The Blue Mountain Franciscan Church
Sermon Preached at Springwood on Sunday 9th October 2016:
TWENTY-FIRST SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST.YR C.
Gospel: Luke 17:11-19
“One of the lepers, realizing that he had been healed, returned, glorifying God in a loud voice; and he fell at the feet of Jesus and thanked him. Jesus said in reply, “Ten were cleansed, were they not? Where are the other nine?”
An old preacher was dying. He sent a message for his banker and his lawyer, both church members, to come to his home.
When they arrived, they were ushered up to his bedroom. As they entered the room, the preacher held out his hands and motioned for them to sit on each side of the bed. The preacher grasped their hands, sighed contentedly, smiled, and stared at the ceiling. For a time, no one said anything. Both the banker and lawyer were touched and flattered that the preacher would ask them to be with him during his final moments. They were also puzzled; the preacher had never given them any indication that he particularly liked either of them. They both remembered his many long, uncomfortable sermons about greed, covetousness, and avaricious behaviour that made them squirm in their seats.
Finally, the banker said, “Preacher, why did you ask us to come?”
The old preacher mustered up his strength and then said weakly, “Jesus died between two thieves, and that’s how I want to go.”
In the Name of the One God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.
Whether you are a believer in Jesus Christ or a person who does not even believe in God, the fact is, God has blessed you far more than you realise and far more than you deserve. It is important to understand how to respond properly to God’s abundant blessings. To be oblivious to the fact that God is blessing you or, even worse, to take credit for His blessings as if you earned them by your own efforts, would be to slight God. The only proper response is to glorify Him from a thankful heart.
The grateful Samaritan leper is another of the great saints of Luke’s Gospel. Terrified communities would cast out lepers from their midst, leaving them to fend for themselves outside the gates of their cities. This group of lepers included both Jews (Galileans) and Samaritans – they are so desperate in their plight that the bitter animosity between Jew and Samaritan evaporates in their need to depend on one another.
According to the Law, they keep their distance but they recognise Jesus and cry out to Him for mercy.
Rather than drawing near and touching them, as He did with the leper in Luke 5:13, Jesus simply instructs them to go and show themselves to the priests. There would be no point in such action unless they were cleansed of their leprosy, and yet at this point they were not cleansed. They had to act with obedient faith.
In sending the lepers off to those who can legally verify a cure rather than curing them outright, Jesus puts the lepers’ faith to the test. Only one – one of those despised Samaritans – realises not only that he has been made clean but that he has been touched by God. His returning to Jesus to give thanks reflects the healing that has taken place within the leper’s soul. Faith is the recognition of the great love and compassion of God, a recognition that moves us to praise and acts of thanksgiving.
Like the leper in today’s Gospel, we realise that we have been cured despite the “illnesses” we face, that our blessings far outweigh our struggles, that we have reason to rejoice and hope despite the sadness and anxieties we must cope with.
There are still “lepers” among us, people we have consciously or unconsciously cast out of society’s gates by fear, mistrust and self-interest. They are the lepers – but we suffer the disease.
Faith begins with the practice of gratitude, gratitude that is grounded in the conviction that God has breathed his life into us for no other reason than love so deep we cannot begin to fathom it — and that the only fitting response we can make to such unexplainable and unmerited love is to stand humbly before God in quiet, humble gratitude.
Gratitude is the perspective of seeing every human being as worthy of respect as a child of God; it is an attitude of simple humility before all men and woman, respecting them as our brothers and sisters, regardless of whatever differences in social status, age, or education. Gratitude requires the humility both to give from our poverty and to receive despite our wealth and status.
And so I end this sermon by quoting from today’s Gospel passage:
“One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him — and he was a Samaritan. Jesus asked, ‘Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine?’ ” (17:15-17)
My friends, brothers and sisters, my prayer is that not only for me, but for all of us is, God grant that we will on occasion be thankful enough to be boisterously thankful. Thankful enough to throw ourselves at Jesus’ feet. And thankful enough to voice Jesus’ question as our own, “Where are the other nine?” and help them find their way home, too.
- Wikipedia. 2016. File:Brooklyn Museum – The Healing of Ten Lepers (Guérison de dix lépreux) – James Tissot – overall.jpg – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. [ONLINE] Available at:https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Brooklyn_Museum_-_The_Healing_of_Ten_Lepers_(Gu%C3%A9rison_de_dix_l%C3%A9preux)_-_James_Tissot_-_overall.jpg. [Accessed 09 October 2016].
- Image by J J Tissot series – The Life of Christ
- This image was uploaded as a donation by the Brooklyn Museum, and is considered to have no known copyright restrictions by the institutions of the Brooklyn Museum.Note: While the Brooklyn Museum cannot make an absolute statement on copyright status for legal reasons, it supports and encourages the Wikimedia community in researching and applying the copyright status tag that is most appropriate for their purposes.