Your Faith Has Made You WellHarvest Sunday
St. Andrew’s paid particular attention to our reasons for thanksgiving in October 2021. Under the guidance of Sheelagh Garson, the Blessings Box was created that gave us an opportunity to write our blessings on orange sticky notes and attach them to the bulletin boards. Many of the blessings that were shared were indeed places, events, and persons about why we are grateful. A majority of the blessings shared were blessings that could more aptly be described as acts of mercy, compassion, love. Reading through the Blessing Box, you got the sense that these acts of mercy had been given not because the person worked for, deserved, or earned it but because it was a free gift of grace. Faith that is shown in us by others is what helps us access our deepest thankfulness.
Today our lectionary text in Luke tells the story of ten who lived with a dreadful disease and were in fact healed of that disease. Ultimately this is not really a story about being thankful, but rather a story about the gift of faith given to the undeserving. which propels the receiver of that mercy to go and live that mercy faithfully.
Let’s dive into the story and see what it might say to us about our own lives. Ten lepers approached Jesus and surprisingly did not ask to be healed, but instead asked Jesus for mercy. Leprosy was a plague with no respecter of gender or culture. Any skin condition might have been labeled as leprosy in this day and was thought to be radically contagious. The victims of leprosy were ostracized from family, from friends from entire communities including and especially their faith communities. While certainly the ten were aware that Jesus had in fact healed others, their asking for mercy as opposed to healing may say something about what they felt they needed most and what Jesus above all others might be able to provide.
As the ten approach Jesus, immediately Jesus sends them directly to the priest, who was designated by Leviticus to be the agent for declaring when leprosy was healed and when quarantine could safely end. All ten did as they were instructed and made their way to the priest. The end of v. 14 tells the surprising result. “As they went, they were made clean.” Even before seeing the priest, they were healed.
One of the men, when he saw that he was healed, turned around, and upon seeing Jesus “praised God in a loud voice.” He knelt at Jesus’ feet and thanked him. Luke inserts a pivotal piece of information which provides the deepest meaning yet. It says, “He was a Samaritan.” Samaritans were considered by Jews to be a mixed breed, marginalized persons that were ritually excluded and ostracized.
At the beginning of the story Jesus’ location was detailed, “the region between Samaria and Galilee.” Biblical historians clarify there really was no area BETWEEN Samaria and Galilee because as we learn from the story of the Samaritan woman at the well, Jews had no dealing with Samaritans and refused to enter any area occupied by Samaritans. In addition to leprosy, this man was a Samaritan – a double bind for one who could not be cured through a healing word nor through a visit to the priest. And yet this one, returned after he was healed, praised God in a loud voice, knelt and gave thanks.
Jesus makes no mention of the man’s praise, or his kneeling to honour and to say thanks; at least not yet. Instead, Jesus asks a troubling question. “Were not 10 made clean? The other nine, where are they? Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” “Where were the others?” The Samaritan might have protested, “Why ask me? Who am I, my brother’s keeper? Am I responsible for their doing the right thing?” This questioning is designed not for the missing nine or the Samaritan, but for the consideration of Jesus’ disciples and curious onlookers. What does it mean that only “this foreigner” returned to thank God?
We could hover around this question for the rest of the sermon pontificating why the others failed to return as had this unlikely example of one who might have seemed to possess little over which to be grateful in his life. It is too easy to crucify those who are not present when we only guess their motives or their difficulties. After all, they were not present to speak for themselves. Jesus did not linger there or press further so neither shall we.
Immediately Jesus turned his attention back to the healed one and said, “Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well.”
Often Jesus after acts of healing would say, “Get up, go your way, your faith has made you well.” He said this to the woman who touched Jesus’ robe and was healed and to the man born blind recorded in Mark 10. There were other occasions as well all which ended with the blessing. “Your faith has made you whole?”
What would it have meant to have heard, “Your faith has made you well?” Just what is the difference between faithfulness and thankfulness?
The Samaritan’s return to Jesus shows his recognition of the mercy he had received from Jesus. He would have been the first to say through his life experience that in no way did he deserve mercy and yet Jesus demonstrates that no one, not a leper, nor a Samaritan, is beyond God’s mercy. His returning to thank Jesus shows that he acted out of faith that Jesus would be merciful. In addition, the Samaritan’s show of appreciation reveals a deep thankfulness for his physical healing and illustrates the faith that Jesus indicates has made him well.
It appears that faith and gratitude are in actuality two words for the same thing. It is in living a life of faith in God who has answered our own plea, “Have mercy on me,” that we practice our greatest act of thanks living.
Our challenge is to take the mercy we have received and, in faith, go and live that faith one moment, one day at a time. Jesus’ blessing is now directed our way. “Your faith has made you whole?” What is our response?