SIXTH SUNDAY AFTER THE EPIPHANY Year B
2 Kings 5:1-14 • Psalm 30 • 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 • Mark 1:40-45
Chronic physical pain is a big deal.
I have never had serious chronic pain...only small tastes of it.
People who live with chronic physical pain are carrying around
something that the rest of us cannot imagine or understand.
Most folks I have known that are suffering from chronic physical pain
have tried all possible options to get rid of it.
Eating better foods, less sugar, prayer chains (of every faith), more
yoga, acupuncture, hanging upside down, more sleep, less sleep, kale
tablets, cleansing diets, medications (tested and untested),
surgeries, therapists, water aerobics, trips to special
healers.....the list goes on and on.
Even the most even-minded and grounded among us work hard to find
relief when we run in to physical pain.
And the further we go down the list of options, the more faith we
place in the next option on the list.
Now we don't know exactly what folks were dealing with when in
scripture we find someone labeled with 'leprosy'. It seems it was a
skin disease that may or may not have been contagious.
And it appears to have had a variety of social effects on people. Just
in this week's readings we have one story from the second book of
Kings where there was a military commander who suffered from leprosy,
and we see in Mark a leper who seems to be more of a social outcast.
Now obviously these stories are in societies separated by a few
hundred years, so all sorts of differences can be noted and applied.
But something that is consistent between them is that they both had
been suffering with this physical affliction and were desperate to be
healed from it.
I am not 100% certain of this, but I am fairly confident that in every
culture that has ever existed there have been people who have good
intentions that would see someone suffering from pain and would offer
'helpful' suggestions. "Leprosy? Oh...just eat the root of this
tree......Leprosy? You can get rid of that...make sure you are not
sleeping directly on the ground. Leprosy? No problem, I know a guy
who will cut all of the bad spots out of your skin and it will clear
right up. Leprosy? You must have done something wrong for it not to
have cleared up yet. Leprosy? Just rub some dirt on it."
I am sure that each of these men, Naaman and the unnamed leper found
in Mark, had tried every treatment and heard every suggestion.
And then Naaman heard one more suggestion. The more he learned about
it the sillier it became. Gratefully, he had a friend with him that
essentially reminded him of his struggle and encouraged him to have
faith that these instructions might bring healing. And they did.
The person with leprosy we find in Mark was approaching the problem
from a different direction. We do not really know how this person
heard about Jesus. We do not know who this person may have known that
Jesus may have healed. What we do know is that this person was
suffering from a chronic physical condition and somehow had the belief
that Jesus would bring an end to his pain. And he did.
When we are really suffering, we find ourselves trying things that we
normally would not try to find an end to the suffering.
When we are really suffering, we continue to look for ways to receive healing.
In the face of long term, seemingly unabating physical suffering, they
did not give up.
Even though the point of Paul's message is not addressing physical
pain, we see the same message of physical perseverance in this week's
passage of his letter to the followers of Jesus in Corinth. He
encourages his readers to press on toward the goals set in front of
Where do we put our faith in the face of pain that seems to have no end?
At what point should we 'give up' and stop trying to make suffering different?
What do you need to keep alive the hope that there are better days
ahead than this one?
God, when we are sick,
help us to have faith.
When we suffer,
help us to believe.
When we live in darkness,
help us to know there will again
© matt norvell 2012 www.settingourstones.org we want to share
this with you and hope you'll share with the world; we simply ask that
you let people know where you found these words. May Grace & Peace be
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