Devotional Message: The Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 23C (10/13/2019)

Revised Common Lectionary Texts

2nd Kings 5:1-3, 7-15c
Psalm 111
2nd Timothy 2:8-15
St. Luke 17:11-19

Semicontinuous First Reading and Psalm

Jeremiah 29:1, 4-7
Psalm 66:1-12

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. Amen.

17.11 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.”

St. Luke 17:11-19, New Revised Standard Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

Message: Who’s In? Who’s Out?

Samaritans appear often in the Christian New Testament. St. John, of course, introduces us to the Samaritan woman at the well, who has a mid-day conversation with Jesus. (John 4). And St. Mark reports that there are Samaritans whom Jesus instructs his disciples to ignore (Mark 10). But it is St. Luke who includes Samaritans in the telling of his Gospel account three times. There is the village of Samaritans who reject Jesus when he is on his way to Jerusalem (Luke 9), there is the Good Samaritan (in the parable of Jesus) who assists an injured traveler on the dangerous road to Jericho (Luke 10), and there is the leper in this week’s Gospel lesson. In each instance the Samaritans play the same role: they are the outsiders, in contrast to the Judean insiders.

This makes historical sense, since the Samaritans and the Judeans have been at odds with one another for generations. They are suspicious of one another’s faith and motives, they avoid one another at all costs, and there are few people they despise more than each other. It also makes theological sense, at least for the people of those times, since the assumption is widespread among these Judeans the the Samaritans are outsiders — sinners who are unworthy of God’s attention — examples of what happens when a person turns away from true faith.

If there are insiders and outsiders in first century Jewish religious culture, the Judeans are insiders and the Samaritans are outsiders.

Jesus, however, doesn’t subscribe to this particular way of ordering the world. He rebukes his disciples when they want to destroy the Samaritan village. He describes the Samaritan on the road to Jericho as being more compassionate than two Jewish religious officials. And this week, of the ten who are cleansed from leprosy, Jesus commends the Samaritan for making the most faithful response to the healing he receives.

There is an extraordinary reversal taking place here. While most of his listeners might appreciate the fact that nine of the leapers who are healed do, in fact, go to the priests so they can be certified as clean, and be allowed to once again join God’s people in worship (not to mention return to the lives they lost when they contracted leprosy…), Jesus commends the one who returns to give thanks for the gift he receives — the gift of health and new life. It is this one, Jesus says, who not only was cleansed from leprosy, but also made well. The Greek New Testament uses the word σῴζω (sozo), which means “to be saved.” The way that Jesus touches them actually saves them.

If there are insiders and outsiders in today’s Gospel lesson, the leper who is transformed by the touch of Jesus is the insider, and the lepers who go to the temple and then disappear back into their former lives are the outsiders.

To be an insider in the kingdom of God has nothing to do with being a member in good standing of the religious club or the social elite. It has everything to do with hearts being captured by the presence of God, and lives being transformed by the promise of Christ; a reality as true today as it was in the first century!

David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week’s Gospel

  1. How do the nine lepers in Jesus’ parable respond when he commands them to go to the priests?

  2. What is unique about the response of the tenth leper?

  3. Why does St. Luke describe the nine as clean, but the one as well?

Connecting with This Week’s Gospel

  1. When have I been aware that my relationship with God has caused me to be well?

  2. How do I express my gratitude to God, for what has been given to me?

  3. How does this parable cause me to think in different ways about who is “inside” and who is “outside?”