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Another Narrative Sermon For Ordinary 28 - Year C
and/or
Thanksgiving, Year A
Luke 17:11-19
"The Ten Lepers - A First Person Narrative Sermon"


READING:  Luke 17:11-19
SERMON :  "The Ten Lepers - A First Person Narrative Sermon"
AUTHOR :  Rev. Jim Batchelor  (revjim@gulftel.com)
                                    
Based On The Ten Lepers - A Narrative Sermon
by Rev. Richard J. Fairchild

In October of 2001, the Rev. Jim Batchelor asked for permission to adapt
my Narrative Sermon on Luke 17:11-19 to a first person format and then
present it in his congregation, permission which I gladly granted.   He
then forwarded the results to me after delivery, with the following
comment:

     This was well received by all in the church. I ended up playing
     the part of the leper. There was one visitor who has been
     traveling cross country and has visited several churches, and
     his comments were this was the best sermon all year. Many
     thanks to you. In His Service   Rev. Jim Batchelor

It is his hope, and mine, that you might find this adaptation helpful in
your preaching ministry.  

Please note that three people are required for the following.  Also note
that in the RCL Lectionary Luke 17:11-19  is used both for Thanksgiving,
Year A and for Ordinary 28, Year C (which in Canada falls on Thanksgiving
Sunday).

                               ----------

ONE  The Laity of the church want to tell you a story. From a slightly
     different perspective this is their version of a story from the
     gospel of Luke, the story of the Ten Lepers.

          Relax - allow the story to speak to you as it must have spoken to
     those who were there that very day those like you and I those who
     were following Jesus Christ to learn from him the way of life.

                             -------

TWO: Hi, I will never forget that day. We were heading with Jesus to
     Jerusalem. We had taken the old border road that ran between Samaria
     and Galilee, and it was a hot day.

          It was the kind of day when the dust of the road lies thick on the
     bushes and puffs up around your feet with every step you take. The
     kind of day when the sweat runs down into your eyes and turns the
     grime on your face into streaks of mud.

          For a while - the only sound that any of us heard, was the low drone
     and buzz of the insects as we walked, but then through the still of
     that day, something got our attention, at first in the distance, but
     then it got closer and closer - we heard them "Unclean, unclean,
     unclean".

          We began to look around, and finally, as we rounded the crest of a
     hill to begin the long walk down to the village in the valley below,
     we saw them.

                               --------- 

THREE     We were standing off the road a bit, and as they walked towards
          us we stopped our crying of "Unclean"

          There were ten of us, and even if they had not heard us cry they
     would have had no problem knowing what we were.

          Some of us had rags wrapped around our hands,
         others had their feet bundled up in strips of old cloth,
          all of us were dressed in the tattered and torn clothing
             that people in our condition were required to wear,
               and we all had, as we were supposed to, long unkempt hair.

          There was no mistaking what our kind were - 
         we were lepers
          minding our own business standing just off the path
             and they were staring at us like we were some kind of 
     hungry and wounded animals.
          
          We were treated like awful wretched creatures and no one wanted us
     near them, of course I remember when I looked at lepers the same way
     when I was clean.        

          I mean everyone knows about leprosy don't they?  
         It is simply awful.
          No one can recover from it,
             it slowly rots and destroys the body,
                 and worse yet, it is so easy to catch.

          That's why the priests insist that everyone who has a skin blemish
          report to them for an examination.

          The priest looks at them,
         and if they have raw patches of flesh
          or white bumps or red marks on their skin,
             or if their hair is discolored,
                 he pronounces them unclean, and the person must go into
          isolation for seven days so no one else is put in danger.

          It is very difficult for those people, I know because I was one,
         wondering for all those days if they have leprosy,
          wondering if they are ever going to be able to live with
             their families again,
     but it is fair, 
             fair for the rest of the village,
               and fair for our families,
          because leprosy is not good, not good at all.

          Most times the person does not have leprosy
         they go back to the priest after seven days,
          their blemish is healed over,
             and they are pronounced clean
                 and allowed to return to their homes.

          But for others,
         for those like the ten of us Jesus saw that day,
          our blemish had worsened,
             the color of our sores got brighter,
                 and more of our flesh was infected,
                     and we were banished.

          We are declared forever unclean.
         forever unable to have normal human contact,
          unable to bounce their children on their knees, 
          unable to hug their wives or husbands, 
          unable to do anything that might cause someone
             else to catch what they have.

          Imagine, if you can, living out the rest of your life in a hovel,
         having to live in a camp and spend all your time
           with those who are suffering and diseased like you.

          It just so hard to think about -
         of not being able to see anyone you love except at a distance,
          of only being able to talk to them by yelling from far off.

          After a while everyone you know stops coming to see you,
         no one wants to look at you,
          or have anything to do with you,
             and no one, despite the fact they claim to love you,
                 will ever hug you or kiss you or touch you again,
                    no one, that is, except those who are like you,
          those whose bodies are twisted, shortened, and rotting.

          Imagine too, waiting to see what will happen to you,
         waiting to see if your disease will spread as it has in others,
          taking from you your fingers, your toes,
             destroying your mouth and nose,
                 till at last you starve to death,
                    or die from some infection...
          but not until you have lingered for several years.

          Imagine it - waiting - and hoping - trying to hope, 
         trying to hope for that one in a million chance 
          - hoping that your sores will clear up and that 
             you will be able to go to the priest 
                 and hear him say the word CLEAN over you.

          Imagine what it means to have to go around in rags
         and wear clothing that is torn and tattered.
          Imagine how hard it must be to let your hair grow long,
         and never be allowed to comb it.
          Imagine how it must feel to have to cry out "unclean,
         unclean" whenever you come near a normal person.

          That is what leprosy is all about.
         No one in his or her right mind would want to come near it.

                               --------- 

TWO  That is why we stopped on the road when we saw you that day.  We
     were being cautious, as cautious as any right thinking person would
     be in the presence of danger.

          We stopped and we wondered what Jesus would do,
         because Jesus, in defiance of all common sense,
          did not seem afraid of any lepers anywhere.
             We had seen him once touch a leper who had come to
                 him and begged to be healed.
          And Jesus reached out and touched him,
          and said to him "be clean" 
          and the man had been healed.

          It was quite the event,
         and I figured that the ten of you we met that day must have 
          heard about it because 
          as we started again to work our way down to the village,
             you spotted the teacher and began to call out to him,

                               --------- 

THREE     Yes I remember we said,
          "JESUS, MASTER, HAVE PITY ON US." 

          We could tell Jesus heard us because he stopped and looked over his
     shoulder at us, and as the sun beat down on our heads, he turned
     facing us and holding out his hands, and that's when he said it. 

          He said, to all of us:
     GO, SHOW YOURSELVES TO THE PRIESTS.

          We looked at each other, knowing anyone could see we were lepers. So
     we wondered what Jesus meant, was he going with us?  Was he going to
     give us something special to do?

     We knew the chance of being healed of leprosy
     Was so rare. Well it would take  miracle.

          As I looked at the nine other lepers, I wondered if they had heard
     or felt something different than I. I was taking inventory of every
     sore they had, of each bald spot on their head, of all the obvious
     blemishes and characteristics of leprosy on all of them. Though only
     moments passed it seemed like hours.

          Heeding the masters words we had no choice but to wonder, 
                    but we all hoped as well,
          we believed Jesus had done something for us 
                    but we must obey what he said,
     we had to believe our one in a million chance for a normal life 
          had come to be,
       
          All of us turned and started down the road ahead of Jesus and the
     disciples into the village.

          We believed we were healed and our focus was on going to see the
     priest, just as Jesus had said. We no longer looked to see if each
     other were changed, we began walking faster and faster soon we were
     running and we got to the village to see the priest we were all
     covered with dust.
    
          There was mass confusion as we all tried to explain, at once, what
     had happened. I don't even remember which one of us told them but as
     we cleaned the dust from our bodies it was obvious we were healed.
     And Jesus knew this, why else would he have said to us, go show
     yourselves to the priests?

          He knew that anyone who is healed of a skin disease
         is required to be pronounced clean by a priest,
          and we marveled that Jesus,
             with just a word,
                 could heal us, all of us.

          I couldn't take a chance on missing Jesus, to thank him, so
     immediately I ran back to where we had left them. 

          In a matter of minutes I was standing before them. I told them every
     step we took towards our old home, made us feel stronger, younger,
     more energetic, it must have been when we rounded the final turn on
     the way to the village, we were completely healed.

          A million thoughts and emotions rushed through my mind that day,
         think of it - after all the suffering
          and then, all of sudden,
             at the word of a stranger,
                 our loneliness, our pain, our banishment
                    began to evaporate.

          With every passing moment  
         it became more and more apparent that we
          could once again play with our children
             and make love to our wives
                 and work with our brothers and relatives in the
                    fields and stables of our old homes.

          When I singled out Jesus,
         and still filled with emotion and saying Alleluia, Alleluia,
            I threw myself down at his feet
              and thanked him over and over again till finally
          Jesus touched me on my head and looking at the others he said,

          "Were not all ten cleansed?  Where are the other
          nine?  Was no one found to return and give praise to
          God except this foreigner?"

          At first they did not understand what Jesus was talking about, but
     then they noticed that the man at Jesus' feet was different.

          You see I had the accent of a Samaritan,
            
          They looked at me as that race who despises them,
         and refuses to worship in the right way,
             and sacrifice to God at the temple.

          And as they still wondered what Jesus meant by his words,
          he looked down at me and said,
     "Rise and go, your faith has made you well."
         
          And I got up and went my way as he had commanded,
     But I am still singing and praising God.

                               --------- 

TWO  We stood there a minute and thought about what Jesus had said.

          We wondered if Jesus was angry at the other lepers for not coming
     back and thanking him and God for giving them their lives back.
                    We wondered if Jesus was trying to tell us something about
          himself, or about Samaritans.

          It was a strange saying - but one thing was certain,
         all ten men had been cured of leprosy,
            Jesus had said so,
     but also it seemed to me that the one man,
          the Samaritan,  the one who came back to us and thanked Jesus,
          had something even more special happen to him.

          He was not only cured.  He was made whole.(Passive)

          The others with me that day also thought the same thing,
         and as we talked about it among ourselves
          we asked each other if Jesus was trying to tell us
             that there is something special about giving thanks.

          And we all got to wondering about how we might have behaved if 
         we had been given what the ten lepers received that day?

          Would we have been like the one who came back to thank Jesus?
         
          Or would we have been so happy about what we had received that we,
     like the nine, would rush through the formalities with the priests,
     and hurry back to our homes and our normal lives.

          We asked ourselves and each other if we had ever really thanked God
     for what we have,
          or if we had done all our lives what so many do,
               if we had simply gone to the priests and the temple at the
               times prescribed by the law, and made the offerings and
               said the prayers that our religion asks us to say, and
               then returned to our homes to carry on as before.

          We wondered -- were we like the nine lepers who were cleansed?
         or were we like the one who was not only cleansed, but,
          because of his faith,
             because of his giving thanks,
                 was made whole.
      
                               --------- 
           
ONE  Are you like the nine or the one? Do you give God thanks 24/7 or do
     you simply go through the formalities? Today you can change that.
     You can ask Jesus to mend your attitude. You can ask for an attitude
     of gratitude, you see Jesus is still in the miracle business and he
     can change your life today. The altar is open as we stand and sing
     together the hymn of invitation. 
      
          WON'T YOU COME!


copyright - Rev. Jim Batchelor and Rev. Richard J. Fairchild 2001 - 2005
            please acknowledge the appropriate author if citing these sermons.


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