Sermon for the Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost

The Rev Calvon JonesThe Rev. Calvon T. Jones, Assistant Minister, the Memorial Church of Harvard University. File photo by Jeffrey Blackwell/Memorial Church Communications




By the Rev. Calvon T. Jones
Assistant Minister
Memorial Church of Harvard University

(The following is a transcript of the service audio)

Now, let the words of my mouth, the meditation of my heart be acceptable in thy sight. Oh God, You alone are my rock and my redeemer.

Good morning. I would like to place a tag upon the text that you have heard, for it constitutes the context of which we will attempt to teach and preach this morning. This sermon will be a little different, but I hope you are receptive. Some of you all know Reverend Calvon, so you should be receptive. For today's hearing and lesson, I would like to read a letter from a leper, a letter from a leper. Imagine with me.

Dear friends and family of the Memorial Church, to those who may receive this letter today, you should be receiving this letter on October the ninth in the year of our Lord, 2022. I write this letter with the sweat, blood, and tears of my existential struggle and reality. I write this letter in the first century common era. There has been news of Roman occupation in Jerusalem, but I'm not quite sure about that because I stand in between two worlds. I stand in a world between Samaria and Galilee. I stand in a world between hope and despair, emancipation and bondage, victory and fear. I stand in a world between visibility and invisibility. I stand in a world between life and death. I live in a world between the questions of, can I worship or can I not? I live in a world between healing and pain.

See, I don't have a name. Most people would not even look at me or engage with me. See, I have leprosy. I have a skin disease that appears as if I am a corpse, as if I'm dead. And according to temple, religion and law, death defiles and my skin condition is equivalent to death. I am deemed to be in a state of perpetual impurity. Hence, I have been placed in a leper colony away from society. I live in between worlds. See, I've been hanging out with nine other friends so I'm not too alone. I've been hanging out with nine other friends who have also, like me, been marginalized and pushed to the margins of Jerusalem, but we get along. People call us crazy, but I can go to them any day and talk about my problems.

We don't have much, but we do have each other. We know what it's like to wear bells around our neck, to warn people of our infectious disease. We are aware that we have a contagious disease with no cure. However, the way people treat us is just not fair. People and citizens of our neighboring regions have forgotten that we once had lives. We have a family. My nine other friends have mothers, fathers, husbands, wives, children, cousins, friends, colleagues and loved ones. We once played like other children. We once danced with our partner. We once had a joyous life. We once were a part of society, but our condition and who we are was deemed as untouchable.

We live in between two worlds, and as I write this letter to you, I'm sure that some of you all live in between two worlds. Some of you all may be in between two worlds right now, confused about the mistreatment of Native Americans and indigenous people as they continue to fight for their voices to be heard, as they continue to cry out for their land to be saved, their lives to be whole, their culture and faith and spirituality to be respected and honored as they cry out for the blood of their ancestors whose lives have been taken.

I'm sure some of you all are in between two worlds wondering how you will reconcile that relationship with your mother or father or your daughter or so forth, wondering how you will make it happen in your friendship, relationship, or marriage. I'm sure some of you all are in between two worlds right now, angry at the political divide in our nation, despondent about the hate that yet continues to separate our people. I'm sure, like me, some of you are in between two worlds. Whether you are on the margins or you are an ally for peace, love, and justice, I believe your heart cries out for people to see the pain of others, hoping that our world and leaders will see the need to fight for our earth and pay attention to climate change, hoping that we bridge the gap between poverty and wealth, hoping that we remember immigrants and refugees who are seeking for shelter and safety.

I'm sure some of you all are in between two worlds this morning asking God, how long will we face what we're facing? Asking God, when will the healthcare crisis end, when will human rights be given to all? When will the church stop marginalizing certain people? When will all women be seen and heard? I write this letter with the blood, sweat, and tears crying out for justice.

Can you relate to living between two worlds? Although Luke, the one who gave you all a brief account of me and my other friends did not mention our names, the author has been given us more exposure than most first century authors. Luke brings unlikely people into the scene to depict the complexity of life and those who are the least of these. He shows readers that we live in between worlds seeking for hope and healing. Beloved to those who live in between worlds or attempt to understand this reality. Sometimes on the journey to freedom, the biggest issue is not figuring out how you will be healed, sometimes the biggest issue and frustration is why is this happening to me. Why is this happening to our community? Why is this happening to our church? Why is this happening to our nation and how long will it take for us to get there and when will we get there?

What happens when one is left to deal with the consequences that they did not make? I, nameless, a leper, I did not choose this condition. I did not choose this socioeconomic status. I did not choose to have to wear bells to indicate my disease. I did not choose to have to wear bells to indicate that my disease infected body is coming in proximity to normal abled bodies. I did not choose to be on the margins. I'm crying out asking how long.

This happened to me, not because I did something wrong, but because life happens to us and I'm hoping that light will come not only for me, but I'm hoping for you all who are reading this letter or hearing Reverend Calvon read it, that you will also keep the faith, that light and hope got to come. And for those of you who read my story in Luke, let me tell you more about what healing looks like for those who live in between worlds. Life happens and you never know when restoration will come. My friends and I have been desperate and we have been hearing about a man who has shown marginalized persons another and better way, not because He performs miracles or has magic tricks. Jesus shows grace.

One day as Jesus was heading to Jerusalem, my friends and I saw Jesus and we yelled out, "Master, have mercy upon us." Maybe just maybe this can be translated or interpreted as, "Master, no one sees us. Can you please see us?" Jesus indeed sees us and tells us to go and show ourselves to the priests. And some people interpret this as Jesus was competing with the priests and that this is somewhat of a Jesus versus religion or Jesus versus establishment. But I really don't think that's the case here, I believe that Jesus was working within the religious system to transform it.

And although I and others have been in between worlds, that day, as we went to show ourselves to the priests, we were healed. Now, I have to be honest, my friends and I were shocked because this had never happened to us. When you've been on a margin so long, you sometimes make your condition, your identity. But that day, marginalization fell off of us. My friends and I went back to tell the story. My friends in particular went back to their communities rejoicing. And some people think that my friends were wrong, but I don't believe they were wrong. They did just as Jesus told them.

However, something happened to me as I conclude this letter and I pray that something happens to you all listening to this letter today. Healing is more than being removed from the in between worlds, healing means that if God shows up in your life, the change is not for you. Yes, Jesus did not require my friends to come back and say thank you, but when we are grateful, our lives are better. It causes us to walk in complete healing. That day something happened and I pray that something happens to you. Be grateful.


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