Thursday, March 8, 2012

Women of Faith

   One of the most powerful stories of faith in the scriptures is told about a woman that seeks out Jesus. It is told in the gospel accounts of Luke, Matthew and here in Mark: 
And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. 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. When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, because she thought, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.”
Mark 5:25-28)
   In addition to the medical concerns from her condition, she would have also been deemed ‘unclean’ and prevented from the public practice of her faith. This only adds to the surprise and significance of her act of faith. The amazing faith of this woman is found in the small details, for it was the fact that she sought out Jesus’ cloak that is most marvelous. She had been reading her Bible closely!
   The prophet Malachi had written some four centuries earlier, that the ‘righteous sun’ that would one day rise would have power and healing in its wings (4:2). In Hebrew wings is written kanafBut the Hebrew language had far fewer words that our modern English, so almost every word carried a variety of meanings and kanaf was no exception. Much earlier in history, in  Numbers 15, it is used to describe the hem of the prayer shawl where tassels were to be  attached. The woman who reaches out for Jesus, believes he is the promised One and interprets that the scripture extends his power out to the very edges of his prayer shawl. It worked, for immediately Jesus feels her presence and some ‘power’ has gone from him out to her. She is healed by reaching out for Jesus.
   We have women of equal faith in our midst. Women who study the scriptures and reach out to 
Jesus for healing and power. They are the women who sit in our pews each week or worship at 
home because of health or other situations. They are women who lead and contribute in Sunday School and small groups, including the circles that make up the United Methodist Women’s unit of Epworth. They are women who serve through teaching, giving, cooking, sewing or visiting.
   This story and the faith of our women have come together in my mind over the past year through the Prayer Shawl Ministry in which a large group of our church participates. They have been making shawls and blankets that are coupled with written prayers and consecrated in our  church to be sent out for God’s work. They have been shared with a variety of persons, including some receiving cancer treatment, recovering from surgery, offering care to loved ones or babies born into the world. It is in some way a small act of kindness, the making and  sharing of a blanket, that offers the potential for amazing grace. As one who helps deliver these acts of grace, I see firsthand their power. Such a ministry is only one in many ways which God’s Kingdom is being established by the persons of faith all around us. 
   This Sunday we mark such faith and recognize the women of our UMW. Grace and Peace,  Scott

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