On the 20th January 2019, Church in Progress member Naomi, share the message with her home congregation at Ōtāhuhu Methodist Church. Alan and Emily went to support and were so glad they did!
Last week our Minister Alipate talked about the season of Epiphany essentially being when the coming of Christ is revealed to all peoples.
We sometimes use the word epiphany to describe a light bulb moment, when finally the truth dawns on us about something.
So this is our season to truly understand that Jesus came down to us on earth as the Word of God, to lead us, to guide us to that wonderful epiphany that God loves all people wherever they are from, and whoever they are and how they identify.
Next Sunday is World Leprosy Day but we agreed to move it forward to this week. Some Sundays I bring a money box for the Leprosy mission and ask for a coin donation.
Which is what I’m going to do this Sunday and next week too. (To give online click here)
I want to speak about the Leprosy Mission because it is close to my heart. Jesus himself healed lepers and we are called to help heal them too. This is a disease of poverty and the bacteria being able to spread in very poor living circumstances. Leprosy is mentioned throughout the Bible. When Jesus healed lepers what joy the leper must have experienced when Jesus reached out his hand to touch them when everyone else ran away. He could see behind their disfigurement; that these people wanted to live. Today we don’t always treat disabled people properly and often ignore their cries for assistance and accessibility to places including our own church and hall steps!
Hands up who knows what it’s like to be sick and ill enough to visit the doctor?…
Even though it costs, we are still fortunate to be able to go to the doctor with no shame attached. But if you live in India or Bangladesh or PNG? There are lots of other countries too. You might have sores that don’t heal, or you spill boiling water on your foot and don’t even feel it, or your hand is clawed, but if you fear leprosy you are not going to visit the doctor as your family and neighbours may abandon you in case they catch this disfiguring disease too.
This is where New Zealand and the international community come in. We can pray for these people and the doctors and nurses, we can give money to help leprosy patients receive the medication which can cure them, the surgery to correct deformed limbs, contribute to self help groups, training for employment, a small loan to start a business. Our donations can help educate people, send out health workers to rural villages to diagnose. There are alarming statistics here Internationally over 18 thousand children around the world were found to have leprosy last year and every half hour, another child is diagnosed.
Our money can provide beds and nurses for the Leprosy hospital in Nepal. Each year young New Zealand advocates invited by the Mission, visit Anandaban Hospital to see for themselves the work and healing that takes place, then these young people, who have had a life changing trip, travel around New Zealand to tell their story and spread awareness of leprosy and how it affects lives. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we had a young advocate from our own congregation!
So many workers are grass root heroes. In PNG they train local villagers to run clinics, often by a canoe ride and trek into the hills.
One such women who for years has captured my imagination, just because her name, Ruby Mirinka appears so often in the Mission’s Prayer and Praise leaflet has an amazing story.
Ruby had a great job and prospects in the Dept of health in PNG but when she travelled home to Bougainville she saw her own people suffering and still living in a war-torn environment so she packed up her young family and journeyed back. Many times she risked her life transporting life saving drugs from the Solomon Islands, who were storing the medication sent from Germany, back to the people in Bougainville. These trips were done during the night. One such time saw them lost, low on fuel and singing gospel songs to comfort each other.
Ruby says it was praying that got them through. To get the medicines to the people she recruited health workers as volunteers and organised teachers in makeshift schools. New Zealand has supported Ruby and her team throughout and for this she is grateful and sometimes visits to report back.
The aim of the Leprosy Mission is early detection so patients are not left disabled; that they are socially included in their village, and that by the international community working together, a vaccination of prevention may be found. In India they are passing a law that should stop isolation and hopefully prevent leprosy patients being sent away to live by themselves or in a village where only people with leprosy can live. I feel all the health workers are taking steps to live out God’s hope of love for all people.
And where does this leave us with today’s readings? (Click here for the readings)
We see Jesus obeying his mother when asked to help the host of the wedding even though Jesus said it wasn’t his time yet. We’re seeing a few weddings in our own congregation and the organisation that takes. I know you will be stepping out in God’s hope at these times especially Heilala and Tevita.
We see the servants at this wedding in Cana filling the huge jars with water.
They must have wondered what on earth was going on, but they did it anyway having had instructions from Jesus himself. Maybe Jesus had already done some other miracles that are not recorded for us! They, as well as Mary must have known he was pretty awesome. What joy was bought to the host by obeying those instructions! The best wine at the end of the Jewish wedding instead of the beginning!
And in the Corinthians reading we learn of all the gifts of the spirit, healing and miracles, teaching and languages. Many of these are being put to use in the Leprosy Mission’s outreach. But we don’t all have the same gift or else nothing much would be achieved! I couldn’t be a Ruby Mirinka stranded in a canoe on the darkest night in the Pacific but I can collect and give to ensure the fight against leprosy continues. But it is the same God who gives his spirit to each one of us so we may step out in his hope of love for everyone.
The Upper Room devotions on Weds said this:-
‘By walking in Jesus’ footsteps we can help our world to become kinder and more compassionate. No matter how busy our lives may be, as Christians our true mission is to notice those in dark places and to shine God’s light of love on them.’
The Psalm today tells of our epiphany moment
‘We feast on the abundant food you provide
you let us drink from the river of your goodness
You are the source of all life
and because of your light we see the light. ‘
May this week seeing us stepping out with God’s hope in hearts, minds and souls.