Summary: A sermon on the Christian’s call to love and accept all with an emphasis on those with mental illness.
“No One is an Outcast”
Leprosy was the most terrible disease in Jesus’ day.
The leper was considered utterly unclean—physically and spiritually.
A leper couldn’t approach within six feet of any person, including family members, and as Leviticus chapter 13 reads: “The person with such an infectious disease must wear torn clothes, let his hair be unkempt, cover the lower part of his face and cry out, ‘Unclean! Unclean!’ As long as he has the infection he remains unclean. He must live outside the camp.”
Lepers were the outcasts!
They were totally ostracized from society.
Just try and imagine the anguish and the heartbreak of the leper…
…being completely cut off from family and friends and society.
Imagine the emotional and mental pain.
Let’s ask ourselves: “Who are the lepers in today’s society?”
Who are the outcasts?
I’m sure we can think of many.
There are those who are outcasts in schools and on playgrounds because they just can’t quite fit-in with the other children.
There are those who are outcast and ostracized because they are living with certain diseases like HIV and AIDS.
These people are often cut-off not only from society…
…but also by family members, friends, and in some cases—the Church!!!
There are also those who are outcast and ostracized because they have mental disabilities.
And these mental illnesses have names like: schizophrenia, depression, bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder, and others.
These illnesses are biologically-based conditions that involve biochemical imbalances in the brain.
Mental illnesses are not caused by a lack of faith, a secret unconfessed sin, parenting styles, or a curse from God.
As a matter of fact, one out of every four families has a person dealing with mental illness.
So there is a pretty good chance that many of us know someone or are ourselves dealing with some of these problems.
Sadly, like leprosy in Jesus’ day, there is still a social stigma attached to these afflictions.
People with mental illness are often treated like outcastes, annoyances, and this only makes things worse…
…this is one of the reasons that suicide runs so rampant.
So where can folks with mental illnesses run?
To the Church?
To Parkview United Methodist Church?
Let’s hope and pray that they can, because as we see in our Gospel lesson for this morning—Jesus does not ostracize anybody!!!
We see in verse 11 that Jesus was in the middle of a journey.
He could have been heading for an important meeting or He could have been tired and exhausted—with no time for interruptions…but out of desperation the lepers interrupted Him anyway.
“They stood at a distance and called out in a loud voice, ‘Jesus, Master, have pity on us!’”
Notice that within these ten outcasts were a mixture of both Jew and Gentile. At least one of them was a Samaritan.
Normally Jews did not associate with Samaritans, but leprosy broke down these social barriers while creating new ones.
Isn’t it interesting how tragedy and adversity can bring people together?…
…an earthquake, hurricane, fire, flood, or some terrible thing like 9-11 can reach across those many barriers that, in good times, separate us.
Maybe that’s one of the blessings God gives us, a way of helping us to figure out this puzzle of life, when we are devastated by some traumatic events.
The normal barriers of race or creed or class or ethnic origin or mental stability, that we artificially and demonically build, God erases when we no longer have the luxury to just focus on them.
I think this says to us loudly to get rid of these perverse prejudices and hatreds we somehow learn over the years.
That is not the way God would have us see each other.
Like those lepers, we are all in need of God’s mercy and salvation.
This should bring us together as one people who cry out in one voice: “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!”
And that’s exactly what Jesus did for the lepers and that’s exactly what Jesus does for us: He has pity on us.
And this is exactly what we are to have for each other, pity, concern, empathy, kindness, love.
I heard a story about a church that decided to rent out the town square for the day and throw a picnic for the community.
They decided that this would be a great evangelical out-reach to their neighbors—a wonderful way to get to know them, invite them to church, invite them to accept Christ as Savior.
As it turned out a good number of folks did turn out for the affair….but….they weren’t the people, or shall I say the “kind” of people that the church had envisioned.
Many of the people who responded to the church’s invitation for fellowship were from the lower socio-economic part of town.