveness does flow and it brings us release from anxiety. When we have faith, we open ourselves up to God himself.
Therefore, each of us wants to nourish our faith and this is presumably why we are here in church this morning. We use all the traditional ways used by men and women since Christ’s death - prayer and worship, meditation and charitable works, loving and being loved, Bible study and wonder at the natural world, fine music and art and many other ways which work for us. These are our attempts at bolstering our faith in difficult times as well as good times.
It is worth remembering what Jesus said to this woman who touched his clothes: “Daughter, your faith has made you well” or as other translations have it, “Daughter, your faith has made you whole.” Faith leads to wholeness.