Sermon in a nutshell: “What is more important than fellowship?”(Lev. 13:1-8)
Worship and fellowship are two trademarks of the Christian Community.
Last Sunday morning we had three worship services and in the afternoon we had the LOL concert. In the morning we worshiped God together. In the afternoon, we laughed together. We ate together. Good music and good food, laughing and eating, have been two trademarks of the Methodists since the beginning. We love to sing and we love to eat (Sorry Weight Watchers!)
We remember, however, that there are people who cannot worship and have fellowship.
While we are having a good time, we must remember that there are our brothers and sisters in hospitals, nursing homes, battlefields, mission fields, and work places. We realize that there are many people who cannot come to church and fight for lives. One example is the mother who has given birth, as we read in the Bible. Mothers need special protection and rest. However, not only mothers who had babies but also many other people cannot come to worship to save other lives or to fight for their own lives. God allows those people to focus on lifesaving works.
Today’s scripture passage shares concern for the people who cannot even have fellowship. A mother who had a baby could not come to worship but had fellowship at home. Other mothers and family members had fellowship with her freely. However, those who had infectious diseases could not have fellowship. People were afraid of catching the same disease and kept them at a distance.
God still cares for them and makes ways for them to come back to the community.
However, God did not abandon those people. God cared for them through the priests. First of all, the priest had to examine the skin carefully before he pronounced the person as “unclean.” Then they were kept separately for protection and healing. They were closer to death than other people.
They were under constant care and supervision. The priest then had to examine the person every week three times. For three weeks, the priest had to keep examining the person to try to bring him or her back to the community. When they had a chronic disease, they would be in a special community where they could live together. However, this decision was made only after a long and thorough examination and diagnosis.
Even when other humans cannot have fellowship with them, God wants a relationship with them.
In Korea, there is a small island called So Rok Do where all the Hansen’s disease patients live together. There are many doctors and nurses who care for them. There is also a church for them. A couple of years ago, two Catholic nuns, Margaret and Marianne, retired from the church after 45 years of service.
They were from Austria. They came in their twenties and retired in their seventies. They spent their entire lives with those with leprosy and loved them. At the retirement interview, a reporter asked them why they performed this service. They answered that because God loved them, they wanted to deliver the message through their service. Yes, all the people in that island got that message. All the people in Korea got the message. Their stories were all over the media and everybody felt a deep love of God through them. Secondly, they said that those skin disease patients had pure hearts. Even though their skins are not “clean” their hearts are “clean,” full of life, full of thanksgiving, and full of joy. They loved being with them because of their purity.
We have two messages here: Care for your “unclean” friends and keep you heart “clean.”
God wants us “clean” people, who still have energy and strength, to care for the “unclean” people who need extra help to sustain their lives. It is the message of Social Justice and Social Services. Our church is really good at this ministry.
God wants those “unclean” people, who are weak and closer to death, to know that God still loves them. God wants them to continue to keep their hope, love, and faith. The reason why we keep visiting them and spending time with them is to help them to keep faith, love, and hope. Many times, when our physical condition is getting worse, our spiritual energy is also down. God devoted one entire chapter in the Bible to show how much God cares for them and to tell the community how patiently they have to work with them.
Let us keep our visitation ministry to help those lonely and weak to keep their faith. If you are still able, please take the Steven Minister training and be a companion to those in need. Or you can be a small group leader and strengthen those people who can still come to the group setting and help them to keep their faith, love, and hope.
May God bless all of you who walk with those who feel left out and abandoned. God be with us all!
- Who was your Care Giver when you needed confirmation of God’s love?
- Who is your Care Receiver with whom you share God’s love?