Where does it hurt? (Sermon from Feb. 12, 2012)

Pic provided by Ms. Shayla Montgomery (a creative young lady and up & coming artist in our neighborhood)

Where does it hurt? As a mom, I’ve asked this hundreds times, if not more. I’ve been asked it too, where does it hurt? It is a logical question, we can’t always see what’s going on; we can’t see the problem. That, however, isn’t necessarily the case in our gospel story for this morning. After all, this guy is a leper. Now he may have suffered from the actual disease leprosy. Or he may not. That label was given to all sorts of conditions and diseases that we now know are not the same thing. But they didn’t. What the folks of his time and place did know though, was that one way of keeping disease at bay was to send the sufferer away. This also took care of any issues of guilt, because in their thinking the guy was probably being punished for something. That’s how it worked—so they thought.
So let’s see, where does he hurt? His body, for sure from the pain of disease. And his heart as well from the pain of unease, the pain of being cast aside and away, torn from mother, wife, brothers, children, aunts and uncles, from that guy who always lent a hand, and his other friend, the one who knew the best jokes. Where does it hurt? It hurts in the places they used to be.
Now before we get all high and mighty about how simple-minded and ignorant those bible-time folks were way back when, there’s a lot of folks walking around in pain today. Yeah sure, we all know someone struggling with disease or the conditions of aging. We know what it’s like to lose more friends than we make. Where does it hurt? Well right in our own homes, and in our families, in our own hearts—that’s where it hurts—even if it’s not all that obvious right away on the surface.
Like it is for others. You know the ones we’ve pushed to the curb so to speak. One thing about being the church here in town on our corner, we will probably see someone this morning. Some man or woman walking down the street (hopefully on the sidewalk). He may be just be walking, just to keep moving, to keep warm, to get to a meal site or some shelter. She may be walking these streets hoping to make some money for herself, for her kids, maybe even for some drugs. We don’t know; we can’t see all the pain. These are folks through the choices they made with the limited options they were given, who walk a different wilderness—not a desert far from rest of us, but a wilderness of loneliness where we can see, we can see some, at least some of where it hurts.
The thing about Jesus is though we don’t hear him ask the question. The man begging for his life simply says, “You know if you wanted to, you could do something about this.” So, Jesus raises his hand with the answer. But, his hand doesn’t shoot up in the air, but down to touch the man right where it hurts. Jesus could have just said—be clean, be healed—you know in that best authoritative lord and savior tone of voice. But that would have just removed one piece of the pain puzzle.
Instead Jesus does what, frankly a lot of us, would think at least twice before doing. He puts his hand on him, and I’m pretty sure this wasn’t some tap on the shoulder, keep your chin up old man. Jesus put his fingers, his palm, his hand on the man, he put it right where it hurt, in that lonely spot. Think of it this way, it’s just about as if Jesus kissed him and made it better. You know, like I’ve done so many times as a mom, as perhaps you’ve done as a parent, or perhaps your mom or dad did for you. You know that healing miracle of touch. Of course, every time we do that, we know the boo boo, the bruise, the cut—we know that the body will continue to repair, the blood will bring these wonderful white blood cells, and clotting agents, and ok that’s the end of my biology knowledge. We know the body will attend to the damaged tissues.
But when I’ve asked where does it hurt, and I’ve bent down and held my little one close and kissed him. There’s been a healing, and you know sometimes the hurt really does go away.
I remember one evening as child—I was probably a tween somewhere between 11 – 13ish, and I was upset. Ok I was crying—sitting in my room, on my bed sobbing. And that night, not my mom, but my dad came in, sat down next to me, talked to me, put his arms around me, and actually held me. The thing is, I remember all that. What I don’t remember is what brought me to tears that time. I don’t remember why I cried. Now I couldn’t tell you anymore where it hurt.
I think that’s what happened to that guy. He wasn’t running all around town, knocking on everybody’s door rehearsing his sufferings. Woe is me. He was done with that. Look where that had got him. So he isn’t telling us where it hurt. Instead he’s got a whole new story that whether Jesus likes it or not is gonna get out. The news is gonna spread that he’s been held and healed.
The thing is, wherever it hurts for us, Jesus is still reaching out to embrace and to heal—not just the broken bodies, but the broken hearts, the broken relationships, the broken trust, our broken communities, our broken world. Yeah, things may not on the surface look much better, but the healing is going on. It’s as if, when we come here together, when we are alone at night on our knees or in the very least in prayer, or walking down the street ourselves—the divine one of immense love bends down to kiss us and make it better.
Like I said though on the surface we may not notice the change at first, but Jesus is still doing this and when we look deeper at ourselves, at what’s going on here, we believe that Jesus is still doing this, and get this—he’s using us to be that touch.
When we offer more than just a handshake (nice to see you this morning). But in putting our hand-out we offered more, offered our hearts. We would stretch out not just an arm but a life. Now just a note. What Jesus did was risky and unconventional. What he did had consequences. The thinking back then was that Jesus was contaminated with the disease, with the punishment, with the guilt, with the consequences. Well, while we understand the spread of disease a whole lot better. By stretching out more than just our hand, it still takes more than a handy wipe. Things may get dirty, they may get messy, things would take longer. When we sit with, especially our elders, alone in their apartments, rooms in the nice nursing homes we’ve built for them to fill. You know it takes more to actually hold a hand in love and listen. If we really sit with and listen, not just to the superficial stuff of stories, but really look at each other, at the person who wanders in off the street, if we sit with someone at Community Night or our Lenten journey and really listen and look for where it hurts, things will change. We will be changed.
Jesus went to where it hurt, and the thing is he stayed there. The crowds forced him to stay outside of town—so that’s where he stayed. We stay there too because he stays in, with and through us. We stay so that one day, we can Jesus touches us, and frankly we don’t know where it hurts anymore. Alleluia. Amen.

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