Pete Greig: Connection in a time of isolation

You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body
and knit me together in my mother’s womb.
Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!
Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.
You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion,
as I was woven together in the dark of the womb.
You saw me before I was born.
Every day of my life was recorded in your book.
Every moment was laid out
before a single day had passed.
How precious are your thoughts about me,[a] O God.
They cannot be numbered!

Psalm 139:13-17

Today, as we reflect on the importance of connection in a time of isolation, we turn to the beautiful story of Jesus healing a sick woman, imagining the changing expressions on her face and on his face as this encounter unfolds:

As Jesus was on his way, the crowds almost crushed him. And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years, but no one could heal her. She came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak, and immediately her bleeding stopped.
‘Who touched me?’ Jesus asked.
When they all denied it, Peter said, ‘Master, the people are crowding and pressing against you.’
But Jesus said, ‘Someone touched me; I know that power has gone out from me.’
Then the woman, seeing that she could not go unnoticed, came trembling and fell at his feet. In the presence of all the people, she told why she had touched him and how she had been instantly healed. Then he said to her, ‘Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace.’

Luke 8:42b-48

Jesus doesn’t seem particularly interested in performing an impersonal miracle. Power short-circuits from his body and – after twelve years of suffering and shame – this poor woman is instantly healed. Hallelujah! But immediately he swings around, needing a name, scanning the crowd for a face, seeking the dignity of a personal encounter. All too often I want Jesus for his power, but he only wants me for myself. In this age of face-masks, hand sanitisers and elbow bumps his priority is touch; facial recognition; the connection of a deeper relationship.

Ask
In this time of isolation people need connection more than ever. Thinking through the day ahead, I ask the Lord to put particular people on my heart to call. To give me opportunities to smile and wave to those I might pass in the street. To help me love and listen to those I meet – even if it’s only online.

Pause and pray

I name before you now Lord those known to me who are self-isolating, asking that this may be a season in which they go deeper in their relationship with You.

Pause and pray

Yield
As I return to this beautiful story, I ask myself why this woman’s touch was different from those of all the other people in the crowd:

As Jesus was on his way, the crowds almost crushed him. And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years, but no one could heal her. She came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak, and immediately her bleeding stopped.
‘Who touched me?’ Jesus asked.
When they all denied it, Peter said, ‘Master, the people are crowding and pressing against you.’
But Jesus said, ‘Someone touched me; I know that power has gone out from me.’
Then the woman, seeing that she could not go unnoticed, came trembling and fell at his feet. In the presence of all the people, she told why she had touched him and how she had been instantly healed. Then he said to her, ‘Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace.’

Luke 8:42b-48

In Jesus’ day there were strict rules forbidding the touching of anyone or anything considered ritually unclean including lepers, corpses and even menstruating women. (Perhaps this kind of regulation of touch may seem a little less strange to us now, finding ourselves forbidden from hand-shaking and hugging, required to sanitise our hands after every encounter.) This poor woman was not just sick, she was untouchable. Years of chronic hemorrhaging had brought the added stigma of isolation and shame. No wonder she ‘came trembling and fell at Jesus’ feet’. Her touch was supposed to infect Jesus, but instead His touch healed her, and His words restored her dignity.

Pause and pray

Prayer of Yielding
At this time of isolation from human touch, I take comfort today from the words of Jesus in Matthew 28:20, promising me his presence forever more:

Hear the Word of the Lord: ‘Surely,’ he says, ‘I am with you always, to the very end of the age.’

Closing Prayer
Father, help me to live this day to the full,
being true to You, in every way.
Jesus, help me to give myself away to others,
being kind to everyone I meet.
Spirit, help me to love the lost,
proclaiming Christ in all I do and say.
Amen.

Text taken from 24-7 Prayer’s Lectio 365.

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