Home » Worship Sermons » February 12, 2012 Sermon “WARM INDIGNATION”

 

February 12, 2012 Sermon “WARM INDIGNATION”

 

Scripture: Mark 1:40-45

Date:   February 12, 2012                  

    In one of my first classes in seminary the professor started talking about Africa and he suddenly and passionately said, “You’ve got to get angry!”

     Dean Freudenberger had been a missionary for many years in Africa. He had seen a great deal of suffering. And he was angry! It isn’t that he didn’t have compassion for the people. He had plenty of that. But he was also angry at systems and structures: At corruption and greed, the abundance of weapons, and governments that repress.

     One of his greatest concerns was desertification that is, the encroachment of the desert, turning fertile land into sand and dust, which led to less food, and fuel, which led to scavenging more wood, which led to more sand, which led to more starvation, and it still continues in Africa. He shared with us back in the ˈ80’s there would be many more famines in Africa and indeed that has come to pass.  He was angry about it. And he was angry because he did have so much compassion for the people. Compassion and anger can go together. Perhaps they must go together for real transformation to occur.

    The gospel text for this Sunday is a story of healing and at face value it might end right there.

We will celebrate that Jesus brings healing into the world into the lives of individuals who suffer from illness, which is true and worthy of praise and thanksgiving. There IS in Jesus the power of healing, but there is more to the story than seems at face value.

    The leper comes to Jesus and asks to be made clean. That is, to be healed of his disease, In Mark 1, verse 41 it says that Jesus was moved by pity and therefore healed him. Today’s English version also uses the word pity. The King James Version says filled with compassion, as does the New International Version (NIV). In The Message it says that Jesus was deeply moved. But if you have a study Bible and see a little letter by the word pity or compassion it will say, other ancient texts use the word anger.

    This is the difficulty with translation – we don’t know exactly what word was used, so we have a very hard time knowing what Jesus was feeling. Could it be that both are right? That Jesus felt both compassion and anger? In the New English Version the translators tried to combine both meanings and they came up with warm indignation.

    After Jesus healed the leper he told him two things: Don’t go blabber it to everyone – but make sure to go tell the priest. That seems counter intuitive. Wouldn’t Jesus want him to go tell everyone? So more people would know and come and more people would be healed? I mean, by saying, don’t go telling everyone, isn’t he lacking compassion for all the lepers?

    And the second thing Jesus tells him to do is go to tell the priest. Why the priest? He certainly is not a leper. Why is it so important for him to know? Lepers suffered in two ways. They suffered from their illness, but they also suffered from being shunned and excluded. By going to the priest the leper is announcing to the person in charge, “I am clean now so I must be included in the community again”.

    We who feel so independent have to try to image what life would have been like back then being excluded from the community. It was a kind of death. The reason Jesus tells the leper not to go tell everyone, which in the end he did, was not because he didn’t want to heal people. It was because he didn’t want to be pigeon holed as a healer, have thousands of people come and be overwhelmed with healing people.

    He didn’t want to be misunderstood. Jesus’ mission was about more than healing thousands. Jesus’ mission was to preach the Kin-dom of God and call people to a new way of being and living.   A part of that was healing, but a part of that was also changing the world. Jesus was angry at the systems and structures that caused the leper to be shunned and excluded. By sending him to see the priest is was like saying: “In your face priest!”

    You have to get angry!

    Every good meaning has something to say about our insides and our outsides. The gospel speaks to the whole of our lives: interior life, social life, personal life and interpersonal life. There is always both a personal and a political side to the message of the Kin-dom of God; both are valid and essential and both matter.

    On the personal side, Jesus was compassion manifest. He lived the love of God and therefore his desire was and is always to heal the lepers and us. On the political side, Jesus was angry that society, culture, government, and economy excluded people. Jesus saw things from the perspective of the outcasts. All through the gospels Jesus sees the outcasts. The ones that others do not see and have dismissed: Tax collectors and sinners; widows, prostitutes and children; and lepers too

    Jesus’ healing was never simply about eradicating disease. “Now you are healed and may go back to your life as before”. No, Jesus was interested in a deeper transformation in the person and the society. Jesus wanted to not just heal the body, but also the soul and the body politic. In this sense, it was holistic healing of all the dimensions of life.

    Do you know that at one time asthma was considered to be a psychological problem? And that asthmatics were therefore considered to be weak and were shunned? Thank goodness they are no longer shunned, but they continue to be excluded by our Health Insurance system.     The new health insurance law allows for Aaron to be on our insurance until he is 26. But after that, what?  (Note: Aaron is the pastor’s son.)

    I believe Jesus would be angry about our healthcare system in America, as a system/structure that excludes and casts out. While we are no longer shunning asthmatics, we still shun the mentally ill.

    I read recently that schizophrenia increases precipitously in urban environments apparently so many people can trigger it. Centuries ago the number of people any individual had to deal with in a day was in the tens. Other studies show that 150 is about as large a social network the brain is wired for. Please consider this those of you look who have over 150 Facebook friends. Any more than that will cause anxiety and stress.

    The reasons for mental illness are numerous and complex. We accept that schizophrenia has genetic causes, but did we ever consider social causes? We well know that the homeless disproportionately suffer from mental illness. We also know that family of origin has a great influence on mental illness and there are always genetic predispositions. Mental illness isn’t about somebody’s failure or weakness – or irresponsibility.     So why do we leave them homeless and affectively outcast? Don’t we know that Jesus would have nothing but compassion for people who are mentally ill? And don’t we know he would be angry at the systems and structures that cause or just encourage them to be outcast?

    People who are mentally ill often cannot hold down a job, but we treat them like they are lazy. Like social lepers. When we cut state and federal funding for the care of the mentally ill we effectively exclude them.  We cast them out. I know the budget is a big issue and there are not simple answers to it. I’m just saying that when we cut the funding, let’s do if fully conscious that it is a tragedy, and not because we feel that they don’t deserve it because they are lazy.

     Did anyone read in the paper about the psychiatrist at Madigan Hospital on Joint Base Lewis McCord who wrote a memo questioning the diagnosis of Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) for soldiers returning from combat in Iraq and Afghanistan? I am no expert and I can make no judgment about this, but it did raise my ire a little. I fear that many veterans returning from war will be outcast – thanks for your service; now go get a job!

     I’ve been privileged to know many people who suffer from mental illness. Some out and some not. I know people who struggle to live a “normal” life (which doesn’t exist, by the way) and do everything they can to avoid the stigma but feel unworthy. And others who live with being shunned, if subtly and are definitely systematically dismissed. Did you know that “retard” is still used by young people today? For all of them I know that pity is not enough. We must have compassion for them but also warm indignation.     

     You’ve got to get angry!

     This is the gospel – that in Jesus Christ, God brought healing into the world: Healing of our bodies; healing for our souls; healing of our relationships; and healing of the systems and structures of our society that exclude and dismiss. Who are those in our world today who, like the lepers, are met with fear and disgust? The mentally ill, victims of AIDS, homosexuals? The obese are already thought to be the biggest loser.

     The heart of Jesus Christ is to love all – even the losers. Maybe particularly the losers. And sometimes in order to do that Jesus got angry, And so should we.

     Amen.

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