This sermon was written for First Presbyterian Church Daytona Beach, FL on October 23, 2022. My dear friend Rev. Katy Steinberg is their pastor and we did a conversational style sermon so the following script is what I had in front of me but did not read. Check out their youtube channel for the video. In the video we connected the scripture and the second step of the Al-Anon program to the church’s current predicament: building and property damage from the hurricane and the desire to do new ministries.
Step Two: Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore church to sanity.
What is my role and what is God’s?
40 Now when Jesus returned, the crowd welcomed him, for they were all waiting for him. 41 Just then there came a man named Jairus, a leader of the synagogue. He fell at Jesus’ feet and begged him to come to his house, 42 for he had an only daughter, about twelve years old, who was dying.
As he went, the crowds pressed in on him. 43 Now there was a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years; and though she had spent all she had on physicians, no one could cure her. 44 She came up behind him and touched the fringe of his clothes, and immediately her hemorrhage stopped. 45 Then Jesus asked, “Who touched me?” When all denied it, Peter said, “Master, the crowds surround you and press in on you.” 46 But Jesus said, “Someone touched me; for I noticed that power had gone out from me.” 47 When the woman saw that she could not remain hidden, she came trembling; and falling down before him, she declared in the presence of all the people why she had touched him, and how she had been immediately healed. 48 He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.”
49 While he was still speaking, someone came from the leader’s house to say, “Your daughter is dead; do not trouble the teacher any longer.” 50 When Jesus heard this, he replied, “Do not fear. Only believe, and she will be saved.” 51 When he came to the house, he did not allow anyone to enter with him, except Peter, John, and James, and the child’s father and mother. 52 They were all weeping and wailing for her; but he said, “Do not weep; for she is not dead but sleeping.” 53 And they laughed at him, knowing that she was dead. 54 But he took her by the hand and called out, “Child, get up!” 55 Her spirit returned, and she got up at once. Then he directed them to give her something to eat. 56 Her parents were astounded; but he ordered them to tell no one what had happened.
The Days for Girls Mission is simple: creating a more dignified, free and educated world through access to lasting menstrual health. Their tagline is: Every Girl. Everywhere. Period.
Each standard Days for Girls washable kit includes: 2 waterproof shields, 8 liners, 2 panties, 1 carry pouch, a 100% cotton wash cloth, a small bar of soap, and an ovulation chart and directions, all packaged in a drawstring bag. Those are the things you can see. What you might not notice immediately is that those kits also contain: dignity, education, and independence.
Women and girls around the world are vulnerable, especially when they are menstruating and don’t have a way to manage the flow. Periods are a social taboo in many parts of the world and each place has its unique social world to navigate. In some places in our world, menstruating girls and women are separated from their families, their communities, and the safety those groups provide.
But there is hope. When girls have access to menstrual products, they stay in school longer. When girls are able to finish school, they are less likely to marry at a young age, they are more likely to delay having children until their bodies are fully developed, and they have healthier, happier children. When women are educated, they improve the lives of their families and communities in all areas of health, wellness, and prosperity. When women (you know, half the world’s population) are educated, the world becomes a better place.
Making reusable menstrual pads wasn’t exactly how I pictured working to help vulnerable people. But why not?
Washable menstrual products are better for the environment, bodies, and in the long run save money. Having access to these washable pads frees people from systemic poverty by giving girls more days in school and women more days at work. This is social justice work.
I’ve also noticed they don’t smell as bad a disposable. And I like being connected to my menstruation because I’m learning more about my body and feeling less embarrassed. And the more I share my experience with using a cup, or period underwear, or washable pads, I am destigmatizing female bodies. I’ve noticed that by being open and honest about my own experiences, other people begin to open up about their experiences. And talking about periods becomes a pathway to talking about other sensitive issues. Suddenly, I’ve created a room in my church where anyone can come and feel safe and loved no matter what it is they need to talk about. In many ways it’s a sanctuary, a safe place, a place full of love and support, and a place where sorrow and gratitude are held by the gathered community.
But it took me a long time to realize that was what was happening. I was focused on inviting people in with the purpose of making kits and sending them to the people we were trying to help.
I Imagined, me and Jesus, and the volunteers making kits to send to 12-year-old girls who would need these to improve the trajectory of their lives. It was a clear path. We make the kits, they go to girls about to get their first period, and then those girls don’t have to miss school because of their period. They can continue their education, delay marriage and the start of their family until after they have completed school. When girls are educated, their communities are lifted out of poverty.
We had great success in our first sewing day, but also a lot of half-finished kits, so we needed to do another sewing event, and then another. Eventually, we registered with DFG as the Pittsburgh Chapter and other people found us. Students who needed service hours, women from the community correction center and rehab centers, people with special needs, and others who needed service hours or just wanted to do good in the world. The sewing room was getting crowded.
The Days for Girls project became so much more than I imagined. I thought that the path was clear. It would be me, and Jesus, and the volunteers working on kits, raising money to go on a trip so I could place those kits into the hands of 12-year-old girls, changing their lives forever. But now, there is a crowd of people pressing on us from all sides and Jesus suddenly stops and says who touched me. What do you mean Jesus? With all of these other people in the sewing room making kits, of course someone touched you, we’re busy here. Keep sewing, keep ironing, keep packing, we have to get to that little girl. Remember Jesus? The plan is, make the kits, fundraise, get on a plane, put the kit in the hand of a 12-year-old girl, we don’t have time to stop. We have to help vulnerable women. We have to empower little girls. We have to enable them to break the system that holds them back. But Jesus stops. He looks around. Who touched me? What do you mean Jesus? Jesus says, someone touched me, I felt healing happen. No Jesus, you didn’t, we are on the way to healing the world. Remember the little girl. Jesus stops. No, someone was healed just now. Who touched me?
Who touched me? And for a moment I can see the room through Jesus’ eyes. The project that I thought was leading us to help a 12-year-old girl, is really two missions that connect. The mission is about the 12-year-old girl, but the mission is also about how we get to her and who is with us along the way. Centering women, healing, restoring community is the goal and it is the way to the goal.
Jesus asks who touched me to make us look around. He takes a moment to center the marginalized woman. He healed her physically, he listened to her and centered her for a moment in the social group, he praised her faith, he called her beloved daughter. Jesus is a wholistic healer. He models for us centering the marginalized, listening to the voice of the oppressed, honoring all persons as beloved members of our family. So, our mission hasn’t changed, but we have paused and looked around, realizing that those who are among us as partners in service need healing too.
In Luke we are presented with two beautiful stories about women who had managed to find healing through Jesus. One about a little girl who is sick and eventually dies while waiting for her loved ones to bring Jesus to her. She is healed despite the laughter and scorn that greets Jesus when he finally arrives. The other is about a woman who through sheer will, and persistence, reached out for something bigger than herself when all else seemed lost. She is healed on the way. Jesus’ ministry of healing and reconciliation is for all along the way and not just for some at the end of the journey. And healing, faith, and reconciliation are all things that look different for everyone. The community that is looking for healing and finding it in those who are seeking healing too. When Jesus asks who touched me, we might ask who else has realized she needs help, she can’t do this life on her own, she needs a community and a higher power.
Ministry isn’t always what I think it is going to be. Sometimes ministry happens when ministry is interrupted. What we thought was going to be a mission project to empower women, became a mission project that empowers women who work to empower women. What we thought was a service project to help girls and women “out there” became a community of women working for healing, purpose, and community here. It is a group with the goal to help the 12-year-old girl at the receiving end of the kit, and it is a group with a goal to journey together to make the kit.
And together we have created a unique community where women are valued, encouraged, empowered, and most importantly, loved. It’s a community that no matter how you arrived, you leave different, maybe even healed.