Sunday, June 21, 2009

a christian response to swine flu part 2 (creative storytelling of Mark 1:39-45)

Today, in response to Mark 1:39-45, we prayed for all healthworkers. Everyone was given at the door either a white piece of cloth or a gold piece of cloth. One – white – stood for Mother Teresa, the other – golden – stood for Princess Dianna. Both became famous for touching the sick. And the challenge for us, whether rich or poor, young or old, to be willing to touch the sick.

In a creative moment, the Bible text became a story, of Jane and her rabbit and how healing touch overcame the impact of quarantine. (Following on from last Sunday’s creative storytelling of Mark 2:1-12- Bill and Ben and their goat called raisins).

Imagine ..
imagine that we’re kids.
and we lived a long time ago.

imagine … that my name is Jane.

Yep. A girls name. Told you you needed to imagine …

Imagine that my name is Jane and I’m a girl and I’ve got two hands. With my two hands I got to touch. I get to feel my favourite clothes. Soft and warm and dry. With my hands, I could to touch, my pet rabbit. Called Stew.

With my hands I could tackle my cousins, goat, Raisins, when they come to visit.

With my hands I could hold hands with Mum and Dad. Go one, two three, wee … as we walked down the street.

When I was eight Dad left home. I know you’re probably thinking divorce. That he’d found another woman. But not my dad. My dad loved me. And loved my mum. My Dad made her furniture with his bare hands and made her a garden in the shape of a love heart.

When I was eight, Dad left because his skin began to change. He began to get white patches on his arms. Then a few sores. Which he tried to cover by wearing long sleeves. He and Mum went really quiet. Stopped going out. Stopped talking with the neighbours over the fence. Stopped inviting my cousins, Bill and Ben. The ones with the goat. Over for dinner.

But that didn’t stop the local village chief. Who came one day. And reminded dad of the law. That people were very frightened of a skin disease called leprosy. That it was easy to catch and no-one wanted to catch it. That people who got skin diseases were “unclean.” Had to leave their home and live in quarantine. Had to wear a special coat. Rough. Brown and dry and hard.

So the man pointed at Dad’s long sleeves and demanded a health inspection.

Mum and I cried and begged, but that was it. Dad had leprosy, said the man. He was now unclean.

Never again could I hold my dads hand. Never again could we play rough and tumble. Never again could he make mum a flower garden in the shape of a love heart.

And so Dad left and lived outside our village. We would take food to him each day. Place it outside his hut. Then back away. He’d come out and we’d shout to each other. The good things like how brave mum was and my new rabbit, called Stew 2. The hard things, like the kids at school teasing me about having dad and how much mum cried.

But no touch. No rough and tumble. No hugs. No holding my dads hand.

Until the day Jesus came to town. There’d been rumours. Stories of a sick mother, healed of fever. Stories of a crazy man, who found peace. That a local carpenter from down the road, could heal people.

Which sort of perked Dad up. Which meant that as Jesus approached our village, just Dad ran toward. One advantage of living outside the village was that he got their first.

Which didn’t please Jesus followers, who backed away yelling unclean. Unclean. And didn’t please the local chief, who also came running, with a stick, yelling, Not in my village.

In the midst of all the yelling and shouting, I saw Jesus eyes. They started to go a bit misty. I’ve never seen a man cry before. Not even Dad when he left home. But I swear I saw this Jesus begin to cry. To wipe tears away from his cheek with his hand.

Then with hands still, wet, he bent forward and touched my dad.

The crowd hissed in surprise, and the leaders roared in anger and his followers howled in dismay, but Dad was yelling even louder. Clean. Clean. Look.

And as the crowd fell back in amazement, he was right. The skin was all better and the sores were gone.

Now some of you are probably thinking, how cool is that. Seeing your sick Dad get better right in front of your eyes.

But what came next was even cooler. Jesus was talking to my Dad: “Go show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded.”

Which mean that Dad was coming home. Back to hugs and rough and tumble. Back to weeding the flower garden for mum. You see Jesus healed not just my Dad, but my family. Put a smile back on my mums face. And a hug back in my hands.

Meant that the kids stopped teasing me at school. The cousins started coming back over. Our family get invited out again. Go one, two three, wee … as we walked as a family down the street.

Dad and I kept talking about that day. About who this Jesus was and where he went when he left us. You see, some people began to call this Jesus “the great healer.” They would point to dad and say, look, he’s all clean. They’d tell stories about the other healings Jesus did. And then, very quietly, when the local leaders weren’t looking, they’d whisper: Who else can heal but a God.

Which was true. But for our family that was only a really tiny part of the Jesus that we saw.

We’d seen Jesus get emotional. Wipe tears of compassion from his eyes. But a God can’t cry, can it? Can a God have feelings?

We’d also seen Jesus break the law. With his hands he’s touched an unclean man. Not by accident. Deliberately. And can a God break their own laws? And so Dad and I used to argue together.

Then one day the priest began to talk in church about God making the world. It was pretty boring and I was counting the circles on the wall.

Until Dad nudged me. As I listened, the priest was talking about the story of God making human beings. In Genesis 2:7 “the Lord God formed human from the dust of the earth”

I began to imagine this picture in my mind of God forming 2 legs and 2 arms. Sort of like mudcakes. Blowing and bang. Hello Adam.

And then a bit later, in Genesis 2:21: the Lord God … took one of Adam’s ribs … ” Again Dad’s looking at me. Again I realise that it’s like God’s touching. Making, moulding.

Which made me think of that verse I learnt when I was really young in our Jewish Girls Brigade. “We are the clay and you are the potter: we are work of your hand”

And I began to realise that my thinking about God was wrong. That God actually wasn’t all white and living in heaven and writing books with lots of “Don’t touch.” That God works by touching, by getting his hands dirty. So when I saw Jesus, I had seen God. Who shares love, heals hearts, restores family, by touch. By getting his hands dirty.

Which meant that Dad left home again. But this time, with Mum and I. Took to the streets. Sharing his story with anyone who’d listen. Of a God who touches sick people. Who gets his hands dirty. Who brings families together.

You might have heard of my dad. In 165 AD they remembered him in Rome. A flu pandemic swept Roman Empire. Over 25% of the population died. Amid panic and hysteria, many choose to flee the city, to head for the hills.

Not the Christians. They remembered my dad. They chose to stay and cared for the sick and dying. To me he was Dad. To Mum his name was Luke. To most he was simply doctor.

Posted by steve at 08:41 PM

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