Wednesday, January 14, 2009

I am willing

"I am clean!" Mark 1:41

Last February, I had the privilege of visiting with clergy and lay leaders who were serving the Native Hawaiian communities throughout the islands. I visited with a priest and her husband, Lynette and Scotty, who had been faithfully serving for years on Molokai. While Lynette was busy with some church business, Scotty took me on a tour which included visiting this state park overlook. The view is breathtaking but what we were looking at truly took my breath away. We were looking down on the leper colony and Scotty was telling me of the incredible ministry and incredible isolation that took place there. One can only stand in profound silence and gaze on the magnificent beauty and hear the tremendous pain echoing across the water. Boats with supplies went in on a very rare, tight, guarded schedule and the colony had to grow most of its food and raise its own cattle, sheep and chickens. Visits from family members never happened. Small children who contracted the illness were shipped off to die without every seeing their parents again.

The story in Mark tells us that, "filled with compassion, Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man."(Mark 1:41a) Jesus risked everything, broke temple and sanitary rules by touching the man. He risked everything and was filled with compassion, and because of this the man was healed. Although Jesus strongly recommended that the man be silent, the healed man, whose fate had been death and isolation, couldn't help but tell the story. He couldn't control his joy. He couldn't help telling others of God's willingness to touch the infected, to break all boundaries for compassion's sake - he couldn't stop his lips from praising God.

We don't wrestle with leprosy in this day and age, but there are many other diseases and situations which cause us to wall off others, to treat them as lepers once were, to judge them as evil, because of their brokenness. I pray today that I can be a vessel of God's compassion, despite my own fears and anxiety, reaching out to those in need, whatever their circumstance. I pray that we call all answer with, "I am willing". For God, the source of all compassion is constantly willing to bring healing and restoration, and is actively seeking to love us beyond all human made boundaries. May we, like the healed man, be so filled with this good news that we can't help but spread the joy today.

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