August 6, 2017
Anthem: Jesu, Joy of Man’s DesiringJeannine Scott
Grace and Peace to you this morning. Grace and Peace.
What does Jesus do when he sees a hungering crowd? He feeds them.
Do you notice he does not feed the leper, he does not clothe the thirsty, he does not rebuke the blind? What does he say to do for the thirsty? What does he do for the blind?
Jesus gives the right answer for each problem he faces.
I am a fan of pies. Key lime. Pecan. Apple.
But when Mary and Mira were in Tennessee, and I was in Chicago, not even my favorite pie fixed the fact that I missed my family. Missing my family is not fixed by food.
How many of you have seen the movie the Princess Bride? It came out about 30 years ago, but it is still a fun watch.
In one of the later scenes, Westley, the protagonist, challenges Prince Humperdink, the bad guy to a duel. The prince says, “Yes, to the death.” Westley corrects him. They will duel to the pain. Westley describes the awful ways he will take the prince apart. But he will leave him his ears, so that all the mean things people will say about this poor, disfigured man he will hear perfectly.
The scene is pretty intense, and it works.
But what we forget is that this was the experience of many of the people in Jesus’ day. Lepers were talked about like this. Ewww. What is that?
Who else was talked about like that? Prostitutes and tax collectors and sinners.
Wait, I’ve heard this group talked about before. Weren’t prostitutes and lepers and tax collectors the ones Jesus ate with in public?
Weren’t lepers the ones Jesus not only healed, but touched? Jesus can heal the Centurion’s servant and the Canaanite woman’s daughter from far away. But he touches the leper.
What is the one thing your Amma (mother) tells you before leaving the house? Don’t go near a leper. Don’t let a leper touch you. You will get it to.
Lepers have no life in the community, but more than that, they have no touch, no human contact, not a single hug.
Princess Diana became a beloved figure to the communities dealing with AIDS. In 1987, she opened the UK’s first purpose built HIV/Aids unit that exclusively cared for patients infected with the virus.
Remember, this was the time when there was so much ignorance, misinformation, fear, and stigma attached to the disease that Ryan White, the boy in Indiana who was infected by a blood transfusion, was ostracized from multiple schools.
But Princess Diana was then the first public figure to be photographed shaking the hand of a man in an AIDS hospice without a glove. Touch.
Lepers need healing, but they also need touch.
The hungry crowds probably have more touch than they can want or need. What they need is food.
Rev. Jo Bell was a seminary classmate of mine. Before being called to ministry, she served in the Marine Corps. She worked in aviation. And she described the wheels they use on the jets. When there are two wheels on a part of the landing gear, they are not simply balanced, like we would do with a tire on our car. They are also balanced to each other. And if one of the wheels needs replacing, they do not take one off and leave the other. They replace both with wheels that are balanced to each other. For each and every wheel on a set of landing gear, there is another balanced perfectly to it.
This was her description of grace. For every particular sin, there is a grace that matches it. For every particular form of human brokenness, there is a grace for it. For every human need, there is a grace perfectly matched for it.
For those who are naked, we are to clothe them.
For those who need touch, Jesus touches them.
For those who thirst, we are to work for clean water, whether in the Dominican Republic with sand filters, or in Flint, Michigan.
For the hungry, Jesus takes bread, gives thanks for it, breaks it, and gives it to them, and there are baskets left over…
What do we need?
For Jesus, the way that we know God the best, offers what we truly need, matching grace to every hurt, grace to every sin, grace to every fault, grace to every brokenness.
Thanks be to God. Amen.