Summary: A retelling of the interaction between Jesus and a Leper
NOTE: This sermon was originally told as a story not preached. I was a bit apprehensive about presenting a sermon strictly as a story (I’d never tried this before) but the response I got was amazing. One thing I tried to do was make the story come alive for the congregation, perhaps as it was for the original players. Please bear in mind that this is a narrative and often the writing reflects the fact that I intended it to be spoken, not read.
Tonight I’d like to do something a bit different. Usually I will get up here and expound on a particular passage of Scripture and give you 3, 4, even 7 rhyming or alliterated points for you to digest. I’ll even throw in an illustration or two just to make it all memorable. But not tonight. Tonight I simply want to tell you a story. That’s right, a story. Nothing really difficult or complex. Just a story. So get comfortable, put away your note pads or offering envelopes that you’re doodling on. You can even put away your Bibles. I want to tell you the story of a man that comes from the Bible but just a little differently than you’ll read it.
Picture in your minds eye a man. This is the lead character in our story. He is in 1st century Palestine, Jerusalem to be exact. There are no paved roads, no cars, and no telephones. The summer air is filled with the dust that has been stirred up by the thousands of feet walking about the city. It’s quite hot on this particular day, uncomfortably so. This man looks and acts like just about every other man on the street that day. But this day would change his life forever.
As you stand looking at this man walking down the busy, dusty afternoon street, let me tell you something about him. You may be able to surmise by the large sack on his back full of bread that he is a baker. He bakes many loaves a day and sells them at market to support his wife and two small daughters. They live in a small house in Jerusalem, on the west side of town. Not far from the wall that separates the city form the garbage heap in the Hinnom Valley. It’s not a bad little neighborhood, although it is a bit noisy from all the traffic. And on certain days you can really smell the valley just over the wall. It can be nauseating at times. Nevertheless, it’s his home and he feels comfortable there.
He had not always dreamed of being a baker, even though his good customers always complement him and comment that he is a natural at it. Somehow or other life just seemed to move him into that vocation and he didn’t dislike it. There are other bakers at the market each day, some from out of town, some from the nicer parts of Jerusalem, and one or two that are from his side of town. All have their own secrets, their own way of making bread. And he is no different. He takes great pride in his work. It gives him a sense of purpose. He provides for his own and that feels good to him.
Each day as he works, when he has a spare moment, he thinks of home and his wonderful little family. Oh his wife. She is the most beautiful thing in the world to him. He dreams of her all the time. The smell of her hair and clothes, her kiss, her embrace. He count’s himself truly blessed for having such a woman. No man ever loved a woman more than he loves his wife. And his daughters. What joy they bring him. The older of the two is rather high spirited, she has a mind all her own and does not hesitate to say what she is thinking about. The younger is more pensive. One never knows quite what she is thinking, but she is always thinking. Each day, as he returns home from the market, he can always count on them running to greet him with smiles and kisses. Somehow that makes the hardships of the day melt away.
This day, the dusty, busy, hot day, is not unlike other days. As he rounds the corner onto his street he hears the shrieks of, “Daddy’s home!” followed by hugs and kisses and a million questions about what he saw in town today as the man and his daughters make their way home in glow of the late afternoon sun.
He steps through the door of his home to the smell of a delicious dinner. He can bake just fine, but no one cooks like his wife. They sit down and, after giving thanks, eat dinner just like every other night. Nothing unusual, nothing peculiar. It is an absolutely normal, uneventful evening around the table. Watch the man now! Watch him get up from the table and walk over to his wife. He whispers a few words of gratitude to her and give her a gentle kiss. Each catches the others eye, and their brief gaze speaks a thousand volumes of affection. But what they cannot know in that moment, is that that would be the last such glance, the last such kiss, the last such moment, for a very long time.