June 28th 2015
It is good to be back with you, albeit just for the day!
with Revd Jennie Seggar
For those of you who do not know me, I was curate here for nearly 2 years, under Greg’s tender care, and fledged to become the Priest in Charge of 4 deeply rural parishes near Ipswich a little over 4 years ago!
Greg was horrified that one of my parishes had a grass path up to the church, and another almost does not appear on the map (it is around that bit just south of Ipswich marked here be dragons!). They are lovely parishes and good fun to work with, although as with all churches they have their issues.
We are very aware that you are going through a difficult time at the moment, and our prayers, and those of our deanery chapter (many of whom know Greg well) are with you all, and of course with Jackie and Greg
I have been looking forward to preaching and presiding here this morning, but do feel the enormity of the task under these circumstances. I hope that we will be able to explore the readings together this morning, and find something that may be of help over the coming weeks.
The gospel reading this morning is one of the great healing passages, and is one of my favourites, but I did wonder what it would have to say to you at this time. Today, I am not going to look at the obvious healing acts, or Jairus and his daughter (the main protagonists), but at the woman Jesus healed along the way.
We don’t know a great deal about her except that she suffered from something described as haemorrhages – which made her ritually unclean.
This would have been disastrous – in the short term, women kept themselves apart, but in the long term … … … in Jewish law, anything or anyone she touched would be unclean too. This would include anywhere she sat or lay, the cooking pots she used, the clothes she wore … … … she would have been excluded from society.
After 12 years of this, her marriage would probably have collapsed, she would have little or no contact with her family, and therefore no support, financial or emotional, and it would have been almost impossible to manage a normal life.
HEARD ABOUT JESUS
She would have heard about Jesus and how he healed people, and by this point would have felt that she had absolutely nothing to lose.
She would not have approached Jesus directly, she would not expect him to stop for her, an unclean woman, and if he touched her it would make him unclean too – as a man and a rabbi, she might have expected him to reject her, even be violent, but she was desperate.
Hundreds of people must have touched him that day, and she really would not be noticed, but still, it must have taken great faith, and all of that desperation to have the courage just to reach out her hand to touch him hoping against hope that, that touch would do what she so urgently needed! She had faith that he was who he was reported to be – the real deal!
But as he did so often in the gospels, Jesus overset her expectations – He felt her touch above all the others in the press of the crowd and stopped, but instead of rejection, she found acceptance, instead of violence, love … … …
I often wonder if this was the real healing – that loving contact … … …
At the end of this story, she was declared clean in front of everybody – this meant new life – redemption and in a sense, Resurrection.
She is a great example to us – there are times which I am sure we all recognise, when things feel hopeless, when we are all prayed out, and all we can do, is simply reach out a hand to touch Him as He passes, in the vain hope that this will help –
She shows us that small act is enough.
That God will stop and acknowledge us, answering our prayers – even though this may not happen quite in the way we expect it to.
With everything you are all going through, simple faith may feel insignificant, even useless, she shows us that this is not the case. it would be tempting to think that prayers are a waste of time, and that we should be doing something significant to help out, to support Greg and Jackie.
Prayers work and are the most significant thing we can do, it may just not give us the answer we want. Knowing Greg and Jackie as I do, I am sure that they are aware of your prayers, and are feeling buoyed up and supported, gaining great strength from you all.
This brings me to St Paul – In the passage we have just heard from 2 Corinthians, He is actually jollying the Corinthian church along and persuading them to finish the collection for the faithful in Jerusalem.
He is very affirming of them, and their skills – Looking at this reminds me that you are a church with great gifts, which are not just a reflection of the undoubted gifts of your ministry team.
Amongst you I see shepherds and pastors, prophets, preachers and teachers, pray-ers and do-ers, (to name but a few). I see a generous community of faith, warm and loving with a genuine desire to do God’s work here in Sudbury. This is important.
Undoubtedly things are difficult at the moment, but by pulling together, praying together and working together as a community, using the gifts I know you all have, and sticking by those basic principles of love, grace and compassion, you will come through in one piece – it won’t be easy, but be gentle with each other and allow God to guide you every step of the way.
Remember Mother Julian’s words – All shall be well, all shall be well and all manner of things shall be well.
The trick is not to rely on just the few, or to allow anyone to offer more than they can give, but to give what you can in time and energy, very much, If you like, on the giving in grace model – what is given eagerly and freely is enough
Paul talks about a balance between abundance and need – this balance should ensure that the burden is evenly spread, and that no-one gets exhausted!
Remember also that you are not alone, and that the prayers of the Diocese are with you, so take heart.
We have had a lot to think about this morning, so I am going to finish simply, with the lamentations reading, which is beautiful, and which, when I was preparing in prayer, was my starting point for my sermon this morning
Remember as you reach out to touch Jesus over the next few weeks and months … and as you support each other, in love and prayer.
That The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘therefore I will hope in him.’ The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul that seeks him.
It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord. For the Lord will not reject for ever. Although he causes grief, he will have compassion according to the abundance of his steadfast love; for he does not willingly afflict or grieve anyone.
Revd Jennie Seggar