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The leper seeking healing in St Mark’s Gospel did not have high status — he was an outcast. To the average citizen in his community, he was nothing more than a faceless beggar. We are not even given a name for him, and we have no sense of family or any other significant relationships in his life. But the poor man did not need “the right connections” to have access to the holy man Jesus, and he went to him directly for help. No gifts are lavished upon Jesus, no ritual is required of the leper, and no one “worked the system.”

The leper went to Jesus willingly, his healing was immediate, and, most importantly  the leper in the Gospel was led to Jesus BY faith. He went to Jesus IN faith. He needed no proof of Jesus’ power; he believed that Jesus could do whatever he chose, and Jesus the Jew did not shun the company of this “unclean” man. Rather, Jesus spoke to him face-to-face and restored his health — simply for the asking. Jesus made the sick man well and immediately sent him back to the synagogue, to be restored to the community of the faithful.

 The Gospel teaches us that one does not need high status or affiliation with the right people to receive blessings from Almighty God.  

 The Scriptures focus our attention on the uncomfortable truth of a God who simply does not work in ways we consider “proper.” In human society, we position some people in the centre of power. We measure people’s value by their relationship to what we consider to be the centre of “the action” — whether it’s based on material wealth or complexion or culture or geography or national origin or gender or age or orientation or profession or whatever determines who’s “in” or “out.” As the songwriter says, we like to be “in with the ‘in’ crowd.” But the Divine Action — the healing, transforming power of God — is found among the outcast — among the rejected and excluded people we consider the most unworthy.

This is as true in the Old Testament as in the New, for God is not limited in time. If we look closely at the Naaman story, we find its roots in a God who punished faithless Israel and its idolatrous king. The instrument God used for that chastisement came from an enemy nation and worshipped a foreign god. Worse still, he was considered unclean, unfit, and unworthy in the Kingdom of Israel, because he was a leper — a leper and general whose name was Naaman. The Gospels teach us that for all his foibles, Naaman was special to God; as Luke has written, “And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian.”

So, this morning, God is calling Christians to rethink all those circles we create to include some people and exclude others. Jesus is calling us to re-examine the barriers we create to ensure that only the “right” people come into our fellowship. But most of all the Holy Spirit is calling us to remember that the systems of power that we construct do not limit the power of God’s action to heal and transform this world. The Scriptures teach us, time and time again, that Jesus comes into the world not to support the “centres” of the powerful but to touch and heal the people on the “margins” — the powerless, abandoned, excluded, degraded, exploited, and disregarded. These are the ones with whom “right” people do not associate but righteous people recognize as fully God’s own. The challenge of the Gospel is not to include them into “our circle” but to allow God to expand that circle until it most fully reflects the richness that God alone has created. We must allow the Spirit of God to guide the relationships within that circle to the place where they mirror the love that God has for everyone regardless of social station.

So let us come to the Altar with eyes open to see the hand of God at work in our faith. Let us come with hearts open to the helping, healing touch of Christ in our lives. And let us come with arms open to uphold, empower, and strengthen all who walk in the Spirit, that we might all grow from strength to strength in the service of the God who has loved us all into life. 



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