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Lectionary

The Lepers of Israel.

I am not sure if the South Auckland I grew up in, as did by father: a land of dairy farms and market gardens, with small suburbs that had farmland between them, exists. I do know that I would never run the training routes I had then, for I am not as fit, nor are the roads safe. All the country between Otara and Howick is now new suburbs, for new Aucklanders.

And I live as far away as I can and work in academia.

Jesus went to the synagogue in the hill country of Galilee where he was raised. This was more despised than the working class suburbs I grew up in — which as still a byword. And the locals welcomed their son who had done good.

Until he began to tell them truth. Then they tried to throw him off a cliff.

14 And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee, and a report about him went out through all the surrounding country. 15 And he taught in their synagogues, being glorified by all.

16 And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read. 17 And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written,

18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
    because he has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
    and recovering of sight to the blind,
    to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

20 And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21 And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” 22 And all spoke well of him and marveled at the gracious words that were coming from his mouth. And they said, “Is not this Joseph’s son?” 23 And he said to them, “Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, ‘“Physician, heal yourself.” What we have heard you did at Capernaum, do here in your hometown as well.’” 24 And he said, “Truly, I say to you, no prophet is acceptable in his hometown. 25 But in truth, I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heavens were shut up three years and six months, and a great famine came over all the land, 26 and Elijah was sent to none of them but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. 27 And there were many lepers[a] in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.” 28 When they heard these things, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath. 29 And they rose up and drove him out of the town and brought him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they could throw him down the cliff. 30 But passing through their midst, he went away.

The introduction is not the point: the point is that it is not about you. It is never about you. The miracles in the time of Elisha showed that there was a God in Israel, and in Zarepath preserved not just the widow, but the prophet.

We pray for miracles, as we should, when we have illness, infirmity. We pray for our family, near and far. We pray for our brothers and sisters in the faith.

And sometimes suffering is sent to cause us to turn to worship. Avril is not my usual taste in music, but she penned this after a nasty, years long, suffering with Lyme disease.

Note that most of the time, we have to bear the consequences of this fallen time. The mortality rate for the human race is still 100%.

And we are created to glorify God in this life and praise him in the one to come. Not to throw him over the cliff in some kind of holiness spiral.

And leprosy? It still exists, and controlling it requires medications, physiotherapy, plastic surgery and quarantine. One should not just take this as a metaphor.

We may not be spared from the coming purification. The enemy wants us all destroyed. But the church will arise, glorious, and reduce the gates of Hell to rubble. For we are preserved by the very person who claimed this prophecy, spoke truth when soft words would have turned the crowd, and for our sins the penalty paid.

So let us not be like those who think it is all about them.

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