Year B Epiphany 6 Mark 1 2012
When God Is at Work
They really didn't understand it. But, of course, they really had no means to. How could they possibly know that it was contagious only after long periods of very close contact? The only thing they knew about it was what it looked like and what it did to a person in the advanced stages. That they knew well. They understood how it maimed and disfigured. And that was enough for fear to take over.
I'm talking about the disease of leprosy. In a world and a time in which the disease has all but been eradicated except in small pockets, we perhaps cannot appreciate the fear that accompanied this word in the ancient world of Jesus. It was a red flag word. It brought about the same responses as the word Plague did in the 1200s, or Small Pox in the 1700s, or Aids in the 1900s. It frightened them. They felt largely helpless against it, as indeed they were.
What happens when fear takes over is people do not act, they react. And reactions to leprosy were both swift and cruel. In times not far removed form our own people would be put to death by heir own family. It seems incredible to us today, but on the edge of every large city in the ancient world huge pits were dug, and in those pits lived the lepers of the community.
And if, by some remote possibility, they did escape this hovel and venture out into the streets, they would be quickly greeted with shouts of "leper," accompanied by stones to make them keep their distance. In Jesus' day a leper by law could not get within fifty yards of a clean person. So this was the heart of the matter. Not only did these wretched poor people have to endure the trials of an incurable affliction, they also were isolated from society and kept from the community of faith. The horror of disease, a lifestyle of loneliness, isolation and hopelessness--where could they find hope? The only friend a leper had was God himself. In this life they were doomed. It was walking death.
This, then, is the background of the leper we meet this morning. What can we learn from this man's tragic story?
- The Loneliness of Leprosy
- Our Suffering Moves God's Hand.
- Our Lord Is Willing to Heal.
How Can I Keep From Singing?
There is a story of a Vermont farmer who was sitting with his wife one evening on the porch, looking at the beautiful valley laid out before them. Everything about the moment was filled with peace. At last the farmer spoke quietly, as if reluctant to break the spell. "Sarah," he said, "we've had a lot of ups and downs together during these forty years, and when I've thought of all you've meant to me, sometimes it's been almost more than I could do to keep from telling you."
Sometimes we spring a "leak" that should have sprung long ago. Other times leaks spring that never should have sprung.
You might call "leaks" one of the strangest political strategies of our day – the calculated flow of clandestine information that is "leaked" for public consumption.
In "real life" leaks are never a good thing. A leaky water line or toilet valve can pour money down the drain without ever giving away its presence. A leaky gas vent can put whole buildings in danger of blowing up. Leaky seals around doors and windows allow our climate-controlled inside air to escape out and outside air to seep in. Leaking brake lines, transmission fluids, or battery acid can all spell disaster for our safety while driving.
Yet when what is being "leaked" isn't water or gas or air, but snippets of information. Such "leaks" are most often greeted as helpful and healthy, providing insider knowledge to those outside the loop.
Still, the definition of a "leak" is a small, localized escape of whatever is supposed to be contained. As the creators of such now infamous sites such as "Wikileaks" have learned, there really is such a thing as "TMK," "too much knowledge" or "TMI," "too much information."
Small, controlled, contained leaks are often used by government agencies and private institutions to start a trickle of information that might soon become a river of revelations. It's never difficult to find a source to provide such leaks. Most of us are pretty terrible at keeping secrets. After all what is the point of having "secret knowledge" if you cannot share the fact that you have it?
The lure of "secret knowledge" that is, conversely, known and controlled by a select few, is what has kept all sorts of organizations going — such as modern day fraternities and sororities, the mysterious Masons, the secretive Knight's Templar, the ancient Gnostics. They all have wanted to keep their secrets. But also, selectively, to share them.
Biblical scholars have long noted the apparent theme of a "messianic secret" in Mark's gospel...