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Summary: Cleansing Lepers

Herman Wise Had Freckles

Mark 1:40-45

A leper came to him begging him, and kneeling he said to him, ‘If you choose, you can make me clean.’ Moved with pity, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, and said to him, ‘I do choose. Be made clean!’ Immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean. After sternly warning him he sent him away at once, saying to him, ‘See that you say nothing to anyone; but go, show yourself to the priest, and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.’ But he went out and began to proclaim it freely, and to spread the word, so that Jesus could no longer go into a town openly, but stayed out in the country; and people came to him from every quarter.

Herman Wise had more freckles than anyone had ever seen and he had red hair and in the summer, Herman was just one large freckle. I didn’t care. Herman was my friend and from the second through the sixth grade, every chance we had, Herman Wise and I threw a baseball back and forth to one another until our hands were sore.

There is something special about those friendships we make in our early years. They’re different from the relationship that we call friendship later in life. Kids talk to each other. Kids share what they think and with they feel with their hearts. Those friendships are forged in fire of honest naivety. I believe with all my heart that we learn how to treat one another based upon how we treated others and were treated by our childhood friends.

Valentine’s day will soon be upon us. Hallmark has done all in its power to try to elevate this holiday to Christmas and Mother’s Day as far as cards are concerned. There are some here today who were proposed to on Valentine’s Day. I had a gentleman in a previous congregation who sheepishly told me he love Valentine’s Day because he remember that in was on that day, he kissed a girl for the first time – even better he shared, she kissed him back.

I wish I shared that gentleman’s enthusiasm for the holiday. I wish I could find a way to get excited about hearts and flowers, and cupid but I have difficulty getting past Herman Wise and his freckles.

I think that many of you can share the memory of what Valentine Parties were like when you were in elementary school. I think most of us have decorated boxes for our friends and loved ones to put Valentine Cards in. Most of us remember that we could get 15, 20, 25, cards that all essentially said, Be My Valentine. Hopefully, I’m not the only one who remembers the little heart candy that came in various colors and in varied ways, said, “I love you.”

I remember, that in the third grade, we had our Valentine Party in Mrs. Scott’s room. Early in the morning, we would slip our cards into boxes that had the recipient’s name on it. And late in the day, we would gather our box, eat cup cakes with red, pink or white icing, drink some kind of punch, and open our box and read the cards that our class mates had sent us.

We all knew that most of the cards would be just like the cards we had sent but we always hoped that there might be one special one -- one that was not just different but from someone who held a different place in our heart. At the end of the day, we gathered up our book satchels and our Valentine boxes and started home.

Herman and I walked together and he was unusually quiet. I was as oblivious and chatted on and on about the party and the cake until I noticed that Herman was crying.

“Hey! What’s the deal? Why are you crying?”

“Just shut up!,” he yelled back at me.

At eight-years-old I had zero pastoral skills. I didn’t know what to say but eventually, Herman I sat on the curb by the Courthouse and he showed me the cards he had gotten. Several of the little girls in our class had managed to make up their own cards for Herman. The made fun of his hair, his freckles, his looks in general and one made certain to draw a blue heart telling him he had used up all the red.

At 8 or 9 years old, these young ladies had already no room in the heart for someone who was different. Already they saw the world as Madison Avenue want the world seen and everyone else finds a No Vacancy sign on their heart.

I emptied my cards in the drain there on the corner and I took Herman’s and tossed his as well. We never spoke of it again.

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