Afflictions

This week was a series of reflections on each reading rather than a full sermon. 
The readings are listed before each reflection.

Reading 1
Numbers 10:16
Reflection
We come in on the end of a story here, but I’ve deliberately chosen to take it from there so that we focus on Miriam and her affliction.  As a result of other people’s actions she has a disease, so Moses cried out to the Lord for her to be healed, his prayer is for full healing, right here right now.

The response from the Lord may have surprised him, it wasn’t exactly what he’d asked for was it?  What was the direction that he received?

That’s right; she was to be isolated for 7 days, removed from the camp.  We’re not told whether she was healed when she came back, but we do know that everyone waited for her to come back in, they didn’t head off on their march until she was able to return.  She was wanted but was out of necessity quarantined to protect the other people from contracting a potentially contagious disease.

Does this sound familiar?  Who saw the headline on the Herald Sun on Friday?  “Trapped by pig flu”, this article is about a Melbourne family who have been quarantined to protect others from the spread of Swine Flu.  If I read the article correctly the powers that be have closed the children’s school for a period of 7 days to try and prevent other people from getting sick as well.

Sometimes people are taken away from their family and friends for a period of time to prevent others from becoming ill too.  Hopefully it is for good reason and the result will be positive for all, but in the mean time these people still need to be cared for and prayed for.

Let’s now take a look at another situation.

Reading 2
2 Chronicles 26:21
Reflection
Here we have a very successful King.  Uzziah had been ruling wisely, he had recovered great tracts of land that had been taken over by the enemy.  The kingdom of God was expanding through his actions; he was doing a great job.  Then he started to do things that didn’t please God, he started making an offering to the Lord himself rather than following the proper way and having the priests do it on his behalf.  He too was afflicted with leprosy.

As a result of his disease he was separated from his family and even his kingdom, forced to live in a separate house and rule through his son Jotham.

Even this great and powerful man was forced to be removed from his society because he was unclean and could spread his disease to other people.  He was also removed from the presence of God in the temple because he was unclean.

That must have been pretty tough for him to deal with, but in this case there was no prayer or begging the Lord to heal him.  Maybe this is a reflection on the self centred nature of a King who had become a little too full of his own importance.  He lived out his life excluded from his Lord’s house and his people.

Reading 3
John 17:6-19
Reflection

Here we encounter Jesus mid prayer, talking to his Father in heaven directly about the disciples, those whom the Father gave to him from the world, who now have access to the Father through the Son and because they’ve had the name of God revealed to them.

Jesus is about to go to be with the Father, he won’t be physically with his disciples any more.  He has prepared them, by teaching them all that they need to know and giving them his name.

They are going to be separated from Jesus physically, but not spiritually.  He is no longer in the world, he is going to be with the Father but they are going to remain in the world and as we discover, they are hated by the world, but he has protected them throughout. 

Jesus is asking the Father to protect them when he is no longer with them, they are being sent into the world even though the world might hate them.  They are in the world but not of the world.

Have you ever felt like the world hated you, that you were different for some reason, maybe because you are a bit of weird and go to church on Sunday?  People tend to hate what they don’t understand don’t they?  That’s what was going on for the disciples, to those of the world the message of the cross is foolish, silly, not at all easy to understand, so it makes sense that they would not think much of people who rejoice in that message.

Jonathan Krause is going to tell us a story later of a group of people who are misunderstood, even exploited because they are different.  My reasoning for using the readings we have today was to lead us into hearing their story with a greater appreciation for the way these people are affected and how we can help them through prayer, awareness of their situation or if we are choose to, financially.  Even though we might be separated from them and others who are persecuted, we can still care for them in Christian love, just as Jesus sits at the right hand of the Father and cares for us too.

Reading 4
Luke 24:50-53
Reflection for Lilydale and Yarra Junction

This is the story of a son being restored to his rightful place at the side of his Father, his mission fulfilled through his death and resurrection, through him we are made holy.  Jesus also had a short time of separation, when he died and descended into hell, then he rose again and as we hear today, ascended into heaven.  Now he is with the Father but is also still here with us.  We are connected to the Father through him and the Holy Spirit, cared for and prayed for.  Through our Triune God we are able to care for others who have been separated for whatever reason, God gives us the power to love others as he has first loved us.

Amen.

Jonathan Krause from Australian Lutheran World Service then gave a presentation on Albinism in Burundi.  For information go to http://www.lca.org.au/action/alws/