Sunday, October 13, 2013

Sermon -- 21st Sunday after Pentecost (October 13, 2013)

LUKE 17:11-19

In the name + of Jesus.

     People have an intense desire to belong and to be liked.  As much as you may like your alone time, it is much different to be alone because you have been forsaken or forgotten.  That brings on feelings of rejection, bitterness, and sadness.  Some would, sadly, rather kill themselves than continue feeling rejected.  Rejection and despair are some of the worst feelings in the world—whether you are cut from the basketball team, or you are dumped by your girlfriend, or your family forgot your birthday, or your friends turn against you, or you are divorced or fired.  While some types of rejection are more hurtful than others, none of it feels good.  We want to belong, and we want to be liked.
     Now, imagine having a skin disease which makes the world repulsed at you.  That’s the way it was for ten men who met Jesus.  They had some kind of infectious skin disease, whether it was leprosy or not doesn’t matter.  Their disease was evident on their bodies.  Sin and death were manifestly clinging to them.  God’s Law had commanded that such infected people were forbidden from the rest of Israelite society.  That which is sinful cannot dwell with that which is holy.  And because sin visibly clung to these men, they were not allowed to dwell among God’s holy people.  They were to wear veils on their faces and cry out, “Unclean!” when other people approached.  They were banished from their families, from their communities, and from God’s temple.  They were not only diseased, they were forsaken and rejected as well.
     We live in a broken world.  Sometimes that is obvious.  Sins cling to us and they are seen by our scars and scabs and schisms.  Other times, sins are well hidden.  We suffer from our private pains and secret shames.  We put on a brave face in front of others, but our hearts are hurting.  And even in a room full of family or friends, we can feel alone and alienated.  Sin and shame may be hidden from others, but you still feel them fester in your heart.  Guilt eats away.  Despair takes root.  Pasting on a smile and pretending all is well will not take sins away, though.  Repent.  Confess.  Flee to your Savior.  Beg to hear his voice through your pastor.  And you will find that his mercy purifies you from evil.
     As he entered a village, [Jesus] was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance and lifted up their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” (Luke 17:12-13)  They could have said, “Jesus, heal us!”  They could have said, “Jesus, help us.  We want to go home.”  They could have said, “Jesus, deliver us from evil.”  But all of those prayers were summed up by them in their one plea: “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” (Luke 17:13)  Jesus has mercy upon us in all of our struggles and troubles.  The entire reason Jesus appeared was to have mercy upon us, that is, to take away our sins, to deliver us from evil, and to grant us a place in the kingdom of God where we will always find a loving Father.  He does not merely tolerate us; he loves us.  He tells us that we belong in his kingdom.  His mercy purifies us from evil and makes us holy and pleasing to the Lord.
     When he saw them he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.”  And as they went they were cleansed. (Luke 17:14)  Jesus had mercy upon the ten lepers.  He granted cleansing to all of them.  This was pure mercy.  They were sinners.  If they believed God’s word at all, they would confess as we do, “I deserve your punishment both now and in eternity.”  While the Law compelled them to cry out and confess, “Unclean!” Jesus had compassion on them and cleansed them. Jesus was pleased to have them return to their families, to their communities, and to the temple.  No longer would they be banished or rejected, forsaken or forgotten.  Like a soldier returning home after a long tour of duty, these men were anxious for the joyous reunion when they walked back into their homes.  His mercy purified them from evil.
     But one man would delay his reunion.  One of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks.  Now he was a Samaritan. (Luke 17:15-16)  This Samaritan came and worshiped Jesus.  He fell prostrate before him, honoring him not just as the one who had cleansed him, but as the one who saves him. 
     Jesus had told him, “Go and show (yourself) to the priests.” (Luke 17:14)  He was to present himself at the temple.  The temple was the place where God put his name.  It is where God dwelt with his people.  But instead the Samaritan returned to Jesus.  The Samaritan confessed that Jesus is the true temple.  He is where God has revealed his name.  He is where God dwells with his people.  He is our Immanuel. 
     Jesus had told him, “Go and show (yourself) to the priests.” (Luke 17:14)  The priests were to examine the Samaritan and declare him clean.  Instead, the Samaritan returned to Jesus, confessing that Jesus is the true High Priest.  He is the one who makes atonement for sinners.  But Jesus made atonement for you not by slaughter of lambs or the blood of bulls.  Jesus is not only the High Priest who makes the sacrifice.  He is the Lamb of God who IS the sacrifice.  It is his blood which was shed for you.  And the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:7)
     His mercy purifies you from evil.  Jesus removes from you all sin and guilt.  Though the Law compels to you cry out and confess, “Unclean!” Jesus has purified you so that no guilt clings to you.  Your record is clean of every charge and every accusation.  Satan may try to convince you that you are worthless and deserve to be rejected because you are not good enough.  And you may think upon your life and find there is plenty of evidence that this is true.  But Jesus speaks a different word.  He declares you clean.  He washed you and made you pure in your baptism.  And he renews your baptism again and again when you confess your sins and when you are absolved in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
     His mercy purifies you from evil.  He will even deliver you from the consequences of sin which still cling to you.  The world is still broken, and you still have to endure its brokenness.  You still get sick.  You grow old and weak.  You battle persistent temptations.  You suffer the loss of friends through either death or desertion.  You have good reason to cry out daily, “Jesus, Master, have mercy upon us!”  And he does.  And he will. 
     His mercy which has purified you from evil will also deliver you from evil once and for all.  He will bring you into the gates of heaven where sin is not allowed in the gates.  Therefore, there will no longer be any brokenness.  There will no longer be any leprosy, no leukemia, no lumps, and no loneliness.  In God’s kingdom, no one is forsaken or forgotten.  For, you are his.  The blood of Jesus always purifies you from all unrighteousness.  And if you are pure, then you are pleasing to God.  You are no longer unclean, with your sins clinging to you.  Now you are covered in Jesus’ righteousness.  Now it is God’s promises which cling to you.  These will never fail you.  And God will never forsake you or forget you.  For the Lord is merciful, and he assures you that you are loved and that you belong.

In the name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

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