the one about going where Jesus goes...
October 14, 2019, 9:00 AM

Sermon from October 13, 2019

Text: Luke 17:11-19

Grace and peace to you from God our Creator and our Risen Lord and Savior Jesus who is the Christ; will y’all pray with me? May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord, our rock and our redeemer; amen!

So, I think y’all know by now that the Gospel of Luke is probably my favorite of the four gospels, and perhaps one of my favorite books in the entirety of our scriptures. There are so many good things in this gospel. So many wonderful stories that we hold so dear.

Yet, what I love most about this gospel is how Jesus is portrayed; how Jesus invites his friends – and each of us – into this life of faith and service. Here in Luke’s Gospel, Jesus is the one who routinely and continually subverts people’s expectations. Here in Luke’s Gospel, we see Jesus concerned and caring towards those outside the ‘usual circles’ of life. Here in Luke’s Gospel, Jesus crosses boundaries and borders in the lives of those around him. He steps over and knocks down those literal and figurative walls in our lives.

He speaks with women, he tells stories about Samaritans (that aren’t the butt of jokes or end in their demise), he is insistent that the God of all – the one true Creator and redeemer of the world and all its inhabitants – is not exclusive to the Hebrew people. He is adamant that the Son of God has not just come to Israel, but has come to all of creation.

He literally goes out of his way to make that known to those around him. And when he does, it puts him in places that no one else would want to be.

Today’s gospel reading is a perfect example of all of those intersecting circles. This morning’s reading is a sort of ‘Venn diagram’ of all of who Jesus is in the Gospel of Luke.

As we enter this story, we find Jesus and his friends at an ‘in-between’ place. Coming upon a village that is outside of both Galilee and Samaria. The liminal space between those who know of God and those who worship God in a different way. The space between those who don’t see eye-to-eye or really care about one another because of ancient views on purity and faith.

Jesus comes to that place. And, as he enters the village, who calls to him from a distance? Those who are pushed out of both Galilee and Samaria.

For you see, I don’t believe this little village was intended to be a little suburb of either Galilee or Samaria. I don’t think we should look at this village as a sort of ‘Newberry, SC.’ You know, relatively in-between Spartanburg and Columbia. Close enough to enjoy the benefits of the big cities, but far enough away to not have to mess with the day-to-day hassle of living there.

No, I believe this village had a purpose. A sad purpose. This is the place where the outcasts of both Galilee and Samaria went to live. This is the place where those who were sick, or different, or sinful went to live because the majority in those in more populated and powerful areas didn’t want them around. This is a place where they could ‘be with their own kind.’ This is a place where the majority, the powerful of those respective big cities didn’t have to ‘see’ those who were less fortunate, hurting, or more.

In many ways, this city was the equivalent of Lazarus and his sores that we read of two weeks ago. A place to walk by, a place you only notice enough to step around it.

This is a place setup – whether intentionally or by necessity – where you didn’t go. This is the place where Jesus went. And I don’t think it was by accident. It wasn’t like that time Erin and I were in Baltimore looking for gas, and we got lost and turned around (we didn’t have a GPS at the time, and our phones didn’t have them either). Where we approached a Baltimore PD officer to ask for directions, and basically, he said, ‘Under no circumstances, do you turn LEFT on this particular road. Don’t go there. Stay out of there.’

Jesus goes to those places. Jesus goes where others say, ‘don’t bother.’ Or, its dangerous. Or, it would ‘stain’ your image, your person, your very being in the eyes of those in the world if you go.

Jesus goes to those places.

And, who does he find there? He finds 10 people suffering with leprosy. That disease that not only disfigured those who had it, but was considered a punishment by God upon those with it. For the culture at that time, to be near those with Leprosy could either a) get you sick or b) get God mad at you. I don’t think you have to think very long to discern what might be considered a leprosy of our day, time, and recent history. It’s been those with AIDS, those who think different politically, those from foreign countries, and more.

Jesus goes to those places.

And from the distance, those with leprosy call out for Jesus’ healing hand. They know who he is, they’ve heard the stories of what he’s done around the area, they’ve heard – they believe – they have hope and faith that he will be able to do for them, what he’s done for countless others.

And Jesus, in a surprising way, tells them to go show themselves to the priests. And apparently along the way there they are healed. They become clean. The leprosy has been cast off.

Now, here at this moment is where most preachers I believe focus on. The fact that only one of those with leprosy – who happens to be a Samaritan (there goes Jesus again, lifting up the faith of those the culture at the time would least expect) – who returns to give thanks to Jesus, the Son of God.

I’ve heard sermons and interpretations that state that only this one was cured. That the other nine, after first noticing that they have been ‘made clean’ are brought back into their previous state because they didn’t show thanks, and that people who do likewise run the risk of falling back into that which God has healed them from.

First. No. That’s wrong. That’s dangerous. That’s cruel. To think Jesus would heal then revoke that miracle because they didn’t ‘basically’ write a thank-you note.

Yes, only one of those with leprosy returned to give thanks to God. But, I don’t think Jesus did this healing in order to be thanked and praised. In many ways, he is living into what we read last week – that we shouldn’t looked to be praised because ‘we have only done what we ought to have done.’

No, Jesus healed these individuals because that’s what he does. Jesus heals. And he doesn’t do it in order to seek adoration or praise.

Now, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t give thanks for what God has done. I think we should model the life and faith of this Samaritan man who once was afflicted with leprosy. However, when we don’t give thanks – it doesn’t mean that God will ‘take away’ what has been gifted to us.

Because, if God was going to live that life – we’d all be in trouble. All of humanity would be in trouble. Because, we’ve always fallen short.

No, I think the gospel of this story lain before us this morning, is that no matter what – Jesus – is going to come to the places that no one else is willing to, and he’s going to bring the word of God, a healing hand, and the presence of the Holy Spirit.

He’s going to offer that healing – no matter what – no matter where someone is, no matter what someone is dealing with or afflicted with, no matter if they ‘show’ thanks or not. Jesus is going to heal them. Always.

I don’t know why the others didn’t turn around and fall at Jesus’ feet. We like to imagine that they were ungrateful, but perhaps they were smirking and shaking at that Samaritan man who didn’t ‘follow through’ with Jesus’ command to present themselves to the priests. Perhaps, overcome in their joy of being healed they ran to tell their family and friends what had happened, to share in their miracle from the one who is from above.

Maybe, just maybe, they were thankful – but didn’t show it in the same way as the Samaritan.

As Jesus crosses over into those liminal places – standing over the threshold and boundaries of those who are ‘in and those who are out’ – Jesus invites us into those spaces as well. Not to seek adoration and praise. Not to demand thanksgiving or acknowledgement. No, Jesus invites us into those places as well because 1) that’s where Jesus is and 2) to bring God’s good Word of life and truth to those who need to hear it, to live into and practice the love that God has for all, to be in deeper relationship with those whom God loves, to see love at work in the world.

Let’s meet Jesus in those places. Let’s live into what Jesus calls us towards. Let’s bring that wholeness and healing that comes only from God through Christ, our Lord – why? Because that what we do as followers of the Son of Man. No matter what. Amen.

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