Flinders Ranges under cloud Nov 2014. North of Merna Mora on the way to Brachina, looking east.

Getting well on the way...

A Sermon Draft

Intro to the reading:

Unclean: This is  not about hygiene. Some of this is not even illness such as eczema, or dandruff... "Unclean" is when you are not right with God, when you are separated from God, and the skin diseases were a symptom, or even a result of this....

The story calls the man who was made well a Samaritan, but that Jesus called him a foreigner? Samaritans weren't foreigners, they were kind of related.  In South Oz we are rude about Victorians sometimes... but we don't call them foreigners. Jesus is not getting things wrong, he's making a point about something.

Luke 17:11-19

On the way to Jerusalem he was going through the region between Samaria and Galilee. 12As he entered a village, ten lepers approached him. Keeping their distance, 13they called out, saying, ‘Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!’ 14When he saw them, he said to them, ‘Go and show yourselves to the priests.’ And as they went, they were made clean. 15Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice. 16He prostrated himself at his feet and thanked him. And he was a Samaritan. 17Then Jesus asked, ‘Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they? 18Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?’ 19Then he said to him, ‘Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well.

 

Sermon

There are three words or expressions for healing: in this story.

Made Clean
Healed
Made Well

They are all past tense. It was all done to them and for them.

Made Clean: the skin disease is removed. But the deeper meaning and more important meaning in the culture is that the person is brought closer to God. Unclean is not about hygiene but about separation from God, about not being blessed by God. 

In this story all the people are made clean. And today, God is making all people clean. Through the Holy Spirit God is bringing the whole world to completion and fulfilment. We are all being made clean. No one is being left behind.

Healed
One man is aware. He realises what is done to him. He's not like "At last I've gotten over this eczema or this flu..." He realises God has done it for him. God has done it to him, just as it is God who heals us of the flu. It's just whether or not we realise it.

So this man steps into a new awareness of God. He becomes aware that God is active in his world. And he comes back, it says, "praising God with a loud voice."

Made Well
But then the man focuses on Jesus. He does not merely thank Jesus. He falls at his feet. There is more than a hint of worship in this. He sees that Jesus is the channel of God's mercy. Jesus is the one via whom healing comes.

The other men are going off to see the priest and then going home to do the same things they always did.  Worthy things, even. But nothing has changed.  But this man realises everything has changed.

He does not go to the priests. He goes and shows himself to Jesus. Jesus becomes his priest. Jesus becomes his authority for living.

And this makes him well.  This is the final aspect of healing.  It is then that he can go on his way... but you see that Jesus sends him on that way. It is a changed way of living; a different path.

And the word for made well comes from sozo— it's a Greek word which means made well, transformed, and.... saved.

If you want to be saved... come to Jesus. Let Jesus guide you. Then you will be truly well. 

Samaritan
That's the first thing. But then Luke points out that this man was a Samaritan.  The man who was made really well was despised by Jesus' society. They regarded him as a heretic who didn't understand what it meant to worship God properly and to be properly clean.

So Luke is hinting at three things here. 
1. God heals all people, not just the people we think deserve it or the people we think are right.
2. In our discipleship we should remember this and welcome all people, because God makes all people clean; that is God is drawing all people close to herself and making them well and whole.

  1. And Luke/Jesus might be hinting that if we are made well, society might think we are a Samaritan.

I say that because there is a third thing going on in the story.  It says Jesus is travelling to Jerusalem.  That's how the story starts. 

In Luke, geography is theology, as one of my preaching colleagues put it. That means that, yes, Jesus is going to Jerusalem, but that fact and the way Luke tells us of that fact, is also telling us something about coming closer to God and about being made well and saved.

So firstly, going to Jerusalem means, going to die.  The final act of someone who loves is to be willing to die for the person they love. That's why we revere someone who steps in front of a gun to save their child, or who dies as they drag someone out of a fire. It's not just that they save the child and it costs them their lives; it's that they imitate the life of Jesus who dies on the cross for us.

So Jesus is travelling to do this, and as Christians, as people who are made well, it is our calling to follow him for this will makes us even more well. This will make us whole. It will grow us and complete us.

But the way he gets to Jerusalem is really interesting. In terms of our country, he is in Brisbane, and Jerusalem is the equivalent of Melbourne. So he needs to go through NSW.  But NSW is like Samaria. It was between Qld and Victoria. Good Jews would not travel through Samaria. They'd go out to Mt Isa and down through Alice Springs and South Australia and go right round NSW / Samaria... get it?

So it sounds like he does something like this, because it says he travels "through the region between Samaria and Galilee." It sounds like he goes along the edge of Samaria, right?  But if you look at a map that would be like saying he goes from Brisbane to Melbourne by travelling along the Murray!!?  That's impossible, right?

You can't go east west to go north south.

This is a symbol. Luke is saying that to get to Jerusalem with Jesus—
to be made whole—
to really enter the riches of the faith—
something has to happen in us.

Remember how the story calls the man who was made well a Samaritan, but that Jesus called him a foreigner? Samaritans weren't foreigners, they were kind of related.  Interstate rivalry means us in South Oz get pretty rude about Victorians sometimes... but we don't call them foreigners. Jesus is not getting things wrong, he's making a point about something.

Jesus is saying that what has to happen to  and in us is that we have to travel through life in the borderlands. If we want to travel with him, we have to travel as a stranger and a foreigner. That is; we can't fit into everyone's comfortable categories. We can't be the sort of person about whom people can say, "She's one of us." If we follow Jesus, we won't fit.

That's uncomfortable. It's often very scary. And sometimes, it can be downright dangerous. But if we are being made well in a world which is really sick, then we will always look different.  It's like seeing a relaxed and happy person who is at peace in the tense and anxious midday rush through the city, or in the crush and anxiety of a full train in the morning. The person stands out. If other people's anxiety rises for some reason, the gentle, peaceful, well people begin to look like the odd ones out. That can attract hostility or lead to us being excluded.

To be made well is to be made different.  And to refuse to be different is likely to refuse to be made well.

Of course for some of us, life has already been a long time living on the edges. We know what it is to be excluded. Who wants to go back there; we crave to be included.  But we can live in the borderlands and build a new different community.. We know how to live life in the borderlands.  We were already there... we were already, like the Samaritan, able to see how life excludes and attacks people. 

I wonder if that's why he was able to see that God was at work in his life!

In the borderlands, as with everywhere else, nothing can separate us from the love of God in Jesus Christ. But I am convinced that when we live a life that doesn't fit in, that doesn't compromise for the sake of popularity or for privilege or for peace, we open ourselves so that the peace of God can flow in and heal us so much more readily than if we play it safe and stay home. And God will be with us.  Amen.

Andrew Prior (2019)

 


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