Luke 17:15 Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice.
Today’s healing miracle is quite well known and is often taught as a lesson on gratitude. Today I wish to provide greater depth to the characters in the story.
In the story for today Jesus encounters 10 people all with leprosy. During those days, victims of leprosy were ostracized to the fringes of the community where they were not to be seen or touched. In other words, they became less than human. One however was a Samaritan who then was facing double indemnity for he was already ostracized due to his race and now additionally due to his illness. Interestingly the ten due to their illness were no longer separated by race but now shared a commonality of being lepers. When you are sick and lying in hospital does it matter who shares the room with you or are just so desperately praying for healing and restoration?
Jesus breaks into their world and declared his healing power and now sends them to be restored to the community where they can now become visible and active again. Interestingly however the Samaritan knew deep in his heart that no matter what his physical condition he would never be clean enough to become fully accepted in the society, so he returned to the source of who made him a whole person. Jesus gives wholeness as a lifestyle.
My friends in Christ the work of Jesus was not limited to only physical restoration but one in which Jesus was quite willing to revolutionize societal norms. For Jesus physical healing was a tool to something bigger and greater; that of restoration of God’s world one person at a time. Nine lepers saw healing as merely that of the physical and one may not be surprised if their leprosy eventually returned but who am I to judge.
What is valuable for St Luke is that the outsider became an insider. The nobody became a somebody and the invisible became visible. One of the fall-out effects of the opioid crisis in our communities is the manner in which many people can easily become invisible. Previously one’s race was often the factor which decided how visible one maybe in terms of the receipt of worth and value in our society. Many would use wealth as a tool geared towards raising one’s visibility. Consumerism is based upon the understanding that people would quicker give a second look to someone driving a European made car than that of a Japanese made vehicle. We tend to look longer at the person driving a Land Rover more than one driving a Ford.
One of the calls of the church remains much the same, for often we ourselves can find ourselves responding the same to many in our community. We tend to begin by seeking to subtract from folks or view what they are not rather than view the other as persons loved by Jesus.
Our faith in Jesus calls us to first begin by allowing ourselves to be accepted as worthy of Jesus’ love. My worth and value is not given by the world through its trinkets. My worth and value is not given by human approval which loves you today then negates you tomorrow because you did not meet their approval. No, my friends, his faith in Jesus empowered the Samaritan to a new sense of self-worth and value. He now establishes his relationship with God through Christ Jesus. He is no longer an invisible Samaritan. He is now a disciple of Jesus. Jesus made him a man, a human person with dignity, worth and value.
Jesus makes me whole and challenges me to wholesome living and wholesome thinking. The earlier we teach our children to allow their faith to work for them the greater freedom they will live out their potential in the world. When Jesus declares “I have come so that you may have life in abundance” (John 10:10) he was preparing the disciples for exactly what the Samaritan experienced. His life is no longer tethered to the boundaries set by race and culture. No longer bounded by what he lacked but now he understood he carried within himself the very presence of God. Can you imagine no longer being tethered to the things that have kept you back or down in life? Can you imagine a life in which you are able to explore all that God wants you to be and not limited by your past, faults or human structures? This is the faith that was used by many to break down barriers and walls to become steppingstones into the fullness of living. The Samaritan viewed life much like Nelson Mandela and Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. I am bigger and greater than whatever the externals may shout.
My friends, when I came to St Elizabeth’s I had a vision of faith community that is actively involved in reshaping the conversation about our worth and value. It was about sharing what we have been blessed with by God in order to change and transform our community.
Christians friends the question is how much of our time and energy do we invest in bringing out that which is good and worthy both to ourselves and in others. I plead with you do not leave here the same way you entered. Don’t leave like the nine who had a temporary relief from their condition but come back to Jesus weekly praising God for what change and transformation he is performing in your life and you household. Jesus heals the world one Samaritan at a time. Let is allow Jesus to heal our broken world through touching one outcast at a time.
Put your faith to work for you and in your circumstances and see the glory of the Lord unfold in you!