17: 11“On the way to Jerusalem Jesus was going through the region between Samaria and Galilee. 12 As he entered a village, ten lepers approached him. Keeping their distance, 13 they called out, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” 14 When he saw them, he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were made clean. 15 Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice. 16 He prostrated himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him. And he was a Samaritan. 17 Then Jesus asked, “Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they? 18 Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” 19 Then he said to him, “Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well.” (Luke 17:11-19, NRSV)
Let us pray: In your love, O God, your people find healing. Grant that the pains of our journey may not obscure the presence of Christ among us, but that we may always give thanks for your healing power as we travel on the way to your kingdom. We ask this through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
I have given you a drawing. I would like for you to look at it for a while.
What do you see? Do you see the face of a young woman? Do you also see the face of an older woman? It is an optical illusion? It is an image that is perceived one way that is different from reality. What the human eye sees is interpreted by the brain in a way that contradicts the real image. You can look at an optical illusion and see one thing and someone else looks at the very same image and they see something totally different.
Now, another exercise. Take a look around. What do you see? People or Pews? Stain glass windows or a Pipe Organ? Do you see a church or a congregation?
Jesus tells of an experience he had with a group of ten lepers. These ten are outcasts. The ten approach Jesus and beg for mercy. The ten must keep their distance from him because they are unclean. The ten have been trained by their own bitter experiences not to expect any help from those around them.
In response, Jesus instructs the ten to go and show themselves to the local priest. The ten go to see the priest and they are made well, cleansed of their leprosy. Then one of the ten returns to Jesus to show his gratitude and to say thanks.
This one particular leper was different. He saw things differently. He saw what the other nine didn’t or couldn’t see. He saw salvation, they saw a healing. He saw a future, eternal life; they saw a return to life as they knew it. He saw gratitude they saw getting back to family, friends, work.
So, unlike the other nine, this one had to return. The other nine could go and do whatever. This one leper could not. Having seen, he had to return and praise God. He had to throw himself at Jesus’ feet in thanksgiving. This one lepers experience was so overwhelming, so life changing, so joyful, that he had to share it.
I must point out that the other nine did nothing wrong. In fact, they did exactly as they were told. Again, they didn’t do anything wrong and received the blessing that Jesus promised them.
All the lepers were healed; one, however, saw, noticed, let what happened sink in…And it made all the difference. Because he sees what has happened, he recognizes Jesus, his reign and his power. Because he sees what has happened, he is thankful.
This parable serves as an invitation to believers to open our eyes to see. When we open our eyes what do we see?
When we look at God what do we see? Do we see God as a stern judge or loving parent? When we look to ourselves, do we see failure or beloved child? When we look to the future, do we see fear filled uncertainty or a positive open horizon? There is, of course, no right answer to any of these questions. How we answer depends upon what we see. What we see shapes our outlook and our behavior.
What do we see when we look at our blessings? What do we see when we look at giving to the church? Giving to the church, Stewardship is not first about giving, but about seeing all that we have been given and rejoicing in a way that cannot help but shape how we act.
Before we are called to believe or confess or help or do we are called simply to see…and to help others to see. We are called to point out blessings.
At the beginning of this story, ten men are stuck. All ten are made well. But one sees something more. He has seen Jesus, recognized his blessing and rejoiced in it, and changed his course of action and behavior. And because he sees what has happened, the leper is not just healed, but is made whole, restored, drawn back into relationship with God and others. For this leper his healing was more than just having his health restored, he saw that he was saved. He saw that through Jesus he now had eternal life. He saw that he was saved from inward focus, he was saved form negativity, and he was saved from sin. He was saved to live a life of gratitude, to live a life enjoying the blessings that God had given him.
That is stewardship, that is worship, and that is Christian living. It is the tenth leper turning back. For now as then, seeing makes all the difference. And that’s what the nine missed, they didn’t see the same thing the one particular leper saw. It’s not that they did anything wrong; it’s that they didn’t see their good fortune and didn’t voice their blessing, and so missed out on also being made whole.
Now on final exercise, as you leave today you will walk out into our community, what will you see? Will you see troubles? Yes.
Will you see blessings, I sure hope so! You will see, families that care for each other, colleagues who work hard and well, schools where teachers care about their pupils and students are eager to learn, relief agencies that tend the afflicted, service people who regularly put their lives on the line at home and abroad, good neighbors who support one another, and our church where the Word of God is preached, hymns of praise are sung, the importance of faith is taught and the life of faith nourished, and so much more.
This world is full of blessing and challenges. Your life is full of blessings and challenges. Which will you focus on? Will you see as the tenth leper? Will you find blessings in life or not? Will you turn back to offer God your words of gratitude and praise, or not? You must open your eyes to see.
Let us pray: