I was just listening to a track of Rev. Yonker’s CD, ‘VIVIT’, and his message about lepers came on. I’ve heard leprosy described before as the disease of numbness. The way it was detected was to rub a feather along the skin and if the person couldn’t feel it they were infected. It is the disease of not being able to feel. The only cure? To cut out the infected skin until you reached the part of you that could still feel. We always think of leprosy as a New Testament disease. Something that went on in Jesus time, something that is gone. But its not. Aside from the physical leprosy that is still an active disease in many countries, even in our country, maybe even especially in our country, leprosy is present. The only difference is we don’t see it on our skin, we feel it in our hearts. We like to shut away our hearts, to not feel, to not get hurt. And leprosy does that. It cuts off your feeling, but it also kills you. Our hearts may not be breaking (or at least you may not notice it) but they are rotting. We are dying. When we get caught in the loneliness of lepers, our heart falls apart. Lepers were the scum of society. They had to live alone, outside of the cities. No one wanted to be around them for fear of catching what they had. Even lepers wouldn’t be around other lepers. To be a leper was and is to be totally alone. Can you imagine that? Going through life without human interaction, conversation, laughter, hugs. Of course you can imagine it, because we all feel it. I’m firmly convinced that one of Satan’s most powerful and most used lies is to convince us that we are alone. That we are rejected. That we are unloved and unlovable. As Bill Yonker said, “So many people go through life neglected, rejected, and disrespected. They feel alienated, isolated, and seperated from everyone else, so they end up repressed, depressed, and oppressed.” Jesus met a man like that. A leper. Someone experiencing the deepest sorrow of being alone and unloved. He came to Jesus and told him, “Lord, if you want to, you can make me clean.” Jesus looked into the eyes of a man who likely had not talked to another person in years, a man who felt worthless, a man who had nothing to offer, but a broken heart and his need to be healed. Look in Matthew 8. What Jesus does is incredible. He looks at this man and says, “I want to!” Jesus wants to heal us. He wants to make us new, to make us whole, to open our hearts to the fullness of love and joy and wonder. What Jesus does after he says that, however, is maybe even more amazing. He touches the guy. Jesus touches a leper. No one touches lepers. People wouldn’t even walk in their shadows, nonetheless touch them. But Jesus does. Like Pastor Yonker points out, Jesus didn’t have to touch him. He could have said the word or blinked his eyes and he would have been healed. But Jesus didn’t do that. He touched him. He reached out and touched him. It probably wasn’t the easiest way and it certainly wasn’t the safest, but it is what Jesus chose. Its what Jesus chooses, everyday. He is willing to take the risk, to give up everything to touch us and make us like him. Jesus could be satisfied with just healing the man’s disease, but he wasn’t. He wanted to heal his heart as well. To reach into his life and touch every part and make everything new. ‘Jesus, now indeed I find, thy power and thine alone, can change the leper’s spots and melt this heart of stone.’ (Jesus Paid It All, hymn) Jesus takes away our leprosy but he also melts our hearts of stone. He brings back our hope, our trust, and our love. I know I go through days, a lot of days, when I feel like a leper. I feel like no one would want to be around me. I feel so alone. I long to be like other people, people who are loved and happy, who don’t have this stigma around them. who aren’t “unclean”. I feel like I’m sitting on the outskirts of the city, wishing I was inside. Too often I look at outward appearances, while God is looking at the heart. At the heart of everyone is that fear, the fear of being alone, of being a leper. A fear that can only be healed through Jesus. The only thing to do is to shake off the lies of Satan. The lies that say we are alone and that there is no hope. We have to be like that man and fall at the feet of Jesus, because he wants to touch us and heal us. He doesn’t have to. He’s not doing it because he feels bad. He wants to! As Mother Theresa said, “Being unwanted, unloved, uncared for, forgotten by everybody, I think that is a much greater hunger, a much greater poverty than the person who has nothing to eat.” Maybe what we need to do is form our own leper colony. A place where we help each other fight the lies that we are alone and unloved. Because it is such a lie. We are loved by Love itself. We are created for community, for relationships. Created to love each other. Maybe we should. Because everyone has those days when you feel so alone. When you hurt and you just need to know that someone cares and need to see that reminder of Jesus. We all need help to find Jesus and fall at his feet. Every day, we need that healing again and we can’t do it on our own. Gloriously, Jesus is waiting for us everyday, ready to sit down, wash our feet, wash us clean. We need Jesus and we need each other. We are not meant to be lepers. We are meant to be lovers.