Lepers
A Free Sermon in Poetry

Jackson Snyder, October 16, 2004
Based on Mark George Vitalis Hoffman
Dedicated to Betty L. Wyant O.B.M., 1924 - 2001

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poetryLeviticus 14: 1.  Yahweh said to Moses,  2.  “This shall be the law of the leper for the Ten Lepers Leapingday of his cleansing. He shall be brought to the priest;  3.  and the priest shall go out of the camp, and the priest shall make an examination. Then, if the leprous disease is healed in the leper,  4.  the priest shall command them to take for him who is to be cleansed two living clean birds and cedarwood and scarlet stuff and hyssop;  5.  and the priest shall command them to kill one of the birds in an earthen vessel over running water.  6.  He shall take the living bird with the cedarwood and the scarlet stuff and the hyssop, and dip them and the living bird in the blood of the bird that was killed over the running water;  7.  and he shall sprinkle it seven times upon him who is to be cleansed of leprosy; then he shall pronounce him clean, and shall let the living bird go into the open field.  8.  And he who is to be cleansed shall wash his clothes, and shave off all his hair, and bathe himself in water, and he shall be clean; and after that he shall come into the camp, but shall dwell outside his tent seven days.  9.  And on the seventh day he shall shave all his hair off his head; he shall shave off his beard and his eyebrows, all his hair. Then he shall wash his clothes, and bathe his body in water, and he shall be clean.   {on and on}

Luke 17: 11. And it happened in the going to Jerusalem, Yahshua passed through the middle of Samaria and Galilee. 12. And entering into a certain village, ten leprous men, who stood far off, met him at a distance (aphnthsan); 13. and they raised a voice, saying: Yahshua, Master (epistata), pity us.  14. And seeing, he said to them: Go(ing), show yourselves to the priests.  And it happened in them [that], to go, they were cleansed.

(ekaqarisqhsan, “ clean in a Levitical sense”).

{They could not be pronounced clean except by a priest, Leviticus 13, 14.}

15. But one of them, seeing he was healed (iaqh), returned glorifying Yahweh (ton qeon) with a loud voice; 16. and fell on [his] face at Yahshua’s feet, thanking him; and he was a Samaritan.  17. And answering, Yahshua said: Were not the ten cleansed?  But where are the nine?  18. Were not [others] found returning to give glory to Yahweh (tw qew) but this one foreigner (allogenhV)?  19. And Yahshua said to him: Rise up and go: your faith has saved (seswken) you.  (JSB)

Message  

These days you seldom hear a sermon spoken forth so versed.
But ours today is poetry, a poem I’ve rehearsed.
And so with heav’nly help I shall be rhyming to the end.

But you will say the final word: the final word’s AMEN.

The story of ten lepers that we read has puzzled me.
So let me tell it once again to see if you agree.

Now Yahshua was going forth, and minding his own way,
When lepers met him ‘cross the town, but strictly kept at bay.
(For leprosy, you know, is a contagious skin disease
That you would neither want to catch nor give your enemies.)
These lepers, with one awesome voice, howled, “Master, hear our cry,
Have pity, O, have mercy, O, please cleanse us lest we die!”
Now Yahshua was stern and strict, yet merciful and kind,
Forgiving sins and healing many lame and deaf and blind.
But in the case of lepers, he convinced them that they should
Go to the village priests and Levites who, by law, still could
Examine these ten lepers close enough to let them know
If the leprosy was cleansed – and if they might be free to go.

I suspect they were dismayed by Yahshua’s direction:
The Master hadn’t healed them of their horrible infection.
Still off they went to see the priests, obedient to a man.
They must have all believed that heaven sanctioned some great plan.
While going on their way the cleansing miracle came true;
For suddenly their sins were cleansed – their skins were washed clean, too.
When leper number ten perceived his skin had been restored,
He turned and scuttled back in praise of Yah, whom he adored.
At Yahshua’s feet he cast himself and thanked him without end.
(And by the way, remember that he was Samaritan.
In ancient days, religious folk forgot that men were mud –
They despised Samaritans because of their mixed blood.
A little lesson we learn here of those who turned and ran:
He judges not by racial lines – he judges by the man.)

Yahshua said, “There should be ten cleansed there upon the path,
But only one’s returned with thanks, so now let’s do the math...
It means there’re nine of them left going on their narrow way
Who’d rather praise the priests than to return to me and pray
their heartfelt thanks to Yahweh who’s the source of all that’s good,
except one from Samaria – that foreign neighborhood.”
To number ten, the foreigner, he said, “Get up and go;
Your faith has made you well and cleansed and healed and saved, you know.”

Well, that’s the story of the ten with leprous flesh; you see.
There’s still a little part of it that always puzzles me.
If I was leprous (and I am) and one of lepers ten,
I’d be among the pious nine who ne’er return again.
For I am always so concerned in trying to obey
That I would no doubt do exactly what Yahshua’d say.
If he had told me with his voice, “You go and see the priest –
He’ll tell you by the Torah if you’re leprosy has ceased.”
Then I would surely go away, and even if I saw
My leprosy had all dried up – Yahshua: He’s the Law,
So with the other Israelites, I’d go to see that priest –
And if he’d judged that we were cleansed, well, then we’d give a feast.
Of course I would be thankful then, but would it be too late
To grace the Master who had done for me a deed so great?

As we attempt to translate this into the present time,
I’m wondering if the words will fail – and words will fail to rhyme.
Yet on we’ll go like lepers to explore and to discern
The mighty, godly, timely lesson we were meant to learn.
Perhaps we need to take the road that leads another way.
Perhaps we need to set the story in the modern day.

Let’s say ten children (O, ye gads) are playing in the yard,
Who all at once imagine that they’d like a candy bar.
When grandma’s head pops out the door, they all begin to shout
For all the candy bars that they’ve been thinking so about.
Their grandma loves them all and gives them each a dollar bill,
And tells them, “Children, go and buy the sweets for which you thrill.”
Now if those children did just what she said – went to the store –
and not a one had thanked her, well sir, that would make her sore.
Had one come back with thanks, though not her favorite one, at that –
Dear grandma’s favorite might just change from Joshua to Matt.

{interlude}

From preaching you this saga, I am getting new insight,
And maybe you are too; if so, please tell me if I’m right.

Must we be asked a question, something like, “What do you say?”
Whenever Yahweh grants us all these things for which we pray?
Should we have to be reminded to give thanks – to say, “Thank you!”
The best thanks should come naturally; now, don’t you think that’s true?
Thanks should be an echo when we’re granted something great.
Thanks should be the shadow of the gift, not separate.
Thanks should grow like grass or flowers, showered from above.
Thanks should flow like kisses flow, which follow after love.

How many of you grandmas ask your kids, “What do you say?” –
And keep on telling them sometimes a hundred times a day?
Let’s just not pick on kiddies; for adults neglect it too,
In far more vital matters, fail to say the words, “Thank you.”

Did you notice?  To those lepers there, Yahshu’ never said,
“What say ya, boys?” when off they went to where the first one led?
So if our Father’s not the sort to ask, “What do you say?”
Then I’m not going to ask it either, getting in his way.
He must just figure each of us is wise enough to know
That giving Him the glory is the proper way to go.

And having now just said this, still another jewel we’ll find;
Another wholesome lesson simply popped into my mind.
For so many wondrous gifts we fail to stop and thank our god.
Yet Father keeps on giving to us.  That’s a little odd!
The only way to reckon, though we’ll never understand,
Is that our Father loves us – he keeps holding out his hand
And showering us with gifts and blessing each and every day;
For he is good – the source of goodness – all that comes our way.

Now here’s another thought – a hope that surely will abide.
We hadn’t thought of it before; but it’s too grand to hide.
What if we had to ask for every little thing we need.
That job would be an awesome job, an awesome job, indeed.
Where is the list of all our needs?  Where would we even start?
We’d better start with air and earth. Oh!  Don’t forget your heart!
And brain and nose and teeth in rows and skin and ears and toes
And all those other humbler parts that just your doctor knows.
Tallying these body organs, we have just begun
To count the countless ‘coutraments a body needs to run.
We can’t begin to count the ways that Yahweh blesses you.
But wait, there’s more! The greatest gift is his dear son, Yahshu’.
While Father merits thanks, supporting our entire race,
Eternal life deserves eternal thanks for Yahweh’s grace.

So on this day of worship, I won’t chide: “What do you say?”
Nor will I now enumerate innumerable ways
That Yahweh’s blessed us far beyond abilities to measure.
Let me just remind you all of Yahweh’s greatest treasure.
He sent it as a gift to us – his one beloved Son –
Who cleanses our afflictions and who heals us every one.
But best of all, remember the Samaritan, and see:
The stranger that returned was saved; and so, in hope, be we.

(It’s getting hard to find a rhyme, and though it’s been such fun,
Another thing we can be thankful for is that I’m done!)

What else is there to rhyme?  I think that now it’s finally time
To thank our Father with our praise, and offer him our days.
Thanks be to Yahweh, Father, Son: the Kingdom’s flags be waved.
Let’s tell the world, “Return to him: be cleansed; be healed; be saved!”

We’re at the end of Sunday’s tale about the lepers ten.
And now I ask you for your rhyme: The people said, AMEN!