Broken Bodies

There’s this story in scripture where a woman had a bleeding problem for twelve years. Non-stop bleeding, every day of her life. What we don’t get is her backstory. The Levitical law prohibited her from ever associating with other people. She was considered unclean. A disease she couldn’t control, she didn’t cause, she didn’t deserve, and yet her greatest punishment- she was left alone to deal with it by herself. So twelve years this lady had no friends, no family, no community. She never went to church, never went to the store, never got out in public, never went to a family reunion. She was secluded from relationship and banished to solitude.

Which makes it surprising that this miracle even happens. Jesus’s words, “Who touched me?” carry with it not just a question but an indictment. Who? Every human desires to be known- fully known. And she was an unknown nobody. Of course he said, “Who?” No one knew who she was. For twelve years. Her healing carried more than a physical cure- it initiated community restoration. Most can deal with any problem, any sickness, any loss, as long as they can work through their grief in community. This unnamed lady lived in solitary confinement. Until Jesus healed her. I can only suppose that the greatest healing wasn’t her body, but the restoration of her relationships.

I usually get stuck on the stage when we have communion at our church. We need background music for most experiences in the church and I orchestrate the mood- the Mood Maestro. Wedding music, baby dedication music, water baptism music, altar music- there’s a song to go along with each component. So I stand on the stage and sing with my musician and vocalist friends.

The beauty of communion is that we share it together. The bread and wine represent Jesus’s body and blood. That he’s there too. So when we take it, we remind ourselves that as we do this together, we’re only here, together, because Jesus is there too. It’s regularly a solemn moment- introspective and sacred. It’s a beautiful ceremony that embodies and symbolizes the brilliance of Jesus’s sacrifice. We share his broken body and together are made whole.

Tiffanni isn’t able to sit up during church anymore because she moves so erratically. So my mom bought her a pillow and she sprawls out in the pew. We have a routine on Sunday mornings- she comes in and drinks her smoothie out of her indestructible Starbucks cup and then lays down for the remainder of the service. When I lead worship, I can see her face. Her body fidgets, her arms flail, and she rubs a carpet burn into her knees from the burlapped pew upholstery. I’m requesting a silk pew. But then again, we’d just slip-n-slide right on to the floor.

The other night we shared communion. We sang a song about the blood of Christ. The other pastors distributed what we call “the elements”. Jay asked if everyone had been served. Mark came and prayed over the time and just before we were about to eat the bread, I looked and saw her knee. It was just above the top of the pew. Jerking, scabbed, frail- her knee. With everyone in the room prepared to put a piece of wafer in their mouths, she laid there, outside of the community. Her broken body forbidding her to share in the broken body of Christ. Possibly, the person who needed to feel a part of the community more than any of us. Ostracized and isolated she laid there alone.

So I did what any of you would have done. I walked off of the stage and helped her rejoin the community. Her community. People who have pledged their love to her and our family. To see this through with us whatever the future holds. And we took the bread, and we took the juice, and I helped her broken body ingest the broken body of Christ along with the rest of us broken parts of the body. Her family. Her community.