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Lent Day 32

Man Healed of Leprosy, Luke 17: 11-19

My first thoughts were that it should have been easy to keep the disease hidden because everyone’s bodies were covered with layers of clothes. The only parts of the body that were ever seen were the face, hands and feet. Guess what parts of the body leprosy affects? You got it — disfiguring skin lesions and deformities with the eyes, nose, ears, hands, and feet. Yuck.
Apparently, leprosy is caused by a bacterial infection which is spread by cough or contact with nasal fluid. It was feared as a highly contagious and occurred more commonly among those living in poverty. On top of the physical issues, leprosy has always carried a strong social stigma, the feeling that the person is shameful and should not accepted in society. And we aren’t just talking about 2,000 years ago. An example was our own 50th state. In Hawaii, sugar planters supported legislation to quarantine persons with leprosy in the belief that this would prevent its transmission.

Anyone remember the TV show, Marcus Welby, M.D.? It was a medical drama from the 1970s starring Robert Young as a family practitioner with a kind bedside manner. I remember one episode where a woman diagnosed in the initial stages of leprosy. Even though the disease was completely and effectively treated, her fiancé didn’t want to marry her because of what the bible says about the disease. Talk about a stigma that never dies.

Where have we held on to disapproval or discontent with people or groups just because they have behaviors / characteristics that make it easy to distinguish them from others in society? Maybe those with mental or emotional challenges? Those that eat way too much or those that refuse to eat anything? Those with alcohol or drug addictions (which are diseases not behaviors)? Where is God calling us to reach and embrace those folks even if it makes our lives more difficult? We have the power to heal when we embrace those that have been shunned by others. Let us use that healing power today and always.

Lent Day 31

Pharisee Host, Luke 14: 1-6,15-24

I ‘resemble’ that.

I don’t know about you but several of these devotions have started hitting a little too close to home. For the most part, the only folks that Jesus takes issue with (probably because they are the ones that take issue with him), are those that should have known better or done more. He doesn’t beat up on the folks that need help, doesn’t even tell them to ‘follow me’ (presumably because they are smart enough to do that on their own), but those that have made their religion the focal point of their lives are the ones that come under fire. Is that us?

Many of you have been hanging in here with me for the past 30 days as we have journeyed to the cross. We have been reading scripture, thinking and talking about this God we worship – no different from the Pharisees and Sadducees of Jesus’ day. During Jesus’ lifetime, the Sadducees had control over worship in the temple (that would be me), and the Pharisees had control over the day to day study and disciplines (that would be you). Why is it that these folks just don’t get it?

We forget (to our own peril) that while God is constant, God is always doing something new. “See, I am doing a new thing. Now it springs forth (Tel Aviv in Hebrew); do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland” Isaiah 43:19. But we don’t like a new thing as much as we like old and familiar. We like predictable and that ain’t God. Every time we understand one aspect of our relationship with the Divine, God wants to take us to a new level. There is no end to God’s learning curve. To be a disciple is to go for the PhD and nothing less.

The folks that Jesus fusses at are those that have closed their minds to God’s redeeming activity in the world. They are so sure of what they know that they refuse to consider anything new or different as being sanctioned by God. So, the questions for us is, where is God trying to get us to view things from a new and unfamiliar perspective – about God, our neighbors or ourselves? Where do we need to add charity or remove judgment? Just for today, let us truly consider how God might be doing that new thing in our world – outside of what makes us comfortable, and let’s get onboard. Let’s ‘resemble’ God and not ask God to ‘resemble’ us.

Lent Day 30

Woman Healed of a Crippling Disease, Luke 13: 10-17

We are so touchy about our traditions, aren’t we? Women – Remember when it was scandalous to wear white shoes before Easter or after Labor Day? And heaven forbid we even thought of wearing pants to church. We would have been ostracized. I guess the men had their own traditions – coat and tie, even if it was 95 degrees. My grandmother’s generation had to wear hats and gloves to church, or you didn’t go. Reading this devotion might make us realize that we should not have been appalled when someone broke with our precious traditions, we should have been thrilled that they even showed up.

Think of the times that someone walked into church in a manner we would consider ‘poorly dressed’. They were not greeted or welcomed, they were looked down upon. Surely, they should know better and we were happy to point out their shortcomings – or at least whisper them loudly behind their backs. We failed to see that God had sent us a new disciple – someone needing our love and care but we refused delivery, hoping that next time God would send a more appropriate model. Oh, what arrogance we have.

The woman in the passage today had her heart’s desire fulfilled, she was out of pain and able to stand with dignity for the first time in almost two decades. Is anyone in leadership running to celebrate with her; to praise God and give thanks for this amazing miracle? N-o-o-o-o! They are berating the man that healed her because it went against their traditions. Surely, he could have waited one more day to perform that healing. One more day? We would rather have someone suffer with chronic pain than adjust our traditions. Are we kidding? If we have ever been with or suffered from severe pain ourselves (physical or emotional), we would not tolerate one more minute of pain if could be helped. Here they ask for the women to wait another 1,440 minutes – that isn’t too much to ask for the sake of our tradition, is it? When did we get so callous?

As we journey to the cross together, let’s examine our behaviors, expectations and beliefs to see where we have allowed love to tradition to take precedence over love of God and neighbor. Our traditions should show our love for God and neighbor, not take away from them.

Lent Day 29

Lazarus, Luke 10: 38-42

(I feel for Lazarus. This story made me think of all the times I probably embarrassed my brothers in front of their friends. Sorry, bros!)

I think what we see with Jesus and this family is true friendship. Lazarus, Mary and Martha are mentioned in more than one story and in more than one gospel. These folks were truly friends with Jesus. They had him in their home, they shared with him meals and morning coffee. They were free to be themselves. Can’t you picture this? Mary decides that this is her house and she wants to sit and listen to Jesus in the living room. Martha comes in and asks Jesus to make Mary help her in the kitchen. This is every day, down-to-earth feelings and conversations. This is how Jesus would like us to relate with him.

I would definitely consider all three of these people disciples of Jesus but I do not think they travelled with Jesus, rather Jesus travelled to them. Theirs was the home, the safe haven where Jesus felt comfortable, where he could rest and recharge. Bethany is not too far from Jerusalem and it is believed that Jesus may have stayed with them during the Passover on that last week of his life. Can you imagine what it was like for him that last week? Having a place where he could be at peace, surrounded by friends who didn’t want anything from him was probably one of the greatest gifts that anyone could offer.

Is ours a home that Jesus would travel to for conversation and respite? I don’t mean is it clean and tidy, I mean would he feel like he was welcomed and around friends? Can we sit down and just have a cup of coffee and some conversation with him or do we view him more like a Spiritual Santa Clause, someone we only go to give us what we want? I don’t’ think that Mary, Martha and Lazarus asked Jesus to do parlor tricks when he was in their home. I think they treated him like a friend, a friend they greatly respected and admired, but someone they cared about and enjoyed talking to.

During the season of Lent people typically give up something, so why don’t we give up asking Jesus to do something for us. Why don’t we see if for just the next two weeks, we can be the friend who enjoys Jesus’ company and not the person who only seeks him out when they need something. Agreed?

Lent Day 28

Expert in the Law, Luke 10: 25-37

The Good Samaritan. Talk about a classic story that has stood the test of time. Even folks who have never set foot within a church have heard the term Good Samaritan, could probably tell you that it was from the bible, and might even know that it has to do with being a good neighbor. Once again, we see the timelessness of biblical truth.
Here is the question that began this classic story: But the lawyer wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” (Luke 10:29). The verb justify here does not mean to defend as much as it means to make righteous with God. It is one of Paul favorite verbs—he uses it 14 times in the book of Romans and 6 times in the book of Galatians. For Paul, this is the crux of the death and resurrection of Jesus:

For we maintain that we are justified by faith apart from observing the law. (Roman 3:38)
Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 5:1)
Yet we know that a person is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So, we too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified. (Galatians 2:16)

The lawyer wanted to be made right with God by using his intellect. While he understood the letter of the law, he clearly missed the point.

In many ways, we all do that from time to time. We want to justify or defend why ‘those people’ really are not our neighbor — They are not from here, they do not live like us, or follow our rules. They talk funny and worship idols. Unfortunately, as you can see, God has been there, heard that, and put those arguments to bed over 2,000 years ago.

Who are those people in our lives today that we do not want to call neighbor? To whom are we to show mercy and compassion so that we too can, “go and do likewise?”