Fourth Sunday in Lent
Our Savior Lutheran Church
Pagosa Springs, Colorado
March 9, 1997
(Leprosy was/is a hideous disease which deforms and makes grotesque the people that it afflicts. What is worse is the way in which Lepers are cut off from society to suffer in isolation from friends & family. (Lev. 13:45-46) indicates the extent of that physical identification and isolation. Today, however, the lepers in our lives seem to be of a different sort.
WHAT KIND OF LEPER DO WE ENCOUNTER IN OUR LIVES?
ILLUS: Henry. "Social Leper" in his church, estranged and untouchable. His lifestyle repelled most people and his opinion of himself had been devastated by his failures. He struggled to find some sense of worth and cried out for love with every inappropriate word and gesture. Desperate for love, he would do anything for the smallest hint that someone cared. Henry never learned basic social skills: He was inconsiderate, rude, and demanding. He was tolerated in the name of Christian love, but nobody liked him and his self-image became worse, not better. He stumbled from group to group finally believing that if God's people couldn't love him, then perhaps neither could God. One day he cornered a man with an iron grip and a 5 yr. ministry began that was both frustrating and most rewarding. Day after day the man put up with Henry's silly smile, requests for car rides for seemingly no real purpose, took him out for coffee, was called at home and work at all hours asking favors until, at last Henry moved out of town.
We encounter the unbeliever and prefer to leave him alone in his unbelief.
Our society tells us to mind our own business, esp. about religion.
Our Old Adam tells us that we're OK with God, so quit worrying about others.
After all, we're simply more comfortable associating with our own kind.
We encounter those of a different race or culture and fail to include them.
God has made America the new "Jerusalem", the unbelieving world is coming to us.
ILLUS. On Wednesday I was in Gallup and drove by an Islamic mosque.
Immigration is bringing tens of thousands of people to our nation and our community who have no idea about Christ.
As we continue to loose our nation's Christian heritage, more and more people are raised in homes in which Jesus is not known.
We struggle with our discomfort because they are so different from us.
It requires too much time, too much commitment.
It requires the risk of rejection if we do make the effort.
There they are: Hispanics, blacks, New Agers, immigrants, etc.
We encounter those who are difficult to love and choose not to love them.
We are discomforted by the poor, the handicapped, the disfigured and the mentally deficient.
We are put-off by the busy-body, the vulgar, the poorly dressed.
In all honesty, we are afraid of or feel superior to these people.
Our silence speaks volumes: We just don't care enough to offer the hand of friendship that could lead to salvation for all eternity.
WE NEED TO REMEMBER THAT WE WERE LEPERS ONCE TOO, YET GOD CHOSE TO LOVE US.
We were once unbelievers, but God chose not to leave us alone.
By the blood of Christ, God's love transformed us.
The barriers of sin and death have been broken down by His love. (Eph. 2:12-14, 19)
Can we begin to see people, all people, as God sees them? Of great value? Worthy of self-sacrifice?
We were vastly different from God, but He sent Jesus to include us in His family.
Jesus spent time with the poor and the social outcasts of His society.
There was a price to pay for these actions.
He willingly paid that price. (Lk 4:18)
Like Christ, we too are called to commit time for association with the unlovable.
Surely, our commitment must advance beyond writing a check.
Surely, the caring contact of a human being is better than a government handout.
Such a commitment portrays Christ, His compassion, His sacrificial love.
We were extremely difficult to love, but Christ died for our sins.
God doesn't love us because we are lovable, He chose to love us as we are.
In the same way we need to love the lepers in our lives who live among us.
We need to put our feelings aside and love without condition as Christ loves us. (Mt. 8:2-3)
Easter Sunday the church was filled to capacity. Then Andy arrived from the home for the mentally retarded finding that his regular seat was taken. Confused, he began to innocently walk to the front of the sanctuary and just sat down there at the front of the church when everyone else sat down. Marvin, an old and respected Elder of the congregation got up and began to walk forward causing a hush to fall over the crowd. When Marvin got to the front of the church he simply lowered his aged body to the floor beside Andy. Together, Andy and Marvin spent that Easter Sunday sitting on the floor beside each other. For Marvin, Andy was Christ Himself and treated him with the dignity and respect that he would have given to His Lord. How many Andy's are their in our day-to-day lives? As we seek to love Christ, let us learn to love the lepers He sends into our lives. In Jesus' name. Amen.
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