18th Sunday after Pentecost, Vicar Ethan Bergman

Sunday, Oct. 13, 2019 – Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost

May the words of my mouth and the inspiration of our hearts be acceptable to you, oh Lord. Amen

Carla and I have three adult children. It seems when they were growing up that at least one of us were sick, getting sick or getting over being sick. Usually just an inconvenience.

When I was 12 years old, I became ill. Like many childhood illnesses, it started slowly. I felt lethargic, I had a fever. 

At first, my parents and I didn’t think much of it. We hoped the illness would run its course soon and I’d be back to wellness and playing with my friends and brother.

But the illness didn’t go away. I got more and more ill and my fever spiked. My parents said it got to 107 degrees. By then I was delirious and semi conscious, and I started seeing and saying weird things.

My parents realized this illness was serious and something needed to be done.

911 didn’t exist back then. Let me clarify: the base ten number system had been discovered. The numerals 9, 1, and 1 existed. 

But they weren’t connected on our rotary dial phone to an emergency hotline. So my parents called our family doctor, Vernon D. Casterline. 

Dr. Casterline listened to my parent’s description, hopped in his car and made a house call. It didn’t take long for him to diagnose spinal meningitis and rush me to Salem General Hospital.

I was on IV antibiotics and in the hospital for 7 days. I remember vividly waking up from my semi-conscious state to see tiny animals swimming in the IV bottle. I asked my parents what the animals were doing in the bottle.

Thankfully, I improved enough to leave the hospital and recuperate at home for the next month.

But the trauma for me wasn’t over. My friends and their parents were afraid to visit me. They were afraid that I was contagious and they were concerned that they would contract spinal meningitis as well

I felt isolated and alone. Thank God I recovered and I went back to school and was no longer isolated from my friends.

Today’s Gospel is also about people with an affliction that isolated them physically from their friends and family. The difference is that these people had no hope of healing and removal from this isolation. 

Until they met Jesus.

In today’s Gospel lesson, Luke 17:11-19, the story of Jesus healing the ten lepers is a powerful story of healing, thanksgiving, and kinship. 

The Gospel is a story about healing.

Jesus heals. Jesus is confronted by 10 lepers with the rich words: “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” Make us well!

Have you ever expressed that to Jesus? Are there times when you have been so up against it that you asked for Mercy from your pain, or suffering? 

Or relief from the pain or suffering of a loved one?

In today’s Gospel, leprosy was the affliction. Leprosy is a disease that was not only physically painful, but it was also emotionally painful. 

It was a condition that rendered you religiously and socially impure and separated you from the community and society. 

Leprosy alienated you, it isolated you, it discarded you from the fullness of life and care from the community. 

This is similar to what many of our members feel when they are no longer able to attend church and socialize with their church family.

In today’s Gospel, the lepers cry out to Jesus, Master, have mercy on us! 

And the Lord healed them. He healed all ten of them. 

God calls us to find a way to include in our fellowship, in our kinship, in our household, all people, all neighbors. 

To share their joy, their pain and grief.

And to call on Jesus for mercy for those who are not able to be physically present.

The Gospel today is also a story about thanksgiving. 

After the ten lepers were healed, one turned around and came back to Jesus praising God with a loud voice. 

This one person who was healed came back to Jesus and prostrated himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him. 

Where were the other nine? The other nine people who also were healed did not return and thank Jesus. 

Why is saying thank you so difficult? 

Sometimes we can simply forget to say thank you. Even though it is important, it isn’t automatic. 

Sometimes the gift is so exciting that the receiver simply wants to dive into it and saying thank you would only delay the enjoyment. 

Sometimes the receiver doesn’t really consider what has been received as a gift. Rather, it is viewed as something they deserve, and a thank you isn’t necessary.

The one leper who came back prostrated himself at Jesus’ feet, a profound, deep, whole-body expression of thankfulness that the words “thank you” failed to covey. 

He saw Jesus as the Messiah of God. He saw the gift as what it was: redemption. 

This person, once suffering from leprosy, was now free from that social, religious, and physical affliction. 

How do you and I respond to God’s gifts? Are we thankful recipients?

The Gospel today is also a story about kinship, relationships and community. 

Luke, makes the point to assert that the hero of the story, the one who came back, is a Samaritan. 

The word Samaritan in the Bible is used in the negative sense to highlight people who are different, people who are not worthy, people who don't belong who may even be considered enemies.

In this story Luke goes even further, to make clear that the hero of the story, is of the wrong kind by noting that he is a foreigner. 

Someone who is not part of the fold. Someone who is from the outside. 

After Luke finishes telling us that the one who thanked Jesus was a Samaritan, he lets the gospel be preached:

Jesus states, “your faith has made you well.” 

And just like that the Samaritan belongs, the foreigner is welcomed, the leper is healed, the walls are torn down, the lost is found. 

God calls us to feel kinship and relationship with all of our neighbors. 

God calls us see everyone as clean and holy and worthy of salvation. 

Through the cleansing waters of baptism, God promises us holiness and salvation.

We are reminded in Luke’s Gospel lesson for today that Jesus made the lepers clean. 

Jesus died on the cross to make us all clean, to take away our sins and to freely bestow upon us holiness and eternal life.

And today we celebrate that we have a new little sister who will be made clean through the cleansing waters of baptism. 

Today we welcome Madison Josephine Holmes into the kinship of God’s family. We welcome Madison Josephine into God’s promise of holiness and salvation. 

We rejoice with the Holmes and Rodden family that we have a new little sister to nurture and love in this community.

We rejoice at our own baptism today and God’s promise of holiness and salvation.

Dear Lord, we thank you that you have made us all clean through the healing waters of baptism. 

We rejoice and are thankful that we have a new little saint to share and celebrate with. 

We praise you for kinship and relationships with our neighbors. Amen