From the Moderator:

I am glad to report that like most of us now, I have been vaccinated against Covid-19, a trip to Thrapston, a “sharp scratch”, and the world seems a somewhat safer place. It is quite amazing how most of us looked forward to that text from the surgery. How we were so glad to meet the health worker with the needle and so thankful for all those professionals and volunteers who made the visit possible. Now gradually after a difficult year this country seems to be emerging from some of the worst effects of the global pandemic. Though we still remember the many nations who are still vulnerable.

Of course this disease that we now call covid_19 was completely unknown in Jesus’ time, but there was something that was just as feared, and perhaps is the nearest parallel. It was a skin disease that the later translators of the bible called “Leprosy”, though this was not necessarily the disease that we nowadays call Leprosy.  The word used by the biblical writers simply means scaly or peeling skin. However, as far as the people in the Old and New testament were concerned, people with this disease were “unclean”. They had to obey a whole series of regulations that are laid down in the Old Testament book of Leviticus.

They had to self-isolate, wear a face mask, and to alert others nearby to the dangers of transmission by shouting “unclean”. The only way to be declared free of the disease was by an expert, a priest, the equivalent of a modern doctor, who had the manual of symptoms and progression of a variety of skin diseases, so could discern what this was, and when appropriate could declare the person free of the disease.

The church in the middle ages, added even more drastic measures. A priest led the infected person into church and read the burial service over him. He was not allowed to share communion he had to wear black, and live apart from family, friends and normal society. He was effectively regarded as dead. So, added to the physical pain of the disease, the person had the mental pain of banishment from all human contact.

There are parallels to our experience of Covid-19, with masks, lockdowns and self-isolation. But also there are many other things apart from this disease, that isolate, and separate us from one another, disability, poverty, education, bereavement and past failure, to name but a few. In reality we all have need of healing, some visible, some invisible. Thankfully it seems that vaccination at least mitigates the symptoms of coronavirus and enables a return to normality.

In the days of the New Testament, Jesus refused to drive away these infected people. He welcomes them. To Jesus these folk were not unclean, they were simply like everyone else in need of a vaccination of God’s healing love.

The gospel writers Matthew, Mark, and Luke all record one such occasion, where Jesus does what to others must have seemed incredible, He reaches out and touches a man who had been declared unclean by the priest and the man is healed.

However, there is another important detail in the story. This man dares to break all the rules. He knows he has an isolating problem and he risks coming close to Jesus and declares publicly his faith in Jesus’ ability to heal him.

The story is not only telling us that Jesus has the power to heal, it is challenging us first of all to follow Jesus in breaking down the traditional barriers that separate us, and be set free in the love of God to reach out to those whom society has isolated or declared untouchable. Secondly it challenges us to dare to approach Jesus ourselves and commit ourselves to his healing touch.

The outbreak of Covid_19, Has been and continues to be a terrible time for the world but perhaps can serve as a reminder to us as God’s people that we all need the healing touch of Jesus and the church he founded is called to reach out and touch the untouchable.

May God bless you and keep you, and those you love safe.

David