Weekly sermon thoughts for everyday discipleship based on two RCL lectionary readings
Sermon thoughts for everyday discipleship
by John Watson
Sunday 13th October 2013
2 Timothy 2:8-15 and Luke 17:11-19
This is the first healing miracle we encounter since Luke 11.14 and even then it was mentioned in passing - the reaction being the focus rather than the act itself. Here too we see Luke focussing on the reaction rather than the healing. The focus is on the one who returns and the healing becomes a parable in itself. The invitation to salvation in its fullest sense is not limited to the boundaries we construct. In fact those on the boundaries of life will often teach us many things about our own lives. As the Samaritan man is the one on the edge, he become a sign of God’s grace and a warning to those who try to restrict it.
Here again the marginalized and insignificant come to the fore in Luke. Here the one who would be considered half-pagan and inferior is the one who returns to give thanks and accept Jesus. All are healed, even before they get to the priests. There is a lavish generosity in God’s grace, no thanks is expected. The question Jesus asks is not directed to the Samaritan and his companions but to the those who were with Jesus himself. The healing reminds us of Luke 7.22 where healing of leprosy is identified as an act of the Messiah. In Luke 4.27 Jesus mentions that in Israel’s past there have been times when God healed only foreigners, to which the synagogue erupts in fury and try to kill Jesus.
So there is something more going on in this passage than just a lesson about saying thank you. Here we see the gates opened wide for all to receive Jesus but it is the one we least expect that comes to receive salvation in it fullest. This lesson is not aimed at those who did not return but to those who witness the events. We do not know the nationality of those who did not return. We can speculate they were a mixture of Jews and Samaritans - but just like in Luke 10, where the hero is the unlikely foreigner and not the expected good guys of the day, so here Jesus holds someone who was seen to be outside the people of God, as someone very much inside. The reversal theme continues in Luke yet again.
It serves as an encouragement that God is always working beyond our own boundaries. It serves as a warning that we must never shrink his grace to match the shape of our own moulds.
‘Remember Jesus Christ’ says Paul as we seek to express all that his life is. His word is never chained to the religious boundaries we might impose. We are called to embrace those he embraces. This may involve a bit of hardship. It will involve risk. It will be open to being misunderstood. But Paul rightly warns - don’t get involved with ‘wrangling over words’ this destroys. Be concerned about living in the light of the Word - who gives life.
John is the Vicar of St Paul’s, Tupsley and St Andrews, Hampton Bishop in Hereford Diocese. He’s also currently doing Doctoral Studies at Kings College London.