Prayer of the Day
Almighty and most merciful God, your bountiful goodness fills all creation. Keep us safe from all that may hurt us, that, whole and well in body and spirit, we may with grateful hearts accomplish all that you would have us do, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.
Jeremiah 29:1, 4-7
1These are the words of the letter that the prophet Jeremiah sent from Jerusalem to the remaining elders among the exiles, and to the priests, the prophets, and all the people, whom Nebuchadnezzar had taken into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon. 4Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: 5Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat what they produce. 6Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. 7But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.
1Be joyful in God, | all you lands;
be joyful, | all the earth.
2Sing the glory | of God’s name;
sing the glory | of God’s praise.
3Say to God, “How awesome | are your deeds!
Because of your great strength your enemies | cringe before you.
4All the earth bows | down before you,
sings to you, sings | out your name.”
5Come now and see the | works of God,
how awesome are God’s deeds | toward all people.
6God turned the sea into dry land, so that they went through the wa- | ter on foot,
and there we re- | joiced in God.
7Ruling forever in might, God keeps watch o- | ver the nations;
let no rebels ex- | alt themselves.
8Bless our | God, you peoples;
let the sound of | praise be heard.
9Our God has kept us a- | mong the living
and has not allowed our | feet to slip.
10For you, O God, have | tested us;
you have tried us just as sil- | ver is tried.
11You brought us in- | to the net;
you laid heavy burdens up- | on our backs.
12You let people ride over our heads; we went through | fire and water,
but you brought us out into a place | of refreshment.
2 Timothy 2:8-15
8Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, a descendant of David—that is my gospel, 9for which I suffer hardship, even to the point of being chained like a criminal. But the word of God is not chained. 10Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, so that they may also obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory. 11The saying is sure:
If we have died with him, we will also live with him;
12if we endure, we will also reign with him;
if we deny him, he will also deny us;
13if we are faithless, he remains faithful—
for he cannot deny himself.
14Remind them of this, and warn them before God that they are to avoid wrangling over words, which does no good but only ruins those who are listening. 15Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved by him, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly explaining the word of truth.
11On 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.”
Sermon – Pastor Meggan Manlove
Jesus is continuing to teach his listeners and followers about discipleship, clear and simple. Ever since he turned his face towards Jerusalem, Jesus has been telling parables, teaching his followers how to pray, and healing people. All of it has been in the service of explaining and showing what precisely it means to follow Jesus, to be part of his reign of God work, to be a disciple. The same is true of our story today, especially if we pay attention to the details.
As the story unfolds, ten lepers were cleansed on their way to the priests. And why did only one turn back to praise Jesus? Maybe some of the former lepers were rule followers. Even though they were cured on their way to the priests, they thought to follow Jewish law and go see the religious authorities just in case. Maybe they didn’t make it to the priests but instead went home to rejoice with their families or friends—showing them the sores that were cured, the feet and hands that grew back. And maybe, just maybe, weeks or months later they caught up with Jesus and fell on their knees and shouted their thanks and praise.
The story points us not to what those cured lepers did not do but what the one leper did. It may be impossible to imagine any cured leper being more or less thankful than another, but perhaps he was. Lepers were, as we can imagine, banished from their communities, so much so that the only people they could turn to for companionship with other lepers. But this one leper was an outsider in his outsider community. Why? Because he was a Samaritan.
The tension between Jews and Samaritans has roots in a somewhat complicated history, which is worth studying. For the purposes of understanding today’s text, what’s important is that during the time Jesus is teaching, Jews would have considered Samaritans their enemies. So, when I say that the Samaritan leper was an outsider in his outsider community, I mean that he was twice ostracized. Then all at once he is cured—restored at least to the human race.
He runs back to Jesus and thanks him and it seems that in the thanking and in the praising, he is made well, no longer simply cured of his disease, but made well, whole, complete; and all of this despite being a foreigner and enemy. And he gives thanks not to the universe, not to some abstract thing, not to a pantheon of Roman Gods—Jupiter, Mars, Venus, but to the very man who has cured him.
The one who returns to Jesus does so because he recognized that he was “healed.” He does not return to be healed. He returns, instead, to give thanks and praise to God. This is no small act. It is also not something entirely new in Luke’s particular gospel. Beginning with the shepherds in the fields, continuing with Simeon and Anna at the infant Jesus’ presentation in the temple, to witnesses of Jesus’ miracles, and finally to the centurion at the foot of the cross. Like others who come in contact with Jesus, the healed Samaritan who returns to Jesus shows us that the proper response to any act of grace is thanks and praise to God.
I want to go on a short interlude here because of how this text has sometimes hit me in the past. Many of you know that I have been treated successfully with medication for Epilepsy for many years. My story with that illness is long and hard and so far has a pretty great ending in which I was not cured, but was certainly healed and restored to a relatively normal life. Fortunately, no one every approached my family members or I and just said, “if you only had stronger faith, you would be cured of this illness.” And there are people with Epilepsy who never get the right medication, treatment, or surgery. But they can still have abundant life. They can still be full members of society, not ostracized. That restoration and healing work is ours to do—those of us gathered here who claim to follow Jesus.
To be sure, it is not that faith played no part in my journey with Epilepsy, and I would speak for both of my parents here too. Much as I like our Psalm for the day, with its remembrance of the deliverance through the Red Sea, today’s gospel actually makes me think of Psalm 136 with its continuous refrain about God’s love enduring forever, a truth that has sustained so many who are depleted and worn down.
“O Give thanks to the Lord, for God is good, for God’s love endures forever. O give thanks to the God of gods, for God’s love endures forever. O give thanks to the Lord of lords, for God’s steadfast love endures forever.” Over and over that line is repeated, almost pummeled into the prayer: for God’s love endures forever.
If we know that God’s love endures forever, why do we not praise God? So many reasons. Take your pick. We get distracted by life and we forget. Long ago we simply had the distractions of family and maybe co-workers. But now there are so many messages coming at us through our screens, billboards, radio, and television. Everyone wants a piece of our time, money, attention and yes, praise.
Something else that keeps us from praising God is as old as the Ten Commandments. The idols may look different today than they did in Sinai, but we still contend with a variety of other gods—money, power, status. There is a reason the first commandment is the first: You shall have no other gods. In his Small Catechism, Martin Luther wrote, “We are to fear, love, and trust God above all things.” When we have other gods, we naturally give praise to other gods.
And of course, we do not praise God because life is hard, and we get weary and worn. Illness (physical or emotional), the loss of a job, the loss of a life, the loss of a future, betrayal. Sometimes the circumstances of our life are beyond difficult and there simply do not seem to be any acts of grace for which to give God praise.
And yet, despite the fact that we are weary, forgetful, and that we turn to other gods, God’s love endures forever. And God just keeps showing up. God continues to heal and restore us. What is so remarkable to me about God’s action is how ordinary it usually is. I loved my mom and my short trip to the Wallowa Mountains and all we learned about Chief Joseph and the Wallowa band of the Nez Perce. Like the trip with our teenagers to Minneapolis-St. Paul in July, I think travel, with the intentionality to learn about those who are different than us, is going to continue to be important for healing to take place in this world.
And yet, I am also a recipient of healing and restoration that are very ordinary: conversation with a friend, sharing a meal with loved ones, a hike exploring the beauty of the natural world.
This is God’s M.O. so I should not be surprised. But our disappointment in God’s use of the ordinary is also nothing new. We want dramatic gestures and special words. We want the power of this world. And instead we get a four-word promise, “God’s love endures forever.” Instead of amazing rituals, we get a simple baptismal font. Instead of complicated proclamations with lots of fanfare we are invited to a meal of bread and wine. We call the sacraments Means of Grace. With earthly elements and a few words, “for you, for the forgiveness of sin,” we are transformed once again.
At the heart of Holy Baptism is the Prayer of Thanksgiving, during which I say, on behalf of our entire assembly, something like, “Blessed are you, O God, maker and ruler of all things. Your voice thundered over the waters at creation. You water the mountains and send springs into the valleys to refresh and satisfy all living things.
Through the waters of the flood you carried those in the ark to safety. Through the sea you led your people Israel from slavery to freedom. In the wilderness you nourished them with water from the rock, and you brought them across the river Jordan to the promised land.
By the baptism of his death and resurrection, your Son Jesus has carried us to safety and freedom. The floods shall not overwhelm us, and the deep shall not swallow us up, for Christ has brought us over to the land of promise. He sends us to make disciples, baptizing in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”
God doesn’t need to be reminded of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, so why do we say this prayer? We need to be reminded. The Prayer of Thanksgiving helps us remember. And whenever we hear the prayer, whenever we wash our face and remember our baptism, whenever we remember, we cannot help but give thanks and praise for all that God has and will continue to provide. And, whenever we give thanks, we are made well, made whole, made complete.
Prayers of Intercession
In gratitude and humility, let us join together in prayer on behalf of all of God’s creation.
Gracious God, we give you thanks for bishops, pastors, and deacons (church leaders may be named). Inspire leaders of the church to proclaim your mighty deeds, that your saving faith may be known to all. Hear us, O God.
Your mercy is great.
Majestic God, we give you thanks for land and water, seedtime and harvest. Break down boundaries we construct between ourselves and the rest of your creation. Bring renewal and restoration to places affected by pollution and deforestation. Hear us, O God.
Your mercy is great.
Mighty God, we give you thanks for those in our community, nation, and world who work for justice and peace. Guide those who govern to act on behalf of those marginalized by race, ethnicity, or religion. Hear us, O God.
Your mercy is great.
Merciful God, we give you thanks that you hear the cries of those in need. Restore to community those who are stigmatized by illness, feel rejected, or who live in isolation. Send healing to all who suffer (especially). Hear us, O God.
Your mercy is great.
Faithful God, we give you thanks for the healing ministries of this congregation. Equip those who visit, care, and pray for the sick (especially). Give insight to doctors, nurses, home health aides, and all practitioners of medical arts. Hear us, O God.
Your mercy is great.
Here other intercessions may be offered.
Eternal God, we give you thanks for your faithful people who have gone before us to your glory. Renew our trust in your eternal promises of mercy, redemption, and new life. Hear us, O God.
Your mercy is great.
With grateful hearts we commend our spoken and silent prayers to you, O God; through Jesus Christ, our Lord.
What a wonderful sermon, thanks Pastor Manlove.