St. Matthew’s Sermon 10-09-2016

St. Matthew’s Sermon 10-09-2016

Do You See?

Jeremiah 29:1, 4-7, 2 Timothy 2:8-15, Luke 17:11-19

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O God. Amen

Today’s story of the healing of 10 lepers, in our gospel reading, isn’t just another healing story; they never are. Yes, Christ’s ability to heal, not only the spiritual needs of others but also the physical needs, is always there. And the power of faith for delivering the afflicted is always a part of the story; either Christ’s faith or the believer’s, if not both. But if this was all that needed to be said about the story of the ten lepers it was already brought up in chapter 5 with the healing of one leper.

In that story…

…there was a man covered with leprosy. When he saw Jesus, he bowed with his face to the ground and begged him, “Lord, if you choose, you can make me clean.” Then Jesus stretched out his hand, touched him, and said, “I do choose. Be made clean.” Immediately the leprosy left him. And he ordered him to tell no one. “Go,” he said, “and show yourself to the priest, and, as Moses commanded, make an offering for your cleansing, for a testimony to them.” (Luke 5:12-14)

The quick summery then is: someone had a need, he asked, he received, he was told to show himself to the priest who could, (in fact was required to) confirm his healing, and to make a sacrificial offering.

The exact same summery could be made of today’s reading except that there were 10 lepers this time: they asked they received, they were told to present themselves to the priest.

Maybe the other 9 did as they were told and went to the priest; maybe they even made a sacrificial offering; we’re not told. But one, just one of ten, returned “praising God in a loud voice” and thanking Jesus! Still, not all that different from the earlier story.

But, as usual, there’s something else different about this story besides the number of people asking for and receiving healing. In the first story, the man “saw” Jesus and begged him for healing. In today’s story, the ten called out “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” And Jesus “saw” them, and said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were made clean. And the one, when he “saw” that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice!

The first story is found in a section of Luke’s Gospel that focuses on Jesus as the deliverer of the Good News of the coming of the Kingdom of God. The leper saw Jesus as the deliverer and was healed.  Likewise, as we read it we are asked to see who, and what, Jesus is.

Today’s story, however, comes in a section that emphasizes the proper response to that Good News and the New Kingdom. So, when we read it we are asked to see, by Christ’s example, how we should respond to the Good News in a Kingdom manner.

By His example, Jesus is looking for, and paying attention to, the suffering in the world around Him. He heard the cry of the ten lepers, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” And he saw their affliction; and He did have mercy on them; they were cured!

Summing up this little difference in today’s story took only three lines on my sermon page. Oh, but if we all talked it through, we could write another book on the matter.

First: we would have to address recognizing the needs of others. We could discuss the obvious: Like the victims of the hurricane of this past week; the displaced people who need to rebuild their homes and their lives in its wake. Or the Veterans, all over our country, who struggle with PTSD. And the people killed every day, right here in our own country, in senseless violence. Or any of the great number of cases we hear about every day in the news and around the water cooler.

And we would have to talk about the things we have not noticed or have let slip into the past without our continued attention: like the fact that the suffering caused by Hurricane Matthew in Haiti, the poorest nation on this side of the world, is multiplied many times as so many there still live in tents and other makeshift shelters since the earthquake that destroyed tens of thousands of homes six years ago. And the fact that there are thirteen wars going on in our world today (and that’s only counting the ones with more than 1,000 deaths this year). And two of the worst of these, in terms of deaths caused by war, are in Afghanistan and Iraq; only the war in Syria tops those. And, we would have to address the fact that, according to the latest (2015) statistics, 43.1 million people live in poverty in the richest nation on this side of the world; the United States of America.

Second: We would need to address how we are responding to what we see. Are we really giving all that we can, time or money, to the victims of natural disasters? Are we raising our voices, literally or in the polling station, to demand quality care for our veterans and the men, women and children who live in fear on the streets of their own neighborhoods? Are we keeping our eyes and ears open to the suffering around the world as well as right here in our nation?

And, we need to ask ourselves in what ways we are responsible for the suffering, lack of care and ignorance of need. Are we complaining about the cost of welfare raising our taxes when the US budget allows only 4% for that program; 5% if you include housing? Are we dismissive; ready to use words like “lazy”, “bum”, or “stupid” when talking about those living in poverty without educating ourselves in the circumstances that forces them into that situation? Are we quick to call for armed conflict when we feel threatened? And, again, are we really keeping our eyes and ears open or are we content to let someone else look and listen?

These are, of course, just a few examples of the many major problems in our world today. And our first reaction might be to question our ability to make a difference. Can any one of us do any more than add a drop in a very large bucket? But we do have the ability!

Be aware that great rivers flow by rain falling one drop at a time; immense glaciers are formed by the falling of snow one flake at a time; and entire nations can be turned to the good by warming one heart at a time.

So give that one dollar; it may become 1 brick in a home or one meal on a table. Give that extra hour; it might complete the work long overdue. Be that one voice; it might be the one that’s heard. And give that friendly gesture; it might warm one more heart!

And if it still seems too overwhelming, remind yourself, we have the power of faith; the ability to call on God for whom nothing is impossible! Pray in faith, then try again; and watch that mighty river flow; stand in awe of the grandeur of the glacier; and see the nations turn to good.

Look, listen, and act. Amen


Jeremiah 29:1, 4-7
29:1 These are the words of the letter that the prophet Jeremiah sent from Jerusalem to the remaining elders among the exiles, and to the priests, the prophets, and all the people, whom Nebuchadnezzar had taken into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon.
29:4 Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon:
29:5 Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat what they produce.
29:6 Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease.
29:7 But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.

2 Timothy 2:8-15
2:8 Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, a descendant of David–that is my gospel,
2:9 for which I suffer hardship, even to the point of being chained like a criminal. But the word of God is not chained.
2:10 Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, so that they may also obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory.
2:11 The saying is sure: If we have died with him, we will also live with him;
2:12 if we endure, we will also reign with him; if we deny him, he will also deny us;
2:13 if we are faithless, he remains faithful– for he cannot deny himself.
2:14 Remind them of this, and warn them before God that they are to avoid wrangling over words, which does no good but only ruins those who are listening.
2:15 Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved by him, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly explaining the word of truth.


Luke 17:11-19
17:11 On the way to Jerusalem Jesus was going through the region between Samaria and Galilee.
17:12 As he entered a village, ten lepers approached him. Keeping their distance,
17:13 they called out, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!”
17:14 When he saw them, he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were made clean.
17:15 Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice.
17:16 He prostrated himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him. And he was a Samaritan.
17:17 Then Jesus asked, “Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they?
17:18 Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?”
17:19 Then he said to him, “Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well.”