We are always on the way

Illustration from an 11th century “Codex Aureus” (Golden Book)

The room was full of graduate students from all sorts of disciplines. We were there for our general orientation sessions. I had spent plenty of time on the application process – meeting with members of the faculty, and potential recommenders, writing and rewriting a personal statement. I still couldn’t quite believe what was happening. I wasn’t sure what I was even doing there!

And then the speaker began. “Let’s talk about the imposter syndrome.“

OK, now she had my attention. She had captured in two words all of my uneasy feelings that morning. Not only was I unsure about what other people thought of my presence there (I was several decades older than most of the cohort) I was questioning my ability to be successful with the program to which I had been admitted.

That someone in charge was up at the front of the room with a PowerPoint slide that read “IMPOSTER SYNDROME,” that nagging feeling that you will ultimately be revealed as a fraud despite appearances,  indicated that I wasn’t the only one who was feeling as I was. 

What a relief! 

By calling it out, this kind and direct woman had given me the breathing room to examine and evaluate my emotions against the other facts of the day. 

Just because I felt like I didn’t belong didn’t make it so.

Maybe you’ve had situations where you struggled with the discrepancy between the good things that other people are saying about you and how you feel about yourself.

Sometimes on the way, we need to take things on faith. 

The gospel of Luke records an encounter between Jesus and ten people who were suffering from the chronically debilitating and contagious disease of leprosy. Forced by their condition to remove themselves from society, they cry out from a distance, begging Jesus to heal them. 

This encounter is portrayed on the left side of the 11th-century Luxembourgish illustration above. On the right side of the same image, the artist shows us another moment in the story as nine of the men head off to Jerusalem to present themselves for examination by a priest as required by those who claimed to have been cured of leprosy. One man, identified by both Luke and our anonymous monastic artist as a “Samaritan,“ turns back to Jesus to offer him thanks. Typically, it is this very appropriate and perceptive thanksgiving that seems to be the point of the story.

However today, it is the imagined space between these two scenes that has my attention. The ten cry out to be healed and when Jesus tells them to go to Jerusalem they just go. They all set off from Jesus while still leprous. Luke carefully tells us that the healing happened to them on the way.

They come to Jesus in the hope that he will heal them. They leave Jesus’ presence solely on the strength of his direction to present themselves to the priest as though they have been healed but before it happens. They start walking while trusting what Jesus is saying about them before they know or feel it to be true. 

This is precisely our situation.

When we are aware of our shortcomings or burdened by the circumstances of our lives so much that we despair or cry out to God for some relief, Jesus calls us “beloved.” He does not just call us “enough.” Rather he calls us “righteous.”

And then, like the ten with leprosy, he calls us to get moving. He calls us on a journey of faith toward resurrection. This is real, not metaphorical, resurrection.

In a manner that is similar to our situation when we doubt ourselves despite what others have said about us, we are faced with a choice. In whose word will we trust? Our self-assessment? Or the word that Jesus speaks over us?

What do you suppose those ten talked about as they headed off with just a promise? 

Peace and joy,

Pr. Jim

Sept. 14, 2022

Rev. James A. Wetzstein  takes turns with Rev. Katherine Museus Dabay writing weekly devotions for the Chapel of the Resurrection

Image citation: Illustration from an 11th century “Codex Aureus” (Golden Book) https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:CodexAureus_Cleansing_of_the_ten_lepers.jpg