Scripture: Leviticus 14:1-9
Key verses: (1-2) The LORD spoke to Moses, saying: This shall be the ritual for the leprous person at the time of his cleansing: He shall be brought to the priest.
Reflection: We are in the midst of a global pandemic so the biblical prescriptions for cleansing seem particularly appropriate. In the ancient world, skin diseases and bodily discharges were considered unclean. Modern readers might conclude that the Israelites were primitive people with superstitious beliefs and rituals. Or we might conclude that their concerns were ahead of their time, recognizing contagions long before the discovery of bacteria.
The prescriptions for cleansing after leprosy or after a bodily discharge might be parallel to using Clorox wipes and hand sanitizer. Presenting yourself to a priest for cleansing rituals might be akin to having your temperature checked and answering a questionnaire before you can enter a gathering.
I notice that the spiritual and the physical are seen as interconnected and interdependent. In our own culture, we are tempted to compartmentalize and separate our physical health from our spirituality. Yet throughout history, providing medical care and treatment has been a mission activity of God’s people. God cares about our physical health. Our bodies are gifts from God and we are stewards of our own health. We recognize that our physical health will have implications for our spiritual health. We also recognize that our physical health will affect many more people and isn’t just about ourselves. So, the ancient Israelites thoroughly cleaned their clothes and their houses after leprosy to avoid transmission. We wear masks, we greet one another without shaking hands, and we limit our gatherings for the same reason.
Prayer: A Prayer for Putting on a Mask, by the Right Rev. Richard Bott, moderator of the United Church of Canada:
Creator, as I prepare to go into the world,
help me to see the sacrament in the wearing of this cloth –
let it be “an outward sign of an inward grace” –
a tangible and visible way of living love for my neighbors,
as I love myself.
since my lips will be covered, uncover my heart,
that people would see my smile in the crinkles around my eyes.
Since my voice may be muffled, help me to speak clearly,
not only with my words, but with my actions.
as the elastic touches my ears, remind me to listen carefully –
and full of care – to all those I meet.
May this simple piece of cloth be shield and banner,
and each breath that it holds, be filled with your love.
In your Name and in that love, I pray.
May it be so.
May it be so.
Author: Millie Snyder
[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].