I’m sure that we have all been in crowds. I know that some people really dislike crowds and some people love them.
I am a big soccer fan and so I grew up going to big noisy and boysterous crowds, and I have to say that it’s something I have really missed through this pandemic.
Although watching the crowds at packed stadiums right now at different games does make me uneasy.
And there are different crowds. The crowds of organized, maybe seated audiences. And the spontaneous crowds that have a bit of an edge of unpredictability.
And right now, the contrast between the small organized number of fans allowed inside the arena in Montreal as the Habs are into the Stanley Cup finals, is in contrast to the bustling crowds on the streets outside.
Just a couple of weeks ago was the 10 year anniversary of the infamous Stanley Cup final here in Vancouver, and the riots that followed.
Yes I hear them talked about a lot even though I wasn’t here.
But 10 years ago I remember a different crowd story.
We were visiting Liverpool for the day one Saturday on a hot day in the summer.
That day we had heard a couple of times like mass screaming coming through the streets.
And all of a sudden, from nowhere what was probably 2, 3 maybe 400 people came running through the street that we were in and we had no idea what was going on.
It was weird, because most crowds that I had experienced were at a venue, or a somewhere where some action was taking place.
This was just bizarre.
Then after seeing it a couple of times the crowd move at a distance, it passed us at the store that we were at and we could see that this wasn’t a particularly diverse crowd.
This was entirely made up of teenage screaming girls with banners, t-shirts and everything following a 17 year old Canadian, Justin Beiber.
Apparently he was playing a show in Liverpool that night and during the day I assume he wanted to see the sights.
But he seemingly couldn’t escape the screams of teenage girls.
I was honestly amazed. Partly because, well it was Justin Beiber. I know. I’ve seen the footage of the Beatles and everything.
But at 17, what a bizarre life he has led.
I remember thinking that must be a lot to handle for a teenager. To have that amount of attention.
Our Gospel story today is as close to a celebrity scene that I imagine in my head at least, in scripture and Jesus specifically asks his disciples who witness the healing at the end of the scene to not tell people what had happened.
At the beginning of the act, we are told that Jesus is on his way ‘to perform’, he is on his way to heal a sick girl.
As he is on his way, the passage says that the large crowd followed him and ‘pressed in on him’.
This crowd scene is that kind of crowd that has an edge on uncertainty.
As he moves forward, a woman came up behind Jesus in the crowd and touched his cloak. Immediately, it says, she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. Jesus aware that power had gone forth from him, and he turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my clothes?”
The woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling, fell down before him, and told him the whole truth. He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”
When we look at the two acts of healing in the passage, Jesus is not named as ‘healer’, but rather, ‘teacher’.
And this first act of healing is Jesus teaching us how healing takes place.
My reading of this passage has changed over the years. In the age of attention that we have around the issue of consent today, the unnamed woman’s approach on first glance may seem inappropriate or unwanted.
But as I pictured the crowd scene, we know that Jesus wasn’t someone who was never touched. And in his ministry I’m sure that this isn’t the only time that someone touched Jesus just to attempt to gain some divine power.
No, Jesus, I believe connected to the unnamed woman’s intention. He recognized her faith. He was inspired by her courage.
What I love about this story is that as readers, we are drawn to see the story from the perspective of the unnamed woman.
A casual, opportunistic interaction with God.
The occasion of inspiration and courage.
In response to the woman touching his cloak, Jesus invites her the opportunity to tell her story.
At this moment, the unknown woman has every chance to shy away. To avoid responsibility and not draw attention to herself or her situation.
Instead she tells her truth.
She tells the crowd and Jesus the pains of her struggles and she experiences healing.
In this way, she shows the courage of asking for help.
In our lives, having the courage to ask for help is something that we all often struggle with.
When it comes to the things that we struggle with. Whether that be as serious or addiction, or as common as relationships.
To have the courage to ask for help, begins with knowing ourselves.
Knowing and recognizing what behaviours, what emotions, what internal and external fights that we have with ourselves and others, come from a place our character, and what come from the stresses that we are under.
This past year, our stresses have been significant and relentless.
This past year we have felt the pressure and pains of isolation and frustration.
With the attention and awareness of mental health, we are in an age of appreciation for thinking about the way that we process emotion, stress and circumstance.
And this all applies to our spiritual lives and our participation in Church as well.
The Gospel this morning shows us that there is a strength in the self-awareness and the knowledge of what heals.
For the unnamed woman, the courage to step forward, to tell her truth and touch the divine is what we are taught brings us healing.
This week, another light of truth has been shone on the darkness of our collective past in this country.
The darkness of systemifc prejudice, abuse and neglect that we name as genocide.
This moment for some of us will be a time of grief and anger.
For others of us, this will be a time for learning and questioning the knowledge we were taught.
For some of us this is the time to pray for our ancestors.
For some of us this is the time to feel the shame of our ancestors.
One of the practices of our faith, the rite of reconciliation functions through the act of confession, knowing ourselves and telling our truth that precedes healing.
The great irony of this Catholic rite is how we see this played out in the Catholic Church in Canada refusing to hand over the records of residential schools, which is a denial of admission of truth.
Without telling their truth, without their confession, we see the presence of anger, pain, injustice and prejudice in our country.
For indigenous peoples, for the Catholic Church, for the wider Church and for everyone living in our country.
We, the Anglican Church confess and continue to recognize and tell our truth, and we NEED to continue to do our part in the act of truth in order to experience healing.
We at the Cathedral have committed to writing our 215 letters in 215 days to the people who represent us in government. And I remind you to do this and to inform us that you have done so, so that we can tell that truth together.
The open wounds that we have in the days of these news stories of uncovering the truth will continue.
When we read these numbers and hear these stories, we carry the burden of the weight of the truth together.
But what we are taught in this teaching from Christ through the unnamed woman is that truth liberates and truth heals.
Doing the right thing is so often hard.
And it is hard to ask for help.
But the struggle is not something that we need to do alone.
We confess, we pain and we heal together.
Truth hurts, but truth frees.