Our scripture today is Jesus’ healing a blind man. This particular healing in Mark 8 is a two-part healing, the only one that I know of in scripture that happens this way. Jesus first of all takes the man by the hand, and leads him out of the village. Then he spits on his eyes. When he asks the man if he can see, the man says “I see people, but they look like trees walking around.” Then Jesus touches him again and he “sees everything clearly.”
In this very short story are many rich messages for us on this journey and for everyone who seeks Jesus’ healing touch. The first is that Jesus takes the man by the hand…just the way Alyona takes me by the hand, Katya takes Doug by the hand, and the way that all the children reach out to us and us to them. Jesus touches. He meets people in authentic encounter…a gift that is often inherent when one is with a child. The second is that Jesus leads the man outside of the village, the way that we have all been led out of our homes, our familiar settings, out of what is comfortable.
Then, what an odd thing for the man to say that he sees people, but they are like trees walking around. He is not yet fully healed, therefore he cannot clearly see people for who they are. Many of us who claim faith in Jesus Christ still yet fail to see people for who they are—for their humanity, their gifts, their vulnerability, or their joy. Even for some who claim faith in Christ, who have received that first touch from Jesus, still see people as objects, less than fully human. We are here with (little) people who can be easily overlooked, can be seen with pity or sadness or disdain, less than fully human. Like trees walking around, we know that they are there, yet do not see them for all that they are.
This covenant relationship between Christ Church and Slobodskoy orphanage helps us to see these people in the fullness of their humanity—made in the image of God; with unique gifts and a unique value; with needs, hopes, and fears. Though these children have suffered pain from the brokenness of their families, they are beautiful…beloved children of God, people in their own rights.
So as we played games together today, as we watched a movie, shared a meal, and as we tucked each child in at the end of the day, we see them more and more in their full humanity. We are receiving that second touch of Jesus’ healing, so that we can see clearly—seeing humans as humans, humans as children of God. In the mystery of God’s way of working in the world and in our lives, we, too, discover our own belovedness, our own fullness of humanity, our claim of belonging within the family of God. That’s the beauty of “cultivating compassion,” which is one of our themes for this journey…the more you reach out, the more your heart opens for Jesus to enter in with his healing touch. We are here seeking to offer some healing to children who are broken, and in so doing, we receive the gift of healing which Jesus offers to us.