Sunday, September 13, 2009

Trinity 14 sermon

Trinity 14 – Luke 17:11-19 – September 13th, 2009

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost +
So, there they are. 10 men, all with leprosy, all with a horrid disease. One that cuts them off from the rest of humanity, one that makes them to live isolated lives, alone with their disease. Consider what it would be like to be a leper – to have to live in caves, to warn away anyone who came near - “Get back from me, I'm a leper, if you touch me you too might be ill.” You live on the outskirts – hopefully some family or friends will come out. . . drop off some food for you outside so you can eat – but you'll never get to talk to them face to face again, never hold them, never hug them. And there are of ten of these lepers, waiting outside the town walls, waiting to see if there will be food today – and then, they see Christ Jesus. They recognize Him, they cry out to Him - “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” This is Jesus, the One who is the Master, the Master of healing, and He is walking by. And Jesus looks at them, and He simply says, “Go show yourself to the priests.” Now, according to the Law of Moses, a person who had leprosy could reenter society if he were healed, but he had to show himself to the priests first. The priests would certify that this person was healed. And they go – all ten of them, they start towards the priests – and as they are going, it is really quite wonderful - “And as they went they were cleansed” Imagine – as you walk, the sores on your skin, they close up and are gone. The dead skin clinging to you flakes off, and then there is nothing but pure and healthy skin. Can you imagine the excitement of the moment? “Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks.” All are excited, but one of them, instead of running into town, into society, with joy pauses, and he turns – and his joy and excitement is focused upon Christ, and he runs back and praises God, he falls at Christ's feet – he's on his knees giving thanks to God. And who is this person who gives thanks? He is the son of a priest? He is a well-to-do member of society? Nope. He was, yes indeed, a Samaritan – one of “those” people. And Jesus looks and asks, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” Only one comes to give thanks to God, and in reality the he’s one who would have been least expected to give thanks. And Jesus looks at Him and explains, “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.” The time of thanksgiving is over – and this Samaritan returns and runs to town to show the priest, to be declared healed, and to return to life.

So then, what do we learn from this? We do see a warning, a reminder, that we ought to be thankful. There's a reason we are going to hear this text again come Thanksgiving Day. And the simple truth is all too often we are not as thankful as we ought to be, too often we neglect the blessings we have from God. The world is in a horrid economic slump – the worst of my life, perhaps the worst since the Great Depression. Yet consider our congregation? Yes, as a congregation we are behind on funds this year, but consider us here in this room, are we here still not doing well? Still have house and home – all those first article blessings. God has preserved us. And the ways in which we have been blessed in this life by God are countless –Luther’s list is but a start of them. But God's blessings and care to us are many and full. And we ought to be aware of them, we ought to be thankful for them. And it is true that quite often we aren't as thankful as we ought to be. It's true – too often when we get that blessing, that benefit, we in our joy over getting the blessing shoot right on by thankfulness. In fact, we've come to expect the blessings, so we don't even think to say thank you – of course I'm going to get this blessing, I got blessed last week, why would it ever end?

But as I consider this text, I fear we think about our lack of thankfulness for earthly blessings, and while that is true – it doesn't get to the fullness of what goes on here. We see what Jesus does – He heals, and we think of blessings, but mainly we think of blessings of the body, of health, of wealth; we jump to the physical ways in which we receive blessings. However, I think we can neglect the Spiritual Blessings which Christ gives, and there is a wonderful parallel here. Consider this – leprosy is a disease that separates a person from society – if you were a leper you were cut off from your family and friends. Dear friends, isn't this exactly what sin does to us? Consider what happens when you sin. When you become angry, what happens to your relationships? When you lie, what happens to your relationships? When you get greedy, what happens to your relationships? Sin is the great isolator – sin cuts us off from one another. Again with this, consider the garden. You have Adam and Eve, the perfect couple, literally. Then there's sin, and what do we see? It's this stinking woman's fault. Isolation, separation. Sin separates us from each other – sin brings with it fear and hurt and pain, and we get convinced that we need to start looking out for number 1, we turn in and huddle in on ourselves, and we are left alone and isolated.

But we are not only isolated from each other – we are by our sin cut off from God. Think on what sin is – it's going against God's will, it's contramanding God, it's fighting against Him. Again, consider the Garden – after the fall, Adam's not walking with God in the garden like He used to, but rather Adam's off hiding in the corner, afraid of God. Adam, who had been made in God's image, now hides from God, doesn't even want to be near God. Do you see what Satan tries to accomplish with sin – every sin, great, small, every sin causes separation, builds up walls, turns us away from God, away from our neighbors, and makes us alone and isolated.

Now, those lepers were isolated and alone, and what happens? Christ Jesus comes along. Note this – Christ Jesus comes on up to the town – it's not a matter of these lepers going on some adventurous journey trying to find their own healing – no, they are stuck in their miserable lives as lepers – and then Christ comes. And then there is hope. If Christ had not happened upon that town, they would have simply remained in their illness. But there is Jesus, and so they call out to Christ for healing – and He heals them.

Is this not again what happens in terms of salvation? While we human beings were yet sinners, while we were still wretched and vile, Christ Jesus comes down from heaven, is born of the virgin Mary, and lives, heals, does miracles, fulfills God's law in our place, and then goes to the Cross in our stead, taking up the burden of that sin. Christ fights sin upon the cross. Does sin isolate you – behold Christ Jesus upon the cross – pulled out and isolated, left to die. The full weight of sin upon Him – and He takes it, and He dies. And then He rises, and sin is defeated, it is done away with – He passes through it and strides up to Mary, to the Disciples, indeed, He comes to us, and He says, “I have won you back from sin, I have brought you back from that separation.”

Christ Jesus comes to us this day; He brings His Word of life and forgiveness to us – His Word is proclaimed to us and we are forgiven, our sin is healed, washed away. His Word is proclaimed and we are given life, we are healed, we are restored, we are turned away from sin and given strength to show love, to have good relationships with those we love, to treat them properly, to enjoy in the love of God. This is what this place is about, this service to which God has called us. We receive forgiveness. Do you see what forgiveness is? It's not just a pat on the back, it's not God saying “I don't care what you do” -- forgiveness doesn't mean we get to do whatever we want. Rather this – because we are forgiven, because we have been restored to God, we get to be the people God has made us to be – we get to enjoy His blessings as He intended them. We get to enjoy wealth without greed, we get to enjoy friends without coveting, we get to enjoy family without envy and lust. And when that sin which still clings to us pops up and messes with how we enjoy everything in life – once again, Christ forgives us, cleanses us, restores us and sends us back into the world to enjoy all the blessings of life. Indeed, we get to enjoy our relationship with God again, to delight in His Word.

Do you see what we have received from God? The sad part is, too often we are like those 9 – we know that Christ is great, that He loves and blesses us – we know that He forgives us – but then we just traipse along as though this wasn't the most wondrous, mind boggling thing ever. And so friends, this day, I encourage you, think about the joy and benefit that Christ and His forgiveness has been to you, the times where His love has gotten you through periods of guilt and shame. Think on the times where you've been hurt – but Christ's love has let you forgive someone and let you be restored to them. This is what God does for you, all the time – and this is why we should give thanks to God. We give thanks not because if we don't God's going to cut us off – the 9 are still healed, but we give thanks because we see and understand the wonders of what God has given us – when we see, when we understand, we will give thanks and learn to use His love to us rightly.

And so dear friends, know that God has shown you great love, that He has healed you and continually restores you to Himself, to your family and friends. This is His love to you – for His care and love for you is great and wondrous, it is full and complete. There is nothing left but to rejoice and delight in it. In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost +

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