Kingdomtide 2013: Week of October 13
As Jesus continued his journey to Jerusalem,he traveled through Samaria and Galilee. As he was entering a village, ten lepers met him. They stood at a distance from him and raised their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master! Have pity on us!” And when he saw them, he said, “Go show yourselves to the priests.” As they were going they were cleansed. And one of them, realizing he had been healed, returned, glorifying God in a loud voice; and he fell at the feet of Jesus and thanked him. He was a Samaritan. Jesus said in reply, “Ten were cleansed, were they not? Where are the other nine? Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?” Then he said to him, “Stand up and go; your faith has saved you.” -Luke 17:11-19
In this story, Jesus is taking the “frontier route” to Jerusalem where he will be arrested, tortured, and executed. He passes through the “forbidden zone” to good, law-abiding Jews: Samaria. How often does our spiritual journey require us to take these kinds of unfamiliar routes into what conventional religion tells us is “hostile territory?” How many times do we choose the safe havens of group thought and echo chambers instead of the open road?
As Jesus passes through the village, he encounters ten lepers who make a chaotic spectacle, crying out to him for mercy. He tells them to go see the priest so that they could be ceremonially and “properly” declared healed and restored back to community. They all go away, but one returns in a display that almost seems like dancing. Jesus wonders why the other nine had disappeared. The implicit answer to his question is that the constraints of the leper’s religion would not allow them time and blessing to spontaneously and riotously give thanks. The Samaritan, rejected by the religious community, had no such limitations. Leprosy in the biblical tradition usually symbolizes our failures, weaknesses, and sinful brokenness. Most of us begin the spiritual journey depending on the outward certitude of our particular religious systems to pronounce us whole, healed, and “saved.” However, Jesus invites us to move beyond our addiction to absolutism and into a faith that’s wild, creative, and lives and moves on the open range. The Samaritan leper didn’t have the temple assembly to tell him he was clean—he had to believe it on his own– in his own experience and heart. Instead of receiving directives from external authorities, he had to take responsibility for his own perceptions and act from there. It’s only when we abandon our certainty to outward practices and dogmatic creeds that we begin to live the more adventurous life of trust. As we embark on these frontier routes, we discover within ourselves the gift of a deep gratitude and an authentic thankful heart.
“May all your expectations be frustrated. May all your plans be thwarted, May all your desires be withered into nothingness, that you may experience the powerlessness and poverty of a child and sing and dance in the love of God who is Father, Son, and Spirit.”