Mary did you know?

I’ve made the 16 mile trip in to work this morning. Since I don’t have internet at home, I come here to my little rented office in town. I’ve got two wet dawgs at my feet and a parakeet nearby who is making a racket that I hope is joyful. In the distance one of my neighbors in the building is nailing something.  The staccato sound is no longer surprising. This is not a quiet place, but it is my place for writing, graphic design, and all things internet.

This morning I’m thinking of my family and the loss of our dear Aunt to cancer. She was a part of us and now she’s not here anymore and I’m not ok with that. Mercifully, she’s no longer in pain, and I am grateful for that. The pain and relief of loss is a remarkably awkward blend.

I take comfort in the idea that God is listening. God heard Hagar’s cry in the desert and saved her and her young outcast son.  Her son Ishmael would become the father of our Muslim friends and neighbors.  God heard Rebecca’s prayer as she urged her son Jacob to flee his twin brother’s (justified) wrath.  Rebecca’s son Jacob would became the father of our Jewish friends and neighbors.  God was present for both men, Ishmael and Jacob, and gave them hope.  God reached into their narrative, and that story would be passed down through the generations.

God was present with the outcast lepers who had to shout “unclean” as they walked through the community so people would know not to get too close.  In the old order of things, if you touched something unclean, you became unclean as well. Then Jesus came along and touched a leper, and his goodness was catching.  He reversed the flow of things.  Instead of the overwhelming nature of evil, Jesus made the unclean clean in a perfectly effortless reach to touch another human marked by pain.  He healed the lepers, restoring them to the community.  Jesus gave them (and the rest of us) the ministry of reconciliation.  Talk about turning the world on it’s ear. I sometimes forget to live like goodness is catching.  The world seems overwhelming some days, and I forget the revolutionary power of reaching to touch someone in intentional compassion.

Jesus spoke to the Samaritan woman, something no Jewish man would do.  Their conversation lead to Jesus hanging out in her community for a few days.  He was breaking through a Jewish taboo against the Samaritans.  He joined them for dinner and showed that he cared.  His goodness was catching, even among Samaritan outcasts.
God was present when a young unmarried woman became pregnant and her world threatened to fall down around her ears. “Mary did you know?” Her baby boy would turn the old order upside down.  The story of Mary’s son would include all the pain and relief of loss in its remarkably awkward blend.
As so often in the ancient stories, it got really dark, ugly, and desperate right before God stepped into the narrative.  The unremarkable woman of scripture remind us that God was listening and made himself a part of their narrative.  This advent season we can recognize all the desolation and wonder that is a part of our story as women.  We can take comfort that God hears us and is present in every inhaled and exhaled breath, and even when the breathing stops. And we can get busy with the work of reconciliation as we reach to spread compassion and goodness.  We can look around for evidence that God has been present in our narrative.  There is healing in the hands of Jesus and in anyone who reaches out with intentional compassion.  So reach and stretch to reach some more. Let’s turn our preaching into reaching.

The goodness is catching.

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