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Trinity 14 – Luke 17:11-19

by pastorjuhl ~ September 2nd, 2010

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit

The one leper returning to give thanks to Jesus for healing his leprosy is a Samaritan. That is not insignificant, especially when you pair this account with last week’s Gospel account of the parable of the Good Samaritan. Two weeks in a row, the Samaritans are the heroes. Why are Samaritans, half-breeds, despised by every pious Jew, doing what every pious Jew is supposed to do? The answer is not one of race, but one of faith.

The nine lepers who keep running toward the temple are the ones following directions, or so it seems. Jesus tells them, go, show yourselves to the priests. So they run to the priests. All but one keeps running. One turns around and runs back to Jesus, and with a loud voice glorified God, and fell down on his face at His feet.

A Jew, hearing this account, would be full of rage. Samaritans are not supposed to run to this teacher, this troubler of Israel. They are supposed to go to their own temple and see their own priests. There is a detailed temple liturgy of recognizing a healed leper. The liturgy must be followed. Instead, this Samaritan writes his own liturgy and returns to Jesus.

The one hearing this miracle account and responding the way I just did has a misplaced response in accord with a misplaced faith. Instead of a gracious response to the Savior Who heals His people, there is an ungracious response of following the rules and doing as you are told.

There is a little bit of the nine lepers in each of us. Sometimes we look at the church as a center of goods and services. I go to church to get something out of it. Once I get what I need out of it, I don’t think about it again until I need something. This building and what goes on inside this building becomes like Dollar General, Menards, Aldi, or Target. We don’t think much about what goes on there or what’s inside these places until we need something. Then we are concerned with our needs and wants until they are fulfilled. After our needs and wants are met, the stores are out of sight and mind until next time.

How many times have we seen families rarely darken the door of this church except to squeeze something out of the church? It’s not worth talking about because the folks who need to hear what is said from this pulpit and this altar aren’t here. Yet all of us are guilty at one time or another of using the church like a store. When a baby is born, you take the child to church for baptism. When a child turns a certain age, you drop the child off at church for catechism instruction and pick them up an hour later, making an appearance in church for their confirmation. When it’s time to get married, you call pastor and ask for the wedding of your dreams. The church building is a perfect backdrop for the perfect wedding. When someone dies, you call pastor and ask about a funeral. Sure, the deceased hasn’t been in church in 30 years, but he was a nice guy and we need a preacher for the funeral.

That’s the way of the nine lepers. You get what you ask, you do as you’re told, and you live your life as if you expected Jesus to heal you all along. Instead of singing “What a privilege to carry/Everything to God in prayer”, you consider the privilege a right, a demand expected from a sovereign individual who makes God and His Word in their own image.

Christians do not act that way. Blessed Martin Luther preaches that we should expect nine out of ten people to criticize us for every one person who is grateful. Despite Jesus’ miracle on their behalf, not even He found people to be grateful.

How do you find yourself responding to the miracle of preaching and the Sacraments? Is this an hour to squeeze out what you need to keep up appearances with God? Or is this an hour that is the center of everything you say and do during the week? It is one thing to say you are a Christian; that you believe Jesus died for your sins and rose from the dead to deliver eternal life for you. It is another thing entirely to say you are a Christian, yet when you say you are a Christian it is like saying you prefer Coke over Pepsi. All the other options are crass, so I guess Christianity is my choice.

Repent. Enough of consumer Christianity. Turn around with the Samaritan leper and return to the Lord, falling on your face to worship Him. Raise your voice to the Lord. Sing praise to the God Who does wonders without counting the cost. Rejoice in the Savior of the nations Who saves both Jew and Gentile from sin and eternal death.

A Christian cannot help but live a gracious life in Christ. Consider Saint Paul’s words in Galatians chapter five: for the flesh lusts against the Spirit; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law…. And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

Perhaps it’s that last sentence that keeps so many people away from the Christian faith. A Christian crucifies his flesh every day. That’s the toughest thing to do as a Christian. When you wake up, you think that you won’t sin as much as you did yesterday. Nevertheless, you fall right back into those old traps. How do you not fall into those old traps of sin? Saying you’re not going to do that and actually not doing that are two different things.

Solomon has the answer in today’s Old Testament reading: My son, give attention to my words; incline your ear to my sayings. Do not let them depart from your eyes; keep them in the midst of your heart; for they are life to those who find them, and health to all their flesh. Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life. Give attention to the Word of the Lord. Give attention to His Word here as well as at home. The Divine Service is part of our walk with the Master. Reading the Word at home, praying for all needs and conditions of man, meditating on last week’s sermon, this is what it means to give attention…to incline the ear to the Lord’s sayings.

The center point of our life together as Christians happens here in the Divine Service. Here is where sins are forgiven and grace is bestowed. The pastor is an instrument of grace. God’s undeserved love comes through Him to you. When you leave here, do not let the Word spoken to you fall out of your ears or your mouth. Among you lies the forgiving Word in preaching and in the Lord’s Supper. The Means of Grace fill you with His forgiveness and life. Why treat them as you would treat consumable goods and services?

When you walk weekly and daily with the Master and His Words, you find yourself always wanting to be gracious to others as God was gracious to you. Good works give evidence that faith is living and active among you. Good works are also a fruit of faith. They are a result of forgiveness, not a cause of forgiveness. The grace you show others, even those who are not known by the Lord, is a sermon on forgiveness preached without words.

We arise and go our way today once again healed from sin and death and given forgiveness and life. While we go our way, we take firm hold of instruction and do not let go. We cling to Jesus and His Word of forgiveness like a cocklebur clings to our pants when we walk through the woods. His Word among us is a gift we don’t deserve. It is a miracle, a great mystery from God that Gentiles are saved with Jews. You can’t help but fall down before the King of Kings and show your gratitude for all His gratitude on your behalf. Psalm 92 says It is good to give thanks to the Lord, to sing praises to Your name, O Most High; to declare Your [mercy] in the morning, and Your faithfulness by night. What an amazing Savior we have!

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit

2 Responses to Trinity 14 – Luke 17:11-19

  1. Mark Loder

    Hello – I am creating a Sunday School Curriculum using the Historic Lectionary and would like to use some of this sermon as the commentary portion for the teachers. Who gets credit for this sermon?

    Thanks,
    Mark Loder

  2. pastorjuhl

    Brother Mark:

    That would be me.

    Rev. David M. Juhl
    Our Savior Evangelical-Lutheran Church
    Momence, IL

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