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He Still Touches Lepers

Jesus seldom spent much time in one city.  He was constantly travelling from town to town, meeting all kinds of people. On his travels he and his disciples came across a leper. The Koine Greek word for leprosy can refer to any number of different skin diseases. 
A leper was ostracized from the life of the community. The Old Testament commands that when people come in contact with a leper, the leper is to identify himself by covering his upper lip and yelling out “Unclean, unclean.”  Lepers had to stand fifty paces away from everyone.  To touch a leper was to become unclean yourself.  If they entered a house, the house became unclean.  If they walked under a tree, the tree would become unclean.  One commentator writes, leprosy was not so much an illness as it was a sentence. Imagine not knowing, for years perhaps, the touch of another human being: a hug, a handshake, even a pat on the back.  To feel so utterly alone, different and broken.  Josephus the historian writes, there is no diff…

Why My Conscience Loves Martin Luther

Martin Luther swore himself into a monastic life in a moment of dread during a fierce lightning storm. His prayer ironically was offered to St. Anne, inaugurating a journey that would lead him down the road to reformation that would include, among other things, denouncing the intercession of saints.
This month commemorates the 500th anniversary of the start of the Protestant Reformation. The story of its conception has had a share of the kindle that sparked a world-wide reform of Christian faith. It is an account in which many, among them pastors like me, can refresh our fretful consciences.
It was during Martin's time as a monk that he became overwhelmed with guilt over his depravity. He went to confession, again and again, seeking absolution for his sins, “He confessed frequently, often daily, and for as long as six hours on a single occasion.” Johann von Staupitz, Luther’s spiritual adviser, of whom he said, “if it had not been for Dr. Staupitz, I would have sunk in hell,” grew t…

Trust, Faith, Belief

Trust, faith and belief are synonyms. Trust is a powerful thing. When we say we trust someone or something, it affords it the character of being trustworthy. This is true of living beings as well as inanimate objects. If I trust a bridge, I am putting my faith in a structure to hold the weight of whatever I put upon it. I trust it enough to walk over, to drive a vehicle on top of it, or to be undaunted that traffic transverses it daily. I have faith in that bridge.

When we say we have faith in God, or we believe in Jesus, what we are saying is that we are confident he is fully capable to do what we trust him for, namely to save us. Like a bridge, faith in Jesus is to trust he will support us to cross over to the other side.

Trust is usually not given, but earned. We don't altogether trust strangers (for good reason) and we certainly don't trust those who have demonstrated themselves to be untrustworthy (for even better reason). I would not hand a newborn baby to a complete st…

Gratitude for New England Autumns

New England in the fall is perhaps the most iconic setting in America. It's easy for us to miss it. Sometimes you can be so close to something that you have difficulty seeing it. For example, we typically don't take the time to appreciate oxygen. It's ubiquitous and transparent; we assume its presence, utilizing it every four seconds. But talk to an astronaut about the importance and value of oxygen and we may gain a new appreciation. Oxygen is not assumed anywhere outside our terrestrial atmosphere. 
For most of us, New England in the fall is simply the air we breathe. Haverhill, MA has been my home since Kindergarten. Let's take the time this year to step back and enjoy the idyllic New England autumn. Let's enjoy the beautiful changing colors of the leaves. Nowhere else in this land, from California to the New York island, do we find such a breakdown of chlorophyll highlighting the trees. The surreal oranges, the majestic purples, the subtle yellows and the fiery …

Faith in Haverhill with Frank Jewett

Faith in Haverhill with David Braxton