Sunday, February 15, 2009

Epiphany VI Thoughts

Mk 1:40 A leper came to him begging him, and kneeling he said to him, ‘If you choose, you can make me clean.’ 41Moved with pity, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, and said to him, ‘I do choose. Be made clean!’ 42Immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean. 43After sternly warning him he sent him away at once, 44saying to him, ‘See that you say nothing to anyone; but go, show yourself to the priest, and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.’ 45But he went out and began to proclaim it freely, and to spread the word, so that Jesus could no longer go into a town openly, but stayed out in the country; and people came to him from every quarter.

This weeks Gospel reading is a familiar one of Jesus healing some sort of skin disease. What struck me this week is the outcasts request and subsequent action. The leper, who is to yell "Unclean! Unclean!" anytime he is near others when in town asks to be made "clean." His interest seems to be with ritual purity according to Jewish tradition. Only by presenting himself to the priest post healing, could he re-enter the community, re-enter the life of the synagogue. After his request, Jesus stretches out his hand to touch him thus rendering Jesus unclean and likely surprising the man himself for this breach in ritual conduct.

We should also notice the different roles of Jesus and the priest. Can we assume that the priest was unable to make this man clean? Here then Jesus is set apart by his divine power to heal. One man could declare someone clean...the other could make someone clean.

So what is this texts connection to the season of Epiphany? Well, I would suggest here Jesus' power is being made manifest for all to see (too many in the original account in fact that he had to head back to the wilderness to escape).

Psalm 30 is a wonderful pairing with this gospel text today. We read of God's deliverance of healing to some one, of which we can easily imagine the leper reciting this.

2O Lord my God, I cried to you for help, and you have healed me.
O Lord, you brought up my soul from Sheol, restored me to life from among those gone down to the Pit.

This is one of the most moving Psalms for me. It is both humbling and joyful. I am reminded of my constant need of Christ's healing and rescue, and for that,

You have turned my mourning into dancing; you have taken off my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, 12so that my soul may praise you and not be silent.

But I am still wondering, what do these passages have to do with us, for our Epiphany spirituality? If Epiphany is about the manifestation of Christ, Epiphany spirituality must be about the manifestation of Christ, through the Spirit, in us (collectively as Christ's body and individually). I cannot get past thinking about this passage from Luke 4 (Is. 61)

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.

This passage, as no others in the past few years, has cut this deeply. To me, this is our Epiphany spirituality, under the power of the Spirit, to continue to manifest Christ's power and favor to the poor, captives, blind, and oppressed.