Our current sermon series is based, loosely, on the current Lectionary readings and has a mission theme, based (again loosely) on the Iona hymn 'Will You Come and Follow Me.' Yesterday was 'will you kiss the leper clean?' using Mark 1: 40-45.
It's a reading so familiar that I wondered how we would find new depths in it. I guessed that most people would have heard countless sermons on it (they are all older than me!) so what could I add?
In the end I found myself drawn to an almost old fashioned expository approach, working sentence by sentence (and sometimes word by word) through the story and reflecting on each. We reminded ourselves briefly of the Law on diagnosis and 'treatment' for dreaded skin diseases, we noted that the man was begging on his knees, we reviewed the original meaning of com-passion and sym-pathy, we noted that Jesus chose to get involved, the consequences for him of touching the untouchable and so on - all pretty standard stuff. Lastly we noted the final sentence - and given Mark's economy of words it must be relevant. The consequence for Jesus was that he was now forced to live in the lonely places, away from the community, not because he was 'unclean' but because the impact of his mission was so contagious. I guess we all like mission to be something we can do without too much disruption, something we fit in before going home to the comfort of family and friends - for Jesus it cost even the potential for a quiet night in...
Next week we look at the old favourite of the 'four friends' whose petty vandalism brought their friend to Jesus' feet under the heading 'will you risk the hostile stare' before a slight diversion to look at Syro-Phoenician women and deaf-mutes as we reflect a little on crossing cultural boundaries.