“HEALING THE LEPER”
Imagine if you will that you are living in 13th
Leprosy is rife at this time,
and you are exposed to the disease and develop the symptoms.
How does your local village community respond to you as a leper?
You are required to move out of the village -
possibly into a lazar house,
otherwise into the open countryside to fend for yourself.
Meanwhile you are treated as though you had died.
Your relatives inherit your estate as they would have done on your death.
Indeed, the priest actually conducts a funeral service for you.
A small slot like “lepers’ widow” may have been built into the wall of the Church
so that you can watch the mass being celebrated
without contaminating the other worshippers.
In every social sense you are a dead person.
Well, as with so many human actions, motives were mixed -
doubtless some good intentions regarding public health
but horribly mixed in with fear, ignorance and prejudice.
Now imagine if you will that you are living at the start
of the 21st Century.
You have AIDS. Maybe it is your fault,
you were stupid with your choice of sexual partners or your use of needles.
Maybe you were just unlucky,
infected by your long term partner or by a blood transfusion.
Either way you have AIDS – your neighbours and workmates
No funeral services or lepers’ windows,
but as each friend approaches you down the street
you wait to see whether they cross over to the other side,
wait for the latest excuse why their children
should not come to play in your house….
Now imagine yourself in Jesus’ time –
A leper thrust forward – bells clanging, tongues clacking
How dare he come amongst ordinary folk?
People pull away when they see you coming –
Suddenly Jesus is there before you.
This is the moment when the humiliation always comes –
you wait for the righteous indignation, the sanctimonious clucking
The quoting of the Levitical law
Jesus stretches out his hand and touches you.
And you weep
It is a miracle - it is a miracle even before you notice your skin is
You look at your ravaged skin and it is clean!
It is a miracle because you have been touched by the loving hand of God.
So let me offer two thoughts.
1. We are all sick, and that sickness takes
sometimes physical, sometimes emotional, sometimes spiritual,
sometimes social - and often a mixture of all of these.
our physical health or lack of it,
we all suffer from spiritual sickness in one form or another -
Our relationships with God and others
are always fractured in some way, and need healing.
Like the lepers of the Gospel - we are all in need of Christ’s touch.
spiritual sickness may sometimes be easier to hide
than an external physical disease.
well work hard at hiding our spiritual infirmities,
so that others are not aware of our sickness.
But we cannot hide such things from God’s all-seeing eye.
In the old 1932 Methodist Hymn Book
there is a hymn by William Maclardie Bunting
about the human condition –
Verse 8 goes like this:
“Woke to holy labours fresh
With the plague spot in my flesh
Angel seemed to human sight
Stood a leper in thy sight”
Look at your life –
§ The things you could never admit to the person sitting next to you,
§ The things you find it hard even now to admit to yourself
§ The things you’d never tell God, except that he knows it all already
if we had to wear our heart on our sleeve for all to see?
if our spiritual failings were worn on the outside
like a physical illness so that all could observe our soul’s sickness?
Where then would we run?
What hope would there be for us in such a world?
Thank God that Christ saw the leper for what he was, and accepted him
Thank God he sees us for what we are, and accepts us.
we are touched and accepted and healed,
so we need to follow in Christ’s footsteps,
and accept, touch and heal others.
your imagination just now
you thought of yourself as the hopeless leper,
maybe you saw how powerful was the touch, the acceptance.
In the same way, can you now see
how much power in Christ’s name you hold in your hand,
if you will just reach out and touch others with that love –
many ways to touch others in Christ’s name,
touching, accepting, restoring
broken people and broken communities..
in this service in the peace,
will we use the hand clasp to say symbolically to others,
as I have received the gift of Christ,
so I seek now with all my might and will
to share it in love and peace with my brothers and sisters?
we live in other wider communities beyond this congregation:
we live in an ecumenical Christian Community
we live in the local community of Exeter and its surrounding area
we are part of a nation, and indeed of a global village
with all its differing cultures and lifestyles and faiths and hopes and fears.
In how many places and ways are those communities
broken and in need of healing?
How many places need the outstretched hand of love and peace,
the touch of acceptance?
then in every broken community,
there are always particular victims, those alienated from our society,
the ones whose deeds and failures have made them outcasts
feared lest they contaminate the values of others
used as a cause of self righteousness.
When we see such a one, let us not reject them, but touch them –
their hand or their heart, so that they know the touch of God’s acceptance,
an acceptance they had perhaps long ceased to expect.
And see the miracle of God’s touch
working the miracle of new hope, health and love.
Can you do it?
be a miracle worker?
Or do you leave the miracles to the saints and the holy folk?
Maybe you still feel unworthy, a very minor part of God’s Church.
Yes, so you are, so we all are –
remember the Church is Christ’s body,
and however small, we all have a part to play.
And if we
are even the smallest least significant part of that Body,
still we may be the vehicle for his mighty work.
Let me finish by reminding you of another Gospel story of miraculous healing.
Do you remember
the woman with the haemorrhage -
who merely touch the hem of Christ’s garment and she was cured?
Maybe we are not a mighty part of Christ’s body -
Maybe we are not his head or his hand or his foot
feel (if we are part of his Body)
that we are no more than a straggling tassle of his coat,
dragging after him in the mud…
forget, Christ’s power was at work in the very hem of his garment,
and who knows what miracles he may work
as through us he touches other lives!
Order of Service
6.30 p.m. Holy Communion led by Rev Andrew Sails
Hymn 257 “How sweet the name of Jesus sounds”
Prayers (Methodist Worship Book p. 408)
Kings 5:1-3, 9-14
Hymn 402 “For the healing of the nations”
Sermon “Health and Healing”
Hymn 431 “Where cross the crowded ways of life”
Prayers (MWB p. 411)
Hymn 142 “At even, when the sun was set”
Holy Communion (MWB p. 414)
Hymn 646 “Sun of my soul”