Posts Tagged ‘sermon for Epiphany 6B’

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What a poignant question that is.  The reality is that sometimes we don’t receive the relief and the cures that we long for and pray for.  Here is a sermon for the Sixth Sunday After Epiphany, Year B, that speaks to that question and to that reality.

The Answer Is Yes!

A Sermon on 2 Corinthians 1:18-22 and Mark 1:40-45

It is no wonder the sick man thought that Jesus’ answer might be “no.”  No was the answer he got all the time.  Leprosy, even in its mildest forms, what today we would call psoriasis, was one of those conditions that meant you were unclean: impure, unholy, unacceptable to God.  Could you live in town like normal people?  No!  Could you come into the precincts of God’s house? No!  Could you come into the fellowship of God’s people?  No!

People with leprosy had to live alone outside the town walls, wear disheveled clothes, cover their mouths and cry out “Unclean! Unclean!” whenever any normal person was near.  Work was out of the question. To survive they depended on pennies tossed at them by softhearted people.  The givers were careful not to get too close, though.  Any contact with an unclean person would render them temporarily unclean and banned from the community and the house of worship themselves.

If Jesus said “No!” to the man’s request, that would be no surprise. Jesus might be just as disgusted by the man’s condition and as wary of contamination as everyone else.  God frowned on those who were unclean—that was common knowledge.  Jesus’ answer could very well be “no!”

There are times when it’s tempting to conclude that Jesus’ answer to suffering people now is “no.”   How many times have we prayed and prayed and prayed for sick or troubled people, but we see little or no positive result?  How our hearts long for a complete cure!  How our souls beg God for help!  Yet no cure is forthcoming.  The sickness progresses, and they die.  Jesus’ answer then seems to be “No, I don’t want to heal you.  It’s not my will.”

When people develop modern equivalents of leprosy, such as HIV infection, “no” is what they often hear from the community, and even from the church.  “No, God doesn’t want to heal you,” some are quick to answer.  “Your sickness is a punishment from God.  You deserve to be sick and more.”

And then there’s the mechanical model of healing: God will say “no” to your request for healing unless you satisfy the faith requirement.  “Let’s measure your faith,” God says in this model.  “No, your faith is not quite strong enough.  The answer to your prayer is no.”

But what about people with permanent disabilities?  Is “no” the answer Jesus gives them?  It certainly is the answer humanity often gives them.  Education is just one arena where this happens.  Parents of children with severe disabilities go to the officials and plead, “Could you please provide an assistant so my child can go to school?  Could we please work out an Individualized Education Plan that will help my child learn?”

Learning is a crucial form of healing for these children and for everyone.  But consider this comment by someone in the U.S. Department of Education some years ago.  The official said that people with disabilities are inevitably morally responsible in some way for their condition.  In other words, they deserve their misfortune, and therefore it’s okay to make only a small effort to provide them an education.  That official’s comments sum up a common attitude. Some school officials and some other parents seem to wish special needs children would simply go away.  They want to say “no,” and they will say “no” if you don’t hang in there and advocate for your child.  Is God’s answer “no” too? (more…)

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