Naaman is healed in Israel
and so concludes that God is in Israel.
So he asks to take muleloads of dirt with him back to Syria
to make it holy ground.
The tenth leper is made clean
and so heads off to find a priest
but doesn’t know whether to go to the temple in Jerusalem
or the temple in Gerazim in Samaria.
So he goes back to thank Jesus.
These foreigners have it right.
They experience healing.
They know that it transcends—goes above and beyond—
anything they have ever thought or experienced before.
It’s a faith experience.
So they think about it.
They examine the facts.
They look at the reality around them.
And they place their faith in their own experience,
and act on it.
That’s pure theology:
First, an experience.
Then, believing that the experience is real.
Thinking about it and trying to understand what it means.
These readings today reverberate in our own lives.
Each of us has been, at some time—maybe even yet and still—
in some way one of the outsiders, one of the foreigners,
one of those in need of healing.
Syrians and Samaritans and Paul in chains—they’re outsiders.
Sunni and Shiite, Israeli and Palestinian—outsiders.
Gays and straights, the clean and the addicted,
blacks and reds and yellows and browns and whites.
They are “other,” and we don’t trust them.
They have B.O., filthy clothes, scraggly beards.
They look desperate,
like they’re ready to pounce and rob you.
No matter that they don’t have an address
so they can’t get mail or apply for a job
or wash their clothes or take a shower.
They might even be HIV-positive,
so you don’t even want to shake hands with them
or touch a doorknob after they do. .
But the scriptures teach us what to do with outsiders.
Elisha, the prophet of God, reached out to Naaman
and sent him to wash in the healing waters of the Jordan.
Jesus reached out to the lepers
and sent them to the priests to be certified clean.
Elisha and Jesus did not hesitate to reach out,
to act in compassion and kindness.
There wasn’t a whisper of judgment in their treatment,
only kindness and caring and concern.
And these foreigners, these outsiders, are changed forever.
They have experienced God,
and not just as a healer.
They have experienced God
in the one who embraces the outsider.
They have experienced God
as one who goes beyond all the limits
of nation and culture and religion.
The experience catapults them into faith.
They believe in the God who has touched them.
And so they respond.
Naaman wants to give a gift, but Elisha won’t take it.
So he asks for enough dirt to take along
so that he can have holy ground to pray on,
enough so he can stay in touch
with the God who has made him whole.
The cured leper returns to Jesus to give thanks,
and Jesus tells him it’s faith that has saved him.
Even though a Samaritan,
the leper had believed the word of a Jew
that he was healed.
The leper realizes that God is not in the temple,
neither in Gerazim in Samaria nor in Jerusalem in Israel.
God is in the loving acceptance of another human being.
The first Christians were not sure
about how far to take this inclusive love
that they had seen in Jesus.
Jesus was a Jew.
They were Jews.
What would an outsider have to do to follow Jesus?
Would the outsider have to become Jewish?
Follow the dietary restrictions?
The early Christian community struggled with those questions
and eventually opened their hearts to the outsiders
in the way Jesus had shown them.
Every once in a while I hear someone talk
about the deserving poor… and the undeserving poor.
I’ll give someone a dollar for the bus,
and someone will see it
and tell me not to give that person anything
because he already gets $350 a month disability check.
Or because she spent 18 months in Stryker for prostitution.
Or because he’s a transvestite.
Or a Muslim.
Or whatever, just different.
One of those people.
But they are us.
We are all different,
all on the margins at one time or another,
for one reason or another.
So we all have a responsibility
to end the marginalization of people
who are out there right now.
50 years after Martin Luther King’s I Have a Dream speech,
racism still exists in America.
A coalition of Toledoans,
with funding from the Toledo Blade and the Anderson family,
is working to change minds about people who are “other.”
One of the projects they have put together
is called “Be Kind to a Different Race Month.”
There are details about it in today’s bulletin.
Anyone who volunteers is asked
to take on a project or do an act of kindness
for someone of a different race, 10 times in October.
They give the person a “Combating Racism” card
explaining the effort.
Some of the suggested random kindnesses are
paying for someone’s groceries, raking leaves, mowing a lawn,
handing a person a gift card,
putting change in a parking meter, walking a dog,
visiting someone in the hospital,
hauling in someone’s garbage cans,
I signed up.
As a white person, I’m part of the privileged majority here.
I’m going to keep my eyes open
for people of color who are living on the margins,
and I’m going to go out of my way to be kind.
Some people won’t want my help and will walk away.
Some may even get angry at me, or try to take advantage of me.
No doubt I’ll end up helping someone who didn’t need it.
And that’s all okay.
The person I’m really working on
I hope to be a better person by the time November rolls around.
More aware of discrimination.
More caring, more compassionate.
More sensitive to people who are different from me.
More like Jesus.
Holy Spirit Catholic Community
Mass at 2086 Brookdale (Interfaith Chapel):
Saturdays at 4:30 p.m.
Sundays at 9 a.m.
Mass at 3535 Executive Parkway (Unity of Toledo)
Sundays at 5:30 p.m.www.holyspirittoledo.org
Rev. Bev Bingle, Pastor