Christ is Compassion!

Christ is Compassion!
2 Kings 5:1-14 
Psalm 30
1 Corinthians 9:24-27 
Mark 1:40-45 
 Moved with pity, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, and said to him, ‘I do choose. Be made clean!’ Mark 1:41
Exalted God, you care for all who suffer, remind us of our shared humanity, move us with your compassion to the outcast and lost. May we never turn away from those in need, but share with generosity and joy the love we have received. For you are alive and reign with the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen
Mark 1:40-45 
Jesus Cleanses a Leper
A leper came to Jesus begging him, and kneeling he said to him, ‘If you choose, you can make me clean.’ 41Moved with pity, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, and said to him, ‘I do choose. Be made clean!’42Immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean. 43After sternly warning him he sent him away at once, 44saying 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.’45But he went out and began to proclaim it freely, and to spread the word, so that Jesus could no longer go into a town openly, but stayed out in the country; and people came to him from every quarter.
Tena koutou katoa e te whanau o Te Wairua Tapu.
Well whanau, we returned to karakia at Te Wairua Tapu today. There’s still lots of work to be done but it’s great to be back in the church sharing in worship and fellowship. 
In today’s gospel from Mark, we hear the story of someone, “annoying God,” more specifically, a leper who asks Jesus for healing. Prior to this passage, Mark tells us that Jesus and his new disciples are setting out on a preaching tour of Galilee: “Let’s go on to the neighbouring towns,” Jesus says, “so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do.”  So off they go to spread the Good News.  And that’s when Jesus meets this leper.
According to some biblical studies, there’s a big question about one sentence of this passage.  Some translations, say that Jesus was ‘moved with pity or compassion’.  But a few translations, say Jesus was becoming angry.  What an odd thought, Jesus being angry.  There are good arguments for either one being the original wording, but most English translations choose to represent Jesus as compassionate, rather than angry. You can understand why, especially when we probably don’t like the idea that Jesus would be angry at someone asking for healing.  But at the same time, I am intrigued by the idea that Jesus may have been angry, just for a moment at least, because to me, that sounds like a very human reaction, not that I’m trying to justify anger but that sounds more like the reaction of a God who has flesh and blood and has human emotions like you and I.
However, we have just been told, that Jesus has set out on a mission: he intends to preach the Good News to all of Galilee.  He’s a man with a plan.  And his plan to preach has suddenly been interrupted by this man who approaches him to ask for healing.  So many of us are always in a rush, trying to fit more into our  day, irritated by missing a green light on our way to karakia this morning.  There’s a certain joy in imagining Jesus in a hurry: “Come on, hurry up,” he mutters to himself.  “I don’t have all day.  I have a sermon to write! And, I have to get to Tiberias!”  But besides impatience, there are other reasons that Jesus might have been angry in that moment.
Firstly, this man is a leper.  In a society without modern medicine, with no understanding of germs, viruses, or the immune system, with no way to understand the causes of diseases and no way to treat them, many illnesses were feared; and people suffering from these diseases were outcasts.  In other words, lepers were systematically excluded from society.  For Jesus to speak to this man, let alone touch him, sets Jesus in opposition to the powers of the day because he breaks the rules of a social system that kept clean and unclean people separated. 
Secondly, Jesus may have been angry as he heard this man’s request.  Perhaps Jesus was beginning to realise that his life was going to be shaped and marked by the unrelenting needs of all of the people in pain and distress around him.  It was never going to stop!  For the rest of his ministry, people will be clamoring for his attention: crying from the roadside, grasping at the hem of his garment, lowering the sick through the roof, all trying to get the healing Jesus can offer them.  You can’t blame them.  These are people in need.  But you can imagine living with the constant and overwhelming requests for help would be exhausting for anyone, and Jesus had so much to do with so little time.  I imagine that if Jesus were angry for a moment, it may have been, in part, at the realisation that there would never be just a sermon, just a dinner with friends, just a moment to pray.  He was going to have to live with continual interruptions.
You see, we too, live with continual interruptions, don’t we?  There’s always something coming up, something wanting or demanding our attention.  As those interruptions come up, we struggle to balance them: a stranger needs a hand to load something in their car when we’re already late for a hui or our kids sports games. Losing a loved that fills our heart with sadness and changes our lives forever. A daughter struggling with post-natal depression. A church member weeping in the pews on a Sunday because they were just diagnosed with cancer. All this stuff, it’s not part of our game plan.
This story of Jesus being interrupted on his preaching mission teaches us something about how to handle those interruptions, how to live with the uncertainty of changing our plans and shifting our priorities.  Jesus may have become angry for a moment–it’s only natural to feel frustrated or disoriented or even angered when our hopes and intentions are thrown into chaos.  But Jesus doesn’t let that first emotional reaction control his response.
Too often, we get drawn into believing that faithful discipleship means cultivating the correct emotion in our hearts: peaceful contemplation in worship, when truly our minds are filled with worry; sympathy for a person in need, when truly we are preoccupied with our own concerns; excitement for a mission trip or a life change, when truly we don’t want too.  When Jesus feels anger and then acts with compassion, he reminds us that discipleship can mean loving God and our neighbour with our actions even when we are angry or distracted.  Discipleship can mean responding faithfully to God’s surprises and the uncertainty of life, even when it’s really hard.  In that space whanau, we are never alone.
Maybe none of us “Want to annoy God,” because we fear that we are not important enough to notice, not worthy of God’s attention.  That might be the reason that so many of us are in such a rush!  We are always trying to be more important, to be more productive, to convince ourselves and each other of our own value.  We want to be people worthy of attention.
But there is nothing we need to do to earn God’s attention or God’s love.
The promise of this story is that Christ is always ready to turn toward us.  On that Galilean road, with so many limits and demands on his time, with so many consequences for stretching out his hand, Jesus chooses to touch and heal because, to Jesus, each one of God’s children matters.  Each one of us is a loved and beautiful child of God.  Each one of us is unique and precious.  The good news of this story is that you all matter to God.
The challenge of this story is to go and do likewise.  The challenge is to approach those interruptions and disruptions, those unexpected intrusions and inconvenient crises, those times of uncertainty and change, and see them as moments of opportunity.  The challenge is to set aside everything we think we know about God’s plan for us, all of our rush and hurryness, all of our ideas about who and what is important, and to turn toward our neighbours to bless and heal, and to find we are also blessed and healed by our actions.  Because when we do that, whanau, when we take a moment, take a breath, and turn towards each other, we see Jesus, on this spiritual road journey with us.
Let us pray: God, open our eyes, our hearts and our minds. Teach us to meet each new turn in the road of life with wonder.  When we are angry or indifferent or anxious, bless us with wisdom to hold our emotions gently, neither to ignore them nor to banish them, but to see and feel them and choose your way of love.  Give us the courage to bridge divides, to stretch out our hands to one another and to follow wherever you lead us and bless us with a certainty that we are never alone. Amen
Archdeacon Kaio Karipa