Station VI: No Longer Hidden

Station 06-HScripture Passage: Luke 8: 43-48:

43Now there was a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years; and though she had spent all she had on physicians, no one could cure her. 44She came up behind him and touched the fringe of his clothes, and immediately her hemorrhage stopped. 45Then Jesus asked, “Who touched me?” When all denied it, Peter said, “Master, the crowds surround you and press in on you.” 46But Jesus said, “Someone touched me; for I noticed that power had gone out from me.” 47When the woman saw that she could not remain hidden, she came trembling; and falling down before him, she declared in the presence of all the people why she had touched him, and how she had been immediately healed. 48He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.”

The sixth station of the Stations of the Cross, named Veronica Wipes the Face of Jesus, does not come directly from Scripture but rather from the hearts and the traditions of the early European Christians. Tradition holds that Jesus healed a young woman named Veronica in his early ministry and as a sign of her deep and abiding gratitude for him, she accompanied him to the place of his execution. When she wiped his sweating face along this walk, the imprint of his face supposedly remained on the cloth. Eusebius, in his Historia Ecclesiastica, tells how at Caesarea Philippi lived the woman who Jesus healed of the blood disorder. In the West, she was identified as Martha of Bethany; in the East, she was called Berenike, or Beronike, the name appearing in the Acts of Pilate. The derivation of the name Veronica comes from the words “Vera Icon”, or “true image”.

This man had shown her great compassion when she thought there was none. The bleeding had started and had never stopped. And so, always, she was deemed unclean and, therefore, unacceptable, untouchable, shunned. This was a last effort to claim her life, to become a person of value and worth again in a society that so carefully laid out who was acceptable and who was not. She had, carefully, made her way through the crowds that day avoiding the stares and recoils that others held for her. And then she touched him. It was only a touch but she could feel something. She cowered back into the crowd trying to hide. But he saw her, compelling her forward and her life was never the same again.

And so on this day, she could not just hide out in the crowd. He needed someone–companionship, mercy, compassion. She didn’t care what she was risking. After all, this is the one who had given her her life. She could do this one thing. And when she wiped his face, she felt that same burst of power that she had felt before, a life-giving, life-awakening power. And she was left with the image of Christ.

Whether we take this literally or not, whether we believe that she was healed or that Christ’s imprint adhered to a cloth, is not the point. You see, each of us was made in the image of God. We are not destined to BE God but to be an image, a reflection of the Godself into the world and into the lives of each and every one that we meet. And when we show compassion, when we show mercy, when we step forward and show love to those who need it the most, the imprint of that image DOES stay with us. We become a reflection of the Christ, an image of the God who gave us life and calls us to show it to the world. And as Jesus walked toward death, the image of the Christ remained, no longer hidden, on the one who reached out to one in need. Reaching out to others does not mean that we are Christ; it means that we are human, fully human, the way Christ showed us to be.

So in this season of darkness and shadows, remain no longer hidden but step forward into this Walk of Christ and help someone in need. And the imprint of Christ, the image of the very Godself, will stay with you always.

Grace and Peace,

Shelli

Dancing in the Rain

Image from “Singing in the Rain” (1952)
(with Gene Kelly)

Lectionary Passage:  John 6: 1-21
To read this passage online, go to http://bible.oremus.org/?passage=John+6:1-21&vnum=yes&version=nrsv

We love this story.  (And they must have loved it in the first century because the writers of all four gospels chose to include it their unique account of the Good News of Jesus Christ.) Yes, we like the notion of Jesus providing everything we need, bursting in just when we are at the end of our ropes, just when we need help the most, and fixing the ails of our life (or at least feeding us lunch!).

But notice (don’t you hate that…yes, I’m about to ruin your image of super-hero Jesus pulling lunch out of a hat or whatever we thought he did!) that the story never says that the boy’s lunch was the ONLY food there.  Perhaps there were some people holding back what they had brought, afraid to offer it for community consumption because, after all, what if they ran out?  What if they needed it tomorrow or the next day or after they retire?  So, perhaps the miracle lies not in some sort of image of Jesus creating something from nothing but rather in the little boy himself.  He was first, freely offering what he had to Jesus and the Disciples to do whatever they needed to do with it.  Now, note what was in the little boy’s lunch–barley bread and fish.  Barley is a very inexpensive and somewhat “unglamourous” grain and fish were plentiful.  After all, they were right next to this huge lake.  (Just to get it in your head, the “Sea” of Galilee is actually a huge lake.)  In other words, this was the lunch of the poor.  The little boy was more than likely not from a family of means.  Perhaps his mom had lovingly packed all they had into his lunch so that her son could have this experience of seeing this great man Jesus of whom they had only heard.  But before that ever happened, the little boy stood and offered everything he had.

And, then, well you know how it goes.  The person next to him saw what he had done, thinking that no longer could he now with a clear conscience keep what he had brought tucked away.  And then the person next to that person saw him offer what he had.  It went on and on, a veritable Spirit moving through the crowd.  The message is right.  It WAS a miracle!  And when they had finished eating, they realized that it wasn’t that there was enough for all.  There was more!  There were leftovers that were then gathered into baskets.  Maybe they were for later.  Maybe they were for those who needed it.  Or maybe they were offered as holy doggie bags to remind us that God always gives us way more than we really need. 

So what about those of us who feel that we need to be prepared for the next storm that is coming around the bend?  Well, keep reading.  The passage goes on to say that the disciples started across the lake in the darkness.  And, sure enough, the storm began to rage–blowing winds, crashing waves, beating sheets of rain bearing down upon them.  Wouldn’t you know?  See, this is what we were afraid of!  But, there is Jesus.  “Do not be afraid.  Do not be afraid.”  What is interesting is that the account never says that Jesus calmed the storm.  Jesus calmed the disciples.  Jesus reminded the disciples that no matter what, no matter how hungry or unprepared they are, no matter what storms come up unexpectedly, they are not alone.  It is truly a story of extraordinary abundance.

I was going to write today on the David and Bathsheeba story but I got up early this morning to get a drink of water.  And standing at the window in my kitchen, I saw the words on a plaque I have on the window sill:  “Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass.  It’s about learning to dance in the rain.”  (I looked it up and the quote is attributed to Vivian Green.)  It’s a great thought.  Jesus is not a super hero that performs unexplainable miracles or plucks us out of the storms of life.  Jesus is much more.  When the storms come, when the winds rage, and when we just think we just don’t have enough for what’s coming, God invites us to dance, holding us until we find the rhythm that is deep within us and know the steps ourselves.

So, keep dancing!

Grace and Peace,

Shelli

For those of you who are reading this through the St. Paul’s ESPACE link, welcome!  And for those who get this as a “blog” email, yes, I’m finally back!  I’m going to try to maybe do this 2-3 times a week.  Keep on me!  🙂  Shelli

Who Do You Say That I Am: Healer

“The Healing of the Paralytic”
The oldest known depiction of Jesus
from the Syrian city of Dura Europos
c. 235

Scripture Passage:  Matthew 12: 22-23
Then they brought to him a demoniac who was blind and mute; and he cured him, so that the one who had been mute could speak and see.  All the crowds were amazed and said, “Can this be the Son of David?”

We know of the plethora of stories that depict Jesus as a healer.  In fact, more healing stories are told about Jesus than any other figure in the Jewish tradition.  We like that image, even if we don’t fully understand it.  Most of us have to admit that we’re a little cynical, if not downright distrusting, of stories of miraculous healings.  There’s got to be an explanation, right?  There’s got to be some way to make this make sense and fit into our understandings of how the world works.

And yet, healing is not “fixing”.  The Scriptures that depict healings don’t really say that things were put back the way they were before or the way society assumes they should be.  I think maybe we just read that into them.  In the passage above, the word “cured” is used.  The Greek from which that was translated is therapeuo (rather than therapeia), which can mean cure, heal, or serve. Well, that’s interesting.  Maybe Jesus didn’t “cure” him at all the way we think of “curing”.  Maybe Jesus “served” him, paid attention to him, engaged him, treated him respectfully for possibly the first time in the person’s life.  And maybe it was that simple act of caring, of treating someone like a person rather than an illness or even as “less” than a person that brought healing and wholeness and let him see and hear for the first time in his life what life really held.

To be honest, I don’t think we overestimate Jesus’ ability to heal; I think we water it down, trying to make it understandable and manageable.  I think we try to limit it to literal “fixing” when it’s something much, much more profound, much, much more needed in our world.  God never promised that the world would be fixed.  Suffering abounds.  But God did promise that we would never be alone as we journeyed through it and that, ultimately, all of Creation would be redeemed, would be made new.  It is the story of our faith.  It’s ultimate depiction, the ultimate “healing” story is the story of The Cross, the story of God taking the most horrific, the most despicable, the most inhumane that humanity offers, and offering instead healing and life, offering not a “cure” to death, but a recreation of it.  Jesus’ death was not “fixed”; it was redeemed, made something different, remade into something new–life.

Back to our little word study, the word therapeuo is found again in The Book of Acts (Acts 17: 24-25) but this time the NRSV translates it as “serve”:  “The God who made the world and everything in it, he who is Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in shrines made by human hands, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mortals life and breath and all things.”

So, on this thirty-second day of Lenten observance, use your imagination.  Imagine what “healing”, what newness, God in Christ offers you.

Grace and Peace,

Shelli