Archive for the ‘Leprosy’ Tag

Devotion for Saturday Before Proper 23, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Moses Prays for Miriam To Be Healed

Above:   Moses Prays for the Healing of Miriam

Image in the Public Domain

Inclusion and Exclusion

OCTOBER 12, 2019

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The Collect:

Almighty and most merciful God, your bountiful goodness fills all creation.

Keep us safe from all that may hurt us,

that, whole and well in body and spirit,

we may with grateful hearts accomplish all that you would have us to do,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 50

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The Assigned Readings:

Leviticus 14:33-53 (Thursday)

Numbers 4:34-5:4 (Friday)

Psalm 111 (Both Days)

2 Timothy 1:13-18 (Thursday)

2 Timothy 2:1-7 (Friday)

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Hallelujah!

I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart,

in the assembly of the upright, in the congregation.

–Psalm 111:1, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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The word “leprosy,” in the Bible, has a broad definition, applying to a variety of diseases of the skin.  Such conditions also fall under the heading of ritual impurity (consult Numbers 5:2a) and require a time of isolation before one returns to one’s community and to a state of ritual purity (consult Leviticus 13).

In Numbers 12 Miriam spoke negatively of Moses.  Her punishment was a bad case of snow-white scales, which usually would have caused her to go away for two weeks.  It became seven days, however, due to the intercession of her esteemed brother.  The rabbinical name for her condition was metzora, from motzi’ shem ra’, or “uttering an evil name.”  Her sin was slander, but the object of that offense pleaded to God on her behalf.  A time of removal from the community was inevitable, but the goal of the leadership of that community was always restoration.

In Luke 5 Jesus healed a man with some kind of skin disease.  It was not leprosy, in the narrow, clinical definition of that term, but it was enough to render the man ritually impure and to isolate him from his community.  Then Jesus commanded him to obey the requirements of Leviticus 14 and not to tell anyone (other than the priest, per Leviticus 14).  Perhaps the man went to the priest, but he certainly spread the word, causing crowds to deny Jesus as much solitude as he needed.

Salvation was Christ’s primary task on the Earth; healing was something he did.  Did crowds come to him mostly to hear the words of salvation or to seek healing?  Quite often they flocked to him for the latter purpose.  There was nothing wrong with seeking wholeness and restoration, of course, but there was much more to Christ’s mission than individual wholeness and restoration.  There was, for example, collective wholeness and restoration.

A community cannot be at its best when people who should be part of it are not.  Such people might be outsiders by their choice or the decisions of others.  Many people are outsiders because self-identified insiders exclude them, often wrongly.  Frequently we human beings define ourselves negatively–according to who or what we are not.  This practice harms us and those we exclude improperly.  As Professor Luke Timothy Johnson says, one message in the Gospel of Mark is that those who think they are insiders might actually be outsiders.  And, as Edmond Browning, a former Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church, writes, in Christ there are no outsiders.

May we who follow God (or at least attempt to do so) identify as children of God who bear the divine image and respect the image of God in our fellow human beings.  Theological and personality differences will persist, of course, but we need not seek to define ourselves negatively and, by extension, others in the same way.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 31, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE VISITATION OF MARY TO ELIZABETH

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2016/05/31/inclusion-and-exclusion/

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Devotion for September 8 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   8 comments

Elisha Refusing Gifts from Naaman

Above:  Elisha Refusing Gifts from Naaman, by Pieter de Grebber

Image in the Public Domain

2 Kings and Philippians, Part I:  For the Glory of God

TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 8, 2020

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

2 Kings 5:9-27

Psalm 103 (Morning)

Psalms 117 and 139 (Evening)

Philippians 1:1-20

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The story of Naaman continues in 2 Kings 5.  Yes, Naaman overcomes his prejudices, regains his health and status, and praises God.  That is positive.  But Elisha pronounces the scourge of leprosy upon Gehazi, the deceptive servant who had made him appear as one who required payment for healing.  That is a difficult passage to read.

Paul had founded the church at Philippi.  He was on friendly terms with that congregation, one which had to contend with difficulties from inside and outside.  The Apostle wrote from prison, so he knew of hardship for the sake of the Gospel.  Yet, as he observed, this incarceration had enabled the spread of Christianity in another place; God worked in many circumstances.  Even though being an Apostle did not enrich Paul or make his life easier–in fact it caused him much difficulty–he embraced his calling.

Each of us has a set of vocations from God.  All of these fall under the umbrella of enjoying and glorifying God yet are varied in their details.  That is appropriate, for I have gifts and opportunities in combinations others do not and visa versa.  May all of us work for God faithfully where we are, not seeking to exploit our vocations for our benefit.  And may we be kinder than Elisha was to Gehazi.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 3, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF NICHOLAS KASATKIN, ORTHODOX ARCHBISHOP OF ALL JAPAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANSKAR, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF HAMBURG-BREMEN

THE FEAST OF GIOVANNI PIERLUIGI DA PALESTRINA, COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF MILLARD FULLER, FOUNDER OF HABITAT FOR HUMANITY

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This is post #500 at this weblog.

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/05/28/2-kings-and-philippians-part-i-for-the-glory-of-god/

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Proper 1, Year B   13 comments

Above:  Elisha Refusing the Gifts of Naaman, by Pieter Fransz de Grebber

Of Skin Conditions, Stigma, Healing, and Humility

The Sunday Closest to May 11

NOT OBSERVED THIS YEAR

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2 Kings 5:1-14 (New Revised Standard Version):

Naaman, commander of the army of the king of Aram, was a great man and in high favor with his master, because by him the LORD had given victory to Aram.  The man, though a mighty warrior, suffered from leprosy.  Now the Arameans on one of their raids had taken a young captive from the land of Israel, and she served Naaman’s wife.  She said to her,

If only my lord were with the prophet who is in Samaria!  He would cure him of his leprosy.

So Naaman went in and told his lord just what the girl from the land of Israel had said.  And the king of Aram said,

Go then, and I will sent along a letter to the king of Israel.

He went, taking with him ten talents of silver, six thousand shekels of gold, and ten sets of garments.  He brought the letter to the king of Israel, which read,

When this letter reaches you, know that I have sent to you my servant Naaman, that you may cure him of his leprosy.

When the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his clothes and said,

Am I God, to give death or life, that this man sends word to me to cure a man of his leprosy?  Just look and see how he is trying to pick a quarrel with me.

But when Elisha the man of God heard that the king of Israel had torn his clothes, he sent a message to the king,

Why have you torn your clothes?  Let him come to me, that he may learn that there is a prophet in Israel.

So Naaman came with his horses and chariots, and halted at the entrance of Elisha’s house.  Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying,

Go, wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored and you shall be clean.

But Naaman became angry and went away, saying,

I thought that for me he would surely come out, and stand and call on the name of the LORD his God, and would wave his hand over the spot, and cure the leprosy!  Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel?  Could I not wash in them, and be clean?

He turned and went away in a rage.  But his servants approached and said to him,

Father, if the prophet had commanded you to do something difficult, would you not have done it?  How much more, when all he said to you was, “Wash, and be clean”?

So he went down and immersed himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God; his flesh was restored like the flesh of a young boy, and he was clean.

Psalm 30 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

 I will exalt you, O LORD,

because you have lifted me up

and have not let my enemies triumph over me.

 O LORD my God, I cried out to you,

and you restored me to health.

 You brought me up, O LORD, from the dead;

you restored my life as I was going down to the grave.

 Sing to the LORD, you servants of his;

give thanks for the remembrance of his holiness.

 For his wrath endures but the twinkling of an eye,

his favor for a lifetime.

6 Weeping may spend the night,

but joy comes in the morning.

 While I felt secure, I said,

“I shall never be disturbed.

You,  LORD, with your favor, made me as strong as the mountains.”

 Then you hid my face,

and I was filled with terror.

 I cried to you, O LORD;

I pleaded with the LORD, saying,

10  “What profit is there in my blood, if I go down to the Pit?

will the dust praise you or declare your faithfulness?

11  Hear, O LORD, and have mercy upon me;

O LORD, be my helper.”

12  You have turned my wailing into dancing;

you have put off my sack-cloth and clothed me with joy.

13  Therefore my heart sings to you without ceasing;

O LORD my God, I will give you thanks for ever.

1 Corinthians 9:24-27 (New Revised Standard Version):

Do you not know that in a race the runners all compete, but only one receives the prize?  Run in such a way that you may win it.  Athletes exercise self-control in all things; they do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable one.  So I do not run aimlessly, nor do I box as though beating the air; but I punish my body and enslave it, so that after proclaiming to others I myself should not be disqualified.

Mark 1:40-45 (New Revised Standard Version):

A leper came Jesus begging him, and kneeling he said to him,

If you choose, you can make me clean.

Moved with pity, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, and said to him,

I do choose.  Be made clean!

Immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean.  After sternly warning him he sent him away at once, saying 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.

But he went out and began to proclaim it freely, and to spread the word, so that Jesus could not longer go into a town openly, but stayed out in the country; and the people came to him from every quarter.

The Collect:

O  God, the strength of all who put their trust in you: Mercifully accept our prayers; and because in our weakness we can do nothing good without you, give us the help of your grace, that in keeping your commandments we may please you both in will and deed; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

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Some Related Posts:

Proper 1, Year A:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/12/proper-1-year-a/

Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/19/sixth-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-a/

Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/06/23/sixth-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-b/

Mark 1:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/18/week-of-1-epiphany-thursday-year-1/

Matthew 8 (Parallel to Mark 1):

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/13/week-of-proper-7-friday-year-1/

Luke 5 (Parallel to Mark 1):

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/16/sixth-day-of-epiphany/

2 Kings 5:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/28/seventeenth-day-of-lent/

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Leprosy, in the Bible, is a broad term.  It refers to a variety of skin conditions in addition to Hansen’s Disease.  Aside from the physical signs, which could be difficult, there was stigma, which could be harder to handle.

Consider the case of Naaman, a successful military commander in the service of the King of Aram, an enemy of the King of Israel.  The author of 2 Kings 5 tells us that Naaman has won victories over the Israelite army with the help of God.  We also know that Naaman’s forces have kidnapped and enslaved at least one Israelite young woman, whom he has taken into his household as a servant.  We may also conclude that Naaman’s case of leprosy (whatever the modern diagnosis would be) was not severe, for he was still functional as a military commander.  Nevertheless, whatever Naaman had bothered him badly enough that he went to see Elisha.

The prophet Elisha did not stand on ceremony, much to Naaman’s disappointment and ire.  And, instead of staging an elaborate healing ritual, the prophet sent word by a messengerthat Naaman ought to bathe in the humble Jordan River seven times.  One can imagine Naaman thinking in Aramaic, “That’s it!?!”

Note the role of servants in the story.  An enslaved servant girl tell’s Naaman’s wife about Elisha.  Naaman, despite his exalted view of himself, is just a servant of his king, and his success is due entirely to God.  Elisha himself does not speak to Naaman at first, but sends a messenger.

Being proud and mighty does not count for much in 2 Kings 5, does it?

We have another story of a cured leper in Mark 1.  This time the man is anonymous.  All he did to get cured was to ask Jesus, who agreed graciously.  But why did our Lord order the man to stay quiet? Biblical scholars have detected the theme of the Messianic Secret in the Gospel of Mark.  Throughout that book God knows who Jesus is, as do Jesus as well as Satan and any evil spirit whom our Lord encounters.  That, however, was a small circle of the knowledgeable.  No, Jesus had work to do, and that work culminated, in Mark, with his crucifixion, at which point his Messianic identity became plain.  There is also the matter of being able to go from place to place without having encountering thronging crowds.  The leper did not obey our Lord’s injunction to stay quiet, so Jesus had to remain in the hinterlands for a little while, but the crowds came to him.  So much for Plan A!

Divine grace falls upon the already humble and the recently humbled, upon the Jew and the Gentile, upon esteemed and the anonymous.  It arrives via unexpected and seemingly unlikely avenues, and it makes demands upon us.  What happened to the leper Jesus healed in Mark 1?  Maybe he rejoined his family; that is the most likely answer.  But what further impact did the incident have on the man?  The text is silent on that point.  As for Naaman, he renounced his faith in Rimmon, his former deity, and followed Yahweh (verse 18).  As to what that entailed for Naaman, the text is silent.

How will grace come to you this day, the next day, the day after that, et cetera?  And what will it require of you?  Will you do it?

KRT

Published in a nearly identical form as Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B, at ADVENT, CHRISTMAS, AND EPIPHANY DEVOTIONS BY KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR on June 23, 2012

Week of Proper 7: Friday, Year 1   16 comments

Above:  Jesus Healing a Leper

God Seeks To Be Gracious

JUNE 28, 2019

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Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.

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Genesis 17:1, 9-10, 15-22 (An American Translation):

When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to Abram, and said to him,

…You on your part must keep my covenant, and likewise your descendants after you throughout all generations.  The covenant between myself and you and your descendants is this:  everyone of your males must be circumcised….As for your wife Sarai, you are not to call her Sarai, but Sarah.  I will bless her, and furthermore, I will give you a son by her; I will bless her, so that she shall become the mother of nations, with kings of peoples coming from her.

Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed, saying to himself,

Can one who is one hundred years old become a father, or can Sarah at the age of ninety bear a child?

So Abraham said to God,

May Ishmael live in thy favor!

But God said,

No, it is a fact; your wife Sarah is to bear you a son, and you are to call his name Isaac [laughter]; I will establish my covenant with his descendants after him.  With reference to Ishmael, I have heard you, and will indeed bless him; I will make him prolific, and will make him grow more and more numerous; he shall be the ancestor of twelve princes; I will make a great nation of him.  I will likewise establish my covenant with Isaac, whom Sarah shall bear to you at this time next year.

Having finished speaking with him, God left Abraham.

Psalm 128 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Happy are they who all fear the LORD,

and who follow in his ways!

2 You shall eat the fruit of your labor;

happiness and prosperity shall be yours.

3 Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine within your house,

your children like olive shoots round about your table.

4 The man who fears the LORD

shall thus be blessed.

5 The LORD bless you from Zion,

and may you see the prosperity of Jerusalem all the days of your life.

6 May you live to see your children’s children;

may peace be upon Israel.

Matthew 8:1-4 (An American Translation):

When Jesus came down from the mountain, great crowds of people followed him.  And a leper came up to him and fell on his knees before him, saying,

If you only choose, sir, you can cure me!

So he stretched out his hand and touched him, saying,

I do choose!  Be cured!

And his leprosy was immediately cured.  Then Jesus said to him,

See that you tell nobody, but go!  Show yourself to the priest, and in proof of your cure, offer the gift that Moses prescribed.

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The Collect:

O Lord, make us have perpetual love and reverence for your holy Name, for you never fail to help and govern those whom you have set upon the sure foundation of your loving-kindness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

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God seeks to be gracious.  Consider the previous day’s reading from Genesis and the lections for this day, for example.  In Genesis so far in this Monday-Saturday series, God has promised Abram a future status as the father of many nations.  In this day’s readings God changes Abram’s name to Abraham and Sarai’s name to Sarah.  These are slight name changes from one variant to another, but the change of names is important.  It symbolizes a change of status.  Members of monastic orders receive new names, for example.  A person with a new name is a new creation, and God does the re-creating in Genesis 17.

The sign of the Abrahamic Covenant is circumcision, a potent reminder that God is the source of life.  The yet-unborn Isaac will become Abraham’s heir and Ishmael (about 13 years old by the time of Genesis 17) will have his own destiny, according to God.  Both sons are meant to fulfill their divinely-granted destinies.  Everyone has a role to play, and nobody needs to feel excluded.  Life for all is the divine plan.  But, to hint at events after Genesis 17, exclusion will come by human actions.  But this is not God’s plan in the narrative.

The term leprosy, in the biblical sense, applies to a variety of skin conditions, as well as Hansen’s Disease.  The physical conditions labeled leprosy carried a strong social stigma in the time of Jesus.  So the diagnosis of leprosy made one a pariah.  This was difficult to take.  Such a man calls out to Jesus in desperation in Matthew 8:1-4.  The man does not presume; he asks.  And he trusts that Jesus can heal him.  Jesus does heal him, thereby restoring the man to society.  Our Lord and Savior was most gracious to the leper.

We who claim to follow God incur the obligation to act accordingly more often than not.  So, if God is love, and if God seeks to be gracious, we ought to love ourselves and others in the name of God and to be gracious toward our fellow human beings in the name of God.  The God of my faith is the God best understood in human theology as the Holy Trinity.  So it is the name of the Trinity that I perform good deeds and pursue beauty and intellectual knowledge.  I know that my actions affect others, and the deeds of others affect me.

May we be gracious to one another, in the name of God:  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/02/05/god-seeks-to-be-gracious/