January 19, 2020

Sermon – Twelfth Sunday of Luke 2020

The Twelfth Sunday of Luke
By V. Rev. Timothy Baclig
January 19, 2020
In today’s Gospel, Jesus was preaching in Galilee along the border between Samaria and Galilee.  The story is well known.  (It is the Gospel reading that is used for our celebration of Thanksgiving in a special service that was composed for our church in America.)  Ten lepers, who the Gospel describes, “stood at a distance,” cried out, “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 custom, used to verify the healing of lepers.  Next we hear that “as they went” to the priests they were all miraculously healed.  Then we are told: only one came back to thank Jesus.
There was no touching of the lepers by Jesus, only his instruction.  So what do you think motivated the ten men to seek out Jesus?  It was, no doubt, their dreadful skin disease which imposed upon them forced social isolation.  This is why the ten lepers waited for Jesus at the edge of a village.  The Gospel account says that they “stood at a distance;” “lifted their voice: ‘Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!’”.  
They came to Jesus with their urgent physical need and they all received a healing.  However, one, who was is identified as “a Samaritan,” returned to thank Jesus.  Was not another kind of healing necessary for the other nine who were healed of leprosy?  Was not their ingratitude, selfishness and insensitivity a sign of leprosy of the soul as well?  What do you think was their struggle? 
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!
You may also recall the blind man who the Lord told to go and wash in the pool of Siloam and 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) may well find us simply going along with business as usual, unable or unwilling to care about the health of our souls.  What could follow are all kinds of predicaments:  perhaps high blood pressure, or the start of bad habits.  Today’s epistle mentions a few: malice, gossip, and slander, foul talk, fornication, excuses for sin, lies...
In his letter to the Romans, the anguished cry of St. Paul is not unfamiliar:  What an unhappy man I am!  Who will rescue me from this body (that is, the self) that is taking me to death? (that is, spiritual death) (Romans 7:24).  We can often and very easily fail to recognize things that are spiritually harmful to us; things that we can also easily (like a virus) inflict upon others—mental cruelty emotional rejection, pride, selfishness, mistrust, evil disposition and coldness.  These spiritual ailments can also 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 strike back as others might do?  Do we do anything to “get even?”  Surely not!  We cannot ignore our Lord’s command to love; to turn the other cheek.  
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.  If we believe this to be true, then we will not only be inclined to give up; we will believe a lie.  
However, Christ is Victor!  He has triumphantly overcome all that you and I do not need to accept or be deceived in believing.  If our pride is in all that He has accomplished for us and not in anything that we done, and if our praise is in His great mercy; if He is glorified in everything that we do, then you and I have nothing to be ashamed of.  If our sacrifice is a sacrifice of righteousness, and if our prayer is one of repentance, then we have absolutely no need to apologize for believing the way we do.
Today’s Gospel the lesson illustrates to us two kinds of persons.  On the one hand, those who take things for granted (take) and who happen to be “of a particular heritage,” and on the other hand, and “outsider” a “foreigner” who understood that what he received was not because he asked for it, or that he deserved it, not even because it was owed to him.  No.  This one of ten who came asking (who was a Samaritan and not a Jew), asked in the same way and even received what he asked, but unlike the other nine, understood that he received something greater than a healing:  GOD’S GREAT MERCY!  And most importantly, in being a beneficiary of God’s goodness, this foreigner and outsider was now united to God in faith and love.  
Thankfulness is closely linked to our praise and worship of our Lord, God and King; our Creator and Maker.  Being united with Him is learning to be a partner in service of His dominion.
I am not talking about rejecting what the New Testament speaks about in suffering for others or to also bear each others burdens.  There should be no confusion of what I am saying.  Responsible and mature Christian stewardship is not the practice of learning how you and I must give bigger hand-outs to the needy, nor is it even the task of being another person’s slave.  Instead it is: sharing the joy of being a co-laborer and fellow servant in Christ’s vineyard.  It is responding to the call and stepping up to the plate.  It is what St. Paul calls: “our reasonable worship” (Hebrews):  a thankful heart that demonstrates gratitude by glorifying God in serving with others.  No one is a soloist as servants in God’s Kingdom!  It is not about your or my agenda.  It is learning that being a recipient of God’s goodness is to have the means of being generous in whatever way we can.  It is discovering that it is truly “more blessed to give than to receive,” and as God’s sons and daughters there is no gift greater than His love for us.
Our parish community has a great deal to be thankful for, especially in having celebrated our fiftieth year as a parish community.  It is the praise of God’s abounding grace to all who have voluntarily chosen to be co-laborers in the Pastoral ministry of the One who became our voluntary servant to save us from our shortsightedness, our weaknesses, and our sin.  May He bless us with His continued grace and grant us all His abounding mercies!