June 27, 2021

"We Yearn for Mauli Ola"

Rev. Robert Nelson

2 Corinthians 8:9-15 & Mark 5:21-43

On this Open and Affirming Sunday, I want you to know that I am PROUD to be a member of Keawala`i Congregational Church that takes being open and affirming seriously . . .

Discrimination against LGBTQ people is (sadly) still socially acceptable in many churches and communities.

It's one of several very personal reasons my late wife and I (an Episcopal priest) chose to come to this church `ohana, which at the time, was the only one on the island that clearly stated every Sunday:

"`O makou no na haumana a Iesu Kristo, e heahea akula me ke aloha i na lahui a pau e ko makou `ohana.' . . . As haumana of Jesus Christ, we welcome all, love all, and accept all into our o`hana."

I know that many of you here share that pride and celebrate it . . . and I've heard from some of you how healing that has been for you after experiencing the alienation and aloneness that has taken place in SOME churches and denominations.

And now, we ALL yearn for mauli ola, healing, deep healing power . . . having just gone through more than a year of isolation and distancing . . . of masks and fear of catching the coronavirus . . . yearning to be with someone or a group of friends, say, at a restaurant . . . yearning to be touched . . . and to be hugged.

And many of us have suffered the loss of a loved one or a friend . . . unable to be with them, even in the hospital, even in their last hour . . . unable to mourn with others and still carrying the grief to this day . . . or maybe, just now beginning to grieve.

And some of us have become ill during this past 15 months . . . or been diagnosed or had to go through treatment under incredibly difficult circumstances. And I personally want you to know I am deeply grateful to a number of you here who've shared with me what that's been like

. . . and I thank you for that, especially as I move into my own treatment . . . because sharing our stories is so incredibly helpful . . . so healing . . . and we all yearn to be healed.

In Mark's Gospel this morning, we have folks like Kahu Danette shared with us last week, who're asking about Jesus, "Who dat guy?" . . . are now asking "What kine guy dis, make poepo well".

There's this woman . . . not powerful . . . not famous . . . who also has this yearning to be healed . . . for mauli ola . . . and it's a VERY PERSONAL reason for seeking Jesus.

She wants to be healed of her physical condition . . . but even more than that, she wants to be able to be reconciled with the members of her family and to be with them . . . and with her friends and her community . . . to be able to be present in religious services and not be an object of shame and scorn any more . . . to be touched.

She's been sick for 12 years . . . from hemorrhages or a flow of blood, which means that her monthly period ISN'T just MONTHLY, but continuous . . . and in terms of her religious community, she's been considered ritually unclean . . . a virtual outcast from her family and her entire community.

If she'd ever been married, her husband would have divorced her long ago . . . and she's spent all her money on doctors who haven't been able to help . . . ending up begging on the street.

This woman is a very personal embodiment of alienation and aloneness. On this particular day, Jesus has just disembarked from a boat and . . . and what with his reputation growing . . . is immediately surrounded by all sorts of men and women from nearby villages who're in need of hope . . . some who just came out to see him and hear him, but others who're sick or looking for someone who might be able to bring mauli ola . . . deep healing.

One man fell on his knees and begged Jesus to go with him to his home where his daughter was very ill . . . and Jesus goes with him, drawing the whole crowd right along.

And the woman who had suffered all those 12 years and been isolated and cast out, was ALSO in that crowd. So, as they all walked, she drew close to Jesus . . . and bent down and touched the hem of his robe.

Okay . . . no big deal . . . and she probably thought that nobody would notice a simple touch . . . BUT, YOU KNOW, she has the hope that that touch will bring her some healing . . . and, in fact, it did: her bleeding stopped!

And she must have thought "O my God, that was all it took . . . AND SUDDENLY IT'S ALL OVER!" . . . but she actually got more than she ever expected. Jesus suddenly stopped, as did the whole crowd . . . Mark says he felt some energy go out of him.

He looks through all the crowd around him . . . and asks his disciples, "Who touched my cloak?" . . . but they don't have an answer, even though they'd been trying their best to keep the crowd at arms' length from him. But at that moment, Jesus really wasn't concerned about the crowd . . . he was only concerned for one person . . . the one who had touched him and, as a result, was made whole again.

In our day, we hear, almost daily sometimes, the accounts of victims of destructive and harmful touch . . . unwanted advances, physical and sexual abuse, even accounts of having been tortured.

But HERE is a story about human touch . . . and what a powerful force for good . . . for healing . . . it can be in our lives.

To Jesus, a very simple and momentary touch was noticed and significant . . . and he stopped everything right there.

"Who touched my clothes?" . . . and even though she may have expected to be taken to task, she falls down at his feet . . . and identifies herself. But . . . Jesus says, very simply "My daughter, your faith has restored you to health" . . . and laying his hand on her head, says "go in peace and be free from all your troubles."

You know, THIS is a story that's almost incidental in all that's taking place at this point in Mark's very busy Gospel . . . a story about human touch and what a powerful force for good and for healing it can be in our lives.

Before we all went into lockdown--including almost everyone on the face of this planet . . . we here at Keawala`i were so used to greeting one another with a hug . . . at times, even a traditional Hawaiian face to face to share our "ha", our breath . . . we'd shake hands and high-five . . . talk and spend time together . . . it was such a mauli ola time . . . such a healing time for all of us.

And now we're getting there after this more-than-a year of isolation and, at times, even despair . . . and we're at the beginning of healing . . . a time of touching and being touched.

In MY church tradition, we “pass the peace” — with a handshake, a hug, or a gentle touch on the shoulder, with the words "The peace of the Lord be with you. And also with you" . . . and always, on Thursday in Holy Week, we would wash one another's feet and anoint them with oil.

I remember that first Holy Thursday after my wife, Norma, died . . . I was at Holy Innocents' Church in Lahaina.

I was in the throws of grief . . . and, as this very gentle woman washed my feet, it touched me so . . . SHE touched me so, and as she looked into my eyes, I was overcome with tears . . . tears and touch that began me on the path to heal.

And I remember, years ago when HIV and Aids was first identified . . . and terrified those who contracted it and their partners . . . their friends and families . . . and frankly, those of us who worked with them in their hospital rooms and in their homes.

I spent time talking with this young man who was so emaciated and close to death . . . he wanted Confession and Last Rites . . . that we call "The Sacrament of Healing."

I can still, to this day, see his eyes looking intensely into mine . . . as I touched his forehead with oil and made the sign of the cross . . . and I can STILL see the smile on his face . . . as he faded away.

And you know, I simply took his hand and stayed there with him . . . BUT IN TOUCHING HIM, . . . it was I who was touched . . . deeply touched.

The woman who touched Jesus' robe was STARVED of human touch . . . and yet somehow, she knew that if she could come close to him and touch him, she would be blessed . . . and she WAS . . . in an incredible life-changing way.

As we exit these isolating weeks and months that we've lived through over these past 15 months . . . I hope we each remember . . . each of us who are Christ's hands and feet . . . the blessing and the potential healing power of touching and being touched.

Our mauli ola . . . our caring touch is a symbol of welcome and of blessing . . . of community in Christ . . . it's such a simple and healing act. . . . . .

"As haumana of Jesus Christ, we welcome all, love all, and accept all into our o`hana."

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