Twenty-first Sunday after Pentecost–Sermon
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Ten little monkeys; jumping on the bed; one fell off and bumped his head; the mama called the doctor; and the doctor said; no more monkey’s jumping on the bed. Nine little monkeys; jumping on the bed; one fell off and bumped his head; the mama called the doctor; and the doctor said; no more monkey’s jumping on the bed. Eight….well I think I could probably stop now singing the children’s song now, though I do confess it is quite catchy. These adorable cute bounding monkeys who one right after the next continue in succession to do what the one before had done. They follow along in the pattern, which my hunch is designed to either help kids with counting backwards OR to warn them of the dangers of such frivolity, as a bump on the head not only hurts, but warrants a call to the doctor. Such is the natural behavior of monkeys, I suppose, swinging from tree limbs, eating bananas, jumping around with hoots and hollers, not listening to nor understanding basic english commands. Thus failing to learn from what they had witnessed, from 10 to 0. They all bump their heads.
Put in contrast to our Gospel lesson then it seems Jesus is doing rather well with the one, the one Samaritan, who breaks the mold and pattern, who turns back toward the Master who showed mercy. As you likely know being a leper was a terrible disease. Though the biblical word covers a multitude of fleshy ailments, its outcome and result was the same; he or she was an outcast. One removed from the community. One who was ostracized and could not work. In their desperate state, which affected not only the body, but the soul as well, led them to cry out in succession; “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” A prayer and cry of the tormented and afflicted. Kyrie Eleison. Christe Eleison. Kyrie Eleison. Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.
Ten lepers, about their stature I do not know, cry out to the Lord for mercy and ten lepers are healed. The goodness of God and the healing power of His Word has covered and cleansed them all. The Word from Jesus removed that which kept them from the community and healed the pain and discomfort that such a disease would have caused. He acted in the very nature of God whom the prophets declare is, “gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love.” These 10 lepers are now clean, but yet they are not all made well. St. Luke in his normal fashion of pointing to the Samaritans and Gentiles as models for Christians, speak of only one who is truly made well by that same faith. The Samaritan turning back to Christ in love, devotion, worship, and thanksgiving, Jesus says to him, “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.” Or rather, “your faith has saved you.”
In the story this morning we have here the full picture of what it is that we confess about our God. Of Him who sent His beloved Son into the world to save the world. Jesus Christ defeated sin, death and the power of the devil. Through his work upon the cross, the shedding of His blood, His rest in the tomb and rising to victory, Christ has healed all by wining our redemption through the forgiveness of our sins. The whole world, that creation of God which cries out in labor pains, has received the foretaste of its salvation. Forgiveness, grace, and the healing of God won on Calvary is for all. There is nothing left, we confess, to do for our salvation. The Father has already done it all in His Son. God’s mercy and healing is truly universal given to all and yet not all are made well. Though Christ has healed all, not all are saved. The only difference between those who are and those who are not is simply pausing to take a look, to see that they are in fact healed. It is the gift of faith, given for eyes to see and ears to hear. For the life and salvation given to all is like the old analogy of the million dollar check in everyone’s wallet. Yes you have it, but until you take it to the bank it does you no good. Christ has given us a kingdom which is unshakable, which is so glorious and so wondrous, filled with his love and compassion, yet it too does us no good if it is not apprehended by faith. If our hearts and minds are not turned back to Christ the author and perfecter of faith itself.
We cannot by our own reason or strength believe in Christ Jesus or come to Him, but with God all things are possible. For where His Word is proclaimed it creates that which it speaks, by the power of the Holy Spirit. For His Word is living and active and it does not return to our Lord empty. It is for this reason that we are here, that we turn back, each week in love and thanksgiving to God. For here we lepers are continually made well by Christ. Here salvation is sung, proclaimed, and given as Dr. James Nestingen formerly of Luther Sem, is quoted as saying, “In the liturgy the Word of God is poured over us, on our heads, in our eyes, through our ears, and down our mouths. Permeating our lives.” Here we are flooded by God’s Word which not only heals us, but saves us. In the word of absolution and sacrament received, faith itself is created and given to us. Yet outside of the presence of Christ in the proclamation of the Word and reception of the Sacrament faith quickly dries up, because at heart the Old Adam in us is like those nine other lepers yearning to keep walking back to our old lives. The Old Adam in us is like those 10 little obstinate monkeys, wanting to so much to ignore the voice of the doctor and keep going our own way. Yet God causes us to turn back to Him in faith. Falling on our faces at the feet of Jesus and that is something that neither you and I could do on our own, but only by the gift of faith, which stirs in us thanks and praise for all that He has done.
And it is precisely this, this chief act of thanksgiving, eucharistia in the Greek, from which we get the word Eucharist, that describes the heart and soul of gathering together for worship each week. We come to this place, turning back to Christ, like the Samaritan to give thanks to God. Thus there is so much thanksgiving that we sing/speak in the liturgy of the Meal, the place where Christ himself comes in body and blood to meet us and give us our salvation, “Let us give thanks to the Lord our God. It is right to give Him thanks and praise. It is indeed right and salutary that we should at all times and in all places give thanks.” Our worship is lived and done in the spirit and joy of thanksgiving to God and it is not confined to this Lord’s Day, but rather permeates and fills our lives and our time each day, each week. Therefore let us with hearts raised unceasingly give thanks that the doctor, the Great Physician, has spoken to us His Word, broken the pattern of our sinful lives, refrained our chaotic jumping, answered our pleas for mercy, and healed our bruised heads, hearts, and lives. Amen.