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    • Sunday service - Holy Communion October 2, 2022 at 9:30 am – 11:00 am Grace Church 215 Pleasant Street, Sheldon, VT Website: www.gracechurchsheldon.orgTime:  09:30 AM Eastern Time (US and Canada)        Every week on Sun.Join Zoom Meetinghttps://us02web.zoom.us/j/83929911344?pwd=alZQTWZMN0ZkWFFPS1hmNjNkZkU2UT09Meeting ID: 839 2991 1344Password: Call for detailsOne tap mobile+13126266799,,83929911344#,,1#,816603# US (Chicago)+19294362866,,83929911344#,,1#,816603# US (New York)Dial by your location        +1 312 626 6799 US (Chicago)        +1 929 436 2866 US (New York)Meeting ID:…
    • Sunday service - Holy Communion October 9, 2022 at 9:30 am – 11:00 am Grace Church 215 Pleasant Street, Sheldon, VT Website: www.gracechurchsheldon.orgTime:  09:30 AM Eastern Time (US and Canada)        Every week on Sun.Join Zoom Meetinghttps://us02web.zoom.us/j/83929911344?pwd=alZQTWZMN0ZkWFFPS1hmNjNkZkU2UT09Meeting ID: 839 2991 1344Password: Call for detailsOne tap mobile+13126266799,,83929911344#,,1#,816603# US (Chicago)+19294362866,,83929911344#,,1#,816603# US (New York)Dial by your location        +1 312 626 6799 US (Chicago)        +1 929 436 2866 US (New York)Meeting ID:…
    • Sunday service - Holy Communion October 16, 2022 at 9:30 am – 11:00 am Grace Church 215 Pleasant Street, Sheldon, VT Website: www.gracechurchsheldon.orgTime:  09:30 AM Eastern Time (US and Canada)        Every week on Sun.Join Zoom Meetinghttps://us02web.zoom.us/j/83929911344?pwd=alZQTWZMN0ZkWFFPS1hmNjNkZkU2UT09Meeting ID: 839 2991 1344Password: Call for detailsOne tap mobile+13126266799,,83929911344#,,1#,816603# US (Chicago)+19294362866,,83929911344#,,1#,816603# US (New York)Dial by your location        +1 312 626 6799 US (Chicago)        +1 929 436 2866 US (New York)Meeting ID:…

Epiphany 6B RCL February 12, 2012

2 Kings 5: 1-14
Psalm 30
1 Corinthians 9:24-27
Mark 1 40-43

 In our opening reading, we have the wonderful story of Naaman, a powerful general who has leprosy. Scholars tell us that the word “leprosy” in the Bible does not necessarily mean the horribly disfiguring  ailment which we call leprosy, Hansen’s Disease.  In biblical times, many different kinds of skin ailments were called leprosy.  These diseases all caused great distress for their victims. In Jewish law, anyone with such a disease was considered unclean. More on this later.

 Naaman is an excellent general and a very successful and wealthy  man. Except for this one problem, his life is perfect. The great preacher and theologian Herbert O’Driscoll says that he wonders why someone in the nineteenth century didn’t make an opera out of the story of Naaman’s healing.After many ups and downs, he finally does wash himself seven times in the Jordan river and is immediately healed, but it is entirely through the efforts of servants and other little people that he finally sees reason and follows Elisha’s simple directions.

 Naaman is a foreigner and is not a Jew, yet God still heals him. His money and his power have nothing to do with this happy outcome. It is purely the gift of a loving God.

 In our gospel for today, we have another healing of a leper. If you had a skin condition in Jesus’ time, as we noted earlier, you were considered ritually unclean.  Biblical scholar Paul Galbreath tells us that anyone with such a condition  had to go to the priests who would determine how serious his condition was and would make a treatment plan. If the disease was in an acute stage, the person would be quarantined to determines the severity and infectious nature of the condition. Galbreath says that if the person showed no signs of healing, he could be banished. Herbert O’Driscoll writes that a person with such a skin condition had to stay 150 yards away from any other human being, except another leper. In addition to the physical suffering inflicted by the disease, the isolation and stigma and loneliness were horrendous.

 I share this information to allow us to get a sense of the desperation of this man. We wonder how many times this person had tried to approach Jesus. We think what it must have taken for him to get to this point. He calls out to Jesus, “If you choose, you can make me clean.” Of course Jesus chooses to make this man whole, He reaches out, touches him, and says, “I do choose. Be made clean!”

 It is almost impossible for us to understand all the levels of meaning in this. In those days, to be ritually unclean was almost worse than being dead. This is why the priest and the Levite walk by on the other side rather than touching the man who has fallen among thieves in the parable of the Good Samaritan. In order to obey the law, they have to choose allowing someone to die rather than risking becoming ritually unclean.

When Jesus reaches out and touches this leper, he not only takes the risk of getting the man’s disease, he becomes ritually unclean. He tells the man to go to the priest and make the offering required in order for them to declare him clean. That’s what you had to do. The priest had to say that you were well now and you could return to your family and friends, associate with people, talk with people, and generally become human again.

But Jesus can’t go to the priest and be declared clean. From now on, he is going to be fighting this system of ritual purity and impurity. Paul Galbreath writes, “ Thus the point of the healing is to press the issue of injustice with religious leaders who uphold laws in ways that violate God’s mercy for those who are sick and weak. Jesus sends the man to the priest in order that he may provide witness over and against a system that has isolated him from contact with members of his community.” (Galbreath, New Proclamation, Year B 2012, p.94.)

Jesus transcended the purity code. He reached out and touched everyone you weren’t supposed to associate with. We can ask ourselves, what kinds of folks do we consider impure or not quite up to snuff? People with HIV/Aids, drug addicts, alcoholics, those who have served time in prison, migrant workers, all these groups come to mind. We still have this tendency to say these people are in, but those people are out. As we run the spiritual race, as we develop our askesis, our athletic training of the spirit which Paul described so eloquently, it’s so important for us to remember that, in our Lord’s kingdom, everyone is sitting at the table.  Everyone is at the feast.

This past Tuesday, I had the privilege of meeting the Rev. Kim Erno, a native of Swanton who has spent the past ten years in Mexico doing all kinds of creative ministries which we will be hearing more about in coming months. For some time now, Kim has felt a call to return home and work with our Mexican migrant workers here in Franklin County.

Beth and Jan will have the opportunity to meet with Kim on February 16 at a gathering of folks from churches around this area and they will be discussing this new ministry.

This new ministry, called FARM (Franklin Alliance for Rural Ministries) is a wonderful response to today’s gospel. Kim is now working in the areas of Mexico from which most of our farm workers come. He speaks Spanish fluently and, when he returns and begins this ministry, he will be able to make personal connections between our brothers working here and their families in Mexico. He told me that the men working here do not have Spanish as their native language. Their native tongue is Mayan. Their roots go way back. Kim is also creating a network in Canada with people who help migrant workers north of the border, so we have all kinds of borders being crossed, barriers being broken, brothers and sisters becoming part of God’s loving family.

At the end of our visit, Kim and I came up and knelt at the altar rail and prayed together. I would ask that we pray together now.

Loving and gracious God, thank you for making us one in You. We pray for Kim as he prepares to come back home. Fill him with your grace, lead him in your light and guide him in your Spirit. We pray for those who will meeting on February 16, that your Spirit will be with them. And we pray for our migrant workers and those who are ministering and will be ministering to them. May they be surrounded by your love and filled with your grace. In Jesus’ name.

Amen.

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