Seeing With New Eyes – a sermon from 10-10-10

Luke 17:11-19
On the way to Jerusalem Jesus 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 Jesus’ 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.”

Dear friends in Christ, grace to you and peace, from the One who is and who was and who is to come: our living Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Can imagine having everything you’ve ever worked for taken away from you? Your job, your health, your life’s savings? That’s what it was like back in Jesus’ day to get sick with leprosy. Everything was taken away from you.

Lepers in those days were to be avoided. They had this disease that everyone thought was contagious, so they were made to walk on the other side of the street if there was anyone coming along the way. “Unclean!” they would cry out, as a warning to others. And in some cases, they were made to wear bells so others could hear them coming and be sure to steer clear. But underneath all the sores they were just people like you and me. People who missed their families and who longed to be rid of this terrible disease.

In this story ten lepers are healed by Jesus. He doesn’t heal them right away. He tells them to go and show themselves to the priest, which they do. And on the way they are healed. But only one of them turns back to thank Jesus.

Now, most people try to make sense of this story right here – that it’s about saying ‘thank you.’ And that’s true. There is a part of this story that is focused on gratitude and showing appreciation. But there’s a deeper meaning to this story – a new way of seeing it through the eyes of faith.

Can you really imagine even one of those 10 NOT being grateful? I mean, they didn’t DO anything to be healed – they just were! Maybe because they were healed ‘as a group’ they missed the opportunity to show individual devotion to Jesus. What would you or I do in their shoes? If I was in that rag-tag crowd of followers with oozing sores and dead skin rashes – if I had been ostracized and declared unclean by my neighbors, literally made untouchable to the rest of society – I would have done anything to be made clean again. And I most certainly would have jumped for joy at being made clean!

“Thank you, Rabbi, for giving me my life back! No more need to be ashamed, shunned and avoided by my family and friends. You have restored not only my health – but my place in society! Thank you! Thank you.”

And maybe that’s what they were about to do at the temple with their priest. Who knows? Too bad they couldn’t recognize in Jesus their new priest and pastor – their lord and their master.

Only the Samaritan gets it. As Dr. David Lose (from Luther Seminary) has said about this story, “All the lepers were healed; one, however, saw, noticed, let what happened sink in…and it made all the difference. Because he sees what has happened, the leper recognizes Jesus, his reign and his power.” (www.workingpreacher.org)

This one who has returned, prompts Jesus to say, “Your faith has saved you.” Did the others not have faith? We don’t know. The important thing is that they were healed. Oh, that we could all see the healer with new eyes – eyes of devotion – eyes of gratitude!

This happens all the time in society. A group of people benefit, but only a few have eyes to see the big picture, and to come to Jesus in faith.

Take the Civil Rights movement, for example: Over the years, a handful of vigilant freedom fighters stood up to segregation and discrimination in the country. But when Blacks finally won the right to vote and to exercise the same inalienable rights as everyone else – all Blacks benefited – not just the few who saw a different vision of what could be. They set out to pursue that vision, which continues to this day.

Take our annual stewardship drive, already in full swing this fall: It’s no secret that in American Christian churches the majority of the operating budget is funded by a minority of the people. That’s the way it is in just about every denomination. Half the people give very little or nothing at all – and yet enjoy the same benefits of membership as everyone.

Again, this is not to point the finger or deny the very real economic hardships facing Amercians in this time and place. Nor is it to deny the gift of one’s time and volunteering that the church also relies upon. Rather, what’s important is that we see that giving starts with gratitude and devotion to our Lord. It’s not, nor will it ever be, simply just about giving money. It’s about seeing with new eyes that all we have belongs to God and we are only stewards of it for the time being.

Think about it this way: God has given you an inheritance that can only be claimed by faith. So, what has to happen before you can claim your family inheritance?

1. Someone has to earn that inheritance and put it away for you until they die.
2. That someone needs to make a last will and testament, identifying you as the heir.
3. That someone has to die.
4. Then someone has to read the will and claim the inheritance.

It’s no different with this good news we have in Jesus. God has earned every penny of our salvation and put it away for you. God has written down a will in holy scripture to pass it on to you. God has died on the cross and been raised in victory to seal that will and testament to each one of us. All that’s left is for the will to be read – and for God’s children to claim the inheritance.

In the meantime, healing is still taking place, across the board, in this community. Jesus is still saving lives, the sick are being called upon in the time of need, the hungry do get fed as we are able to provide assistance, and the Gospel is spoken – not only here in this sanctuary, but through every one of you – when you go forth from this place. YOU might be the only Bible another person reads, because they’ll read it on your heart. Jesus is the Word and the word became flesh and lives within you, as we read in John chapter 1.

So, don’t go to the priest today, go to Jesus and worship him in gratitude for the inheritance we share as his children. Go to your neighbor and show yourselves to them. Tell others all that God is doing through your life – your church – your family. See with new eyes today – eyes of gratitude and faith. We are the beneficiaries of a great inheritance – let us share that treasure generously.

Won’t you pray with me: O God, you have given us an inheritance of new life through Jesus. Help us to see the bigger picture with the eyes of faith and to share that good news with all we meet, we ask it in the name of Jesus, your son our Lord. Amen.

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