If we just reach out to those whose power is love, we can overcome the power of hatred.
In this week’s reading, a woman who has been bleeding for many years dares to reach out and touch Jesus’s cloak and is healed. This person would almost certainly have been considered untouchable by those around her. When reflecting on her story, we should consider all who are made to feel untouchable, unlovable, or less than enough by both church and society today. Jesus’s love is not limited by unjust societal or religious taboos. There is much wisdom on this topic in the field of Dalit theology. This link is a good place to start.
We read that ‘she said, “If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well.”‘ It strikes me that the very thing that may have been forbidden for this person – physical touch – is the one thing that she believes will make her well. It is hard to consider this reading, though, without remembering the incredible harm that has been done to LGBTQ+ people, and many other marginalised people, by the construct of healing. So often, people reach out to the church in hope of healing, and so often the church’s conception of healing instead causes great harm.
When the woman touches Jesus, he immediately asks, “Who touched my clothes?” And his disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing in on you; how can you say, ‘Who touched me?'” He looked all around to see who had done it’. Whilst Jesus’s disciples only see a crowd, Jesus notices every individual, caring immensely about who each and every person is. Often the normative assumptions of religion can blur and erase identities, but for Jesus each person matters. The woman tells Jesus her ‘whole truth’, and he rewards her for it. When will every person be able to bring their whole truth to the body of Christ on earth without being ignored, maligned, or abused?
Reading with an inclusive lens:
As we explore ‘Queering the Lectionary’, one of the areas of learning is inclusivity. You may not wish to focus, in worship leading or Bible study, entirely on the topics introduced in this resource. Nevertheless, you should consider inclusivity every time that you speak in church, especially if you are speaking ‘from the pulpit’. Each week, I will suggest some micro-aggressions (little hurts that can build up to cause great harm) that some LGBTQ+ people might experience when listening to people speaking about these texts.
This week’s micro-aggressions:
- Focussing on healing in a literal sense.
- Ignoring the harmful elements of healing.
- Focussing on Jesus’s power and ignoring the woman’s courage.
Reading with a queer lens:
Another area of learning is how we might apply a queer lens to each week’s readings. You may wish to focus, in worship leading or Bible study, on queering the text. Each week, I will draw out some topics that you may wish to consider:
- So-called ‘conversion therapy’. Does healing change people or affirm them?
- The importance of being enabled to tell our truths.
- Homo/bi/trans/queer-phobia – why are some people seen by some as untouchable?
One of the limitations in this resource is it’s focus on the Gospel. I am the first to admit that, as someone with a ministry that regularly involves speaking outside of the Christian ‘bubble’, it feels easier to focus on Jesus. Nevertheless, making connections between the Gospel and other readings in the lectionary can help when drawing out queering themes. Each week, I will point to text from other lectionary readings that connect to the possibilities which I raise above:
In Lamentations 3:33 we read that ‘God does not willingly afflict or grieve anyone’. And yet many would have assumed that the woman’s affliction was God’s design. So often human assumptions about who God is, and what God does, obscure the truth of God’s grace and love.