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2/15/2009 - The Sixth Sunday After the Epiphany - The Rev. Susan N. Blue

posted May 21, 2010, 6:20 PM by Unknown user   [ updated May 21, 2010, 6:21 PM by Terry Brady ]
A few years ago a group appeared on the internet called “The Clergy Letter Project.” It was dedicated to teaching about evolution and taking the opposite view of the rapidly growing number of literal Biblical translation believers. Until this year, their views were mostly written from a Christian perspective, but now have been redesigned to incorporate Jewish Rabbis and other faith groups. Appropriately, this year, “Evolution Sunday,” falls on the weekend of Darwin’s 200th birthday. It is hard to miss that celebration as articles about Darwin and Lincoln are running neck and neck on the cover of magazines and newspapers. What, you might ask, does this have to do with Jesus’ healing of the leper in Mark’s Gospel for this morning?
First, the literalists have justified their stance on gay marriage, abortion, women clergy and other women’s rights on selected passages taken out of context in the Old Testament and the Pauline letters. I hear the Gospels quoted only rarely and then with little regard for their context. Further, while embracing arguments from before the first century BC to support their claims, they also ignore the more unpalatable sections of that document that include stoning, Leverite marriage, extreme dietary laws and war.
Our Gospel for today, as did last week’s, presents us with a compassionate Christ. In the dialogue a leper falls at the feet of Jesus begging to be healed saying: “If you choose you can make me clean.” Moved with pity Jesus touched the man and said: “I do choose. Be made clean!” Jesus followed the footsteps of Elisha who healed Naaman, a leper. In doing so both were illustrating the unlimited power and compassion of God. Jesus demonstrated that the love of God was for all people, not just the chosen few. As a result, through touch, moved by pity, he was able to cleanse the man and make him whole.
Jesus showed no partiality except for the poor and the outcast. His compassion extended to all people: the sick, the poor, the outcast, children, women, tax collectors and other people on the margin of society. He illustrated that the Kingdom of God that was breaking through was for everyone. In the Kingdom all people would be healed and made whole. He then charged his followers to go and do the same even after his death.
This understanding reflects the two mythical creation stories in Genesis. As myth they are not to be understood as being literally true but pointing to a truth. They are not, as Darwin and we understand, a factual account of the creation of the world, the waters, the heavens, plant life, animals and human beings. The great truth, however, is that we are all profoundly interconnected. Humankind was given the charge to care for the created world, including one anther. Hence our deep concern for preservation of all animal and plant species, our waters, and our air. Stewardship of this world was given to us in creation. It is not simply a soapbox political issue but a matter of survival for everything and everyone. The abuse of any part of God’s world abuses the entire world.
We are called to care for all of God’s created world. The environmental and animal issues are pretty straight forward, but how are we to care for one another? We are to be like Jesus reaching out to the suffering through touch. We can never underestimate the power of touch. When I was first ordained I went to the hospital to see a young man who had to tell his parents in one day that he was gay, that he had AIDS, and, as a result, lymphoma. He was terrified. Further, those were early days in that crisis, and even the people cleaning his room came in dressed like bee keepers. At that point we didn’t understand how the disease could or could not be spread. I was frightened also. Something in me knew, however, that I had to touch him, to hold his hand and give him a motherly embrace. I’m no saint and it wasn’t easy, but somehow God helped me to do what was needed. In speaking with doctors and nurses at Sloan Kettering several months later I learned that all of them had had the same experience. The young man and I bonded that day and, as a result, he had someone he could trust with his tragic story, and I was given an incredible opportunity to listen and to learn.
Touching is not only physical, but can be emotional and intellectual as well. It is not easy. We risk when we touch. We risk being broken open and known in a new way. We risk learning and being healed ourselves in ways that we could never have imagined. We are a part of all that we have met. We share a common ancestry with living things and are charged to care for them with a radical stewardship.
God created this universe, this world and all that is in it. When finished, God declared that all was good, and God loved that which had been made. I believe that we are charged to be partners with the Holy One in the ongoing creation of our world and the bringing in of the Kingdom in all of its fullness.
It seems to me that this is a beautiful and important truth for meditation as we approach the Great Forty Days of Lent. I invite you to join with me in praying and meditating during these days on the radical interconnectedness we have with one another and the world. We might ask what this means for us as individuals, for this parish, this community, this denomination and the worldwide faith communities.
Dorothy Day has written:

“If I did not believe, if I did not make what is called an act of faith (and each at of faith increases our capacity for faith), if I did not have faith that the works of mercy do lighten the sum total of suffering in the world, so that those who are suffering in this ghastly struggle somehow mysteriously find their pain lifted and some balm of consolation poured on their wounds – if I did not believe these things, the problem of evil would indeed be overwhelming.” (Copied)