Beginning with the Gospel reading for the day Fr. Richard sites Luke 1:7 ____ "But
they had no children, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were getting on
While many healing stories are recorded in the four Gospels, there are more healings
of lepers than any others. Jesus is always healing lepers. Fr. Richard explains,
"'Lepers' were people who, for some reason, were told they were physically
unacceptable. They were people who were considered taboo, contagious, disabled,
dangerous or excluded for all kinds of reasons. The message seems to be: 'You're
not doing it right' or 'You are not acceptable as a member of society.'"
So, before their experience of Jesus we have barren women and lepers. After they
are touched by Jesus the women are fertile and the lepers are again humanly connected.
Richard talks about this transformation in this way .... "Barren women and
lepers are, of course, stand-ins for all of us as classic "before"
pictures. Fertile women and realigned lepers are also stand-ins for all of us
as the triumphant "after" pictures."
The Question: Who do you know who has been rejected from your community and who you
can reintroduce and thus heal?
It saddens me to say that I had lots of ideas about groups of people I might hope
to reintroduce into our church community in a positive and vital way. But my
heart is drawn to those who long ago experienced "before" Jesus, followed
by "after" Jesus, followed by "whatever comes next" While
there are the obvious groups who feel separated from church communities our elders
seem to often be both present and excluded at the same time.
I suspect our insensitivity is because we just aren't paying attention. The elders
in our own church community are well loved and respected. But I'm not sure we
are conveying to them how important they are for our ongoing work and how necessary
they are as our wisdom bearers. I know that my brothers and sisters from Cochran
Chapel would say, "We would never reject our elders!" And to that I
would need to say, "But are we sure they don't feel rejected?"
Do they know how grateful we are for their years of commitment to our community?
Do they feel that they have a full voice when night meetings are not convenient or
possible for them to attend and our community makes most decisions at those gatherings?
Can they count on us to call and check on them when they miss a Sunday or two?
Do we let them know how grateful we are for the years past when the vitality of our
community was defined by their generosity and participation?
Perhaps we just need to be really sure that all who are present are fully included.