Sermon, October 13: Faith

Jesus was headed toward death in Jerusalem; but along the way, and against most expectations, he gave life to people. It is a source of deep and holy mystery for Luke – this growing and evolving awareness of how Jesus’ life and death gave life to others.
In today’s reading, the ones he gave life to are the ten lepers, the ones who stopped him as he traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. Actually, there is no land between Galilee and Samaria to travel along – Galilee stops and Samaria begins and so we read this story as fiction within Luke’s telling of the story of Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem. Calling them lepers tells us they were outcasts, abandoned by their families, their communities and their religions. They were, in short, enduring a kind of living death. No one would eat or walk or even talk with them “Keeping their distance,” Luke says, “they called out, saying “Jesus, Master have mercy on us.”
Go away, Jesus told then. Go talk to someone else. Could you do that? After finally meeting someone who might restore your life, could you simply walk away, trusting that the transformation you’ve prayed for will just happen as you wander off? It takes amazing faith. And it tells us something equally amazing about the nature of faith.
Go, and in the going, Jesus was saying, you will find that healing is within you. Faith can’t begin ‘til you begin the journey. Faith means doing; it means acting to take hold of that which is promised but is not yet evident. And in the very act of acting, faith fulfills its promise.
And so ten lepers continued on their way to the Temple. It’s what the Hebrew Scripture told them to do, and it’s what Jesus told them to do –  to show themselves to the priests. It was the prescribed legal step so they might be welcomed back into the arms of their families and the center of their villages and the courts of the temple. They could, in short, go back to being insiders.
But, welcome as the prospect of healing must have been to the tenth leper, nothing could change the fact that the one Samaritan would remain unwelcome in Jerusalem’s Temple. He would stay an outcast, a hated foreigner. There was nothing he could do and nothing Jesus could say that would transform him into an insider in Judean society.
And so, he chose to return to offer his thanks to Jesus. And in the doing, he was changed once and forever. “Rise and go,” Jesus said, “your faith has made you whole.” Well, that a wonderful ending to his story. But what, we might ask, does his action mean to us in this day when skin disease is of little consequence and temple sacrifice even less? We don’t live out there on some border.
Or do we? There are many kinds of boundaries in life and the only thing they have in common is that they keep some people in and other people out. Perhaps we live within the boundary called middle-class or homeowner or Christian.  Perhaps inclusion in our group is based on education or income or what stage of life we’re in – child, parent, empty nester, widow.
Some people say that we live at a crossroad in history, a time when a boundary has been drawn between a warm lovingly organized past and a future that’s radically different. Some of us are running towards that future with open arms. Some of us are clinging fiercely to the old traditions.
Jesus’ life has always called us away from the comfortable centers and back to the margins. It’s where we find him, after all – in the least of our brothers, wherever the need is greatest, where something we can’t even imagine becomes our reality and God’s unthinkable bursts into our merely possible. Amen.

Posted by Rev. Barbara Ewton

Leave a Reply