6th Sunday after Epiphany
12 February 2012
St. John's, Chicago, IL
In the Name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
As if having this disease was not bad enough, the reaction of others compounded it. Fear and contempt would issue from the eyes of the beholders. You were "unclean" in body, and contact with you would make anyone else unclean ritually, unable to participate in the liturgies and sacrifices at the Temple.
Once you had become a leper, you were cut off. Unclean. Unable to enter the presence of God in His house. Unable to gather for worship with others. Unable to even be with others, so long as you had leprosy. And since there was no real cure, aside from a few miraculous healings over the centuries, it usually meant life as an outcast.
Being outcast cannot be purely blamed on a disease, though. Just like our first parents in the Garden, you deny and defy the Lord, embracing the sin that cuts you off, making yourself outcast.
But Jesus is helping the outcast here. He beholds the overlooked. He lifts up the downtrodden. He cleanses the filth and makes all things new. Here is a man who is looked down upon by all of society, and Jesus comes to Him and delivers Him.
You are right there with this leper. As a faithful Christian, you are looked down upon by society. The national news has made that clear this week. There are those who are increasing their blatant defiance of Christ and His Church, and the compassion and conscience that accompany the Church. And they look down on, and some even despise you sad Christians.
Has it been too much for you? Do you give in to pressure? Is it easier for you to go along with the surrounding chaos and culture, rather than sticking with Christ-like principles?
Or have you even been the one making others to be outcast? Are your lips loose and unchristian, spreading gossip and breaking the eighth commandment? Do you antagonize, give glaring looks, and make others feel unwelcome? Then you are acting like those who held lepers at bay, and making others into outcasts, and you must repent! As a Christian, you are to be living a life of love and acceptance, defending the defenseless, helping the hurting, and being God's love and mercy in action.
Are you being outcast? Do not be overwhelmed. And do not give in to the pressures of the devil and the world, who say you are not realistic or current. If you have, repent! For you have been no better than they who are attacking Christ's Church.
They may label you as "old fashioned," "extreme," or even "uncaring about women's health." Yet nothing can be further from the truth. In Christ, you are filled with His compassion and love -- compassion and love that stand up to protect from the dangers and horrors of abortion and secular abandonment of God.
Yes, you are with Jesus, who Himself became the ultimate Outcast, being led out of the city and stripped, humiliated, and suffering a criminal's death on a cross. It was the soldier's whip, rather than a biological disease that ate away at His flesh; yet He endured all this so that you would not be outcast by the Lord God.
Jesus Christ took on the leprosy, the blindness, and the lameness -- anything that would make others outcast -- and bore it all in His body. He drew to Himself your sin and guilt, and claimed it as His own, paying for it all. Yes! Jesus was outcast for you, so that you would never suffer being outcast by Him! He was cut off, so that you would be welcomed into the assembly of God's people, receiving His grace.
Dear baptized and beloved, your Jesus has taken on this on Himself. He removes your guilt, and has borne your sin to be your Savior. You are freed from your outcast condition, and welcomed into the family of God, newly born into life with Him. Our Epiphany Lord has restored and renewed you, no longer an outcast, but a welcomed and cherished child of God! Amen.