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Summary: Jesus, essentially, trades places with a leper.

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Mark 1:40-45

"Trading Places"

We've been in Mark Chapter 1 for three weeks.

There is a lot packed into this one chapter.

We started in the synagogue where Jesus cast a demon out of a person.

Then, "After leaving the synagogue, Jesus, James, and John went home with Simon and Andrew" where Simon's mother-in-law was in bed, sick with a fever and Jesus healed her.

Now we have arrived in an open field, where the impure or unclean people wander, hopeless and cut off from society, family and friends.

They can't hang out in the city.

These lepers suffer from a social illness: they are considered to be dangerous and contaminated.

Because of this, when a priest discovers their disease he has to send them outside, away from society.

No longer could they pray in the Temple or go to the synagogue.

They were no longer welcome in their own homes.

They couldn't eat or play with their families.

Instead, they became isolated, solitary people...

...a separate species altogether, really...

...nomads, left to wander in the empty fields.

Can you imagine the feelings of desperation?...

...the loneliness...?

...the sense of self-loathing?

Have you ever felt like a nomad?

Have you ever felt all alone, cut-off, marginalized, cast-out?

Studies indicate that people, in general, live much more isolated and lonely lives than they did just 15 or 20 years ago.

One author writes, "It's no longer the rule that you know your neighbors.

Communities increasingly tend to be virtual, the participants either faceless or firmly in control of the face they present.

Transportation is largely private: the latest SUVs are the size of living rooms and come with onboard telephones, CD players, and TV screens; behind the tinted windows of one of these high-riding I-see-you-but-you-can't-see-me mobile PrivacyGuard units, a person can be wearing pajamas or a licorice bikini, for all anybody knows or cares."

In a New York Times magazine article, an author reflected on social media sites—specifically, Facebook.

Soon after starting a Facebook account the author had accumulated about 700 on-line "friends."

In his own words, he was "absurdly proud of how many cyberpals, connections, acquaintances, and even strangers [he'd] managed to sign up."

But he went on to point out that he had fewer in-the-flesh friends to hang out with than he'd ever had before.

So he decided to have a Facebook party to push his virtual friends into actual friends.

He invited all 700 of his "friends" to a local bar for a party.

People could respond to one of three options: "Attending," "Maybe Attending" and "Not Attending."

Fifteen said they would be there, and sixty said they might be there.

He guessed somewhere around 20 would show up.

He writes about what happened next: "On the evening in question, I took a shower. I shaved. I splashed on my tingly man perfume. I put on new pants and a favorite shirt.

Brimming with optimism, I headed over to the neighborhood watering hole and waited. And waited. And waited. Eventually, one person showed up."

And the one woman who showed up to meet him?

He didn't know her. She was a friend of a friend.

They ended up making small talk and then she left.

The author waited till midnight but no one else showed up. So, he ordered a beer and sulked.

He concludes his article with these words: "Seven hundred friends, and I was drinking alone."

As our population booms, we may not have as many open, and lonely spaces on the earth...

...in the literal sense.

But we have many, many lonely spaces in our homes, in our cars, in front of our t-v' s and our computers.

And these are spaces where much time is spent.

Right before our Gospel Lesson for this morning, Jesus is having a discussion with Simon Peter.

Jesus says to Peter, "Let's head...to the nearby villages so that I can preach there too..."

Then we are told that "He traveled throughout Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and throwing out demons."

Of course, on the roads and paths between these villages there were a lot of deserted, empty spaces.

And it must have been along one of those "lonely roads" that "A man with a skin disease approached Jesus, fell to his knees, and begged, 'If you want, you can make me clean.'"

Of course, in reading the Bible we become accustomed to persons with problems and diseases coming to Jesus and begging for help.

And we are also accustomed to Jesus healing the persons.

What we are not accustomed to is what comes next in this particular instance in Mark 1:41.

It reads, "Incensed, Jesus reached out his hand, touched him, and said, 'I do want to. Be clean.'"

Jesus was "incensed"?

How come?

Was Jesus annoyed at this guy for interrupting His day?

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