We interrupt the recent string of Parables to bring you an actual story of healing in Jesus’ ministry. It’s not a parable, but that doesn’t mean the messages we draw from this story are any less meaningful in learning how to live a life under the Kingdom of God. But because it is not a parable, the messages should be more straightforward since Jesus just means what he says.
That may be true, but we could easily fall into the trap of thinking that the message Jesus is telling us is a simple one. What could be hidden in a story of 10 lepers who are healed, but only 1 of them returns to give thanks to Jesus?
Clearly, Jesus is separating the 9 who are ungrateful from the 1 who gave thanks. And that means that Jesus wants us to thank him for all the great things he has done for us. Yes, and Yes.
But I have to ask us to think – where is it that we see ourselves in the story? Sure, we’d like to see ourselves as the one leper who returned to give thanks. And we’d like to see ourselves as outraged for Jesus’s sake at the nine who accepted the grace of Jesus, but did not offer any thanks. I see that too.
But in addition to the clear message about giving thanks, I’m also drawn to the statement that the one leper who returned was a Samaritan. I can only assume from that statement that the others were not. You might know that the Samaritans were an outclassed people from the north country who were not considered pure by the standards of the Jewish establishment at the time. They were outsiders because they did not worship in Jerusalem, their ancestors had intermarried with those who had taken over the country. They were considered enemies of the Jews of the southern part of the country. A Samaritan, who was also a leper, would have had extra strikes against him.
I think the Samaritan helps us see ourselves in the story, not as the one who gave thanks, but as the nine who did not return. The nine “good religious people” who visited the priest to be validated and welcomed back into the community. The nine who celebrated their healings without remembering who it was that made it so. If we don’t see ourselves as like the nine in some ways, we may overlook the message of grace in the story.
The beauty of the Samaritan’s elevation in the story tells us that because we in the church have our salvation already procured, Christ does not want us to take that for granted (even though it has been granted to us). Instead Christ wants us to see the Samaritan’s joyous and grateful response as a remembrance of our baptisms and an affirmation of our faith, when we were first healed and welcomed into the arms of God.
Christ calls us into a relationship based on joy and thanksgiving, not grasping hold of the “one-and-done” baptismal ritual, but remembering constantly our baptisms and what that precious moment of grace means for us each and every day, how our baptisms became the foundation of our faith, the faith that makes us well. Because, before that day of baptism, we were the Samaritan; we were the unclean one; we were the outsider. Yet God did not count it against us, and loves us, even when we don’t love or thank enough in return.
So friends, let’s give thanks to Christ with a grateful heart, because of our baptisms, and give thanks with the same grateful heart of the Samaritan!
For the full sermon on the text , click here
Devotions for Week of October 9, 2016
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Gustavus Adolphus Lutheran Church (GA) in New York City has been chosen as one of eight internship congregations to participate this year in a church-wide initiative designed to increase our understanding of Holy Scripture and most importantly, to cultivate our engagement with it. In partnership with The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia, Vicar John Heidgerd will be working to develop innovative ways to deepen our faith formation and sense of discipleship for the sake of ourselves and our communities.