PROPER #23…Series C
Saint Andrew’s Episcopal Church (October 8th&9th, 2016)
Title: The Tenth Leper…Doubly Blessed!!
Text: Luke 17: 11-19
Friends, embedded in this beautiful Gospel story from the 17th chapter of Luke is a profound and important spiritual truth…a truth that we would all do well to remember.
The Evangelist Luke tells us that ten were cured of leprosy…it was a hideous disease (the AIDS of the first century) and it was literally eating their lives away. Many people think leprosy is one of those ancient diseases which no longer exists in the modern world, but that is incorrect. Leprosy still exists (today, it is called Hansen’s Disease) and every two minutes someone, somewhere in the world is diagnosed with leprosy (there are 150 new cases in the USA every year). Leprosy is caused by bacteria which attack nerve endings and destroy the bodies’ ability to feel pain or injury. If untreated leprosy leads to blindness and all kinds of unpleasant physical disabilities. But it was the psychological and spiritual dimensions of leprosy which were even more devastating than the physical. In Jesus’ day, people with leprosy were forced to live in isolation…separated from family, friends and community. They were believed to be unclean and therefore were not permitted to worship in the Temple in Jerusalem or in their local synagogue. Leprosy was believed to be God’s judgment visited upon people who had committed some unspeakable sin.
So, here is the question…were these ten men thankful for their healing? I have to believe they all were thankful. How could they not be thankful…after all, Jesus had in effect given them their lives back and in one miraculous moment put an end to the nightmare of isolation/separation and shame. I have to believe that, to a person, all ten were profoundly thankful. But the Evangelist Luke tells us that only one took the time and made the effort to return to return to offer thanks to Jesus…to the one responsible for this new lease on lifer…and that one was a Samaritan…not a Jew but a foreigner…a person who, by virtue of his religion and his nationality, was an outcast…a religious heretic…someone judged by most pious Jews of the day to be unclean.
My friends, here is the point of the story…there is a difference…a large and a significant difference between being thankful…between having feelings of thankfulness and actually giving thanks. And Luke tells us that the only one who was as loud in his expression of thanks after he was cured as he was in his cry for help before he was cured…the only one privileged to hear Jesus say, “Go on your way…your faith has made you well…was a Samaritan…a foreigner…an unclean religious outcast!
The greek verb which is translated MADE WELL in the final verse of today’s Gospel is the word SOZO and SOZO literally means “to be rescued from danger”, but SOZO can also be accurately translated HEALED or MADE WELL or SAVED! So
what this beautiful story proclaims is that ten were cured of leprosy but only one was MADE WELL physically, spiritually, emotionally, psychologically…made well in every dimension of his life…ten were cured of the hideous disease of leprosy (their symptoms totally disappeared) but only one was totally HEALED…healed in places
he didn’t realize he was diseased)…ten were cured of leprosy (they were given a new lease on live) but only one ( a Samaritan…and, ironically, the only one of the ten who were cured who returned to give thanks to the one who was responsible for his new lease on life) was SAVED!
Friends, I do not believe (and would never say) that the Samaritan was SAVED because he returned to offer thanks to Jesus…the one responsible for his healing…but I would say that by returning to offer thanks, he put himself into a position to hear what the other nine never heard…the saving word of Jesus Christ. And that is where this story from long ago intersects with our lives in the 21st century…when we take time and make the effort to imitate the Samaritan in today’s Gospel…when we give thanks for the blessings of life (family/friends/ faith/health/ vocation…the abundance of our material blessings) we cultivate an attitude of gratitude…and we practice the grace to “count our blessings and not our losses”…we create space in our busy lives where we can hear and embrace the saving words of Jesus…a space and opportunity for the seed of the Gospel of Grace to take root and grow and flourish…in our hearts and in our church and in the world!
Someone once said that GRATITUDE…(not just feeling thankful but actually GIVING THANKS) is the fertile seedbed of faith…the Psalmist wrote: It is GOOD to Give Thanks to the Lord…our Gospel for today affirms the truth of both statements…