Saturday, 9 October 2010

Sunday Gospel - Luke 17:11-19

'On the way to Jerusalem Jesus travelled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. As he entered one of the villages, ten lepers came to meet him. They stood some way off and called to him, ‘Jesus! Master! Take pity on us.’ When he saw them he said, ‘Go and show yourselves to the priests.’ Now as they were going away they were cleansed. Finding himself cured, one of them turned back praising God at the top of his voice and threw himself at the feet of Jesus and thanked him. The man was a Samaritan. This made Jesus say, ‘Were not all ten made clean? The other nine, where are they? It seems that no one has come back to give praise to God, except this foreigner.’ And he said to the man, ‘Stand up and go on your way. Your faith has saved you.’

The centre of the world for the Jewish people was Jerusalem. That was the place to be; where the most influential rabbis would wish to be; where you would expect to find good Jews; where miracles would take place. And Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem with a company of disciples who are fully expecting miracles; still with no true idea of what lies ahead.

But not expecting miracles in Galilee; not this backwater, back of beyond, that barely deserves a mention.  And particularly the road that leads along the border with Samaria. Samaria; whose people belonged to the line of Jacob. Brother tribes; with a blood feud that ran deepest because they are brothers..

These margin lands are not safe; the Law doesn’t work so well here; survival is all. There is the realisation that some rules are not there to make life easier; some rules are not worth the paper they are written on; the realisation that life is hard enough.  

These are ‘head down, keep walking’ roads.

 Here, even the lepers, the unclean, have banded together; for safety, for companionship. In their company of outcasts they have even taken a Samaritan into their midst; when you are this far down it’s funny how quickly you realise that differences aren't really all that important, under the skin you are all really the same. Banded together,  these unclean ones find some courage; lepers usually so deep in their uncleanliness that, even without the Law,  they choose to alienate themselves; to shout out  to ‘innocent’ passersby that they are unclean; a shout to stay away.

But here is Jesus; here is hope; the news of miracles has reached even here; the news that healing is possible; even for the outcast and the unclean.

The lepers are not rich enough; acceptable enough; comfortable enough to have doubts; to wonder about magic and the work of demons. They see a miracle in this very moment; this chance meeting on a dusty road in the margins where the ‘what is’ and ‘what should be’ is harder to define. Where desert mirages bring promises of contentment that turn back into dust at nightfall. Where a ‘chance’ is as much as you can ask.

They shout out – they dare to shout out – knowing the consequences if they are wrong.

But they are not wrong and, in a Word, they are cured.

But only one turns back; the least of all of them; the outsider in a company of outsiders; seeing, feeling,  knowing the change that has been made is not only to his skin.

This healing was not bought with sacrifice,

This healing did not bring a price,

This healing was not just for the few,

This person sees and knows the generosity of a God who gives and asks for nothing. In knowing and seeing this he offers the only thing he has – his faith that this is not a mirage, that this is not glamour; he gives his thanks and himself to the service of the Lord.

And the others? Their skin is healed; they can go back; their old community will welcome them again; their old life will begin again; but have they changed? Have they been transformed?

We are also lepers; covered in the sores and disfigurement of regrets; grudges and sin. Banding together with others like ourselves. We say 'I am not worthy' but still we call out; we come to the table; we move from the world into the Kingdom; we say together 'only say the word and I shall be healed'; just like the centurian, the samaritan; the leper - we expect to be fed; we expect to be healed.

And we are; every time we ask; every time we reach out; every time we are healed and we are fed. And what do we do with our healing? Walk out the door to another week of the same; an unchanged life; allowing the wounds to open; scabs and scars to cake over, yet again.

Or, do we see the gift we are given; recognise the transformation taking place and feel compelled to give thanks; to find our Kingdom place at the feet of the one who takes away the sins of the world. To have faith that there is something more; that we are meant for something more.


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