When Jesus had come down from the mountain, great crowds followed him; and there was a leper who came to him and knelt before him, saying, ‘Lord, if you choose, you can make me clean.’ He stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, ‘I do choose. Be made clean!’ Immediately his leprosy was cleansed. Then Jesus said to him, ‘See that you say nothing to anyone; but go, show yourself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.’
The leper was excluded from his community due to fear of illness and fearful faith. The dreaded skin disease was not only unpleasant but also made him ritually unclean and so unable to be in a right relationship with God. Taught from birth to pray, attend Synagogue, and offer sacrifice at the Temple, the leper was excluded from God’s people – shunned for fear of infection and for fear of passing on, through his infection, ritual uncleanliness. Unable to pray with his people the leper was excluded from being the person God called him to be. No wonder he approached Jesus with fear – would the Rabbi send him away with harsh words, afraid to be made unclean himself? Jesus’ response does not surprise us; he affirms his desire to cleanse and heal, restoring this man to health and to right relationship with his community and, in so doing, allows him again to join in with the praises of God in the midst of his people.
We’re very good in the URC at seeing how we need to be active in our communities. This winter we’ve been feeding people through foodbanks, keeping folk warm through warm spaces, showing that our love is inclusive in a variety of ways. We’re good at calling out the powerful and reminding them to whom they have, one day, to give account. We’re less good, I suggest, at helping people restore their relationships with God. Maybe we’re a bit embarrassed to talk about religion. Maybe we aren’t sure how to articulate faith in thoughtful, sensitive, ways. Maybe, we’re aware of how the Church often excludes and don’t want to be muddled with those who seek to shut people out.
The challenge for us is to be both socially active and religiously literate. To include people in our churches, mission and in our evangelistic efforts that we show and tell people of the God whose love reaches all – even us.
Since the beginning of time, Most High, you have loved us and called us to be Your own. Deep in your heart You hold us, Ancient of Days, in Your tender embrace. Give us grace, Eternal One, to show and tell others of Your love, that all may be made whole. Amen.
The Rev’d Andy Braunston is the URC’s Minister of Digital Worship and a member of the Peedie Kirk URC in Orkney.