Mark 5: 24 (b)- 34;

A large crowd followed and pressed around him. 25 And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. 26 She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse. 27 When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, 28 because she thought, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.” 29 Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering.

30 At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched my clothes?”

31 “You see the people crowding against you,” his disciples answered, “and yet you can ask, ‘Who touched me?’ ”

32 But Jesus kept looking around to see who had done it. 33 Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet and, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth. 34 He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.”

 

Luke 19: 1-10

19 He entered Jericho and was passing through it. 2 A man was there named Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was rich. 3 He was trying to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was short in stature. 4 So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree to see him, because he was going to pass that way. 5 When Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today.” 6 So he hurried down and was happy to welcome him. 7 All who saw it began to grumble and said, “He has gone to be the guest of one who is a sinner.” 8 Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, “Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much.” 9 Then Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost.”

 

 “We All Need to Be in Recovery From Something”

On Monday, March 25 I went up Springfield Ave here in Summit, past Winberies and walked into the weight watchers store front. I had driven by there plenty of times over the past 8 almost 9 years I’ve been at the church but never had gone in. I decided the time was right That Monday to make a change. Now I don’t know how many of you have been to a weight watchers studio (that’s what they call them now) but it’s a meeting- a motivational meeting with group leader…

 

now I go to a lot of meetings- they’re called worship…I’m in worship at least 5 times a week in different communities between Drew Theological School, YDS, my church, outside events…so I’m used to groups of people getting together, praying, singing, proclamation, other sacraments- people feeling things..so yeah, I went into that meeting a little skeptical an “judge-y”..feeling I would at best get some superficial experience from it.. after the 40 min meeting the leader sits down with new members to talk to them about the program. And Shivani (our leader) began by saying “You are welcome here! And I need to say at the beginning, YOU Are Beautiful, just the way you are and we’re not here to fix some mistake, we’re here because we want to make our lives better..” and suddenly, my eyes filled with tears and I thought “What’s going on? Unconditional Love in a weight watchers meeting?!” and the surprise and the humility..and the years of judgement, of saying to myself I can’t do this,  not always having the healthiest self image..something inside me snapped..

I was caught off guard- Surprised by grace..could I show myself forgiveness for this part of me That has always been Insecure, feeling  what ever I did  would not be enough- could I show myself some grace?

 

 

You never know what one conversation, one act of kindness, one moment of sharing grace will lead to- we see it time and time again in the Bible stories and know it to be true in our own lives…when we allow ourselves to be present to the moment…and risking that we had constructed or thought about ourselves or a particular situation was not the whole picture..

 

WE have two Gospel stories today that tell stories of recovery- both a spiritual & physical recovery.

 

In the story from the gospel of Mark- the woman, who for many many years had been suffering, a woman of some means who spent all her money, was told “your faith has made you well” what was her faith? She had faith in a power beyond herself…and so Jesus says to her ‘YOUR faith has made you well’ which would imply healing and wholeness is something of a two way street, you can receive healing but something in you needs to be ready for that change- you want to see that change and accept that new truth, that new reality.

 

And here’s another way of saying it- if you’re interested in recovery, you’ve got to work the program.

Anyone who’s been in a recovery program is familiar with that phrase. For me in my quest for eating healthier, it means taking a few minutes out of every day to think about and write down what I’m eating so I can bring to mind and take some accountability for what is going in my mouth.

For others it’s other types of accountability-  being in a support group, talking to a sponsor, meeting with a therapist, getting to the gym, taking medication, avoiding certain situations that can cause you or others harm..

Working the  program means you have been given a vision of what life could look like, a new truth has been revealed.

But that reminds me that there are truths in our lives that sometimes we are not ready to hear, we just can’t accept- because it’s not the right time…we’re too young, we’re too inexperienced, too stubborn, we haven’t been through what we need to get through in order to truly apprehend what the new reality can be.

 

Since my first meeting at WW on March 28 I’ve lost 58 pounds …and have quite a ways to go. This is the third time in my life that I’ve gone on a weight loss journey..am I now at the place in my life when I can apprehend this particular truth? That I can use with the tools, “work the program” and BELIEVE I can do this?

 

So…just like a lot of support group members say to one another… “Keep Coming Back”, keep coming back

 

In the story from the gospel of Luke, Zaccheus needed healing as well. But it was healing of a different kind.   You see in the earlier story the woman’s sickness made her financially poor, this tax collector’s sickness made him rich. Zaccheus, the privileged, who worked for the Roman Empire and would have been despised as a traitor, making a wealthy living off his own Jewish community. Zaccheus suffered from a sickness caused by his corrupted job- living the high life off the backs of the poor But Zaccheus had a literal ‘come to Jesus’ moment! After his encounter with Jesus he said he would change his ways- not making wealth & greed the centerpiece of his life but rather generosity & fairness.

Jesus says ‘salvation has come to your house’ or I might say ‘you have recovered what it means to be human- to live with respect and balance and sharing with the community.

 

You see we all need to be in recovery from something.

 

I’m struck by the unnamed woman who touched the hem of Jesus’ robe and Zaccheus up in the tree- I’m struck by their courage to make a change in their lives. How do we decide in our lives, “enough is enough”! “I need to start living differently.”

 

This courage to change happened when they were in contact with Jesus, with a presence they believed could change the circumstances of their lives…

No one else saw that woman for who she was- the disciples said “Jesus, what are you talking about, there’s a huge crowd, EVERYONE is pressing in on you!” but Jesus sensed her, he ‘felt’ her presence- she took power from him, she used her agency for the power to be healed.

 

This is one of the central meanings of Christianity- to have an encounter with a power so full of love and forgiveness- that our  lives our fundamentally altered. It is why we come to church- to be reminded. YOU are SOOO loved- so worthy of belonging- you Matter here in this place. It’s the point of our community.  We hope to experience transformational change- and hopefully become agents of that healing, loving power that has touched our lives.

 

But please don’t think these are fairy tale stories- the woman healed, the tax collector repented and they lived happily ever after. This isn’t what the stories mean and isn’t their point. Too many of us (me included) feel sometime that if that moment can just happen to us—we can just get that particular healing, if we can just feel like we achieve a nirvana, a born-again moment, or just attain that perfect job, marriage, house, friendship..[you fill in the blank]- then we’ve made it-  we won’t have to worry anymore

But the TRUTH is these stories don’t end with the encounter with Jesus- this is the beginning of a journey.

Recovery is a process, salvation is a life-long journey that is being worked out day by day.

 

I want to give a shout out to John Wesley, founder of Methodism for his theological concept of “moving on to perfection”

This was his idea: that we never reach a point in this life where can say we have attained perfection- but rather we are moving towards a more perfect understanding of what it means to love God and Love our neighbor.

 

 

The well known Serenity Prayer, written by the theologian Rhienhold Niebuhr reminds us that there are things in our lives we will not, cannot change- and to be in recovery means grappling with the things that cannot change- whether they are more mundane, for instance you might never get your kid to clean their room, and Brenda will always have to wait on me being late to get the music for the weekly bulletin- but there are profound things we cannot change..the way our parents treated us when we were children, a terminal illness, natural disaster, tragic accidents, death which will come sooner or later for all of us..

God,

grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change

Courage to change the things I can

And wisdom to know the difference

In a moment we will be invited to this table of grace. This table of reconciliation. We come together as people who are suffering, who are broken, looking for a place of Recovery- where we can recover what it means to be human.

 

This is why the community, This community of Faith is so vitally important- this is where the deep spiritual well of meaning, of powerful symbols and metaphor, are found. In this ritual of bread and juice we remember what it means to share one’s life, to forgive- where else do we go to learn about and experience, healing, wholeness, justice & joy, it’s all right here- it’s our own Spiritual wellness clinic.

And it’s never too late to join in the road to recovery. Where does one begin on this journey, you might ask?   A good place to start is by hearing and believing these words: You are beautiful and God did not make a mistake in your creation- You are welcome here at this table. We are all on this journey to recovery together. And as the recovery programs says..and as Jesus says to us,

“Keep coming back. Keep coming back.”  

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