Contributed by Kelly Derrick, St. Philip Lutheran Church, Roanoke, VA
What happens when we show a little kindness?
On April 20, 1999, two students at Columbine High School in Colorado shot and killed twelve fellow students and one teacher. The two students then killed themselves. The first victim in the Columbine High School shooting was Rachel Scott, a 17 year old student. She was sitting outside eating lunch with a friend when she was shot. Her father, Darrell Scott, has begun a campaign called Rachel’s Challenge. Just a week after her death, Rachel’s family found in her room a tracing of hands with these words – “These hands belong to Rachel Joy Scott and will some day touch millions of people’s hearts.”
When her family received Rachel’s backpack from the school, they found her diary with a bullet hole through it. In the diary were words of compassion and an essay telling about her personal ethics – that your actions can represent your character and your character can change someone else’s life. Mr. Scott travels to schools throughout the United States to share the story of his daughter – her life, her death and her hopes for kindness and compassion. Using his daughter’s own words found in her diaries, he offers students a challenge to start a chain reaction of kindness. “I have this theory that if one person can go out of their way to show compassion then it will start a chain reaction of the same.”- Rachel Scott
In September, Mr. Scott visited middle schools in Roanoke County, Virginia. My son relayed his experience this way: “Mr. Scott told us about Rachel. She was nice, kind and compassionate. Rachel wanted to reach out to people who are disabled, bullied, or left out of groups. Adam was a disabled student and one of the ones most bullied at their school. If she could help people like Adam then he could share an act of kindness with another. Rachel’s Challenge is to start a chain reaction – one small act of kindness can lead to another and another and another. Like you could help someone pick up their books, or you could not have prejudice toward someone before you even know them. Bullying can really damage someone.”
- Have you heard of the shooting at Columbine High School? Or other school shootings in the United States?
- Is there bullying at your school?
- Is it possible to show kindness to those who bully?
- Might an act of kindness shown toward Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, the Columbine shooters, have changed their lives?
- Is a chain reaction of kindness even possible?
Scripture Texts (NRSV) for Sunday, October 10, 2010 (Twentieth Sunday After Pentecost)
(Text links are to Oremus Bible Browser. Oremus Bible Browser is not affiliated with or supported by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. You can find the calendar of readings for Year C at Lectionary Readings.)
For lectionary humor and insight, check the weekly comic Agnus Day.
There are lots of outsiders in this gospel reading for today: lepers, Samaritans, and perhaps even Jesus himself. Jesus comes upon lepers as he approaches a village. Lepers were absolutely unclean, suffering from a skin disease that caused them to be shunned by society. Lepers were excluded from homes and other places where people gathered because they could spread their affliction to those around them. Purification rites were performed for lepers who recovered from their illness. So the leper was considered both physically and spiritually unclean. But Jesus reaches out to these outsiders in society, having mercy on the lepers and making them well. He tells them to go show themselves to the priests (necessary to show that they were in fact physically clean and to allow for the rites of spiritual purification). Jesus shows compassion to those whom society avoided, the outsiders. All ten are made clean. Has Jesus begun a chain reaction of compassion?
Most of the lepers do as Jesus instructs; they go to show the priest that they have been healed. But one leper turns back to thank Jesus. “And he was a Samaritan.” I’d almost like to add an indignant exclamation point to that verse – a Samaritan! Humph! Jesus is travelling in the area between Samaria and Galilee. Many of you may be familiar with the general animosity between those from these regions (e.g. the parable of the Good Samaritan or the Samaritan woman at the well). A Samaritan leper – could life be any worse for him? And yet it is the outsider, the foreigner, who shows praise for being made well. It is the foreigner who turns back to give thanks – directly, openly, verbally – to Jesus. It is the foreigner who becomes the example of faith filled with joy and thanksgiving. Has the outsider continued the chain reaction by starting a chain reaction of joy, praise, and thanksgiving?
Is Jesus also an outsider? He is praised and sought out for his teachings, healings, and other miracles. But he is also chastised and run off (even to the point of trying to push him off a cliff!—see Luke 4:29). People ridiculed him and plotted against him. In the end (or is it the beginning?!), Jesus was put to death – dying for the sake of humanity’s sins. Thanks be to God, Jesus has been raised from the dead, the ultimate victory over sin, death and the grave. The death and resurrection of Jesus is God’s ultimate gift of grace, love and compassion. Has God begun a chain reaction – of grace, love, compassion, mercy and hope – in the death and resurrection of Jesus?
- Samaria and Galilee are geographically connected. One commentary suggests that the area between the two regions is a spiritual no-man’s land. What does it mean to live in the “space between”? In your own life, are there real or figurative no-man’s lands, where life seems always to be in tension?
- Sometimes people point out the lack of thankfulness on the part of the other nine lepers. Were they ungrateful? Were they simply following Jesus’ command? Might the rest of their lives – the future we do not hear about – have been lived in thanksgiving for all that Jesus did for them?
- Why is it important to actually say “Thank you” sometimes?
- Have you ever felt like an outsider? What does God have to say to you?
- Has God begun a chain reaction of grace, love, compassion, mercy and hope?
- Get out your laptop or smartphone and learn more about Rachel’s Challenge at http://www.rachelschallenge.org/
- Give someone a “Kindness Card” using either the web-based cards at Rachel’s Challenge or make up one of your own.
- Start a chain reaction of your own!
Gracious God, thank you for cleansing us all of our own outsider-ness. Thank you for the love you have shown us in Jesus. In all that we are, say, and do, empower us to say thank you for your undeserved love and mercy. Guide us in showing grace, compassion, and hope to those around us, especially to the outsiders in our midst. Amen.