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Epiphany 6, Year C
February 19, 2019, 10:54 AM

Epiphany 6 – February 17 – Year C



Honestly, there are only so many times we can hear the Beatitudes without our eyes glazing over. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Blessed are the poor. Blessed are the hungry. Blessed are the persecuted.


I’m not saying that to dismiss the importance of what Jesus is talking about in today’s teaching to the apostles. After all, Jesus provides both words of comfort and words of warning. He gives words of comfort to people who are poor, hungry, and persecuted. He even tells the persecuted that they should “rejoice” and “leap for joy.”


The Beatitudes – Jesus’ statements of blessing – often get more attention than the Woes – Jesus’ statements of warning. Although the Beatitudes are certainly less cheerful than the Woes, the Woes are still important. Woe to the rich. Woe to the full. Woe to the laughing. Woe to those favored by the world.


But neither the Beatitudes nor the Woes stood out to me when praying about today’s message. Instead, I focused on the little, almost throwaway detail, about the healings that happened on the way to the “level place.”


Luke says that the crowd “had come to hear him and to be healed of their diseases; and those who were troubled with unclean spirits were cured.” Yes, the crowd gathered to hear Jesus’ words, but they also came to seek healing. And their needs were met!


Because Luke also says that “all in the crowd were trying to touch (Jesus), for power came out from him and healed all of them.” In doing research for today’s message, I ran across an image of Bobby Kennedy out on the campaign trail. Now, Bobby Kennedy was killed in 1968, almost a decade before I was born, but I won’t mention that.


The picture showed crowds with their arms and hands outreached, just aching to touch Bobby. There was such hope poured into Bobby Kennedy’s words and his candidacy. His message of healing and justice and peace for the nation was welcome in a time of great division and cultural shift. There seemed to be something almost magical about Bobby Kennedy’s persona. No wonder that people were aching to touch Bobby!


A commentary below the image remarked that Bobby Kennedy’s hands were often bruised and scratched at the end of his campaign events. His shirt sleeves were often torn and tattered by the time he finished greeting the crowd. How exhausting it must have been for Bobby Kennedy to carry the hopes of an entire people!


Now, I am not suggesting that Bobby Kennedy and Jesus can be compared directly. Even if some people saw him as such, Bobby was not the savior of the world. That job belongs to Jesus, and Jesus alone.


But I am suggesting that there is something deeply human and deeply understandable about wanting to touch someone for healing. Just as crowds pressed in to touch Bobby Kennedy in the late 1960s, crowds pressed in to touch Jesus throughout his public ministry to receive healing and comfort. Like a very ill woman says in a different Gospel story, “if I but touch the hem of Jesus’ garment, I will be healed.”


In my children’s message, I talked about Christopher – my childhood teddy bear – and how much comfort he provided. I really did have a special pillow and blanket on my bed for Christopher. And I really did include him on the list of people I prayed for every night.


All I needed to do was hold on to Christopher and I felt safe and loved. We see people doing the same with Jesus in today’s reading from Luke’s Gospel. They want to hold on to Jesus, hoping that they, too, would feel healed and safe and loved.


I don’t know how many of us still carry special toys or security blankets as adults. I don’t know where we find healing and safety and love as adults. I would like to suggest that we can – dare I say should? - reach out to Jesus as our source of healing and safety and love.


And, once we have reached out to Jesus and experienced Christ’s healing, let us hold on to Jesus – like I held on to Christopher – to feel safe and loved always. Amen.


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