The Rev. Whitney Rice is an Episcopal priest in the Diocese of Missouri and currently the Associate Rector at Emmanuel Episcopal Church in Webster Groves, Missouri.  A native of Lee’s Summit, Missouri, she comes to ordained ministry by way of the University of Kansas and Yale Divinity School, where she won the Yale University Charles S. Mersick Prize for Public Address and Preaching and the Yale University E. William Muehl Award for Excellence in Preaching. She is a contributor to the Episcopal Digital Network’s Sermons That Work.

The title of this blog comes from two gospel stories.

Roof Crashers comes from Mark 2: 1-5, 10-12:

“When Jesus returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home. So many gathered around that there was no longer room for them, not even in front of the door; and he was speaking the word to them. Then some people came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. And when they could not bring him to Jesus because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him; and after having dug through it, they let down the mat on which the paralytic lay. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven.’…He said to the paralytic— ‘I say to you, stand up, take your mat and go to your home.’ And he stood up, and immediately took the mat and went out before all of them; so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, ‘We have never seen anything like this!’”

What moves me so deeply about this story is the love of this group of friends. They are so determined to help the one of them who is in need, and they will do whatever it takes to bring him before Jesus–up to and including property damage! And the trust that the paralyzed man has to have in his friends–to allow himself to be manhandled up onto a roof and lowered through it into an agitated crowd before a stranger–is equally as powerful.

My favorite phrase is “when Jesus saw their faith.” Jesus saw the love this group of friends had for each other, their commitment to each other no matter what they were facing, the risk and challenge and work they were willing to put in to reach his presence, and Jesus himself was moved by it. To me this group of friends models how we should live in community, and hence inspired the name Roof Crashers.

Hem Grabbers comes from a story that is told in the gospels of Mark, Luke, and Matthew. Here is the version in Mark 5:24-34:

“And a large crowd followed Jesus and pressed in on him. Now there was a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years. She had endured much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had; and she was no better, but rather grew worse. She had heard about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, for she said, ‘If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well.’ Immediately her hemorrhage stopped; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. Immediately aware that power had gone forth from him, Jesus turned about in the crowd and said, ‘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 round to see who had done it. But 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.’”

So many of us worry that we are not worthy to be in the presence of God, that our mistakes and regrets and weaknesses disqualify us from grace. But the woman in this story personifies the place we all reach at some point when we have done all we can in our own strength and finally bring our wounded and hurting selves into the presence of Christ.

This woman’s heart is a maelstrom of faith, courage, exhaustion and utter desperation. Who would have thought that this is the mental and spiritual state that electrifies Jesus into a blazing conduit of healing? He loves us the most when we come to him at our worst, no longer hiding because we no longer have the strength to hide, at last honest, at last ready, at last…Hem Grabbers.