My name is LARRY.
Everyone used to call me Larry the laborer - because that’s what I was - a hard worker.
And like many men in my day - I did not have a profession or consistent job - I was a day laborer.
So if you needed grapes picked in your vineyard - you could hire me.
A new barn built? You could hire me.
Most of us just showed up in the town square at the crack of dawn and took whatever work came our way.
But one morning - I got up - and my wife noticed some white patches on my skin.
After a few days, I developed some sores. They both progressed and continued to get worse – until I was condemned as a leper.
And that’s what it was a condemnation – a lifetime – cut off from family, friends, work. . . and everything I was used to in my life.
Leprosy was a common disease in my day - you now know that it springs from bad hygiene - but what did we know in my day?
Just that those who had it were thought to be highly contagious – and so we had to stay away from other people because of the fear that the disease would spread.
And so we lepers had to go off by ourselves to live – in order to support one another - as no one else was willing to take care of us.
Even worse than the physical disease – was the thinking that this all was caused by our spiritual failings – our sinfulness.
No wonder we had to call out as others approached us – UNCLEAN! - or had to tie bells on are garments so they would ring as a warning for others not to come near us.
Now not only was I shunned and avoided because I was a leper – but I had a double condemnation – I was also from Samaria – I was a Samaritan. . .
The Jews called us “half-breeds” because we worshiped in our own temple – not the big one in Jerusalem. They despised us and so they would always take a longer route – to and from Jerusalem –
by crossing the Jordan River rather than to travel through Samaria. . . they wanted no contact with us.
But, misery loves company – the lepers I hung out with did not care how I worshiped or where I cam from - we were just happy to have one another. . .
Larry the leper they now called me – lonely, isolated, feared, despised and basically forgotten. Sounds idyllic – right? Right – No one wanted to live as we had to do. . .
Then, one day – this man called Jesus came along - the one who the Jews thought was the Messiah they had longed awaited.
I knew he was different – he was a Jew actually traveling in Samaria!!
The Jews I was with called out to him: Master, have pity on us – so I joined in with their cries. . .
MASTER - they called him - a title that occurs only in the story St. Luke tells about Jesus – and then only used by his disciples. . .
Did these other nine truly believe in him??
I had nothing better to believe in – the hopeless will grab on to any hope – so I creed out, too: Master – have pity on me!
This Jesus told us to go show ourselves to the priests – for they were the ones who determined who had leprosy
and who was considered clean and pure. They controlled one’s condemnation or freedom. . . no wonder they became so powerful. . .
And as we walked – all of us noticed that, even before getting too far down the road – WE WERE CLEANSED! All our sores were gone. Our skin was no longer white – we were all free from this burdened of leprosy and the isolation that came with it all of us had carried for years!
The others took off – not to the priests – but back to their families and friends. . . they could not wait to be re-united with them.
But for me, there was only one place I wanted to go: back to thank my healer.
And when I found him, Jesus asked: were not all 10 made clean?
The other nine – where are they? No one returned – except this foreigner??
By calling me a foreigner – by recognizing that I was not “one of them” – this Jesus showed that the boundary between who might be saved: a leper or clean
A Samaritan or Jew – those boundaries had been breeched. . . the walls of separation had fallen.
My return, and Jesus’ words – allowed him to show that no one:
Not a leper.
Not a Samaritan or anyone else – slave or free, man or woman, Jew or Gentile, sinner or saint — No one is beyond God’s mercy and love. Anyone can experience God’s gift of salvation!
On the road to Jerusalem– on the road between Samaria and Galilee – there is only the kingdom of God – in which salvation is available to all who call out for mercy – and respond to God’s call with thankfulness and praise.
That’s my story: Larry the leper who is now Larry the liberated. But what’s your story?
How are you wounded – and in need of God’s mercy?
How are you lonely, isolated, feared, despised or forgotten?? Or who in your life is experiencing these things and needs to be set free?
What barriers do you throw up between yourself and others that need to be breeched by the love and compassion of God?
Who have you isolated from your life – from your family – from your community — from your Church — and need to invite Jesus into those situations to bring about wholeness and healing??
And then – how do you give thanks and keep an attitude of gratitude in your everyday life?
Start noticing the big and small ways that God breaks into your life with blessings – all the many ways God is trying to show love for you – but sometimes we are just to busy to notice – like my other nine friends who were healed. . . Begin to recognize those blessings – and give thanks to God. Now and always. AMEN!
Moments in time...