The 14th Sunday after Trinity, 28 August 2016
LUKE 17:11-19
The Rev. Jason D. Lane

To those called saints at Luther Memorial Chapel and to our new and returning University students who have been washed in the blood of the Lamb: GRACE, MERCY, AND PEACE FROM GOD OUR HEAVENLY FATHER AND THE LORD JESUS CHRIST.


Beloved, the Christian life is a Word search! Just consider the wisdom of Solomon: “MY SON, BE ATTENTIVE TO MY WORDS; INCLINE YOUR EAR TO MY SAYINGS. LET THEM NOT ESCAPE FROM YOUR SIGHT; KEEP THEM WITHIN YOUR HEART. FOR THEY ARE LIFE TO HIM WHO FINDS THEM, AND HEALING TO ALL HIS FLESH.” Words fly by our ears day and night. We watch movies, we read books, we listen to music, we go to class to listen to a professor, we listen to our spouse and co-workers, our friends and neighbors. But out of the rattling of all these words, the Lord’s WORDS breakthrough for the one WHO HAS EARS TO HEAR. BE ATTENTIVE TO MY WORDS, He says. INCLINE YOUR EAR TO MY SAYINGS. It’s as if He were saying, “Many things in this world jealous for your ears, things that are trying to distract you and lure you. I know you’ve got deadlines and I know you’ve got family, and the kids have lessons and practice and you’ve got appointments. But I also know about the rattling of this world, with promises of wealth and prosperity, health and happiness. But they are empty words. MY WORDS…ARE LIFE; listen to Me.” Actually, He doesn’t say just “Listen to Me.” He says, “INCLINE YOUR EAR TO ME.” He doesn’t mean listen to Me when you think it’s best. Or “Listen to Me for the moment.” He means always be listening for My voice. INCLINE YOUR EARS TO MY WORDS.

The 14th Sunday after Trinity, 28 August 2016
LUKE 17:11-19
The Rev. Jason D. Lane


To those called saints at Luther Memorial Chapel and to our new and returning University students who have been washed in the blood of the Lamb: GRACE, MERCY, AND PEACE FROM GOD OUR HEAVENLY FATHER AND THE LORD JESUS CHRIST.


Beloved, the Christian life is a Word search! Just consider the wisdom of Solomon: “MY SON, BE ATTENTIVE TO MY WORDS; INCLINE YOUR EAR TO MY SAYINGS. LET THEM NOT ESCAPE FROM YOUR SIGHT; KEEP THEM WITHIN YOUR HEART. FOR THEY ARE LIFE TO HIM WHO FINDS THEM, AND HEALING TO ALL HIS FLESH.” Words fly by our ears day and night. We watch movies, we read books, we listen to music, we go to class to listen to a professor, we listen to our spouse and co-workers, our friends and neighbors. But out of the rattling of all these words, the Lord’s WORDS breakthrough for the one WHO HAS EARS TO HEAR. BE ATTENTIVE TO MY WORDS, He says. INCLINE YOUR EAR TO MY SAYINGS. It’s as if He were saying, “Many things in this world jealous for your ears, things that are trying to distract you and lure you. I know you’ve got deadlines and I know you’ve got family, and the kids have lessons and practice and you’ve got appointments. But I also know about the rattling of this world, with promises of wealth and prosperity, health and happiness. But they are empty words. MY WORDS…ARE LIFE; listen to Me.” Actually, He doesn’t say just “Listen to Me.” He says, “INCLINE YOUR EAR TO ME.” He doesn’t mean listen to Me when you think it’s best. Or “Listen to Me for the moment.” He means always be listening for My voice. INCLINE YOUR EARS TO MY WORDS.


Marta just got a cell phone and we were going through the different ring tones, because, in a manner of speaking, she was trying to decide which one she would INCLINE her EAR TO. She needed to find the right tone, so that she’d recognize it above all the other noises in the house and come running. Beloved, in a very real way, the Lord wants us to find His voice among the many noises of this world and to INCLINE our EARS TO HIS WORDS, TO BE ATTENTIVE, so that we’d come running when He calls. But how do you find His voice among the many clamoring voices of this world? It seems like an odd question to ask Christians who’ve heard His voice at their Baptism and hear it week in and week out in His WORDS of Absolution. It seems like an odd question to pose to those who know the Scriptures that say: MY SHEEP LISTEN TO MY VOICE. But not so odd if you consider the warning of our Gospel text.

 

11]  ON HIS WAY TO JERUSALEM, HE PASSED BETWEEN SAMARIA AND GALILEE. 12] AS HE WAS ENTERING A VILLAGE, TEN LEPROUS MEN MET HIM. THEY STOOD AT A DISTANCE, 13] AND CALLED OUT, “JESUS!  MASTER!  HAVE MERCY ON US!”   14] WHEN HE SAW IT, HE TOLD THEM, “GO AND SHOW YOURSELVES TO THE PRIESTS.”  AS THEY WERE GOING, THEY WERE CLEANSED. 15] ONE OF THEM, WHEN HE SAW THAT HE WAS HEALED, TURNED BACK PRAISING GOD AT THE TOP OF HIS VOICE, 16] AND FELL ON HIS FACE AT HIS FEET, THANKING HIM. HE WAS A SAMARITAN. 17] JESUS SAID, “WEREN’T TEN CLEANSED?  WHERE ARE THE NINE?  18] IS THERE NOBODY FOUND TURNING BACK TO PRAISE GOD BUT THIS FOREIGNER?”  19] AND HE TOLD HIM, “GET UP, AND GO ON YOUR WAY. YOUR FAITH HAS SAVED YOU.”


First, about their condition: The leprosy described here was disfiguring and contagious and deadly. You lost fingers, facial features, and then the whole system rotted out. Lepers were counted as dead while they lived, which is why lepers were counted unclean. It’s because death is unclean and God hates death, because death comes from sin, which may look less threatening to start, but SIN, WHEN IT’S FULL GROWN GIVES BIRTH TO DEATH and then the endless dying. Which means being quarantined to Hell forever. That’s why, all through Scripture, leprosy is a symbol of the much more dangerous disease of sin, which is disfiguring and contagious and deadly forever. That’s why Scripture calls people who live in sins DEAD WHILE they LIVE, UNCLEAN, CUT OFF FROM GOD. And that’s why the Law of blessed Moses ordered lepers to stay at a distance, for disease control, but also to teach Israel and us how unclean sin and death really are to eyes as clear as God’s.


Second, about their bloodline: Out of the ten lepers, we know that one of them was a Samaritan. St. Luke tells us and Jesus calls him “THE FOREIGNER.” Which means that the other nine must have been people of Israel. They would have known the Law of Moses and all that it said about leprosy and should have known all that it said about the Messiah.


But whatever they knew they knew enough in their condition TO LIFT UP THEIR VOICE to Jesus—who appeared to be a MASTER over such things—the same way that we know enough in our condition TO LIFT UP OUR VOICE and cry: ELEISON! HAVE MERCY!   


The Law of Moses commanded lepers to go and show themselves to the temple priests when a lesion broke out, which apparently they had done. They’d gone and were inspected by the priest head to toe; and being completely exposed to their dermatological faults, the priest declared them unclean. They already had the judgment spoken on them, because there they were already, STANDING AT A DISTANCE AND CRYING OUT: JESUS, MASTER, HAVE MERCY!” The next words, the Words of Jesus to the lepers, are the heart of this account. Like the lawyer in last week’s Gospel the question is not whether you know God’s Word, it’s HOW YOU READ IT. Jesus said to these pitiful men, “GO SHOW YOURSELVES TO THE PRIESTS.” Beloved, these words of Jesus, how do you read them? How do you hear them?


There were two ways for these dying men to hear these words. They could either believe that Jesus is running them off to the confessional again. I mean that they’ve already confessed their sins, they’ve already stripped down bare before the priests and been declared unclean and unholy, but Jesus wants them to do it again—like some sort of humiliating torture. Like confessing your sins again and again to the pastor: “I a poor pitiful sinner…I a poor pitiful sinner…I a poor pitiful sinner…” without him ever uttering a word of forgiveness. As if God says, “Do it again.” It would be the sentence of hell. Which makes me think that, at Jesus’ command, they knew they were going to the priests for something more.


Another reason that lepers went to the temple is if they’d somehow been healed of their leprosy. The Book of Leviticus records in the 14th chapter that on THE DAY OF HIS CLEANSING, the leprous man shall go to the priest, but AT A DISTANCE, OUTSIDE THE CAMP. And the priest will come out to him. If he’s healed, then THE PRIEST SHALL MAKE ATONEMENT FOR HIM. Blood will be spilled for the one who was once walking dead. And he shall live. The one pronounced unclean will be pronounced clean and holy. The ritual is beautiful. The priest takes two birds. He cuts one and pours its blood into a basin filled with living water. Then the priest takes the live bird, with a piece of cedar, scarlet yarn, and a hyssop branch and dips them into the blood and water; and seven times the priest sprinkles the blood and the water on the leper and then pronounces him clean. The live bird is then released, set free in the world through the blood and the water.


The ritual continues. The leper’s hair is shaved; he bathes, washes his clothes, and for seven days he may enter into the camp, but not into his tent. Then, on the eighth day, which is the FIRST DAY OF THE WEEK, after his whole body has been shaved head to toe and he’s washed his clothes again, like he’d just come from the womb, the priest MAKES ATONEMENT FOR HIM BEFORE THE LORD: two lambs are sacrificed, one as a guilt offering for his cleansing and one as an atoning sacrifice for sin…and then he may enter in to the tent and live.

 

Beloved, why did Jesus send those leprous men to the priests? Why did they go at Jesus command? Jesus sent them because He knew what He was going to do. And they must have went because they knew what He was going to do. And why has He commanded you to come here except that He knows what He’s going to do? And why did you come except that you expected that He was going to do something more?  It was mercy upon mercy and they received what they prayed for. ELEISON. They INCLINED their EARS TO HIS WORDS and HIS WORDS brought HEALING TO their FLESH. Notice they heard Him speak and they went. They didn’t say, “But, Lord, can’t you just touch us?” They didn’t doubt that when they reached the priests they’d be healed. They went believing that Jesus could heal them. And WHILE THEY WENT THEY WERE ALL HEALED! But it was only the Samaritan who returned.


15] ONE OF THEM, WHEN HE SAW THAT HE WAS HEALED, TURNED BACK PRAISING GOD AT THE TOP OF HIS VOICE, 16] AND FELL ON HIS FACE AT HIS FEET, THANKING HIM. HE WAS A SAMARITAN. 17] JESUS SAID, “WEREN’T TEN CLEANSED?  WHERE ARE THE NINE?  18] IS THERE NOBODY FOUND TURNING BACK TO PRAISE GOD BUT THIS FOREIGNER?”


Beloved, the Christian life is a Word search, and that Samaritan found the Word made flesh, the Reality of all that was written in Moses and the Prophets! You might think, reading the purification rites in Leviticus, that it was the nine who got it right and the Samaritan who lost his way. I mean, of course it was a miracle that Christ healed them. But the Law says what the Law says, that you’ve got to show yourself to the priest, and Jesus said what the Law says, so Moses must be right. But they ran all wrong. They didn’t see that the blood and the water and the atoning sacrifice, everything they were running to for purification, all pointed to the One from whom blood and water poured, and WHOSE BLOOD CLEANSES US FROM ALL SIN. He is the promise of what those sacrifices could never give on their own. Not all the blood of beasts, but Jesus alone is the atoning sacrifice for our sins.


Somehow the miracle that purified them of leprosy didn’t draw them back to the Source and the Goal, the Alpha and Omega of their salvation. They saw Christ’s mercy as the means to get on with their life; they didn’t know that His mercy is our life. They searched in vain. But that Samaritan searched and found the substance of every Old Testament promise! The blood and the water and the sacrifices were promises of God, and the answer is yes in Christ Jesus. And the Samaritan believed it and he threw Himself at Jesus’ feet and worshiped Him. Solomon says, HIS SAYINGS ARE LIFE TO HIM WHO FINDS THEM AND HEALING FOR ALL HIS FLESH.


So blessed is the one who hears the Words of Christ like this Samaritan, who follows the Law until it leads us to Christ and who finds at Jesus’ words and at His feet HEALING FOR ALL HIS FLESH. We’ve learned to say in the Catechism that where there is forgiveness of sins, there is life and salvation. The healing of the ten lepers is a picture of Christ’s forgiveness that restores our souls from the rot of sin; it’s also a foretaste of the resurrection of our bodies, when Christ will restore our flesh; and the Samaritan who returned to praise God is a brilliant example of faith, who, upon seeing what Christ can cleanse, came running to receive more. The Christian life is a Word search. And the Samaritan of all people shows us how to find this Word. Today, your sins have been forgiven. It’s a miracle: the leprosy of your sin is healed. But now let’s run to Him, and come throw ourselves at His feet and worship. Which is nothing else than to believe that with Him there’s life and salvation. Here at this altar what Jesus says to the Samaritan, He says to you, “RISE, GO YOUR WAY; YOUR FAITH HAS SAVED YOU.” Depart in Peace. Amen.

Luther Memorial Chapel & University Student Center | 3833 N Maryland Ave | Shorewood, WI  53211
(414) 332-5732 |lmcusc@lmcusc.org

Divine Service: Sundays - 9:00a Mondays - 7:00p Bible Study & Sunday School: Sundays - 10:45a