Monday, October 7, 2013

A GRACIOUS AND APPROACHABLE WORD. A Homily for 10.13.13 from Luke 17:11-19 for the 28th Sunday of Ordinary Time

Homily for 10.13.13
LUKE 17:11-19
(see below)
28th Sunday in 
Ordinary Time
Year C

We find in today's Lectionary Gospel reading from St. Luke an especially approachable and gracious word for us. It is a word of hope and abundance. It is a word that pushes against the selfishness of a sinful world at war with itself. It is a word that reminds us that the world is not what Empire and the power of darkness says it is. 

For this morning's homily, therefore, I thought I would simply point to three ideas from the pericope that could actually serve as signposts for our greater meditation on the text, later.

The Samaritans Are A Metaphor For The Other --
Well, the Samaritans are back, at least one of them anyway. The Lectionary brings to us the account of Jesus' healing ministry to the ten lepers, at least one of whom was both a Samaritan and a leper. This should be seen as a double whammy for this individual! 

The text opens by telling us that Jesus is continuing his determined journey toward Jerusalem. You will remember St. Luke described the origin of this journey in chapter nine:
51 When the days for his being taken up were fulfilled, he resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem, 52 and he sent messengers ahead of him. On the way they entered a Samaritan village to prepare for his reception there, 53 but they would not welcome him because the destination of his journey was Jerusalem. 54 When the disciples James and John saw this they asked, “Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to consume them?” 55 Jesus turned and rebuked them,56 and they journeyed to another village. (LUKE 9:51-56)
Notice how St. Luke’s characterization of Jesus' initial dealings with the Samaritans begin with a bitter note:
"On the way they entered a Samaritan village to prepare for his reception there, but they would not welcome him because the destination of his journey was Jerusalem..." 
It would seem that Jesus would have every justification in rejecting the Samaritans as a people, especially since they, as a rule, wanted no part of him and his message. Just like in today's world, fear and prejudice of the unknown-other usually rule the day. 

But, this is not the way of the LORD, it is? Thankfully. And, here we would do well to remember that the LORD does not offer us what we deserve -- a face turned away in anger, but instead he offers an open hand of mercy -- even in the face of our every objection and rejection.

Therefore, in today's text we read how Jesus, instead of rejecting those who previously rejected him, powerfully enacted the lesson-meaning he himself founded in the parable Good Samaritan. That is, he practices what he preaches! 

We have no reason to think that the sequence of the Gospel as it was shaped by Dr. Luke was actually the order of how things really happened. But, it is not beyond the realm of possibility that Jesus offers the parable of the Good Neighbor (i.e. the Parable of the Good Samaritan) -- as an veiled, edged response to the suggestion by the disciples that fire be called down to consume their supposed enemies. 

As we also learned from earlier in chapter nine, allowing those who choose against the message to live with the consequences of their own choices is judgment enough:
1 He summoned the Twelve and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases, 2 and he sent them to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal [the sick]. 3 He said to them, “Take nothing for the journey,* neither walking stick, nor sack, nor food, nor money, and let no one take a second tunic. 4 Whatever house you enter, stay there and leave from there. 5 And as for those who do not welcome you, when you leave that town, shake the dust from your feet in testimony against them.” 6 Then they set out and went from village to village proclaiming the good news and curing diseases everywhere. (LUKE 9:1-6) 
The true life-relevance of this text may seem so obvious that one need not point out the truth contained within, even so, you will allow me the homiletic point of personal privilege when I say that Dr. Luke wants us to know that the message of Jesus the King is for the entire world of people -- beginning for the Jews, of course, but including the Gentile, the rich and poor, the slave and free, and yes, even the Samaritan. The gospel is for those with ears to hear, no matter who they are.

Miracles Point Beyond Themselves -- 
So, ten lepers, including the Samaritan, happened upon the LORD, and standing away from him, [because they were unclean] they called to him, shouting:  
"Jesus, Master! Have pity on us!"
And when he saw them, he said, "Go show yourselves to the priests." As they were going they were cleansed.
Perhaps they had heard of Jesus’ other dealings with those suffering from leprosy, giving them the knowledge-of-hope that allowed them to call out to this young Prophet:
12 Now there was a man full of leprosy in one of the towns where he was; and when he saw Jesus, he fell prostrate, pleaded with him, and said, “Lord, if you wish, you can make me clean.” 13 Jesus stretched out his hand, touched him, and said, “I do will it. Be made clean.” And the leprosy left him immediately. 14 Then he ordered him not to tell anyone, but “Go, show yourself to the priest and offer for your cleansing what Moses prescribed; that will be proof for them.” 15 The report about him spread all the more, and great crowds assembled to listen to him and to be cured of their ailments, 16 but he would withdraw to deserted places to pray. (Luke 5:12-16)
We should remember that these miraculous healings that Jesus accomplished were to be more than just a benefit to the ones healed or delivered, as important as these were. These works of mercy were also and even especially meant to display and to signal to Jesus’ people, and by extension to the watching world, that the promised Hebrew Kingdom -- filled as it is with promise, and healing and paradise-restoration -- was finally present in the person of this unique Jewish prophet, who was more than a prophet, and who went about thoroughly interrupting business as usual. 

This understanding of Jesus' movement in the ministry of the miraculous, therefore, will go a long way in helping us to think-through just what the Kingdom means:

The Kingdom...
is the surprise move of GOD, visiting his chosen people by becoming one of them... 
is the promised upsetting of the status-quo and the return of the world to what GOD meant it to be all along...
is the defeat of empire, the destruction of the powers of darkness and the return to holiness...
is the the inclusion of all people (even Samaritans) who wish to be part, who have ears to hear, and who respond to GOD's gracious rule by finding the narrow way...
is the upending of hate, greed, violence and finally that last, great enemy death, all through the accomplishment of Jesus, the Jewish Messiah, on the cross, in the resurrection and in the ascension... 
is the final and glorious return of GOD's people from exile... 
is the fulfillment of Yahweh's promises to Abraham, including the blessing of the entire world...

There Is But One Response To GOD's Touch
Finally notice, the text reads:
And one of them, realizing he had been healed, returned, glorifying God in a loud voice; and he fell at the feet of Jesus and thanked him. He was a Samaritan.
There are so many actions balled up in the Samaritan's confession before Jesus that we must take a moment to unpack what happens here. Clearly, and at the heart of the Samaritan's confession, is the only true response to the experienced-grace of the Almighty. That is, after we experience the grace of GOD we must return and offer ourselves to him. Said differently, to experience grace and to walk away from the encounter without a look backward is the height of selfishness, which of course is the definition of sin. 

Notice, then, how the movement of the return and the self-offering of ourselves back to the LORD plays out for the Samaritan:

He "glorifies God in a loud voice" -- 
Where once the Samaritan cried for mercy because of his disease, later he cried out in praise to the LORD, his Deliver. Part of the Samaritan’s confession, therefore, is to acknowledge the LORD's worth. That is, the return to the LORD and the self-offering of ourselves back to him means we worship the him, which means we acknowledge that we did not deliver ourselves! 

He "returns to give thanks to God" -- 
Also, part of the Samaritan's confession and his return to the LORD occurs when he allows gratitude to flow forth from his heart. Here, we would do well to remember the story St. Luke tells about the pardon of the sinful women and the lack of understanding from the observing Pharisee:
36 A Pharisee invited him to dine with him, and he entered the Pharisee’s house and reclined at table. 37 Now there was a sinful woman in the city who learned that he was at table in the house of the Pharisee. Bringing an alabaster flask of ointment, 38 she stood behind him at his feet weeping and began to bathe his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them, and anointed them with the ointment.
39 When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, that she is a sinner.” 40 Jesus said to him in reply, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” “Tell me, teacher,” he said. 41 “Two people were in debt to a certain creditor; one owed five hundred days’ wages* and the other owed fifty. 42 Since they were unable to repay the debt, he forgave it for both. Which of them will love him more?” 43 Simon said in reply, “The one, I suppose, whose larger debt was forgiven.” He said to him, “You have judged rightly.”
44 Then he turned to the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? When I entered your house, you did not give me water for my feet, but she has bathed them with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You did not give me a kiss, but she has not ceased kissing my feet since the time I entered. 46 You did not anoint my head with oil, but she anointed my feet with ointment. 47 So I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven; hence, she has shown great love. But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little.” 48 He said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” 49 The others at table said to themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?” 50 But he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” (LUKE 7:36-50)

He "has the faith to truly see the Savior" -- 
Finally, part of the Samaritan's confession is to see Jesus as he really is. The former leper sees Jesus as the deliver, the savior, the one who makes us whole. To be sure, he may not have had the deep nuance of a Messianic faith understanding. But, this was unnecessary. He possessed enough of the gift of faith to know that his allegiance belonged to the one who delivered him, and that was sufficient:
Then he said to him, "Stand up and go; your faith has saved you."


LUKE 17:11-19
As Jesus continued his journey to Jerusalem,
he traveled through Samaria and Galilee.
As he was entering a village, ten lepers met him.
They stood at a distance from him and raised their voices, saying,
"Jesus, Master! Have pity on us!"
And when he saw them, he said,
"Go show yourselves to the priests."
As they were going they were cleansed. 
And one of them, realizing he had been healed,
returned, glorifying God in a loud voice;
and he fell at the feet of Jesus and thanked him. 
He was a Samaritan.
Jesus said in reply,
"Ten were cleansed, were they not?
Where are the other nine? 
Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?" 
Then he said to him, "Stand up and go;

your faith has saved you."