Rise and Be Healed Rev Dr Durrell Watkins Hemorrhaging woman sneaks up on Jesus. It was considered “dirty” and improper for a woman with her condition to touch people. You see, Leviticus 15.19 says, “When a woman has her regular flow of blood, the impurity of her monthly period will last seven days, and anyone […]
Rise and Be Healed
Rev Dr Durrell Watkins
Hemorrhaging woman sneaks up on Jesus. It was considered “dirty” and improper for a woman with her condition to touch people. You see, Leviticus 15.19 says, “When a woman has her regular flow of blood, the impurity of her monthly period will last seven days, and anyone who touches her will be unclean till evening.” But Jesus wasn’t afraid to rethink ancient texts and traditional interpretations of them.
For example, Jesus healed on the Sabbath. Healing was “work” which was forbidden on the Sabbath; but the Sabbath rest was meant to contribute to well-being, so it is in the spirit of the tradition to help people feel whole on any day of the week. Jesus rethought and found a more liberative understanding of a religious tradition.
A Canaanite Woman Asked Jesus for Help. And Jesus, after working through his religiously motivated prejudice, helps the woman even though Deuteronomy 20 says that Canaanites should be DESTROYED. Thank goodness Jesus didn’t take that scripture literally. He did try to dismiss her and even called her a dog, but her response was, “okay, but even if I were a dog, you’d show me some compassion. You’d at least give me table scraps. How ‘bout treating me as nicely as you would a dog!” And Jesus was healed of his prejudice, and having been healed he had healing to share with the woman’s daughter. We can’t teach what we don’t know and we can’t lead where we won’t go. Jesus dared to be healed, and therefore had healing to offer others.
When the woman with the issue of blood, as the old King James version called the woman in today’s gospel, violated religious traditions and taboos by touching Jesus, What did Jesus think?
Maybe Psalm 24 came to his mind (The earth and EVERYTHING in it belongs to God)?
Or Genesis 1 (God looked at ALL that had been created and called it very good)?
Or Isaiah 66 (like a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you)?
Or Leviticus 19 (love your neighbor as yourself)?
Maybe instead of rushing to the most negative understandings of ancient texts, he called to mind positive, affirming, compassionate words and used those as his guide in how to respond to the woman in need.
And, PS, how is it that the blood of a man and even the blood of animals have been viewed as redemptive, but the blood of a woman is contaminating? The sexism (as well as the violence) of atonement theologies ought to be challenged. Today, I have no doubt that Jesus would challenge theologies of violence and terror.
Jesus said that Love is greatest commandment (Mt 22). He chose love over condemnation, and the power of love brought hope and healing to people’s lives.
Time and again, Jesus strayed from traditional interpretations of scripture that had been used in abusive or oppressive ways. Love, compassion, and dignity were the lenses through which Jesus interpreted and applied scripture. This is a good reminder for Pride Weekend…Jesus would not have left clobber passages unchallenged. He would have applied a liberative understanding to them. He would have challenged traditions that were misused to hurt people and offer, instead, a healing, liberating, empowering understanding.
This country on Friday made a huge step forward for justice and equality. We woke up on Friday morning with marriage equality in 75% of the country, and on 10:01 am that same day, we had marriage equality in every inch of this nation.
And the Far Right blew up social media insisting that the sky was falling. They have boldly declared that their prejudices are God’s prejudices and God is going to respond with unspeakable horror, because, you know, God is love.
But here’s the thing…if they had been here yesterday, if they had seen tears of joy, heard angelic music, seen love celebrated, commitment applauded, table fellowship shared, glasses raised in joyous affirmation, they would have surely felt the presence of divine love in this place.
Surely the presence of our God is in this place, I can feel her mighty power and his grace; I can hear the brush of angel wings, I see glory on each face. Surely the presence of our God is in this place.
The haters and fear mongers, had they been here yesterday to see marriage as a celebration of mutual love and not as a heterosexual privilege, they would have discovered what the writer of the John’s First Epistle knew, that God is love and WHOEVER lives in love lives in God and God lives in them (I Jn 4.16).
They would have experienced firsthand that there are three things that endure, faith, hope and love, and the greatest of these is love (1 Cor 13.13).
They would have affirmed with the Apostle Paul that there is no law against love (Gal 5.23), and also with Paul they would have cheered as we all declared, by the grace of God I am what I am (1 Cor 15.10)!
But they weren’t here yesterday to witness the Rite of Holy Matrimony celebrated by a same-gender loving couple, and the Blessed Community praising divine Love as they witnessed loving commitment affirmed and blessed. And the haters will continue their misguided, fearful attempts to demonize same-gender loving and gender non-conforming people.
And we will continue doing what we have been doing for decades; we will answer their hateful rhetoric by living our lives and our love out loud. We will gather lesbian and gay people, straight allies, transgender folk, Christians and Buddhists, Jews and Wiccans, Agositcs and Humanists, New Thoughters and New Agers, and we will show that love will win because love is divine, that God is the one presence, the one power, the one reality, the one life, and there is no power to oppose the love that God is.
Threats of fire and brimstone, doom and gloom, hell and havoc will fade into nothingness as humanity continues to evolve to the point of knowing that God, by whatever name we choose for God, God is all-inclusive and unconditional love. We will continue to evolve until we all know that we are each God’s miracle and not God’s mistake; we will each continue to evolve until we know with as much certainty as we know anything that the universal love that we call God excludes no one for any reason.
And so it is that we affirm with the New Testament writer who said, “…we will declare the praises of the One who called us out of [the] darkness [of the closet] into the wonderful light of liberation” (1 Pet 2.9).
The power of divine love challenged the prejudices of the ages on Friday when the Supreme Court affirmed that love is love, that marriage is a civil right, a human right, an equal right.
In time, those who said scripture dictated racial segregation had their assumptions challenged.
In time, those who said scripture said women were inferior to men had their assumptions challenged.
In time, those who said that some groups where privileged by God while others were rejected by God had their assumptions challenged.
And last week, those who said that same-gender love was somehow less sacred or life-affirming than opposite gender love had their assumptions challenged. Just as Jesus rethought traditional views, all Americans were challenged to rethink old prejudices last week. That isn’t in defiance of God, that is in alignment with the all-inclusive love that God is.
And to those in the room and to those watching on the Internet, we say that if you have heard that God rejects you because of your gender identity or sexual orientation, or for any reason, that is a lie!
In Russia and Romania, in Uganda and Saudi Arabia, in Jamaica and Malaysia, in Appalachia and Louisiana, in every church and village, family and school yard if you have been told that God rejects you because of who you are or who you love, what you were told is a lie.
If you have ever been told that same-gender love or attraction was evil or that same-sex marriage was a threat to civilization I stand here today as a prophet of God to tell you that hateful, soul crushing rhetoric was nothing but lies, lies, lies, lies, lies, lies, damn lies!
It was a lie when they said it about women ministers, it was lie when they said it about people of African descent, it was a lie when they said it about left handed people, and anytime people try to maintain control and dominance by threatening apocalypse, damnation, curses, and divine retribution, you can be sure that what you are hearing is a lie. We have bled and cried and suffered for years, and today we touch the hem of the garment of love and are told, “your faith in love, your faith in your innate dignity, your faith in your sacred value has restored you to wholeness.”
Shake off the guilt, shake off the shame, shake off the fear, shake off the regret, thank God for who you are and embrace the truth of your wholeness. Rise and be healed. Rise and be healed. Be healed of the lies that held you back and know today that you are God’s miracle and not God’s mistake. Rise and be healed!
Rise and be healed in the name of Jesus, let faith arise in your soul. Rise and be healed in the name of Jesus; love has made you every bit whole. And this is the good news! Amen.
© Durrell Watkins 2015
I have faith in love.
I have faith in my innate dignity.
I have faith in my sacred value.
I give thanks for who I am.
I am thankful for my wholeness.
And so it is.