The Gospel reading for Sunday, October 14th is the same as what is assigned to Thanksgiving Day, all three years of the Lectionary, Luke 17:11-19
11 On the way to Jerusalem Jesus was going through the region between Samaria and Galilee. 12 As he entered a village, ten lepers approached him. Keeping their distance, 13 they called out, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” 14 When he saw them, he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were made clean. 15 Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice. 16 He prostrated himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him. And he was a Samaritan. 17 Then Jesus asked, “Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they? 18 Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” 19 Then he said to him, “Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well.”
Familiarity with a text often breeds boredom and banal preaching. So the options are to either use a less familiar lesson (the Old Testament lesson is fun) or to really approach the Gospel from a very new perspective. So, as I begin to look at this text early in the week, I’ve got some choices to make.
Options after the jump …
The easier choice is to use the passage from 2 Kings 5:1-3, 7-15c
Naaman, commander of the army of the king of Aram, was a great man and in high favor with his master, because by him the LORD had given victory to Aram. The man, though a mighty warrior, suffered from leprosy. 2Now the Arameans on one of their raids had taken a young girl captive from the land of Israel, and she served Naaman’s wife. 3She said to her mistress, “If only my lord were with the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.” 7When the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his clothes and said, “Am I God, to give death or life, that this man sends word to me to cure a man of his leprosy? Just look and see how he is trying to pick a quarrel with me.” 8But when Elisha the man of God heard that the king of Israel had torn his clothes, he sent a message to the king, “Why have you torn your clothes? Let him come to me, that he may learn that there is a prophet in Israel.” 9So Naaman came with his horses and chariots, and halted at the entrance of Elisha’s house. 10Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, “Go, wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored and you shall be clean.” 11But Naaman became angry and went away, saying, “I thought that for me he would surely come out, and stand and call on the name of the LORD his God, and would wave his hand over the spot, and cure the leprosy! 12Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them, and be clean?” He turned and went away in a rage. 13But his servants approached and said to him, “Father, if the prophet had commanded you to do something difficult, would you not have done it? How much more, when all he said to you was, ‘Wash, and be clean’?” 14So he went down and immersed himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God; his flesh was restored like the flesh of a young boy, and he was clean. 15Then he returned to the man of God, he and all his company; he came and stood before him and said, “Now I know that there is no God in all the earth except in Israel.
Like I mentioned above, this is just plain fun! Naaman, a very important person has a disease which diminishes his value. With great pomp and importance, he goes to this foreigner Elisha who doesn’t even come out to meet him. Elisha offers healing, but it isn’t what Naaman had in mind. The servants get the best line in the story, “Father, if the prophet had commanded you to do something difficult, would you not have done it? How much more, when all he said to you was, ‘Wash, and be clean’?” More humility demanded!
The story is rich, and it is a great story to illustrate that often our perspective blinds us to God’s action or potential action in the world. Rabbi Harold Kushner has written, “Religion is first and foremost a way of seeing. It can’t change the facts about the world we live in, but it can change the way we see those facts, and that in itself can often make a difference.”
Turning back to the Gospel from Luke, there is the puzzle about the Samaritans. This is not really on the way to Jerusalem (the direct route, anyway) for Jesus. Samaritans are suspect from the beginning. This is not just about giving thanks. The statement about faith making him well is also a puzzle. Because of that, some have suggested that the 10th leper had a different kind of healing than the other 9. That is tough to support from the text itself.
Brian Stoffregen makes the following observation.
I think that our text relates the typical pattern of God’s activities throughout scriptures — namely, God acts first. Then our proper response to God’s actions is praise and thanksgiving — because we see God’s hand in what has happened.
God did not tell the Israelites in Egypt, “If you only had enough faith, I would lead you to the promised land.” God led them out of slavery to Canaan.
God did not tell us, “If you only had enough faith, I would send Jesus to suffer and die for your sins.” It was because we had no faith that he sent us Jesus. As Paul writes in Romans 5:8: “God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us.”
God doesn’t wait for us to have enough faith. God acts first. God’s actions are to lead to a faithful response.
So, this is my starting place. Who knows where it will end?