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Cleanse me with hyssop

by davesandel on February 14th, 2021

Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time, February 14, 2021            (today’s lectionary)

Valentine’s Day

Cleanse me with hyssop

If someone has leprosy he is in fact, unclean, and he shall dwell apart outside the camp …

I turn to you Lord, in time of trouble, and you fill me with the joy of salvation …

Brothers and sisters, whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God, and avoid giving offense to anyone. Be imitators of Christ …

A leper came to Jesus.

And what will Jesus do? He knew Psalm 32. “I turn to you Lord, in time of trouble.” Does this man’s salvation also include the touch of Jesus and his physical healing.

Jesus was moved with pity and stretched out his hand. He touched him and said, “Be made clean.” And the leprosy left him immediately.

You could say that human culture evolved over the centuries from Yahweh’s command to shun the lepers to Jesus’ command to heal the lepers. And that would be true. But you could look at it the other way and say that Jesus stopped our evil evolution in its tracks and turned us straight around to look once again to the Tree of Life. With a word he set the cherubim aside and opened once again the gates. Then he turns, looks into our eyes, and beckons. Nothing now can hold you back. Walk right in.

And we do not. Well, we kind of do, some of us, sometimes. Jesus says things like, “Do you still not have faith?” He calls us “ye of little faith.” But then he turns toward us, not away. God’s patience wins the day.

Do you notice how when God speaks, people listen? Or when God touches you, you feel deep healing even if your illness remains? And on the other hand, do you notice that when you talk to yourself, you don’t really listen? Or when you touch yourself, you feel nothing?

What does that tell me about myself. It tells me that I am not as strong as I think I am, and that I don’t know nearly as much (even about myself) as I think I do. I ate from the tree and thought by knowing that I could control good and evil, but I can’t. Not even in myself.

Listen to David in Psalm 51. He has two responsibilities, to confess his failure and weakness and then to ask God to do the work he cannot do for himself:

v 1  Have mercy

v 2  Wash away

v 7  Cleanse me

Wash me

v 8  Let me hear

v 9  Hide your face

Blot out all my iniquity

v10 Create in me

Renew in me

v 11 Cast me not

v 12 Restore to me

Grant me

v 14 Deliver me

v 15 Open my lips

I can claim this theology if I want it. God will do the work if I ask him. When I try to do the work, I get in his way and get really frustrated. Can I be patient with this? Can I stop thinking of myself as the center of God’s universe and let him pay attention to me in his time?

Or even better, can I trust/believe/have faith that God is doing exactly the right thing in my life at every instant of it?

There you go. That faith and experience of God’s presence in every instant … that’s what we lost when we ate the apple. And that’s what Jesus gives us back, right now, right here.

(Leviticus 13, Psalm 32, 1 Corinthians 10, Luke 7, Mark 1)

Postscript: Today Margaret is in Austin and I am in Illinois, and we miss each other. I miss you, Margaret. I remember the first of our 42 Valentine Days, when I slipped into your mobile home and cleaned it up a bit, washed some dishes and then squeezed rose blossoms and scattered red petals all over the floor. You told me the other day it seemed a little early to you, since we had just gone on a couple of dates.

I guess it didn’t seem early to me. 🙂


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