When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, because she thought, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.
(then she gets caught...)
We share communion every Sunday at LifePath Church. Weekly communion was not my theological tradition, and it's especially odd since we're a church that doesn't care much for religious rituals... at all.
Yet the desire to remember God's sacrificial love, receive the Spirit of Christ, and keep Jesus at the center of everything we do has turned this into a meaningful weekly practice. However, when Covid-19 came and changed everything, we had to trade in our fresh bread and begin using those shrink wrapped all-in-one deals. These are the ones with the bread (is it though?) wafer on top and the peel off cup of juice below. Years ago I promised that we would never ever use these, but I've learned that my own need for purity can sometimes get in the way of God's flexible grace in our real life moments. So, for the time being, I'm embracing it.
But now that we've got these little cups around, there's a new temptation arising. You see, the youngest disciples in our little community have gotten a taste for this stuff. The other week before we started, I saw little Carolyn* (names have been changed to protect the guilty) looking around and then sneaking a cup just a bit early. She thought it was a clean lift as she stuffed it in her pocket. But God is always watching. And I was too.
BUSTED! She saw me, a little embarrassed, and took a step back.
Then I winked at her.
I'm a bit of a softy, I guess, but I let her go without pressing charges or requiring restitution.
Now why would a sweet little girl steal a snack like this before the right time???
Obvious Answer: she's a kid. This isn't a shock at all.
More important answer: She was hungry, and it tasted good, so she went for a quick swipe.
It made me think of another time that someone tried to steal a little of Jesus outside of the typical ways of doing things. In the story above of a suffering woman grabbing a hold of Jesus' garment, she believed that she could just get enough of Jesus to be healed. She was even willing to cheat a little bit to get there- just drawing a bit of his healing power through a quick, hopefully anonymous touch.
And she gets what she longs for!
Except she also gets caught.
Jesus knows that's it's happening and he calls out that someone touched him "because he realized that power had gone out from him" (what a statement! That's worth unpacking some other time). She comes forth, terrified, thinking she's about to be chastised. Instead, he applauds her faith! And then he even expands her experience of him, speaking complete peace and wholeness to her, and sending her off with a blessing. Undoubtedly, he has won a follower for life. Even as she's healed, she expects the worst, and she receives the best. Such is God's heart to us.
As she pocketed a communion wafer, that little girl at our church may have felt a little guilty about it. But deep down she knew she wouldn't get in trouble because that's not really how we operate here.
But what if I went further. What if I called her out, asked her to come over.... and then told her with a smile that even the sweetness in that juice could never compare to how sweet God's love is for her? What if we told her that she could take a little extra every week and she didn't need to be shy about it at all? What if she eventually equated God's love and forgiveness with so much joy and beauty that not only would she leave all shame behind, but she would gladly approach God in need of grace and sustenance every day?
Many times in our life, we know that we need healing. We need forgiveness. We need grace. We need Jesus. And deep down we know that he will grant it. I mean, saviors gonna save, am I right?
But perhaps we need to be reminded over and over again that it's God's pleasure to share that grace with us. And God desires to loudly and joyfully proclaim peace and wholeness to us as we come toward him. We don't need to be afraid to admit we need a little more of Jesus. We can embrace that need boldly. And when we do, his healing will give us the strength to carry that beautiful message into a world around us longing for good news.
Jesus, thank you for constantly surprising me with your welcoming grace. Heal me again, today. Amen.