Third Course of 5-Part Meal

Imagine being forbidden to be with those you love. The sixth person who didn’t return to say thank you was perhaps a mother who had been separated from her family for eleven years because of the leprosy. She was forced to live outside of the city and never be in contact with anyone other than the others who also had leprosy. In being healed, she was free to rejoin her husband and children. She did not return to give thanks because she was hurrying home.

She had been freed by Jesus and she ran straight home. Imagine being kept from those you love, unable to care for them, unable to touch them, or be touched by them. Unable to watch them grow or hear about their day or their dreams. That longing would build up such force that once freed to return to them you would almost be propelled home. Right back to where you belonged, right back to the reason for your being. It’s not hard for me to understand why this mother didn’t return to give thanks when she knew her child was home just waiting to be in her arms again. Most probably as she rocked her daughter that night with tears of joy overflowing, she paused to thank God for her return…but she could have done it until she was safely home again.

The Seventh just didn’t believe that Jesus had anything to do with the cleansing. He knew that healing had taken place, but why and how were the questions. Certainly he did not believe in hocus pocus, magic, miracles — any of that. There was a perfectly logical explanation for what had happened…for why he got well, but it didn’t have anything to do with Jesus. He didn’t return to give thanks because he didn’t think Jesus had had anything to do with the healing event. Why be thankful for something which was perfectly natural? For this person, ordinary healing did not involve a miracle of God. Miracles were only dramatic events in nature…so why give thanks? He was like so many people today who do not associate God with the healing that takes place in hospitals and doctors’ offices.

The eighth leper did not return precisely because she was following directions. Jesus said, “Go to the priests,” so she went to the priests. Nothing wrong here; she just didn’t expand her horizon. She probably was so used to doing exactly what men told her to do, she did it. No questions. She had forgotten that she had other options, so she just kept on going. She might be the saddest person in the whole story. Living a secure, comfortable life of quiet obedience with no thought of hopes, dreams, and possibilities.

(Tomorrow we’ll hear about the ninth and tenth leper in our 5-part sermon, written and preached by the late United Methodist clergywoman, Barbara Lewis-Lakin, for Thanksgiving 2003)

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