What excites me about this week’s readings is the progression. The stories begin with Jesus calling those around him to repent. To repent means to stop and turn around and reorient ourselves in the opposite direction of which we are headed. Jesus’ call for us to remember who we are is urgent. The message from Jesus is to stop going in the current direction and to pay attention.Then Jesus heals individuals in ways that disturb the religious leaders. He heals on the Sabbath. He hangs out with the less desirable and even goes into their homes. Jesus is clearly siding with the poor and outcast. He doesn’t seem to have much in common with those with authority and wealth. He also doesn’t seem to have much patience with people who care more about following the law than loving their neighbor.
Caring for and loving our neighbor is the central theme of Jesus’ teachings and actions. He is healing a bent over woman to whom no one gave the time of the day. He notices the person taking the seat of honor only because the person thought his position in society allowed him to do so. Yet Jesus tells a story about a person eagerly sitting in the seat of honor only to be asked to sit somewhere else. Then a person of less statute is asked to take the seat of honor. Wow! Talk about a reversal of the justice and social system. Jesus is not having any of this “I’m owed this because I’m special” attitude. It is clear Jesus came to give hope to the poor, disenfranchised, and the nobodies of the world. And here is the twist. You and I are the nobodies but we don’t know it. We think we are somebody and deserve special treatment. We think we are better than the smelly street person or the person with a bizarre mental state. We claim a false sense of worth because the color of our skin tells us we are better. Jesus has news for us, unless we become like a child we will not enter the kingdom of God.
This week’s readings end with stories about forgiveness and grace. The interesting concept in these stories is that forgiveness and grace are given before they are requested. What does this say about our God who is willing to forgive so freely?
As you read these chapters where are you in the realm of forgiveness? Is it easy to forgive someone who has hurt you? Do you struggle seeing the poor within your own soul? Can you see yourself in the other?
The Rt. Rev. Morris K. Thompson, Jr.
Bishop of Louisiana