Jan 07, 2011 - Friday Meditation (Be Compassionate...) The Holy Spirit inflames our hearts with the love of Christ that we may reach out to others with compassionate care, especially to those who have been rejected and mistreated. The love of God impels us to do as Jesus did – to love the unlovable, to touch the untouchable, and to forgive the unforgiveable. Do you allow the Holy Spirit to fill your heart with the love and compassion of Christ for others? Friday after Epiphany 1 John 5:5-13 Psalm 147:12-13, 14-15, 19-20 Luke 5:12-16 While he was in one of the cities, there came a man full of leprosy; and when he saw Jesus, he fell on his face and besought him, "Lord, if you will, you can make me clean." 13 And he stretched out his hand, and touched him, saying, "I will; be clean." And immediately the leprosy left him. 14 And he charged him to tell no one; but "go and show yourself to the priest, and make an offering for your cleansing, as Moses commanded, for a proof to the people." 15 But so much the more the report went abroad concerning him; and great multitudes gathered to hear and to be healed of their infirmities. 16 But he withdrew to the wilderness and prayed. Meditation by Don Schwager Why do people shun others? Jesus did the unthinkable. He touched the untouchable and he loved the unlovable. In the ancient world leprosy was one of the most dreaded diseases because it caused not only physical affliction and isolation, but psychological and mental affliction as well. Leprosy in Palestine could refer to a very bad skin disease or to the more serious disease that ate away the flesh until the sufferer was left with a stump of a hand or leg. Lepers in Jesus' time where shamed and despised and treated as the untouchable. They were driven from their homes and communities and left to fend for themselves. Their physical condition was terrible as they slowly lost the use of their limbs and withered away. They were not only shunned but regarded as "already dead" even by their relatives. The Jewish law forbade anyone from touching or approaching a leper, lest ritual defilement occur. The leper who met Jesus did something quite remarkable. He approached Jesus confidently and humbly, expecting that Jesus could and would heal him. Normally a leper would be stoned or at least warded off if he tried to come near a rabbi. Jesus not only grants the man his request, but he demonstrates the personal love, compassion, and tenderness of God in his physical touch. The medical knowledge of his day would have regarded such contact as grave risk for incurring infection. Jesus met the man's misery with compassion and tender kindness. He communicated the love and mercy of God in a sign that spoke more eloquently than words. He touched the man and made him clean – not only physically but spiritually as well. Some eleven centuries later, another man, named Francis, met a leper on the road as he journeyed towards Assisi . "Though the leper caused him no small disgust and horror, he nonetheless, got off the horse and prepared to kiss the leper. But when the leper put out his hand as though to receive something, he received money along with a kiss" (from the Life of St. Francis by Thomas of Celano). Francis did what seemed humanly impossible because he was filled with the love and compassion of Christ. The Holy Spirit inflames our hearts with the love of Christ that we may reach out to others with compassionate care, especially to those who have been rejected and mistreated. The love of God impels us to do as Jesus did – to love the unlovable, to touch the untouchable, and to forgive the unforgiveable. Do you allow the Holy Spirit to fill your heart with the love and compassion of Christ for others? "May the power of your love, Lord Christ, fiery and sweet as honey, so absorb our hearts as to withdraw them from all that is under heaven. Grant that we may be ready to die for love of your love, as you died for love of our love." (Prayer of Francis of Assisi, 13th century) Supplementary Reading Absolutely True! But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me. - 2 Timothy 1:12 By nature, everyone is a little skeptical. And I think that a healthy level of skepticism is necessary in light of the many false teachers that are out there today. But when it comes to the Scripture—the Gospel of Jesus Christ—you can know beyond the shadow of a doubt that it’s true. You may say, “Pastor, how can you make a statement like that?” Well, here’s what I know: the resurrection of Jesus Christ is as verifiable as any event in history. It’s an historical fact that three days after Jesus died, the tomb was empty. And if that’s true, then the whole Bible is true because Jesus said it was! Now you’ll hear some say that Jesus’ body was stolen or he wasn’t really dead and then Christianity was made up so all disciples could gain power. Well, if that’s right, then why would almost all of the disciples die for a faith they knew was a lie? If that’s a scheme to gain wealth or power, it’s the dumbest one I could’ve ever imagined! But just as Paul , one of those who died for his faith, wrote in today’s passage, you and I should know the one whom we have believed and we should be convinced that he is able to guard us from being ashamed. Christianity is not blind faith. It is being thoroughly convinced that what Jesus said is absolutely true! Every Christian should strive to have a faith that's not “I think so,” “I hope so,” or “Maybe so.” No, when it comes to the truth of the Gospel, we should boldly proclaim, “I know so!” YOU CAN BELIEVE AND BOLDLY PROCLAIM THAT THE GOSPEL IS TRUE BECAUSE OF THE RESURRECTION OF JESUS CHRIST.