Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Awareness - Christ and his followers

Last Sunday, the revised common lectionary Gospel reading came from Matthew 9:9-13, 18-26, words you might have heard before.

Jesus called for Matthew, a man of poor reputation, to follow him. He responded to a woman's touch to his garment by healing her infliction. He knew what a funeral crowd needed to hear and witness:

"Go away. The girl is not dead but asleep." But they laughed at him. After the crowd had been put outside, he went in and took the girl by the hand, and she got up.

A constant theme through this reading: awareness. Jesus was aware of the struggle within Matthew, the faith of the woman, the need of the funeral crowd. And among stroke survivors, family members, loved one and caregivers, awareness is also a big deal.

Stroke is the third leading cause of death and the leading cause of permanent disability in the United States. Part of the reason is that people are generally not aware of stroke signs or symptoms, and we’re trying to change that, to make sure there’s stroke awareness. The more people who know, the better chance of survival and success and the better chance of fewer disabilities.

If someone’s face seems to droop on one side, that’s something to be aware of.

If someone has sudden weakness in an arm or leg, that’s something to be aware of.

If someone’s speech is suddenly slurred, that’s something to be aware of.

There’s no time to lose – the faster the person gets help, the more likelihood of better a outcome.

Awareness was a constant theme of Jesus’ ministry. Consider all those times that he was aware of a need for a word, for guidance, for calling to follow, for an action. Jesus didn’t do this in a random way, in a careless way. His word and action came through his perfect awareness.

In the Scripture reading above, we first have Matthew. As a tax collector, he’s got three strikes against him: an underling of the Roman government, constantly in contact with Gentiles and therefore unclean, and in a profession regarded, at the time, to be dishonest.

But Jesus was aware that Matthew was ready to follow. Just like those doctors who saved my life, Jesus used awareness to diagnose Matthew’s symptoms and acted to supply a cure. What an example for humankind: be aware of the signs and symptoms, and act.

Then there’s the woman, too afraid to approach Jesus face to face, reaching down to touch his garment in a crowd. But despite the crowd and confusion, Jesus was aware of that light touch, was aware of the woman’s faith. Jesus used awareness to diagnose the woman’s needs and acted to supply a cure.

And the story of the death of the daughter – when he arrives at the house, no one else has the faith that the synagogue’s leader showed when he asked Jesus to bring back his daughter. A funeral was taking place. Here, too, Jesus used awareness to know what the leader and the others needed and acted.

Let's take two ideas away from the story of Jesus’ awareness.

First, how can we use our own gift of awareness? Consider that question in even simple ways:
  • Attention to those around us
  • Using our faith and reasoning to gauge when it looks like someone has a need
  • Willing to act or call out for help in that time of need
Second, let’s look at our relationship with Jesus Christ and his awareness:
  • He has complete awareness of our needs; he is our ultimate physician
  • His awareness gives us an open invitation to prayer and communion with Christ
  • With that relationship of awareness and understanding, we can strengthen our bond with Christ every passing day
Because at the end of the day, we are all in need. Sometimes, I think back to the day of my stroke in 1998 and shudder and ponder the unanswerable questions: What if I was alone? What if I couldn’t get anyone’s awareness?

But the word today assures us with answers: In our relationship with Christ, we are never alone. And in Christ, we always have a friend with awareness.


A friend.

Who is aware.

And that is indeed good news.

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