Pastor Jim Kniseley presented this sermon at Resurrection on October 10, 2010, the Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost. The gospel lesson is Luke 17:11-19, The Healing of the Ten Lepers.
Dear Friends in Christ,
The theme of this sermon is “remembering to say thank you.” Some of you here today do a better job of saying thanks than do others of us here. I married into a family that places a high value on receiving a timely thank you note when you have received a gift. And God help you if you forget or are delayed!
In today’s gospel lesson, Luke presents a story in which some forget to say their thanks and Jesus uses their rudeness to teach a lesson. In this 17th chapter of Luke’s gospel, Jesus is now on his final journey to Jerusalem and his date with the cross. On this particular occasion, Jesus is going through the region between Samaria and Galilee. This is a no-man’s land, where people are caught between two nations who have bitterness toward each other, 2 nations who share a lot of common history, and 2 nations who worship the same God, 2 nations that now loathe each other. That bit of knowledge is important because when Jesus enters the first village in that area he is approached by 10 lepers who cry out, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” We aren’t told if these lepers are Samaritans or Jews. It really doesn’t matter, does it? When you have a disease in Bible times like leprosy, you are fighting for your very existence and petty quarrels and rivalries among nations don’t seem to matter. Jesus says to them from afar, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.”
There is a bit of irony here, that I do not want us to miss. “Show yourselves to the priests?” These lepers are unclean and neither the priests in Jerusalem nor the priests in Samara at Mt. Gerizim would either want to see them or be allowed to see them. These 10 lepers know this. But amazingly they head off to see their priests. And in the very next sentence Luke tells us: And as they went, they were made clean.
Here is where the real lesson for today begins: 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 raise to God except this foreigner?”
Why did only one man, cleansed from leprosy, return to thank Jesus? A corollary question might be, “Do we forget to say thank you to Jesus?” Someone has made a list of seven suggested reasons why these 9 lepers did not return:
· One waited to see if the cure was real.
· One waited to see if it would last.
· One decided he had never had leprosy in the first place.
· One said he would have gotten well anyway.
· One said, “O, well, Jesus didn’t really do anything.”
· One said, “Any rabbi could have done it.”
· One said, “I was already much improved.”
That’s not all surprising, is it? It seems that often the more we have, the less gratitude we feel.
Some of us were at the ordination and installation for David Drebes in Bayse, Virginia, this past Friday. The Bishop gave thanks to the many people who have had a hand in preparing David for the gospel ministry. The net of thanksgiving was cast wide. It included his parents, Jim and Gail, and his baptism and first years at Christ Lutheran. It included his growing up years here at Resurrection and his time in Sunday School and Confirmation and Youth Activities. It included his time at our Lutheran College, Roanoke, and his time at Camp Kirchenwald in Pennsylvania, and his support through the synod candidacy committee and his study at Princeton at Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia and his internship in a Lutheran Congregation in New Jersey, and his call by the good people of Prince of Peace in Bayse to be their pastor.
That’s all good stuff to hear and remember. I like the emphasis that Pastor Chip Gunsten put in his sermon. He looked directly at the people and said that Pastor David Drebes was called to a ministry of Word and Sacrament. It is God who does the calling. Pastor David would be their partner at Prince of Peace, but the ministry is to be shared, and it does not all fall on him to make it succeed or not. And in the end, Pastor David was not there to please or serve them, he was there to please and serve the Lord. I thought that bit of wisdom was good not only for David and the people of Prince of Peace, it was good for all the people at the service that day, including the 20 pastors who were there to place our hands on David’s head for ordination.
Something occurred at the service, behind the scenes, that told Pastor Carol and me that David will do well as a pastor at Prince of Peace. It was the beginning of the service; the clergy had all processed down the center aisle and had found their seats. The crucifer put away the cross and went to find his seat and all were taken. This crucifer happened to be the former pastor. It was at this point that David went to a side room, found a chair, and brought it back for Pastor Nabors to sit in. That was being a servant pastor, I think, in the spirit of Jesus.
End of today’s sermon and now a prelude to the sermon I next preach in two weeks…If you have a cell phone or other electronic device with you that allows you to be in communication with others, would you take it out right now and hold it up…Here’s something I want you to ponder: HOW COULD YOU USE THIS ELECTRONIC INSTRUMENT TO SHARE THE GOOD NEWS OF JESUS AND HELP RESURRECTION TO GROW?...Please bring your cell phones and all other portable electronic communication devices with you to worship two weeks from today, October 24.