July 30, 2017 9AM English Message

Oh

I hope we're ready to hear God's Word I

was preaching to you various months ago

and we had all sorts of a good time with

that story of the general I who

contracted leprosy in the Old Testament

scripture and today we're going to use

another story and I want you to join me

this morning in the reading of the text

for today

it comes from if you have the Bible with

you you can look at it if not I think it

will appear up in the screen right above

me and to the side of us and I want us

to look at these verses that will be the

text for today's sermon it comes from

Matthew 9 again verses 20 to 22 and when

I read it I think you will realize that

it is a familiar story to us it reads

the following way then suddenly a woman

who had been suffering from hemorrhages

for 12 years came up behind them and

touched the fringe of his cloak for she

said to herself if I can touch his cloak

I will be made well Jesus then turned

and seeing her he said take heart a

daughter your faith has made you well

and instantly the woman was made well

amen how many can say glory to God glory

to God now before I begin my sermon as

part of it I would say I would like to

ask you

a few words after me in a loud voice

okay you ready are you ready remember

remember is going to get all sorts of

noisy in here so you better get used to

it

okay I want you to say these words aloud

repeating after me a little bit of God

can go a long way can you say it a

little bit of God can go a long way

let's do one more time that's right well

alright if you don't remember anything

else in my sermon but you remember those

words you will be in good shape

that is both the title of my sermon and

its main point so if it's all you

remember you will have done well for

yourself so here we go and I'll start

with a story of my own earlier this year

I found myself teaching a course on the

historical Jesus at the University where

I teach and as part of the course I had

students read many different kinds of

writings we read books on archaeology

that spoke about artifacts found from

the time of Jesus and the place where

Jesus lived we read ancient Jewish and

Christian texts that illuminate what

Jesus world must have been like we read

modern history books that deal with a

variety of aspects of the world in which

Jesus lived and we of course read the

New Testament Gospels we did all of this

hoping to arrive at a better picture of

the context of Jesus's life and ministry

and therefore hopefully

at a better picture of who Jesus was and

what he did now because my practice is

to read everything I assigned my

students dumped me right I assigned too

much stuff and then I end up eating too

much stuff but because I do that I read

all of these books and articles along

with them and this means that I found

myself reading the Gospels again I had

read the Gospels in their entirety

various times before of course after all

I grew up in a church that the Bible was

central for it but there is something

beautiful about reading the Scriptures

repeatedly when you do this you often

find that you tend them to discover new

things in the stories of the Bible I

don't know if it happens with you but it

happens with me or you may find that you

stumble upon new details in these

stories or you find that things you

previously knew grab your attention in a

different way

and they end up carrying new meaning and

speaking to you in fresh ways or no

that's ever happened to you but it

happened to me various times and it

happened to me this time again and

that's exactly what happened to me when

I read the story of the woman with the

issue of blood again but what caught my

attention this time are four simple

words that the Gospel of Matthew uses

when telling the story of this woman is

I can only are the four words I am

referring to and I have to admit this

morning that I not only became

fascinated with these four words

but that I even obsessed over them for a

little while my wife knows this very

well and those of you who know me very

well know that Ben has a little OCD in

him all right

I can obsess over things but basically

in this case I wondered why the gospel

writer felt compelled to include these

words in his story after all I don't

know if you notice but the story could

have been told without these four words

being included Matthew could have told

the story without these words and the

story would have made perfect sense but

instead Matthew has his woman thinking

to herself and saying to herself if I

can only touch the fringe of his cloak I

will be made well and it was the first

four words of that statement that picked

my interest in curiosity if I can only

why the importance of these four words I

thought to myself why include them when

the story could be told without them and

very easily what was the gospel writer

trying to communicate to us when he

decided to include these four simple

words in the story why why what I asked

myself and in my firt for some answers I

turned to Bible commentaries and Bible

encyclopedias and because of my old CD I

even got some of my colleagues involved

in my homework right and so I went to

someone who teaches new Testament and I

went to someone who teaches early

Christian history and I asked them can

you find these four words in the early

versions and translations of the New

Testament after a while both of them got

back to me and said sure enough they or

their equivalent do appear in the

earliest translations of the Bible and

since then I have become more convinced

therefore that these four words are

important to understanding one of the

main points of this biblical story I

want to share that point with you today

but before I do so I want first to

reconstruct the story of the woman while

sharing some details about it that may

make it even more interesting and more

memorable for you

that's my hope at least so let's give

this a try now I'm going to begin with

the observation that the story of the

woman with the issue of blood is told in

three of the four Gospels we have in our

Bible Matthew Mark and Luke tell the

story and this tells us that the early

Christian communities considered in a

significant story in the life of Jesus

and considered it a story worth

retelling so that's an important

observation I also find it very

interesting that Christians of the

second century felt that this heroic

woman of faith should not remain

nameless and so they gave her a name

they called her Veronica in time

Veronica even became a saint Saint

Veronica in the Catholic tradition now

you probably have noticed that the

biblical story does doesn't provide the

name of this woman it simply refers to

her the woman who had been suffering

from a hemorrhage problem but the woman

Maine's nameless and this is simply

because in the time of Jesus the culture

was highly patriarchal and highly sexist

and women therefore warring granted the

same honor or status as men were for

that reason you will find that their

names are not always mentioned in the

biblical stories in fact there are many

stories in which the women remain

nameless and that's the case in the

story but I love it that early

Christians felt it was a shame that this

woman of great faith had remained

nameless in the biblical text and they

felt that she should be given a name oh

I think this admirable tenacious woman

of great faith is definitely deserving

of a name and so in the spirit of

honoring this woman and in the spirit of

these early Christians I too will take

the calling her Veronica today so let me

tell you some things about Veronica get

used to that name the Gospels tell us

that Veronica had been suffering from a

debilitating hemorrhage problem for 12

years

historically scholars of the Bible have

tended to believe that the woman

suffered from an unceasing menstruation

or an ongoing menstrual cycle which

meant that she had to deal with a

problem of continual bleeding for 12

years the Gospels of Mark and Luke add

that Veronica had spent all that she had

looking for a cure probably consulting

folk healers and religious figures who

were known to have healing powers you

see at the time there was no Mass

General

there was no Boston Medical Center

nothing of that sort but they were

both healers and their war religious

feelings who figures who were known to

have healing powers but instead of

getting better she had grown worse even

though she had spent all her money

consulting these kinds of people

now this little detail about her having

spent all that she had is significant

because it tells us that Veronica may

have been a widow I don't know if you

knew that in biblical times it was

extremely rare for common women to own

property and to possess large amounts of

money and those who did often inherited

their property or money if their husband

died and left them some sort of property

or money the Gospel story doesn't

mention the name of a husband and one

possible reason why is that he may have

died the gospel story also doesn't

mention any children so it is possible

the Veronica didn't have any the picture

one gets therefore is of a woman who may

have been touched by tragedy earlier in

her life through the loss of her husband

she also doesn't appear to have children

so with regards to immediate family then

it seems that Veronica was alone in the

world and without the kind of safety net

that having a husband and children could

provide for a woman in the first century

so it is already a tough situation that

Veronica has to deal and as if that were

not enough she is touched by tragedy yet

again through a debilitating and

stigmatizing disease that would see her

lose all that she owned looking for a

cure and the illness that she came down

with

was especially cruel with grave

consequences physically and socially

physically speaking we must imagine a

woman who was anemic weak and who could

probably hardly walk because of the

constant loss of blood from her body

people who lose blood also consistently

has to deal with it with dehydration and

with fevers as their bodies react

defensively to the consistent loss of

blood at the same time we must keep in

mind that people who deal with such

blood conditions as hemophilia for

instance or hemorrhage have to deal with

the constant fear of dying at any moment

if their blood loss becomes severe

enough and this was during a time when

blood banks and getting blood

transfusions were not an option you get

the picture here right and I'm going to

continue to draw it further out on top

of this I want us to think about the

discomfort the inconvenience and the

possible embarrassment that Veronica had

to live with for 12 years Veronica's

life was most likely a constant routine

of washing and drying rags to catch and

reduce the flow of her blood it was a

constant routine most likely of washing

and drying clothes to clear them of any

stains that may have been left on them

furthermore her condition may have

omitted odor so most likely she had to

deal with the possibility of

embarrassment constantly either because

of possible staining of her clothes

or because of older emitting from her

body the point here is not an easy thing

it's a difficult situation that Veronica

finds herself in there is something else

I want us to consider it is the social

and religious isolation Veronica would

have had to deal with every single day

of her life

during those 12 long years of illness

what we have to understand here is that

because of her continued bleeding

Veronica would have been regarded in

Jewish law as ceremoniously unclean

according to Jewish law and practice in

antiquity a woman who experienced a

discharge of blood for many days and

beyond the normal time frame of a usual

menstruation could be considered impure

or unclean we can read about that if you

want in Leviticus chapter 15 verses 25

to 27 and you will see this Jewish law

there and and the other thing is that

any person who came into contact with

her would have also been considered

impure and unclean and what this means

is that because of our constant bleeding

veronica most likely lived in a

continuous state of uncleanness which

would have brought upon her social and

religious isolation her condition would

have excluded her from worship in the

Jerusalem Temple for instance it would

haven't excluded her from the village

synagogues and it would have excluded

her from most forms of community life so

veronik of life we have to imagine was a

life of isolation and loneliness poverty

Veronica

pobrecita para no stop pero Ella

positive a cambiar la cosa pronto

this was Veronica's difficult situation

and I hope that by now you know enough

about her situation enough about the

picture to be moved any time and every

time we sing that song that we sing

around here sometimes about the woman

with the issue of blood

you know we signed that song here I hope

that every time we sing that song from

here on forth you are moved to sympathy

for this woman the level of her

suffering should move us I imagine

Veronica's life as one without hugs from

friends children and parents I imagine

her life as lacking normal human contact

as the void of marital rights with its

meaningful duties and privileges I

imagine her life as full of toil because

of the need to constantly wash

everything she is pouring without income

not only because she has spent all her

money seeking a cure but also because

her condition made her unemployable and

because she was left poor and without

income it is likely that she could not

afford to eat nourishing food to

compensate for her loss of strength due

to her hemorrhage problem all of these

factors lead to this one reasonable

conclusion veronica was a lonely

isolated impoverished ill anemic

weakened woman who was probably dying by

this point and was desperate after 12

long years of struggle with this blood

disorder for poverty Veronica

but but but she wasn't without hope she

wasn't without hope and she wasn't

without hope for three simple reasons

she was a strong-willed woman of faith

who was about to have an encounter with

Jesus who is a healer of healers now as

you might imagine things are going to

start looking up forever on a canoe

servant now and that is what some

determination some faith and an

encounter with Jesus can do for you but

before we move on to the happy and

inspirational part of the sermon before

we move on to the Hollywood ending of

the story I want to highlight

Veronica's amazing tenacity and faith we

should note that Veronica could have

stayed home when Jesus was passing

through her town she had many reasons to

be discouraged and depressed she had

been sick for 12 long years she had

spent all her money looking for a cure

and was no better for it she had tried

all sorts of different things to get

better but again nothing had worked she

probably felt weak and tired all of the

time so the thought of having to fight

through the crowds to get to Jesus might

have seen all sort of all overwhelming

to her plus there was not only the

threat of embarrassment at being seen

with bloodstains on a clothing

even the threat of being stoned to death

for putting those around her at risk of

being declared impure or unclean if she

came into contact with them but the

truth is that she had no one who could

advocate for her no one who could do her

the favor of going to Jesus with a

message of supplication she was alone

and didn't have influential advocates

who could go to Jesus on her behalf to

ask either for his visit or for his

prayer from far away you may remember

that in some biblical stories jesus

prayed for people from far away and he

became cured but in this case veronica

has no one she can send to Jesus she

wasn't able to ask the Jewish elders to

go to Jesus on her behalf she wasn't a

ruler a centurion or a leader of a

synagogue who could get people to do

things for her so yes Veronica had

plenty of reasons to feel sorry for

herself and to wallow in pity and to

remain at home feeling helpless and

defeated but despite all this she had

not lost her fighting spirit she had not

lost her sense of hope she had not lost

her faith in God and that can make all

the difference in one life how many of

you can say Amen how many of you can say

Amen do you believe that all right well

let's see what it did for Ron at

Veronica and then we'll see what it can

do for you Veronica knew that if she

wanted a chance at a miracle she was

going to have to get her weakened body

to where Jesus was

she was going to have to overcome her

fear of embarrassment her fear of being

recognized her fear of possibly being

stoned to death if she was discovered

she was going to have to muster every

remaining ounce of energy in her body

and in her mind to press through the

crowd once she got to where Jesus was

and this is exactly what Veronica did

she overcame all of these inner and

outer barriers and made her way to Jesus

believing that the opportunity for a

miracle lied within her reach lied

within her reach lied within her reach

it seems to me that Veronica had heard

of the miracles of healing that Jesus

had performed before she had probably

heard that on one occasion Jesus had

commanded an evil spirit to leave a man

and that it did she probably had heard

it on another occasion Jesus had healed

Simon's mother-in-law's mother-in-law

simply by holding her hand she probably

had heard it on another occasion Jesus

had told a paralytic to take up his mat

and walk home and that not only had his

men been able to walk back home on his

own power but he was able to walk back

home having been forgiven of his sins as

well Veronica must have heard that on

another occasion Jesus had ordered the

Legion of demons in a man to leave him

and they did she may have heard that

Jesus had visited the tomb of Lazarus

and had raised him from the dead and she

may have heard that on yet another

occasion Jesus had healed a blind man by

putting some mud in his eyes and then

clearing it off so Veronica thought to

herself

why not me why not me if all of these

others could be healed by Jesus why not

me

can you say that with me why not me

that's what Veronica thought to herself

but the level of Veronica's faith is

quite amazing and admire but I want to

highlight highlighted just a little bit

further I still have some time left here

let's see what happens here because you

put the mic in the hands of a former

Pentecostal as my dominican friends

might say a thottie by tapas ah this

woman is just amazing I find it

interesting that veronica was convinced

that if she could only manage to touch

the hem of Jesus garment she would be

healed she was convinced that all she

needed to do was touch the edge of Jesus

clothing to be healed not even the whole

suit just the hem would be enough if I

can only touch his cloak I will be made

well she says herself and this brings me

to the main point I want to stress here

remember I told you that I had a main

point here it is I just wanted to make

you wait for it a little bit the reason

why the gospel writer Matthew included

the four simple words if I can only in

his story is because he wants us to know

that the most miniscule encounter

the most miniscule contact with God can

produce great results all we need is a

small encounter with God all we need is

some kind of small contact with God all

we need is a small touch by God to be

changed ever more that is the faith that

we need to have and that was Veronica's

faith that was the kind of faith she had

and look what it did for her the Gospel

story says that Veronica got up left her

home and made her way to where Jesus was

she probably thought to herself I don't

care that I've tried everything and

nothing has worked thus far I don't care

I don't care that it has been 12 years

of suffering with this disease and that

I've grown worse no matter what I've

tried I don't care I don't care that

getting to Jesus and making my way

through the crowd is going to be

challenging and risky I don't care I

don't care because I believe that this

encounter

I believe this encounter will be

different I don't care because I believe

this time things will be different I

don't care because I believe this time

it will be the very embodiment of God's

presence that I will be encountering and

because of this she thought I will be

made well admirable isn't it admirable

isn't she

and then Veronica outdid herself

convincing herself that all she needed

to do when she got to Jesus was touched

order with cloak and that the power of

God that was in and through Jesus would

enter into her by and here from the

inside out so I imagine that veronika

disguised herself in order not to be

recognized by her neighbors she probably

put on many layers of clothing to cover

herself in her condition and then she

expanded every ounce of energy remaining

remaining in the frail body to get to

Jesus and then to fight through the

crowd to get at Jesus and when she

arrived she pressed through the crowd

and then probably falling to the ground

as you see right up there she approached

Jesus reached out and touched the edge

of his cloak and she was instantly

healed as a Christian Veronica fought

the good fight of faith

she kept her focus on Jesus and

demonstrated her faith in Jesus through

her determination to touch him now I

want to emphasize that I like that

Veronica didn't allow herself to think

that she had to plan and to carry out

some elaborate grand scheme to be healed

by Jesus she didn't allow herself to

think that she needed to throw herself

at Jesus's feet and beg for his mercy

and prayer she did it allow herself to

think that she needed to scream at the

top of her lungs to get Jesus's

attention in order to ask for his prayer

she didn't allow herself to think that

she needed to persuade Jesus to come to

her house for a visit she didn't allow

herself to think that she needed to come

down from some roof I'm some sort of

wire to come face-to-face with Jay

she didn't allow herself to think that

she had to squeeze Jesus in a bear hug

to partake of his healing powers

no if I can only if I can only if I can

only can you say with me if I can only

if I can only she said if I can only

touch the border of his cloak I will be

made well and here is something to

consider and I'm coming to my conclusion

soon and Veronica had tried to

accomplish these more difficult things

she may have failed it it is possible

she may not have been able to do these

other things and she may not have

attained her healing if she had allowed

herself to think that only a grand

gesture would work she may have impeded

herself from attaining her healing but

Veronica believed that a simple touch of

Jesus's clothes would be enough to make

her well and there is a big lesson in

this for us sometimes we think that to

get God's attention that to gain God's

favor that to receive God's blessing we

need to carry out some sort of huge

project or some sort of huge agenda when

sometimes a simple bead might be enough

sometimes we think we need to pray for

long hours at a time

we need to live perfect or almost

perfect lives that we need to be like

saints or angels walking on the face of

this earth and sometimes we even put

such enormous pressure on ourselves to

try and comply with such impossible and

weighty moral ideals and expectations

that all we do is set ourselves up for

failure we set ourselves up for feelings

of guilt and resentment and we just make

ourselves miserable in the process now I

want to be clear I don't want pasta made

under to call my attention on this so I

want to make something clear here I want

to be clear that all of these strivings

all the things I have just mentioned

have their merit and their place but we

must always remember that God's grace

surpasses our merit we must always

remember that God's love and compassion

surpasses our virtue we must always

remember that God's power surpasses our

comprehension and even imagination and

we must always remember that God's

blessing surpasses our achievement we

need to learn in other words that simple

encounters with God that brief moments

with God that a little bit of God in

other words can go a long way

and that is the meaning and the reason

for these poor words in the story if I

can only if we could only believe that a

little bit of God to go a long way we

might clear ourselves to see more of God

to experience more of God and to live

more complete healthy and carefree lives

that is one of the main points or

lessons of this biblical story but there

are two more important points or

teachings that I quickly want to mention

and I highlight it will be quickly also

I say the main point of the story and of

my sermon as I have said is that the

most miniscule encounter or conflict

with God can produce great results or in

other words like my title says that a

little bit of God can go a long way but

another thing that the story of Veronica

teaches us is that we don't need to let

life's difficult circumstances the

finest we need not let our imperfections

or illnesses or physical limitations our

psychological scars or limited economic

means that find who we are and what we

can accomplish Veronica didn't allow

herself to think that her circumstances

could stop her and neither should we

and a third important lesson we can

learn from Veronica story is that no

matter how hopeless a situation may seem

we should never lose our hope we should

live life believing that God's grace

that God's healing activity and

therefore that our well-being and

miraculous fulfillment is just a touch

away

just a touch away just a touch away so

what is your life challenge what is your

malady what is your condition

what is your hemorrhage what is your

need in other words and do you know that

Jesus is mantle is there waiting for you

to touch it do you know that God's

gracious and healing presence is here

right now just waiting for you to reach

out and touch it

do you have the faith that a simple

touch of Jesus's mantle can make you

well do you have in other words

Veronica's faith remember her words if

only if only if only I want you to

repeat now with me if only one more time

if only in one last time if only I can

touch his cloak I will be made well

God's cloak is here waiting for you to

touch it God's coke is right there

waiting for you to touch it go ahead

hurry up touch it touch it if you can

only touch it you will be made well all

I want the musicians to come and join me

and as they play in the background I

want you to think of these words if you

are in some sort of need and if you

believe that a simple touch of God and

from God can do you well I invite you to

stand right there where you are you you

don't need to come down here to the

altar if you want to come you can you're

free to do so if you like but right

there where you are right now right

there where you are I believe that God's

cloak is long enough where you can reach

out and touch it I am simply asking you

to stand up in an act of faith and to

believe that all you need is to reach

out and that you will be made well and

while the musicians play lightly in this

background I am going to ask Pastor Greg

[Music]

and pastor uh Severo to come up

and to take turns making an end sources

in intercessory prayer prayer a prayer

of intercession for our people today and

we will conclude the service in this way

by way of this prayer for healing this

prayer for deliverance this prayer for

guidance this prayer for whatever you

are in need of this morning and for

God's touch and as they pray I want you

to remember these words a little bit of

God can go a long way

you