Pentecost 21 :: Who’s In? Who’s Out?

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Brexit protest: In or Out?

In this week's Gospel story we are confronted with two groups of folk deemed as outsiders by the religious authorities of 1st-century Palestine: lepers and Samaritans. Lepers were cast as outsiders—literally—by the presence of their contagious skin disease. Being “unclean” they were to be shunned by the rest of society and not allowed back into the community until after they were declared “clean” by a priest. They led lives of desperation, unable to work, begging for food, keeping their distance from anyone whom they might infect. They had to yell out, “Unclean! Unclean!” when approaching strangers as a warning not to come any closer.

Samaritans were cast as outsiders because their religious observances were markedly different from those of the rest of Jewish society. They were forbidden from interacting with Jews and Jews were prohibited from having anything to do with them. Each was anathema to the other. Imagine how it must have been for that Samaritan leper.

Enter Jesus.

His proclamation of a God who didn’t make distinctions between those who were “in” and those who were “out” was a radical one for his time. For the people of Jesus’ time, it was of vital importance that distinctions be made between people. The welfare of the community depended on this. But, for God, everyone was “in”! No distinctions are made. All are equal in God’s eyes. Jesus’ healing of all ten lepers restored them to society and a normal life. Unfettered by fears of being marginalized, they were able to participate once more in all the rights, responsibilities and privileges of being part of a community. Unfortunately, that was still a community which had an “in” group and an “out” group.

But for the Samaritan among them, something else was manifest. His faith in and thanksgiving for what Jesus had done, opened his life to ever greater possibilities, knowing that the community he was being welcomed into was one which no longer differentiated between different kinds/types/qualities of persons. He was welcomed into the community of God, whose love and healing is freely offered to all.

Would that this were the kind of community we were a part of… 

Oh, wait. We are!


Link to RCL Lectionary for the Twenty-First Sunday after Pentecost.


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