October 9, 2022
The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor
Rush United Methodist Church
On the way to Jerusalem Jesus was going through the region between Samaria and Galilee. As he entered a village, ten lepers approached him. Keeping their distance, they called out, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” When he saw them, he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were made clean. Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice. He prostrated himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him. And he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus asked, “Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they? Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” Then he said to him, “Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well.”
| Centering Prayer |
The changing seasons-
In case you haven’t noticed
We are right in the final days …
Of election season.
Lawn signs have sprung up like daisies.
Television commercials portray political candidates
As fine, upstanding members of the community
Making promises everyone on the planet know they can’t keep,
All the while, tearing their opponent to pieces with innuendoes and lies.
America’s blood sport isn’t football;
If there is a bright side to this season
It would be that, at least,
we are not settling debates with a duel,
Like Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton.
With candidates practically begging for each and every vote
I believe Christians have a prime opportunity
To look to the Word,
Listen to the whisper of God speak through the scriptures
And follow our Lord’s example of how to address some of today’s most challenging social problems.
Candidates on both sides of the aisle desperately want our vote
And to get it, they give us lip service saying they want our input.
Our input should come from a life walking with Jesus
Not by a life lived along political parties or partisan division.
Let’s take a walk with Jesus
From today’s Gospel:
“As he entered a village, ten lepers approached him.
Keeping their distance, they called out, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!”
In that time and culture
It was common for people with unclean diseases to group together.
If one had leprosy,
He or she was considered unclean, untouchable.
Those with leprosy were forced to live
outside the protection of the city walls
or on the edge of town
to minimalize the risk of contamination.
Of course, this is where others with leprosy and other communicable diseases could be found.
The city gate was a convenient location to beg for alms, food, and mercy.
A gate was a natural funnel for the flow of travelers,
A perfect location for the unclean to congregate.
Not only is this quite possible that Jesus and his disciples
would have encountered groups of individuals
with leprosy, and similar diseases or disabilities, as they traveled,
it was a certainty.
The Gospel is full of stories about Jesus healing the blind, the lame, and demon possessed.
Jesus and his disciples encountered groups of sick,
diseased and dying outside of every town they approached.
Jewish law, and it’s strict interpretation and application of cleanliness laws,
Segregated families, friends, and neighborhoods.
This primitive system of isolation and quarantine
Provided minimal public health benefit.
Honestly, the true benefit was “Out of sight, out of mind.”
“If I don’t see my disabled cousin every day
then I don’t have to worry about her
and I’m free to go about my business.”
Just another example of how the brutal application of law
– especially religious law –
destroys grace and compassion.
Beware of the practice of rigid fundamentalism,
Absolute, strict adherence to law,
Be it ultra-orthodox Judaism,
Sharia Islamic law, or
Modern day Christian fundamentalism.
It doesn’t take much imagination to consider the word ghetto,
from the Hebrew,
literally a bill of divorce,
and to apply it to our gospel for today.
Jewish society had divided itself, creating a system of
haves v. have-nots,
inclusion v. exclusion,
loved v. those who are to be shunned; even hated.
Let me see.
Can I envision a time and place and circumstance were issues divide us?
Leads me to think about healthcare.
For some, healthcare is wonderful, measured by brand and co-pay.
For others, healthcare is broken pony
dividing people unequally
by zip code, income, gender, age, or race.
If we ask “what would Jesus do” about healthcare,
We only need to turn to today’s Gospel:
Ten people suffering from leprosy cry out to Jesus for mercy.
Jesus saw their circumstance.
Jesus heard their cry.
Jesus healed all ten lepers.
Every last one of them.
As United Methodists
We are a part of a long heritage of
Providing faith-based health care.
Methodist based hospital systems and clinics,
Across the nation and the world,
Stand as a testament to
Our great Wesleyan heritage
Of healing the sick,
Just as Jesus did.
My question is
Why don’t we do everything possible
To ensure that 10 out of 10 are healed?
Too bad, so sad,
if you can’t afford health insurance
Or if your deductible to so high
You can’t afford to use the health insurance you have.
I’m confident Jesus didn’t ask these ten people with leprosy
For their health insurance card and photo ID
Before he healed them and made them whole.
It is possible to improve access and utilization of healthcare,
When we consider the intersection between the life of Jesus and the principles of science.
Faith and medicine
can go hand in hand to ensure
All ten are healed;
No one is left behind at the city gate.
Health is not the only contemporary issue addressed by Jesus in today’s Gospel.
Jesus is traveling from Galilee, in the north,
to Jerusalem, 90 miles south,
through the region of Samaria.
Jewish Samaritans practiced a different kind of Judaism than everyone else.
The term Samaritan meant different things to different people,
depending upon your ancestry, location, and point of view.
To Jews whose ancestors had endured Babylonian exile over 700 years earlier,
Samaritans were descendants that had captured but not forced into exile.
They were conquered, left in place,
forced to collaborate with their occupiers.
resulting in bi-racial offspring.
To orthodox Jews
Mixed race traitors
Practicing an unauthorized faith.
Additionally, during occupation,
Samaritans were forced to relocate the Temple,
due to travel restrictions to and from Jerusalem.
They built a new local temple on Mt. Gerizim,
the traditional location of the near-sacrifice of Isaac.
Samaritans who lived between Galilee in the north and Judah in the south
Thought of themselves as the faithful ones.
Their blue-blood cousins from Jerusalem
Were the unfaithful ones.
The music stopped,
The charge was injustice,
They faced the Lord’s judgment,
Deemed guilty and sent into exile.
Samaritans hadn’t faced the Lord’s anger, judgment, and exile.
They resorted to survival tactics in the midst of an unmerciful occupier,
doing whatever it took to survive and to remain faithful to God.
They despised those who eventually returned, dismissed their Temple,
and rebuilt the Temple in Jerusalem.
By the time of Jesus, the Samaritans were treated as if they were second class Jews.
To Jews who lived in the north, in Galilee,
where Jesus matured and ministered,
Samaria was a place most travelers avoided.
Best to go around to the east to make the annual visit to Jerusalem and the Temple.
Take the road down the Jordan Valley
instead of the high road through the mountains and hills of Samaria.
Avoid Samaritans, and you won’t have to deal with them.
Treat them as if they are invisible.
Blame them for all that is wrong with our country,
because, well, it is better to blame someone else than to take responsibility for ourselves.
Both, white hot;
Electrified issues today in
US partisan politics.
Some call it people illegal, others name them undocumented;
Regardless, it results in treating others as
Political pawns to press the advantage.
People get used and abused,
Treated as second-class citizens.
What did Jesus do?
The religious culture in which Jesus taught and ministered
Was tailor made to divide people.
Supported by powerful, occupying Roman legions,
Organized Judaism pitted
Jew v. Gentile.
Clean v. Unclean.
Priestly class v. the laity.
Rome v. Jew.
Men v. women.
Wealthy contributors v. the poor widow’s mite.
What did Jesus do?
Jesus included Gentiles into the kingdom,
Healed all and made everyone clean … even on the Sabbath!
He tore up the money changers in the Temple
And treated women as equals with men.
Oh, yes, he healed one Centurion’s servant and
Raised from the dead the daughter of a ruler of the synagogue.
Jesus elevates the foreigner, the immigrant, the migrant, for doing the right thing,
for returning and giving thanks to the Lord.
And like in so many other situations,
Jesus responds with the command,
‘Get up and go on your way;
your faith has made you well.’
We are called to do the same, too.
It begins with changing our attitudes,
ending our resistance to change,
and the acceptance of others,
simply the way they are: created beautiful and perfect in every possible way
by a loving and merciful God.
We don’t have to agree with others,
but we do have to tolerate and respect each other.
We don’t have to worship the same God,
but we do need to insist that all have the freedom to express their religious beliefs
however they see fit, and
without outside threat, risk, or danger.
We do need to stand up and speak out,
both in the voting booth and with our lobbying efforts,
to keep society a melting pot of individuals,
always refreshed with new members,
safe to raise our families,
respectful of our history,
tolerant of culture,
knowing that diversity makes us strong.
By faith in Jesus Christ, the impossible can be made possible.
Healing and restoration are possible.
All can be included in the kingdom,
Not because we say so,
But because it is the way of our Lord.