Mark 5:29 – Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering. (NIV)
In Jesus' time, menstruation and gynecological issues made women unclean. Leprosy made anyone afflicted unclean. Being of a certain race or from a certain place, such as Samaria, led to one being relegated to second class, compared to a Jewish person.
Being unclean meant not having the same respect or rights that full members of society would be entitled to. Being second-class meant that a person could not even come into the temple or have a direct relationship with God.
Today, when I read this story of a woman who had been bleeding for twelve years and was healed when she reached out and touched the hem of Jesus' garment as He walked by, I can relate to the woman who felt marked and ashamed by her situation. I, too, have felt that way. I am divorced. I am overweight. I regularly fall short of what God would have me be. Though I have felt "on the outside", I also know that unlike the lepers in Jesus' time, it has been a temporary state. In fact, I am privileged to be of a group accepted by our mainstream society. My race, my religion, and my education afford me acceptance and respect in our culture. Even more, though, my situation is temporary because of God's mercy and forgiveness, which allow me back into His inner sanctum.
Your situation is different than mine, but I am certain that you have had your own times of feeling unclean, times when you, too, felt marked by your shame and unacceptability. Hopefully, there have also been times when you felt joy at being healed by Jesus and accepted back "home".
This story makes me ask: Are there still people whom we treat as unclean today? Do we have outcasts here in this time and place? Do they know of God's mercy and forgiveness offered to all of us?
In Canada, all people have the same basic legal rights and privileges, which is different from Jesus' time. But culturally, our society continues to put roadblocks in the way for some people. Race, gender, sexuality, weight, poverty, able-bodiedness, and addiction still divide people into who is acceptable and who is not. Those roadblocks often exist within our Christian institutions and communities as well as in society at large. We may not say it overtly — we may not even be aware that we are saying it at all — but in many subtle ways, we still communicate to people that they are "unclean" and that they should keep their distance, even from our churches.
I challenge us to remember those times when we felt like the unclean woman, when our choices or our situation made us outcasts in our society, even perhaps in our church. We need to carry this understanding with us, when we meet those who are in the middle of those feelings now. We also need to be actively looking for those people who are being excluded and to talk them about the healing that Christ has brought to us. Inside or outside of the church, everyone needs to be welcomed with kind acceptance into that healing. Everyone needs to be reassured that God loves them. Everyone needs to know that there is a place waiting for them in God's family.
Prayer: Dear Lord, we thank You that in Christ, we belong to You and that nothing we do and nothing we feel can separate us from Your love. Reveal to us those who are feeling far from You. Give us courage, through the Holy Spirit, to reach out to them, especially when it means breaking out of our comfort zones. We trust that when You lead us to share, You will also equip us with what we need, to do what You ask of us. We align ourselves with Your will and surrender ourselves to Your use. Amen.
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Listen while you read: "Come Let Us All Unite And Sing" (Lyrics)