Exclusion and Embrace

6th Sunday (B) – Leviticus 13; Mark 1:40-45

It did not take long during the week before we began to hear victims of the terrible bushfires that ravaged Victoria last weekend ask why did this happen? Who is to blame? Was it the fault of the arsonists who lit the fires, or the greenies who didn’t allow controlled-burns, or the government for not have early warning systems in place. Today we see that a class-action has begun against the power company that maintains the power-lines, because it may have been a spark from a fallen pole that started the fires. We are always looking for someone to blame. This is perhaps more the case with our generation, but it has probably always been the case. If only those people weren’t here, everything would be ok (you know – the people with that colour skin; those who voted that way in the election; people who made their money that way; people who have that sexual orientation.)

In centuries past, the way to achieve holiness / salvation was through ritual purity. You had to stay removed from anyone that was not living and following the requirements of the covenant like you were. So you simply must avoid anyone who is ‘unclean.’ Keep yourself separate from those who are ‘sinners’ & hang-out with people who are like-minded and obsessed about the same kind of issues, etc. Stay away from the wrong kind of people – notorious sinners; people who are diseased, etc.

In the gospels, we meet Jesus who again and again goes against this wisdom (this ‘framing narrative’) and associates with those who are ‘unclean’ and even touches them. He shows us the extent to which God will go to reach us, to include us in the kingdom. He pulls down barriers and walls that prevent the saving power of God from reaching those who are the most vulnerable in our society. And he invites us to do the same.

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[Note this version does not mention the movie ‘Gran Torino’ – so it is spoiler free!]

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