No doubt all of you have heard the story of the water pot that has an existential crisis. No? Let me share it with you.
“A water-bearer in India had two large pots. Each hung on opposite ends of a pole that he carried across his neck. One of the pots had a crack in it, while the other was perfect. The latter always delivered a full portion of water at the end of the long walk from the stream to the master’s house. The cracked pot arrived only half-full. Every day for a full two years, the water-bearer delivered only one and a half pots of water.
The perfect pot was proud of its accomplishments, because it fulfilled magnificently the purpose for which it had been made. But the poor cracked pot was ashamed of its imperfection, miserable that it was able to accomplish only half of what it had been made to do. After the second year of what it perceived to be a bitter failure, the unhappy pot spoke to the water-bearer one day by the stream.
“I am ashamed of myself, and I want to apologize to you,” the pot said.
“Why?” asked the bearer. “What are you ashamed of?”
“I have been able, for these past two years, to deliver only half my load, because this crack in my side causes water to leak out all the way back to your master’s house. Because of my flaws, you have to do all this work and you don’t get full value from your efforts,” the pot said.
The water-bearer felt sorry for the old cracked pot, and in his compassion, he said, “As we return to the master’s house, I want you to notice the beautiful flowers along the path.”
Indeed, as they went up the hill, the cracked pot took notice of the beautiful wildflowers on the side of the path, bright in the sun’s glow, and the sight cheered it up a bit. But at the end of the trail, it still felt bad that it had leaked out half its load, and so again it apologized to the bearer for its failure.
The bearer said to the pot, “Did you notice that there were flowers only on your side of the path, not on the other pot’s side? That is because I have always known about your flaw, and I have taken advantage of it. I planted flower seeds on your side of the path, and every day, as we have walked back from the stream, you have watered them. For two years I have been able to pick these beautiful flowers to decorate my master’s table. Without you being just the way you are, he would not have had this beauty to grace his house.” (story source)
The key Bible verse that helps us interpret this story today, a day we going to talk about healing, is 2 Corinthians 12:9: “But God said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in your weakness.’”
I believe that at heart, our God is a God of healing.
The patristic writer Athanasius talked about salvation as an act of healing, that the work that Jesus Christ completed on the Cross was an entering into the great tree of humanity, rooting out the sickness of sin, and infusing it with new blossoming life.
We are saved by grace through faith; this is called justification in theological language.
But that is not the end of the story.
Sanctification is what happens after justification.
Conversion to the gospel is a lifelong process, a journey of healing.
We travel from being people broken by sin and pain and abandonment, God opening us up to healing throughout our lives until when we die and are reunited with God, we are made finally whole.
But every step of that journey is good, from the very beginning when we are at our most fragile, because as we learn from the story of the cracked pot, it is through our very weaknesses and apparent failures that God’s grace works most powerfully.
Basically, it is good to be cracked and broken and leaky.
Jesus is quite leaky in our gospel today.
The woman who has been suffering hemorrhages for twelve years, battered and almost trampled by the crowd, stretches out desperately, wanting only to touch his cloak. And she makes contact and instantly his power goes out and heals her.
His compassion was so great that the power went out from him to her before he even had conscious thought.
He was cracked open, ready to spread living water on her parched and desperate soul as well as her sick and exhausted body.
And he knows.
The difference between ourselves and Jesus is the difference between the cracked pot who thought he was a flawed failure and the cracked pot who understands his uniqueness has wrought great beauty.
What are the parts of yourself you are most afraid to share?
They may be what your neighbor most desperately needs from you.
Are you afraid to admit that you have struggled with addiction?
That you have experienced abuse at the hands of a loved one?
That you’ve sinned and fallen short of the glory of God more times than you can count?
I have seldom experienced healing from someone telling me how disciplined their prayer life is or how many years they’ve perfectly fulfilled their tithe.
But to have someone share with me that yes, they know what it feels like to be stuck somewhere between being a victim and being a survivor, what it feels like to be humiliated when a weakness is exposed, what it feels like to commit great big awful sins because we’re desperate to make the pain go away—that’s living water coming through a broken vessel.
That’s standing with another soul and reaching out together to touch the hem of his cloak.
The woman in our gospel story today has tried every other means of relief available to her.
The text says, “She had endured much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had; and she was no better, but rather grew worse.”
Have you ever felt like that?
We are blessed to have in our American society a rich number of resources to heal our bodies and minds through modern medicine, and we should never hesitate to take advantage of those.
But there is a pain and sickness that goes deeper than what medicine can touch, and an encounter with grace is the only power that can bring healing to that wound.
We are wounded by sin and we are wounded by life.
What may surprise us is that Jesus’ way of healing us may be to simply awaken us to how precious those wounds can be to help heal others.
After all, his wounds on the Cross, his hands, his feet, his brow, his side, are the means of healing so strong that they triumph over death itself.
We come here today and hold our Eucharist not to walk out of here a people empty of pain, devoid of limps and scars and weaknesses of the body, mind and spirit.
We come here today to ask for God’s healing in whatever way will help us to love God and love our neighbor more.
Sometimes that will be a wonderful kind of literal healing where we feel stronger in body or mind.
And sometimes it will be the healing of the cracked water pot, a shifting of our perspective to see how our flaws and frailties are the means to shed beauty and grace onto the world.
We have all tried many remedies for our pains, just like the woman in our gospel, and we have all seen those prescriptions fail to bring us the type of healing that we need at our deepest level.
It takes honesty and sometimes simple desperation to admit that we’re too worn out and beat up to keep up the façade of self-sufficiency.
We simply need help.
All the pretense is gone, but in its place there blooms a surprising simple faith—if I but touch the hem of his robe, I will be healed.
We have an enormous advantage over the woman in our gospel story today. She was fighting through a crowd and noise to reach Jesus and grasp the hem of his robe, a small bit of fabric in a sea of humanity.
Today, in church, we too want to touch the hem of his robe, but to our astonished delight we find that in here in God’s sanctuary, as Isaiah says, the hem of his robe fills the whole temple.
It’s right here, surrounding us in folds of warm cloth, wanting to cradle us and give the gift of healing.
God so wants to heal us, that far from making us fight through chaos, God fills the whole temple with the hem of his robe, practically begging us to reach out and hold on, to feel the healing power of the Holy Spirit surge through us.
And so I urge you today as you take part in our Eucharist, to open yourself to that grace.
Bring the sicknesses of your body and your soul to God at this altar.
Offer before God your pain, the pain of your loved ones, the pain of people sitting in the pew next to you, and the pain of people you wish were sitting in the pew next to you but aren’t.
Open yourself to revelation of how that pain can itself be a road to healing for yourself and your neighbor and the whole Body of Christ.
It always remains our choice. God will not force healing on us.
But it is so close to the surface in Jesus that the hemorrhaging woman, and we, barely have to touch him before it bursts forth and floods through us.
Jesus is leaky, like the cracked pot. He is not closed up and closed off.
And when we do let his healing grace pour through us, we want even more to remain the cracked pots, the crackpots if you will, that we are—broken open and streaming grace to others.
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