THE service at Crediton Methodist Church on Sunday, February 11 was led by Pam Murphy when her theme was “Let His song rise within you”.

We can plan our days and our lives as much as we want yet somehow life sometimes gets in the way and scuppers what we had in mind.

It was the same for Jesus as we will see in today’s Gospel story of Jesus healing a leper.

Jesus’ ministry began after spending time in prayerful communion with God his Father.

Jesus had discerned what His ministry priorities would be as He would be caring for God’s people in their wholeness of body, mind and spirit.  His top priority was to preach the Gospel news of God’s saving grace for everyone that would release people from the power of sin - now and into eternity.  This was to be supported by His teaching. 

Jesus’ next priority was to heal – to release people from their afflictions in this earthly life so they could have fuller lives.

It started in the synagogue in Capernaum but very soon the people’s priority became clear. People flooded to Jesus to be healed of physical ailments.  Jesus did heal many people. Then the time came when He just had to take himself off to a solitary place to pray.

It wasn’t long before the disciples went in search of Jesus because there were still so many people queuing for Him to heal their illnesses. They had so much work for Jesus still to do. 

An early step in all Jesus would be teaching the disciples, He explained it was time to move on – to get on with his first priority of preaching the good news.

They did move on, travelling around Galilee with Jesus preaching in synagogues and driving out demons.

In today’s story when they were on their way to another place where Jesus could continue preaching first, when they were stopped in their tracks by an unclean man with leprosy.

Lepers were pronounced unclean and shunned because of the contagious nature of this awful disease. 

The story reveals two religious law breakers. First, as lepers were pronounced unclean, they were not allowed to approach anyone.

So this man had broken the law by going forward to Jesus. And Jesus broke the law by touching an unclean man. 

So the plan to put preaching first is scuppered for a while as Jesus cures the man.

Jesus sends him off with stern instructions not to tell anyone about what had happened.  Instead he should go to the priest and get the certificate that allows him to mix in society again.

He was told to comply with the rules which would ensure his acceptance into the fold but it would also be a chance for the priesthood to witness and learn to trust in Jesus’ power and works as Godgiven.

So, what did the man do? He disobeyed Jesus’ command. There appears to have been no praise and thanksgiving to God for being healed. Maybe the man’s focus would have been on getting that quick fix that would let him back into worldly society.

Jesus knew He had first to draw people to God – to teach about His glory, about His redeeming love for us – His grace.

Jesus could do no other than to invite people to repent – to change direction towards God’s ways and to receive God’s restorative forgiveness allowing fresh starts.

Following Jesus, learning to obey His teaching will draw us towards and increase our love for God. Then, out of that – our joyful love for humanity flows.

God first. Love for God produces a generous giving love for others in all their various needs.

Maybe we could all benefit from a review of our priorities, both as individuals and as a church.

Do we put God first? Do our souls praise the King of Heaven? Is Jesus the centre of our lives and the reason that we live?

Is He our vision, our wisdom? Do we see it is the Lord our God who replaces brokenness with beauty and despair with hope?  Does that feed us with loving energy and courage to share our faith, to speak of Jesus and to serve our neighbour’s needs?

Shall we embrace His song rising within us, like a fragrant offering of how God – in His mercy – came in Christ to redeem all who trust in His unfailing love.

Bronwyn Nott