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Who places people on the margins

February 13, 2012

Have you ever known someone with a heinous and marginalizing condition? Some suffering with HIV/AIDS, Alzheimer’s, MS, or a congenital birth imperfection? in your experience, how are these people treated? Why are they treated the way they are? Has society made it alright to treat these people in this demeaning way? That is the real question. Des God want us to treat people in a demeaning way? It is something for us to think about.
In our daily discourse, how many people do we encounter that can be considered on the margins of society? Does that include us? Ourselves? Our closest neighbors and friends? Our own families? Who decides what what places a person or group of people, on the fringes of society? Also, are the “fringes” static or evolving?
In our Lectionary’s Gospel reading from Mark, we have “a leper.” An outcast. A marginalized soul that approaches Jesus. A man who had the “faith” to say to Jesus, “If you choose, you can make me clean.” Clean, in the first century world, was “wholeness” or “purity” in the Judean Temple system. Jesus’ ministry to the people on the “fringes” of society were not-in-line with the established Temple system. Jesus ministered to everyone. The elite, the poor, and the outcast. It did not matter to Jesus what a person’s status was. Jesus wanted to be in communion/community with the people of God. The author of today’s Gospel, or at least the translators,uses the word “pity” to describe the emotion Jesus was experiencing. Is “pity” the best word here in this text? When we hear the word pity, what comes to mind? Do we feel sorry for someone? Do we feel that they have something wrong with them? D we blame the person’s parents for their condition? If the parents were better or godly people then their child would not have his or her disability. Does the word “pity” evoke the good southern phrase “bless your heart”? Or the thought of “put them out of their misery?” We have all probably heard some variation of these comments at some point in our journey.
The word in the Greek that is translated “pity” from the Greek inadequately describes the spontaneous reaction Jesus felt toward this man with leprosy. Researching the Greek, I have noticed that the word “compassion” would be a somewhat better, but not really. Jesus’ emotions, that are lost in translation, are indignant, compassion, empathy, and sympathy all rolled up into one word. That is where our English vocabulary falls short. We meet people in our daily lives that move us to emotions that each of those words are mixed up and going on simultaneously. Wow! How can we show compassion to the marginalized that Jesus show here?
Do we show our compassion by volunteering with food pantries, soup kitchens, visiting people in hospitals, nursing homes, hospices,or even the penal system? Are these example what we are called to do by being a follower of Christ Jesus or are these thing to make ourselves feel better? Do we lead by example or just give “lip service” to the causes of the day? This is exactly what we are called to do.
Reaching out to a person that is on the outside… whether it is outside of margins or the walls of our church… is the “call” that each of us have through our Baptism to minister to all God’s created. How do we reach out? Do we expect them to come to us? Or do we experience them in our daily vocations?
These questions are a part of how we as Dr. Martin Luther would have put it “Through our Baptism we have become a kingdom of priest.” Speaking only for myself, each of you have ministered to me in so many different ways. I have seen the light of Christ in the through each of you.
Another thing to consider in today’s Gospel lesson is why did Jesus sternly warn the leper not to say anything, but present himself to the Chief Priest? What was the author’s rationale for this request? Jesus’ request in the shows us Jesus’ subversive tendencies. The chief priests were the ones that, in the first century world, that could re-admit someone to regular society, and declare a person clean. Jesus’ comment was not to tell the chief priest how the leper became whole again, but for them to figure it out on their own. Jesus was not happy about the protocols that had been put in place by the temple authorities. A little further in the lesson is the phrase “as a testimony to them.” Shouldn’t that had been a testimony to God? No, not really.
The compassion that Jesus showed to the leper, but because he is a child of God that was kicked out of the mainstream society because of the “powers that be” didn’t want the leper. A person with leprosy in their midst would make the rest of the community unclean and contaminated.
Would we act as the leper did and tell everyone what Jesus for him? God has blessed each of us in very unique ways. As we go through the next week, let us consider how God through Christ Jesus has touched our lives and made us whole so that we can share God’s grace in our daily journey. In the confession, we ask God to uphold us by the Spirit that we may live and serve God. How are we going to God in our daily lives? How are we going to share that we are followers of Christ Jesus?
Let us pray.
Heavenly Creator, give us the strength to challenge the unjust actions in our world. May we be more like Christ Jesus to bring people on the margins of society back into communion with you and with us. We ask this for your name’s sake. AMEN!!!

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From → jimmyahornjr

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