The Sunday that Lepers Became Leapers

When ABC announced it would reboot Kids Say the Darndest Things, hosted by Tiffany Haddish, I chuckled for a couple reasons.

First, I’m old enough to recall the original, a segment of The Linkletter Show which aired until 1969. Even then, I marveled at what sprang from the lips of children when Art Linkletter coaxed them into sharing.

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Second, I chuckled because many of us who attend mainline churches have our own version of this phenomenon every Sunday. We call it The Children’s Sermon, a few moments when young people are invited to hear a simple message crafted at their level of understanding.

I remember so many times when extroverted kids went off on tangents—blurting out surprise (sometimes bizarre) answers, or revealing household secrets that made their parents squirm and blush.

Which brings me to a recent Sunday…

One of the teens of our congregation volunteered to deliver the Children’s Message for the first time. I was thrilled at her courage. When the moment arrived, she had a written transcript in hand, based on Jesus’s healing of the ten lepers recorded in Luke, chapter 17.

She smiled at the assembled children in the front pews and began, “Once, Jesus was travelling through a village when he came upon ten leapers.”

Immediately, many of the adults smiled, our eyes meeting with a wry, unspoken acknowledgment that “kids say the darndest things.”

But it was more than that for me. Even as part of my brain listened to the familiar story of ten who were healed, only one who gave thanks, another part vaulted through the portals of imagination.

Leapers! Yes!

I thought of Isaiah’s prophecy that in the days of the Messiah, “the lame will leap like deer.” I thought of the power of God’s healing love, focused so clearly by Jesus. How it raises up the lowly, empowers the disenfranchised, brings hope to the downcast.

I thought of countless people whose journeys I have shared during my ministry. Addicts and alcoholics who turned back from the abyss to find joy in serving others. Grieving loved ones surprised by resolution and new life. Lonely folks who discovered a faith community of gracious fellowship. Homeless immigrants who found a pathway to sanctuary. Souls suffering from depression who experienced a dawning of God’s light. Young and old, gay and straight, people of all classes and colors lifting their voices and hands in worshipful celebration!

Then another thought entered my mind that can only be filed under “adults think the darndest things.” I saw Shadow, a pet goat I had as a child. When I let her out of her pen, she would follow me around, just wanting to be close. One evening at twilight, she couldn’t find me until I called her name. I saw her silhouette turn, orient to my voice, then gambol towards me. Gambol, meaning to leap with boundless joy. She seemed to be clicking her heels in mid-air she was so delighted!

Back to that Children’s Message. When the teen closed with prayer, many of us spontaneously applauded. I was tempted to go a step further. I almost stood up and blurted out:

Yes! You had me at LEAPERS!

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