The OT Lesson and the Gospel are compliments today. They both have lepers being cleansed, and both have interesting twists to the story.
- Naaman is a foreign warrior who defeated Israel in battle. And though a great warrior, he had leprosy. A skin disease that made him even more unclean than being a foreigner to Israel. A little girl who had been captured by the Arameans tells of the prophet that could cure the disease (to the wife of Naaman), and Naaman asks his king to manage the hook up. There is some royal diplomacy involving serious money (check out the financial equivalents–I think they are significant) and the king of Israel sees it as a stressful event. He in turn asks Elisha to cure the foreigner of the disease. It is a strange power struggle between earthly powers, but the real power is given the final act of the story. Elisha directs Naaman to wash in the Jordan, and then Naaman gets upset–he knows of better rivers than the Jordan, and he wanted more show and magic. “We paid good money for a show and we get ‘take a bath.'” In the end, Naaman is healed, and the God of Israel is the one who is responsible.
- The Psalm is one that gives thanks for the restoration of health- v. 2 & 3 O LORD my God, I cried out to you,and you restored me to health. You brought me up, O LORD, from the dead; you restored my life as I was going down to the grave. I especially like verse 6– Weeping may spend the night, but joy comes in the morning. It is an excellent way of responding to the first lesson or preparing to hear the Gospel.
- The Epistle Lesson is a short and sweet reading. The “athletic” Paul summons the images of the marathoner and the boxer who prepare for the great race or big fight. Paul compares spiritual discipline to training. The Christian trains so that he/she might “win”–finish successfully the life God has called us to.
- The Gospel Lesson is a short lesson from Mark. Unlike the OT Lesson, it does not have the same kind of detail, but it has its own unique features. A leper comes to Jesus and begs-“If you choose, you can make me clean.” Jesus says, “I choose.” He stretches out his hand, touches the leper (that’s a no-no), and he is made clean-immediately (a typical Markan word). In that peculiar secrecy theme of Mark, Jesus tells the leper to not tell anyone except the priest who can certify him clean. Of course, seccrecy is hard to come by, and word spreads quickly. Because of that, Jesus is not able to travel into the towns but has to stay in the country where everyone comes to him.
- This is just the first chapter of Mark, and it is quickly established, Jesus is becoming well known and he exhibits the signs of a new kingdom breaking in.
- Suggestions for preparation- learn more about leprosy, its meaning in the Biblical periods, and its various forms. Why is this kind of healing so significant.
- This may be a good time to tell the story of some ‘modern’ saints who have worked with lepers and the parallels. (e.g. Father Damien of Molkai)
- Good notes that capture the big picture–Not in my neighborhood!
- Working Preacher commentary on 3 lessons