Sunday, October 14, 2007

The Grateful Leaper: Luke 17:11-19

The Grateful Leaper! Luke 17:11-19
On the way to Jerusalem Jesus was going through the region between Samaria and Galilee. As he entered a village, ten lepers approached him. Keeping their distance, they called out, saying, "Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!"
When he saw them, he said to them, "Go and show yourselves to the priests." And as they went, they were made clean. Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice. He prostrated himself at Jesus' feet and thanked him. And he was a Samaritan.
Then Jesus asked, "Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they? Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?" Then he said to him, "Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well."
La palabra de Dios. Te escuchamos, O Dios.

Leap for Joy!!! Make a joyful noise!!! Let out a great sound of joy! Of cheer, of excitement! Woohoo! What better way to give thanks for today! What better way to give praise to God for God’s mercy in our lives. Praise to God for one more day because even this day is a gift. Life is a gift. Every day. Some days better than others, but today—this is special.
It was a good day for the lepers in this morning’s story. They got up day after day, their bodies covered in sores; skin pealing away. Deformity, shame…relegated to living on the edge of town; not accepted as part of the mainstream. But they kept living. They kept hoping for something to come their way.
Jesus Approaches!
They Shout—“Unclean! Unclean!”—as the Law requires:
They Shout: “Lord, Master, we’ll call you whatever you want us to call you, just
PLEASE have Mercy.” MERCY!
Of course, mercy.
That is what they pray for, that is what they dream of; that someone would show these pathetic people rendered powerless, unclean, blemishes to society mercy, treat them as humans. Will Jesus heed their plea? Can Jesus do anything about it…? It’s worth a try, they’re desperate.
“Have mercy!”
Mercy!” That’s what my buddy from school John Curlin would always say when he got one of his tests back and saw that he passed, barely: Mercy!
He said it when he spotted an attractive young lady: Mercy. Don’t ask me why?
Mercy. That was what my sisters and I used to shout as kids around Christmas when we would drive through the really nice neighborhoods in town on a Mercy Tour…we’d see all the bright colorful lights draped over all the trees and all over the house. Mercy. We saw the giant tree inside the house all lit up, Mercy! We would shout. Don’t ask me why?
Mercy. That’s what you cry when you play that wrestling game…[demonstrate], and when you’re on your knees and your wrists are bent all the way back till you can’t take it any more you beg for mercy. Don’t ask me why?
Mercy, that’s what we pray for when we have the prayers of the people: “Lord, in your mercy”
Mercy, that’s what we sing when we do the confession. Ten Piedad.
But what does mercy mean? Ten lepers beg: “Jesus, Master, HAVE MERCY ON US.”
And as they go on their way, just as Jesus told them to do, they are made clean. And it would appear that mercy made all the difference. Does mercy make any difference in our lives?
Let’s think about mercy for a second: Was there a time in our lives before we knew the good news? Do we remember the time before we knew we were loved and forgiven? The time before we were called to be disciples? This was the time of “pre-mercy.” In the time of “pre-mercy,” we had to reinvent ourselves every day, we faced daily pressure to achieve, accomplish and impress. Good enough to impress our boss or our coach; smart enough to impress our teachers and peers; and romantic enough to impress our significant other. “But of course it is never enough; And then, and then, the next day it has to be done all over again, until we’re simply exhausted and left in despair.” Do you remember: Once you had not received mercy. (Walter Brueggemann, Inscribing the Text: Sermons and Prayers of Walter Brueggemann, pp 80-81)
“And then the miracle! The miracle is that Jesus came into the world; gathered up the stranded people and made them into a new community. He called disciples, he called little children, he called the publicans and sinners, he called tax collectors and fishermen…all sorts of people who did not belong to each other, did not know or trust each other.” (Walter Brueggemann, Inscribing the Text: Sermons and Prayers of Walter Brueggemann, pp 80-81)
But everywhere Jesus went, things were made new.
Jesus enters a no name town somewhere between Samaria and Galilee, and before he can enter that town lepers out on the edges, where they’re supposed to be, mob him: “Have Mercy!” They Cry. And he does: Of course. This is what God incarnate was about. Mercy. He had mercy on them. They were made clean; and their lives took on new meaning. Each made new.
Newness…forgiving, healing, cleansing, feeding…this was the life of Jesus: Mercy giving life back by taking the time to share his life, invest himself in others. That’s what he did, even to the very end. It is as though the whole world addressed him: “Master, have mercy on us.”
So he gave his life as a continuing act of mercy. That’s all. That’s everything. And you know: that’s what the world in its desolate anxiety does not know. That’s what sometimes I forget!
I forget that God is not a hypothesis or a good idea, but instead God is an agent who turns what was into what will be. (Walter Brueggemann, Inscribing the Text: Sermons and Prayers of Walter Brueggemann, pp 83- 84).
Mercy me! This means so much to me. “Mercy is God’s response to us, and then through us and beyond us.”
And our response to God? Jesus suggests a simple, “Thank you.” Or maybe a loud shouting and jumping up and down, “THANK YOU!”
It never hurts to get a little sign of appreciation when you have done something for someone else; when you’ve given of yourself. It’s nice when you’ve worked all day for Spanish supper to get a thank you note. You’ve worked behind the scenes at this church, at work, in our community—and someone gives you a pat on the back. I’m sure you’re all aware that this month is pastor appreciation month; I suppose it’s my job to tell everyone that right?
But even I don’t mind someone saying, Hey Chester, Thanks! Maybe this is hereditary: something I got this from my dad. No, we all like to be appreciated; even if we haven’t really done much! A little gracias. Can that be the case with God too? This mysterious God whom we worship, often times seems so simple—God appreciates a little appreciation.

This foreigner in the story from Luke—a Samaritan—probably didn’t expect to get the same treatment as the others who were Jews. He was shown mercy, healed; and came back ecstatic, praising God and showing his thanks to Jesus. Once a sad leper, he came back a grateful leaper! [Cheesy joke for the day] shouting and praising God, “Wooohhhoooo!”
A foreigner who is the model of faith shows us what thankfulness looks like.
As a Spanish speaker doing social work, Trasie works with a number of foreigners.
They’ve come to this country for any number of reasons, and now are trying to get by in this strange new world. Many are on the edges of society, in the shadows; unsure of what to expect.
One of her clients was the family of a two-year old girl who couldn’t walk or talk. They didn’t know what to do about this precious little girl when they showed up at the center. And Trasie, simply did her job, spent hours with them by going to appointments with doctors and provided counseling for the family. Most of us in that family’s situation would have really appreciated Trasie’s work, but probably thought…well she’s just doing her job. But this family extended one of the most gracious acts of appreciation they could offer. They invited Trasie, and her tag along husband, into their humble home; where we ate a wonderful feast and stayed until 11 at night! What a nice thanks!
Thank yous are nice. It’s no surprise that Jesus, while simply doing his job—healing, showing a little mercy—was hoping for just a slight recognition, just a small sign of appreciation: and one came back. Who knows maybe the other nine who didn’t come back to him were planning an upcoming Jesus appreciation banquet. But there’s there may be a little more to this thankful heart according to the passage. Now this is the kind of stuff us bible nerds really get into…yep that’s me. A Bible nerd. My dad always hoped I’d be a nerd at something. The word derived from sozo translated “made you well,” appears when Jesus says to the appreciative foreigner at the end of the story that his faith had made him well: that word means save. In other words, Jesus seems to say your faith has saved you; well duh, but what about his faith.
His faith led him to say thank you; that is what made him well. Mercy is the big difference in the lives of all the lepers. They are all made clean; but only one comes back and praises God.
Gives thanks to the one who healed, recognized him for who he is. And somehow now, salvation, not just healing, but salvation becomes part of the picture. Salvation factors into the equation.
Now issues of salvation can be tricky in the Bible: it can be talking about eternal salvation, or is there something about experiencing salvation day after day. But I would like for us to consider for a moment, that it his thankful heart, his attitude of gratitude meant salvation that day. He recognized what a gift life is, was left with nothing but say, wow, what a difference, thanks...Being thankful for all of life, for everything life has to offer, is a way we can experience salvation every after day. What can get us down when we live a life of thankfulness? What can do us harm if we trust that our loving God is a god of mercy?
Maybe you know some people like this. People who have seen some of the worst times in life, stuff we couldn’t even imagine experiencing, and in spite of how hard life has been, and for whatever crazy reason these people can only give thanks. Thank you!
The late Rev. John Claypool preached a sermon shortly after his 10-year old daughter died a tragic death. What pain can compare with a parent losing a child? Claypool says that three options came to him as he dealt with the grief. One was to resign to fact that life is just plain difficult and unfair. He likened this approach to a leaf hanging from a tree, fluttering in the wind in the fall time. He could just accept life as it is: that bad things happen no matter how good one might be, and that there is nothing to do but just accept it that way. Maybe we just let life happen; and we fall into cynicism.
Two: The other option that came to Rev. Claypool was to intellectualize the event. To try to make sense of it in his mind, wrap his head around it: Why did my daughter die? What happened? Why did this happen to me? To play scenario after scenario in his head as to how things could be different, how things could have played out another way. But he knew he would never understand, no medical or reasoned explanation would make it better, but more than likely would eventually lead to bitterness and despair.
These two options, as tempting as they were for him, didn’t really give him much satisfaction, in fact just made him more depressed, and anxious and bitter about everything. He was hurting. But somehow, he came out of his suffering, if only for a moment, begging and pleading “Lord, Have mercy;” He realized how much he loved his daughter, how many wonderful memories he had of his daughter. How they would play together, dance and sing together, and read before she went to bed. Laugh and share life with each other.
Some of his greatest memories. He would not trade the time he had with her for anything. It was not fair that she died at such a young age. But what a gift her life was. This father who lost his daughter experienced salvation, in some strange way; by giving thanks for her life, and for his. (Tom Long, A Chorus of Witnesses, “Life Is A Gift,” sermon by John Claypool).
How precious life is. What a gift life is. The God of mercy, gives us life. Mercy made those ten lepers clean, but it was a thankful heart that made the one well. It saved him that day. Surely hard roads were ahead, after all he was a foreigner in a strange land, but a thankful heart can overcome even the most dreadful situations, because life is a gift, and so long as there is life, there is hope. “There is an old spiritual discipline of listing one’s blessings, naming them before God, and giving thanks. It’s a healthy thing to do, especially in a world where we too often assume we have an absolute right to health, happiness and every possible creature comfort” (Tom Wright, Luke for Everyone, 2004 WMJKP, pp206-207).
So that’s what I’d like us to do this morning. Take the time to find something we are thankful for: A good week last week, a win for our favorite team, a visit from a family member, the soft fur of a pet, a phone call with someone we love. Maybe it is something miraculous that has happened in our lives: Recovery from an illness, an experience of reconciliation. Maybe we are just thankful for the pastor..or if not me maybe for my wife! Maybe for the person or people sitting around you. Each and every day we can hope for something new and unexpected.
Each and every day we can wake up and give thanks that on this day, something wonderful may happen: A smile from a child; A hug and a kiss from a loved one; a wonderful storied shared over a meal; A glimpse of a beautiful sunset.
Take time to reflect on mercy and on thankfulness:
Play Song while people write down things they are thankful for: David M. Bailey, “I’m Thankful”:
“I'm thankful for the way the sun rises in the morning
I'm thankful for yellow, red and blue
I'm thankful for the quiet thoughts that visit when the moon shines
But most of all I'm thankful for you

I'm thankful that the lightning never strikes twice in the garden
I'm thankful for the silent midnight dew
I'm thankful that the tides don't forget to return
but most of all I'm thankful for you

So much to make my heart glad
So many reasons to sing
Well I'm thankful for every moment
And you, you're in everything

I'm thankful for the way my son reaches for my fingers
I'm thankful for my daughter's smile too
I'm thankful for the Time that brought us all together
but most of all I'm thankful for you”

Yes, there are so many things to be thankful for.
What does mercy mean? It means that God loves us beyond anything we can experience; and that is something to be thankful for.
that is awesome!

1 comment:

  1. Chester -- I am grateful for you. Keep on preaching the word, man.