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January 15, 2023

Sermon – The Twelfth Sunday of Luke 2023


The Twelfth Sunday of Luke

By V. Rev. Timothy Baclig

January 15, 2023

The encounter that our Lord had with the lepers in today’s Gospel is well known. (It is the Gospel reading that is used for our celebration of Thanksgiving as a designated Gospel reading for our church in the United States.) Ten lepers, who met Jesus, we are told, “stood at a distance” because leprosy was a contagious disease in their day. It is the Biblical example of the practice of “social distancing” of those suffering from leprosy in the first century.

The lepers cried, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” The narrative then states that when Jesus saw them He instructed them to “go and show yourselves” to the Temple priests who, according to Jewish religious practice, verified the healing of lepers. Next we hear that “as they went” to the priests they were all miraculously healed. Then we are told at the end of this very short lesson: only one came back to thank Jesus; a man who was a foreigner. You may recall that there are other places in the Gospel where “foreigners” who were Samaritans are intentionally highlighted in our Lord’s teaching for a good reason. They include: the Parable of the Good Samaritan; also our Lord’s encounter with the Samaritan woman—Photini.

We should take note that there was no touching of the lepers by Jesus, only his directions. For the purpose of understanding today’s Gospel lets begin with the question: What do you think motivated the ten men to seek out Jesus? It was, undoubtedly, their dreadful skin disease which forced them to practice social distancing. They waited on the edge of the village and to cry out to Jesus with their urgent physical need. And while they all received a healing, we are told, just one, who was is identified as “a Samaritan,” returned to thank the Lord.

Was not another kind of healing needed for the other nine who were also healed? Was their ingratitude, selfishness and disregard a sign of a leprosy of the soul as well? Do you think that giving thanks for having been healed was something that even crossed their mind? I guess we could say they felt “entitled.” And why are we told that the one who was thankful was a Samaritan? Does the spotlight on the man being a foreigner mean that the others were not?

You and I recognize our physical needs more readily than spiritual needs. In some cases our physical needs can be linked to our spiritual needs. From time to time our Lord instructed those requesting a healing to do something, to follow a specific instruction. You remember the paralytic at the miraculous pool of the Jerusalem Sheep’s Gate. The paralytic in his conversation with Jesus focused upon his excuses: He said, “I have no one to help me into the pool…” He added: “…someone else always goes ahead of me…” To the spiritually paralyzed man who Jesus also did not touch, He simply said: “Pick up your mat and walk.” The man did so and was healed! However, at the very end of that Gospel lesson Jesus also said, “stop sinning if you don’t want something worse to happen to you!”

You may also recall the blind man who, you may recall, the Lord placed mud with his spit, and told to go and wash in the pool of Siloam, after which the was healed. There apparently was something very necessary for the man to do and in doing it, he was healed!

Often beneath many physical ailments can be a legion of spiritual conditions that can become manifest in various ways: deep anger, resentment, animosity, bitterness, hate, greed, emptiness and other spiritual ailments (as unconfessed sin)… all of which may well find us simply going along with business as usual, unable or unwilling to consider the health of our souls. What can result are all kinds of predicaments: such as high blood pressure, developing compulsive habits, including: gossip, obscenities, fornication, lies… and the list goes on.

In our Bible Study last Tuesday we examined the relationship between the twin brothers, Jacob and Esau (Genesis). Esau carried the heavy emotional weight of bitterness [resentment], a spirit of habitual complaining. Bitterness [πικρίας; mik-KRIAS] that is mentioned by St. Paul (Hebrews 12:15) refuses God’s chastening and defiles us before God. Esau became bitter about Jacob’s easy favored life in contrast to his own life of difficulty. Bitterness blinded him to what is truly valuable and important. It cut off his stamina and endurance, so he traded his family honor, his birthright, for one small meal (Genesis 25:27-24). For this Esau is called [by St. Paul] “a fornicator” (v. 16), being unfaithful to God and [choosing instead] to follow the spirit to this temporary life. Later on, when Esau changed his mind, his father Isaac would not change his. Esau missed his blessing (Genesis 27:30-40). And so we learned in our study how you and I can face two clear choices in life: bitterness or blessing.

In his letter to the Romans (Romans 7:24), St. Paul himself was not unfamiliar in his struggle with bitterness and resentment: What an unhappy man I am! Who will rescue me from [myself and from] this body that is taking me to death? (meaning, spiritual death). You and I can easily fail to recognize those things that can be spiritually harmful to us; also how we can (sometimes without knowing it) easily (like a virus) inflict upon others—mental cruelty emotional rejection, pride, selfishness, mistrust, an evil disposition and insensitivity. These spiritual ailments can also result in torture us just as painfully as pneumonia, heart conditions, ulcers and other serious physical ailments.

So then, what do we do? Do we Christians just sit there and take it? Are we Christians destined to suffer and just accept everything that is thrown at us? Do we just “do as we are told?” Do we strike back as others might do? Do we do anything to “get even… even get violent?” Our Lord’s command to love. But hear me when I say: to turn the other cheek is not a sign of weakness. When we really understand what Jesus said, we will know it as a sign of strength. Just think of a delirious child. What do you do? Do we beat a child to submission? Yell and scream until the child understands what he or she cannot comprehend? No!

Should you and I only envision our Christian life as being passive sufferers, then we certainly will end up miserable. We’d also be of no help or encouragement to anyone, and the forces of evil would surely have won.

Thankfulness is closely linked to our praise and worship of our Lord, God and King; our Creator and Maker. Being united with Him is with the discovery of what it means to be a partner in His service. [(I Thessalonians 5:18) …give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.]

We are approaching a time of reflection in our parish as we prepare for our Annual Parish Meeting that will take place in two weeks. Our community has a great deal to be thankful for, especially in having, by God’s grace, now beginning its fifty third year as a parish community. Change is always hard. However change is often necessary if we are obedient to God that you and I may experience growth and not stagnation or complacency. As Christians we should be among those who understand what it means to change, especially as we desire growth in faith and love for the One who was, is and will forever be changeless. May He bless us with His continued grace and grant us all His abounding mercies!