C - 2019 - 11/27 - Thanksgiving Day - Mercy of the Master
Thanksgiving Sermon - Occasional
Exegetical: Jesus heals a group of lepers by His word, and it is the unlikely member of this group who responds in faith.
Focus: The Mercy of the Master heals leprosy and prompts a faithful response by an unlikely person.
Function: That my hearers would continue to thank God for the mysterious gift of faith that he bestows on unlikely people.
Law: We can begin to think that we have something to offer to the salvation equation and become blinded by pride or weighed down by burden.
Gospel: Jesus, the Master grants even the faith to receive the mysterious gifts that He gives to unlikely people.
Structure: Four Pages
Grace to you and Peace from God our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Trouble in the World – We are unlikely people; We think we’re not.
He’s an unlikely hero. You’ve probably heard of him. And if not, let me give you a brief summary of this man. He’s middle aged and a homebody above all homebodies. The outdoors sicken him. The very thought of leaving his perfect and comfortable home is enough to make him faint. He’s shorter than most folks and looks a little homely. He is approached by many people that he doesn’t know and unwillingly throws an extravagant party before leaving on a journey that he was neither ready, nor prepared for. This character is the hobbit - Bilbo Baggins. And Bilbo wouldn’t have ever been written about, unless he did someone quite out of character. In Biblo’s life, all the other hobbits stayed put. They didn’t leave. And so, when he is prompted to go on a journey filled with danger and adventure, he goes, even if it was grudgingly. If it were the case that he was a man, er, I mean hobbit, who loved adventure, it would probably still be difficult for him to embrace that when everyone else around him is not. He is quite the unlikely person to be picked.
Bilbo had a keen sense for his unlikeliness and I would venture to say that we have the opposite problem as he. I think we would be much quicker to see ourselves in the shoes of other people who are picked for their bravery, cunning, and status, rather than for their humility and meekness. Somewhere deep down, we have a hard time coming to grips with the fact that we are much more like Bilbo than we care to realize. When Jesus call us to the life of a disciple, we can think that we have something, or have to offer something more than what He is calling. Either we’re quite good enough for Jesus to pick, or we’ve got to become so in order for us to hear His voice. Either way, a change is necessary. And that is not the right stance when the Master calls. If disposition is our problem, then we are not quite at home in this text from Luke.
Trouble in the Text – Leprosy; 9/10 do not respond rightly.
The problem in this text is not disposition. These lepers actually understand their position in society and in relation to Jesus quite well. They stay their distance, knowing that they should not come in contact with those who are ritually clean so that they don’t pollute them as well. They call Jesus Master, and recognize that He has power to have mercy on them. But the problem they are facing is leprosy. This disease is debilitating, both physically and socially. Those who were unclean were not able to participate in the usual social life of those who are not leprous. It makes sense that we have a group of lepers together. We can only imagine that any form of gathering or society of those who were sent away would have been even a little bit therapeutic. This is a corporate and a public disease. Now something happens here that I would like to draw our attention to, and for now I want to skip over the healing.
This story focuses on Jesus’ interaction with one of the lepers who was healed, and the rest are only addressed in a rhetorical question. “Where are the nine?” Well they aren’t at the Master’s feet, that’s for sure. They’re somewhere else. 9/10 lepers don’t respond, or don’t respond rightly to the Mercy of the Master. They continued along to check the next box and complete their purification checklist. Worthy recipients of the Grace of God. Of course, that is quite a silly statement indeed. Worthy to receive grace? This is not at all like appealing to a teacher for extra credit since you’ve been in attendance all quarter. . It might be the case that they viewed themselves as quite alright aside from the leprosy. Maybe they thought like we do about God’s call to people who are good enough to be called to. All of this is speculation of course, but what I do know is that nine. NINE out of ten don’t come back. Can you imagine if businesses, or colleges had those kind of metrics? They would be shut down! But that is the number that we see in this moment with our Master’s Mercy, and that is a sad thing indeed.
Grace in the Text – The one who responds is unlikely; Jesus not only healed this man, but commended him for his faithful response.
But let’s back up. Let’s go back to right before the nine mess things up. Jesus heals the leprosy with His Word. The Word of the Word made Flesh makes the flesh of these ten lepers clean once again. This is a sign of the Kingdom of God. Bodies working the way that they should all at the command and prompt of Jesus. This is what Jesus has been doing all throughout the Gospel of Luke. Think about the demon possessed man, or the sinful woman, the woman with a discharge of blood, or Jairus’ daughter. But Jesus’ healing words in this moment do more than just fix a disease; By healing these lepers, Jesus is actually inviting them back into a social reality. This gift of healing was life changing. What a miracle! A miracle prompted by the Mercy of the Master.
And this one leper comes back to praise God and thank Jesus. Jesus and His Word of mercy and promise are the focus of this story, but we can’t help but revel in the response of the one leper. He came back! He sees what Jesus has done for him and runs back to the Master’s feet. This is the model of the believer. But then the story gets a punch-line, or a twist. And this might not hit us in the same way that it might have for those who first heard this story. “Now this man was a Samaritan.” This might’ve functioned if I were to tell you a daring story of adventure and danger, and included all of the graphic and exciting details. Then, just as you were committed to the guile and honor of this character, reveal him to be none other than Bilbo Baggins! How unlikely that would be! But that is exactly what happens in our story. The one who actually turns around is a Samaritan, not a Jew. Not only a leper, but a Samaritan leper. He asks, and receives from the Master. And then, after seeing what had happened to Him, gives thanks for all that the Master had done. The unlikely recipient, becomes even the unlikely responder.
Grace in the World – Jesus gives to you the faith to receive and trust in his promises. One of those promises is an even better healing that will last for Eternity.
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, I have two things I want to say to you all today: 1. You, yes you, are the unlikely recipient of the Mercy of the Master. 2. You, yes you, are the unlikely responder to this Mercy. We are sinners and we are Gentiles. We are proud and we are burdened. We don’t even approach or say “Master, have mercy on us.” But He does anyway. He comes to us unlikely people in such unlikely ways. Cold water splashed three times on a baby’s forehead? Yep, that’s the Kingdom of God. A mom saying “I forgive you” to her son when he’s sinned against his mother. Yep, that’s the Kingdom of God. A wafer that looks more like a cracker than bread, or a cup with barely enough wine to qualify as more than a sip? Yep, that’s the Kingdom of God. And the mystery of God’s Kingdom is even greater than the healing that came upon those lepers that day.
And you are here. You are here to say “Thank you, may I have another?” to God’s gifts to you. To return once again to the feet of the Master giving praise to God and thanksgiving to His Son. It doesn’t get old. That’s why we keep on coming back. Each time God comes to us, whether its seemingly silent or louder than a trumpet, He says “Rise and go your way. Your Faith has made you well.” That indeed is quite the Master.
A Master who not only heals leprosy, but has promised to heal ALL diseases on the Last Day. A Master who not only commends proper responses, but forgives even the ones that aren’t quite right. A Master who not only calls shunned lepers back into society, but calls you and me into the glorious Kingdom of God forever. A Master who not only gives promises, but enlivens us with His Spirit to receive those promises in faith. This is a Master of Mercy. Amen.