Wednesday Wondering - August 16, 2023
Matthew 8: 1 - 4
When Jesus had come down from the mountain, great crowds followed him; and there was a leper who came to him and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, if you choose, you can make me clean.” He stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, “I do choose. Be made clean!” Immediately his leprosy was cleansed. Then Jesus said to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone; but go, show yourself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.”
I have been thinking a lot about who, many of us, tend to gravitate towards in our own lives. Van Jones, the American news and political commentator, author, and lawyer, speaks to what he calls our ‘resistance bubbles.’ This is our tendency in life to surround ourselves with people and groups that think the exact same way that we do. It is our resistance to actually engaging with people who are different from ourselves, or those people with whom we would never engage with in our lives. This does not mean that you have to agree with them, but it is about engaging with those who have different ideas, different spiritualities, different life stories. Our scripture from Matthew is one of those stories. Jesus sees someone that everyone else in society has shunned and rather than following what everyone else is doing, Jesus does something different. Richard Beck, author and professor of psychology at Abilene Christian University, speaks to this story in the following way, "What is intriguing about this story is the sequence. Jesus touches the leper first. Then the command "Be clean!" is offered. That is, Jesus' first move is into ritual defilement. By first touching the leper, Jesus intentionally and willfully seeks contamination, standing in solidarity with the unclean. This is striking because the expected sequence would be the initial purification followed by contact. Jesus, surprisingly for the onlookers, does the opposite. Contact occurs first. Purification follows solidarity. And one can only wonder how various Christian communities approach this sequence in their own missional endeavours.” This challenges each of us to move beyond our own resistance bubbles and to become intentional in our work to engage with others who might just be different than we are, those whom others might actually shun. It is the challenge of our faith, to engage with those we see as not the same. It is the challenge of our faith to engage with those whom society might deem unworthy. It is the challenge of our faith to be with those, to include those, whom society has shunned. Jesus spent his time with the sinners, the tax collectors, those who were seen as unclean, and in doing so he surrounded himself with those who were different and they knew that they mattered. Jesus didn’t just do this once, when he was feeling charitable, he did it throughout his entire life. We are called to the same life. We are called to live lives where everyone matters regardless of where they might find themselves in society. We are called to include everyone, those whom others have shunned, so that we might truly follow Christ. We are called to include the outcast to engage with those whom society has deemed as ‘less than.’ Jesus fought against those who would continue to sow discontent, those who would continue to marginalize, isolate, and ostracize, all in the name of their own gains and their own narrow views of the world. We, in following, Jesus are challenged to be those who see the worth in the ones that others have deemed unworthy. Jesus challenges us to touch the unclean, to be in solidarity with all those who have been cast aside, not just in word, but in deed. This is what I think it means to be a Christian today.
God of the marginalized, help us to see those times in our lives when we are surrounding ourselves only with those who think like we do, who act like we do, who believe exactly like we do, who are always included in our resistance bubbles. Give us the courage to be among those who society has deemed unworthy, ‘less than,’ unclean, and give us the wisdom and the eyes to find you there. Help us to truly follow Jesus on a life of inclusivity and acceptance. We ask this in the name of the one who ate with the sinners and tax collectors, your son, Jesus. Amen.