the tentmaker

daily thoughts on the common lectionary

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Location: Sharpsburg, Georgia, United States

"...because he was of the same trade, he stayed with them, and they worked together — by trade they were tentmakers." Acts 18:3. Tentmaker is a title taken by bi-vocational pastors. As such, I am both a pastor and a project manager. I am a pastor of a local congregation of moderate, accepting and affirming people who worship in the Baptist tradition. We call our church "Hope Memorial Baptist" and we are about 40 in number. I am also a project manager of major construction projects for the State of Georgia. My home and church is in rural Coweta County, between Peachtree City and Newnan, with a mailing address of Sharpsburg, Georgia.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Sunday 02/12/06 Year B - Epiphany 6

2 Kings 5:1-14
Psalm 30
1 Corinthians 9:24-27
Mark 1:40-45

Are You Involved in What God Is Doing?

Leprosy was the ultimate disease. It was the ultimate weakness. Lepers were outcasts from society. They were forced to live in separated colonies that were often located near the pits where the trash was accumulated and burned. Those places were called Gehenna, or Hell. They were considered to be no more than the garbage where they lived. According to the Law in Leviticus 13, such people had to cry "Unclean! Unclean!" as they walked along the streets to warn people they were coming. Like wearing a Scarlet Letter, or having your name on a public list of offenders.

The Arameans were enemies of Israel. Naaman was the commander of the army of the King of Aram. He was a powerful man. He was a proud man. His every word struck fear in the hearts of the men under his command. Such men do not admit of weakness of any kind. Such men find cure for the common cold by going out and killing something.

But Naaman had been struck with leprosy. He was in danger of losing his command, his influence over his men, his power, his place in Aramean society, and even his home. He was desperate to find a cure. He was so desperate that he was willing to humble himself and go into enemy territory, seeking the prophet of YHWH, the god of the very people he would meet in combat.

As Jesus went from town to town in the Galilee, he was approached by a leper. It was strictly forbidden for a leper to come anywhere near a healthy person. But this leper was bold. And he was filled with faith in the power and the goodness of Jesus. "Hey, Jesus! You could make me clean, if you wanted to." Verse 41 says that Jesus was moved with ptiy. Some ancient manuscripts say that he was moved with anger. No matter which word reflects the real mood of Jesus, we know that his emotion was intense.

What had He come out to do? Remember the verse from Isaiah that Jesus read in the synogogue in Nazareth: Isaiah 61:1-2

The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me; he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners; to proclaim the year of the LORD's favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn;

Jesus was not doing his own thing. Jesus was involved in doing God's thing. Jesus said, "I Will!" That Jesus had healed this disease was not remarkable. After all, he healed those born blind. He said to the paralytic "Get up, pick up your bed, and walk." He made the Deaf to hear. He drove out the unclean spirits. And he raised the Dead. But the real significance of this particular miracle is that Jesus was faced with the ultimate outcast of society, the lowest of the low in the class system. And Jesus demonstrated that what God was doing was including. He was affirming. He was accepting. He was including and affirming and accepting of this person who was outcast, infirm, and ostracised by even his own family.

Before the calling of St. Francis of Assissi he had a similar experience.
One day while riding through the countryside, Francis, the man who loved beauty, who was so picky about food, who hated deformity, came face to face with a leper. Repelled by the appearance and the smell of the leper, Francis nevertheless jumped down from his horse and kissed the hand of the leper. When his kiss of peace was returned, Francis was filled with joy. As he rode off, he turned around for a last wave, and saw that the leper had disappeared. He always looked upon that event as a test from God. A test that he had passed.

Some of you may recongize the name Bono. Not Sonny Bono, but Bono, the lead singer of the Irish rock group U2. Now U2 is not your average rock band and Bono is not your average rock singer. Bono has been standing up and speaking out for good causes for years. But it did strike me as unusual to find him as the invited speaker at the Whitehouse Prayer Breakfast. But there he was standing in front of politicians, national clergy and other people of great import. And they were listening intently to what he had to say. And what he had to say was important. It was important enough to gain the attention of so august an audience.

Here is a portion of what he said.

God is in the slums, in the cardboard boxes where the poor play house... God is in the silence of a mother who has infected her child with a virus that will end both their lives... God is in the cries heard under the rubble of war… God is in the debris of wasted opportunity and lives, and God is with us if we are with them...

A number of years ago, I met a wise man who changed my life. In countless ways, large and small, I was always seeking the Lord’s blessing. I was saying, you know, I have a new song, look after it… I have a family, please look after them… I have this crazy idea...

And this wise man said: STOP.

He said, stop asking God to bless what YOU are doing.

Get involved in what God is doing—because it’s already blessed.

Well, God, as I said, is with the poor. That, I believe, is what God is doing. And that is what He’s calling us to do.’s not about charity after all, is it? It’s about justice.

Let me repeat that: It’s not about charity, it’s about justice.

And that’s too bad.

Because [America is] good at charity. Americans, like the Irish, are good at it. We like to give, and we give a lot, even those who can’t afford it.

But justice is a higher standard. Africa makes a fool of our idea of justice; it makes a farce of our idea of equality. It mocks our pieties, it doubts our concern, it questions our commitment.

6,500 Africans are still dying every day of a preventable, treatable disease, for lack of drugs we can buy at any drug store. This is not about charity, this is about Justice and Equality.

Because there's no way we can look at what’s happening in Africa and, if we're honest, conclude that deep down, we really accept that Africans are equal to us. Anywhere else in the world, we wouldn’t accept it. Look at what happened in South East Asia with the Tsunami. 150, 000 lives lost to that misnomer of all misnomers, “mother nature”. In Africa, 150,000 lives are lost every month. A tsunami every month. And it’s a completely avoidable catastrophe.

It’s annoying but justice and equality are mates. Aren’t they? Justice always wants to hang out with equality. And equality is a real pain.

You know, think of those Jewish sheep-herders going to meet the Pharaoh, mud on their shoes, and the Pharaoh says, “Equal?” A preposterous idea: rich and poor are equal? And they say, “Yeah, ‘equal,’ that’s what it says here in this book. We’re all made in the image of God.”

And eventually the Pharaoh says, “OK, I can accept that. I can accept the Jews—but not the blacks.”

“Not the women. Not the gays. Not the Irish. No way, man.”

So on we go with our journey of equality.

For most of us leprosy is a scourge of another time. But there are other scourges. There are other diseases and life styles that cause us to cry "Unclean! Unclean!" Where will we stand in relation to them? Will we ignore them? Will we shun them? Will we make them to feel infirm, invalid, unworthy and unloved?

What about those with AIDS. What about the homeless? What about gays? What about those who suffer with an addiction that enslaves them to a life that is no life. As the Church of Jesus Christ we are bound to follow after the Lord's teaching. "Inasmuch as you have done it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you have done it unto me." And there's this: "Inasmuch as you have done it not to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you have done it not to me."

Where will you stand in relation to the least of these? Where will you stand in relation to God and what he is doing in the world? And what is He doing?

...the LORD...has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners; to proclaim the year of the LORD's favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn;

That is what God is doing, and that, I Believe, is what God is calling us to do.

Let us close with the prayer of St. Francis:

Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace;
Where there is hatred, let me sow Love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, Faith;
Where there is despair, Hope;
Where there is darkness, Light;
Where there is sadness, Joy;

O, Divine Master,
Grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled, as to console;
To be understood, as to understand;
To be loved, as to love;
For it is in giving, that we receive;
It is in pardoning, that we are pardoned;
And it is in dying, that we are born to Eternal Life


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