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.
“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.
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'
“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,
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.
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?
Is it when they wash in the pool?
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,
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
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?
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.
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
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.