Homily: October 9, 2016

October 9, 2016, YEAR C; Rev. Phil Boelter  

In our gospel reading today

ten men with leprosy are healed

but only one returns and gives thanks.

Jesus question:

“Where are the other nine?”

sounds like a lesson from almost every parent of a two year-old.

“Don’t forget to say thank you, sweetheart.”

To be sure, giving thanks for gifts received is always a good thing.

However,

there is much more to be heard from this passage

than a simple morality tale designed to improve the social graces

of those who follow Jesus’ way

Jesus’ encounter with these lepers takes place

in the “region between Samaria and Galilee,”

a dangerous and potentially hostile locale at the border,

neither inside nor outside Jewish territory.

The relationship between Samaritans and Jews

at the time of Jesus was always conflicted and sometimes violent.

Centuries before this they had been one people,

But for at least 450 years

They had been at odds regarding beliefs

about scripture, worship, what it means to be holy, etc.

To be a Samaritan in Jewish eyes

Was to be a half breed,

A poser, a pretender.

You can hear an echo of this in Jesus'

Semi-snarky question:

“Were not ten made clean?

But the other nine, where are they?

Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?”

However, without asking anything about their loyalties, heritage, or intentions

Jesus had worked healing for all ten men in our story–

including the Samaritan.

Not really a surprise,

if you know Jesus and His God.

God’s mercy is never limited by human conventions

regarding insiders and outsiders –

even when the outsider appears to be an enemy

like this Samaritan.

Think of it this way.

God always appreciates us,

even when we do things that are not in our best interests,

things that are less than our best self,

things that are displeasing to God.

To God there are no outsiders,

No foreigners.

The basis of OUR OWN forgiveness and healing

is almost always a recognition that God still loves us-

no matter what happens in our lives,

no matter what we may do- good or bad-

or fail to do.

Period.

That is the Grace young AB will experience in a few moments from Holy Baptism.

No matter what he does-

And even before he has a chance to really do anything good or bad,

God is saying to him-

As God says to us-

I have loved you with an everlasting love.

You are mine!

Exactly when does such amazing healing and reconciliation

begin in our Gospel story this morning?

Is is when Jesus directs the ten to go and show themselves to the priest?

No.

Is it when they wash in the pool?

Nope.

Is it when their skin begins to clear up

and they realize that Jesus has indeed worked a miracle?

Close but no cigar.

The real healing takes place when God’s gracious love and action

gives birth to gratitude in the one Samaritan leper.

And that one leper returns to give thanks to the iterant Jewish rabbi,

Jesus.

The passage ends with a command to the Samaritan:

“Get up and go on your way.

Jesus follows up with a promise to the Samaritan:

“your faith has made you well (literally saved you).”

The good news of this encounter

between Jesus and the Samaritan leper

Is that

through Jesus,

God empowers people

Like this Samaritan leper

to step across boundaries,

share mercy with outsiders,

and move forward into God’s future

with assurance that there is more to God’s story than meets the eye.

When does healing and reconciliation like this begin in OUR lives?

Is it when the waters of baptism are poured over our heads?

Not really.

Baptism is simply the sign or the beginning of a lifelong journey-

Not the goal-

Baptism is NOT fire insurance to keep us out of the flames.

Does the healing and reconciliation begin when AB actually does something right?

Not then either.

For AB,

As for all of us,

The real healing begins at that moment when God’s gracious never ending love and compassion

lead us to return and give thanks,

to be reconciled to others around us.

In that sense

Each one of our baptisms

Is like a hidden seed of healing-

Which springs into action

When needed.

As the seventh and eighth questions in the baptismal covenant indicate

Our Baptism is truly fulfilled only as we share the love and compassion

shown to us with others.

Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself?

Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?

I’m sure the lepers were all surprised

When they looked down and saw themselves healed,

Skin all clean-

Restored to be part of a society which had shunned them.

That single Samaritan leper

even more fully received God’s compassionate healing

when he knelt in front of a Jewish Rabbi-

and gave humble thanks.

For that compassionate healing,

Expressed in the waters of baptism itself,

may we ALWAYS give thanks.

Amen.

 

SermonRev. Phil Boelter