Note to readers: During Lent Resurrection joins over 140 other congregations in Kansas City and others in Hong Kong and Ghana in reading the entire gospel of Mark.
To watch a video that includes this week’s Monday-Wednesday Mark passages, click here.
35 Early in the morning, well before sunrise, Jesus rose and went to a deserted place where he could be alone in prayer. 36 Simon and those with him tracked him down. 37 When they found him, they told him, “Everyone’s looking for you!”
38 He replied, “Let’s head in the other direction, to the nearby villages, so that I can preach there too. That’s why I’ve come.” 39 He traveled throughout Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and throwing out demons.
40 A man with a skin disease approached Jesus, fell to his knees, and begged, “If you want, you can make me clean.”
41 Incensed [or filled with compassion], Jesus reached out his hand, touched him, and said, “I do want to. Be clean.” 42 Instantly, the skin disease left him, and he was clean. 43 Sternly, Jesus sent him away, 44 saying, “Don’t say anything to anyone. Instead, go and show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifice for your cleansing that Moses commanded. This will be a testimony to them.” 45 Instead, he went out and started talking freely and spreading the news so that Jesus wasn’t able to enter a town openly. He remained outside in deserted places, but people came to him from everywhere.
The only person who might have ever have properly felt he should (or could) try to fix the world all at once was Jesus. But he didn’t! With a whole town excitedly waiting to see him, he rose early and went to a quiet place to pray. When his disciples nervously said, “Everyone is looking for you,” Jesus said, “Let’s head in the other direction.” Approached by a social outcast with a skin disease, which barred him from his community as a “leper,” Jesus did the unthinkable: he touched him and healed him.
Lord Jesus, you knew the healing power of touching the untouchable. Help me know how to reach out in ways that care about and seek to heal today’s untouchables. Amen.
* Donald English, The Message of Mark. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, USA, 1992, p. 62.
In our story from the Gospel of Mark today, Jesus healed a man with a skin disease (many skin diseases were classified together as leprosy in the Bible). People with skin diseases were declared unclean and unfit to participate in religious activity. Furthermore, those who had been in contact with someone with leprosy would also be deemed unclean. Lepers were shunned from society and would have to go out of their way to stay a safe distance from others.
Does this sound at all familiar? We could never have imagined using the words “social distancing” or “quarantine” on a daily basis a year ago. Yet, over the last year we’ve tried our best to keep 6 feet away from everyone, just in case they (or we) were unknowingly “unclean.” Trying hard to follow the ever-changing guidance for a new and unpredictable disease, we’ve masked up, stayed home, online ordered everything, meticulously sanitized our hands and everything in our homes, held socially distanced driveway gatherings, learned how to work and socialize over Zoom and crossed the street so as to keep distanced from others while on a neighborhood walk.
There is so much more to say about our experiences over the last year. So much illness, grief, job loss and loss of life. And amazing stories of communities coming together safely to support those in need and health care workers putting themselves at risk to care for our loved ones. But I’m attempting to stay focused on this story about Jesus reaching out and touching a man who was separated from society, who no one else would touch. How lonely and isolated was this man’s life? In desperation and with courage he asked Jesus to make him clean. And Jesus, filled with compassion, did not hesitate to touch him. To heal him.
Many of us have felt a bit like the leper over the last year. We long to hug our loved ones and friends. We miss the high fives, handshakes and passing of the peace during worship. We long for human touch and for face-to-face conversation and fellowship.
With the rollout of vaccines over the last several weeks, there does seem to be light at the end of the tunnel. We’ve been advised not to let up on the disease fighting practices yet, but there does seem to be hope on the horizon.
As many of you know, Church of the Resurrection has served as a vaccine site for Advent Health over the last few weeks. I’ve been privileged to volunteer for a few of these clinics, where over 12,000 doses of vaccines have been administered. It’s a great joy to play a small role in providing a warm greeting, reassurance and gentle guidance through our large facility.
And I’m telling you… God’s power is working in big ways through the medical professionals administering these vaccines. As people enter our facility, though their faces are covered with masks, their emotions are apparent. Some are fearful, nervous, and apprehensive having hardly left their homes over the past year. Others are overjoyed and almost giddy with anticipation of the freedom the vaccine will (eventually) provide them.
In talking with people at the clinics, most all of them say they are most looking forward to the vaccine allowing them to hug their grandchildren and to gather with family and friends. They miss simple human touch and in-person connection.
I can’t help but make the connection between Jesus and the medical professionals administering the vaccine. Like Jesus, they are filled with compassion and reach out their hand to touch and provide healing (through a shot in the arm of vaccine) to those who are isolated and separated from loved ones. Once again deemed “clean”, those vaccinated have hope of gathering together with loved ones and in community again.
We don’t know what awaits us with this disease. We know this pandemic is not yet over and it will take time to administer the vaccine throughout our communities. But, I am grateful for all the people God works through - the scientists, researchers, doctors, nurses, care givers, administrators and so, so many more who provide care, compassion and hope for our future
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