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Luke 17:11-19

The Rev. Jon Roberts

9 October


Calvary Episcopal Church

Indian Rocks Beach, FL

On the way to Jerusalem Jesus was going through the region between Samaria and Galilee. As he entered a village, ten lepers approached him. Keeping their distance, they called out, saying, "Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!" When he saw them, he said to them, "Go and show yourselves to the priests." And as they went, they were made clean. Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice. He prostrated himself at Jesus' feet and thanked him. And he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus asked, "Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they? Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?" Then he said to him, "Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well."


Jesus Healing the Leper, Jean Marie Melchior Doze, 1864

You can be anything you want in this world;
Just don’t be ungrateful.[1]

Once there was a priest who was known to have the amazing ability to pray for people which in turn led to their miraculous healing. One day, he felt the need to go out and reach the people who would never darken the doors of the Church. He decided to attend a bar. When he entered he approached three sad-faced gentlemen at a table, and greeted the first one. "What's troubling you, brother?" he said. "My eyes. I keep getting stronger and stronger glasses, and I still can't see." The priest laid his hands on the man, and prayed for Jesus to heal this man. The man jumped up immediately and ran outside to tell the world about his now 20-20 vision. The next gentleman couldn't hear the priest’s questions, so the priest just touched his ears, asked the Holy Spirit to enter in and heal this man. With that the man’s hearing was restored to perfection. This man, too, ran out the door, probably on his way to the audiologist to get a hearing-aid refund. The third man, an auto-worker, leapt from his chair and backed up against the wall, even before the priest could greet him. "Don't you come near me, man! Don't touch me!" he screamed, "I'm on sick leave!"

You can be anything you want in this world, just don’t be ungrateful.

There was a man, whose name was Konstantin Josef Jirecek. He was a Czech historian, politician and diplomat who majored in Byzantine studies; he wrote book titled, “The History of the Bulgarians.” He once said, “We the unwilling, led by the unknowing, are doing the impossible for the ungrateful. We have done so much, for so long, with so little, we are now qualified to do anything with nothing.”[2] There is much we can learn about our own day, relating to the disparity of finding the will to follow leaders who don’t have a clue to fix problems that seem impossible with such little resource. In his day the government was deep-seeded in communism, luring so many people into a lifestyle that depended on handouts. This type of relationship, which becomes detached from the healing powers of the divine, leads us to an ungrateful culture.

Do you remember the days when every adult and child seemed to be more grateful, saying, “Thank you,” and “Please;” “No sir, yes maam?” We had better manners than today. The altruistic spirit moved graciously, so it seemed through most of our American history. People got an honest wage for a hard day’s work. The family doctor looked after the family. The priest came regular to your house for dinner. We relied on one another and were truly grateful for our friendships. Perhaps we are coming close to that culture in which the man in the story, or worse, nearer Konstantin’s, where we are becoming more unwilling to be led by those who are unknowing in doing the impossible for the ungrateful.

Let’s turn to what Jesus did and said about this subject. He went out into the city and found not three desperate souls, but ten. They were consumed with the terrible illness known as leprosy. Thousands of people in those days were diagnosed and they were pushed aside. They were the walking dead. They were given the handouts and spoiled commodities that no one else wanted or needed. They were totally dependent on the handouts. They were on permanent sick leave. Jesus hears their plea, “Jesus, master have mercy on us!”[3] When he saw them, he simply said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” What an empty prescription. Doesn’t Jesus know that they have tried, time and time again, but those priests can’t do anything. They don’t have time for them. They send out a simple substance of food or other libation to get them to go away. What could they possibly give in return? These priests were unknowing. They proclaimed the Most High, but they lived without faith. Their students and followers saw this, and many of them became unwilling to do anything because the problem was too great, impossible.

This is where the power of God, through His Son Jesus is seen. He is qualified to work with nothing, to do the miraculous. He gives them attention. Now it says, “they were healed as they went,” but only one out of the ten came back to him. Jesus shows power through his mercy to heal those in which there was no exchange of gratitude. No simple “thank you” was offered. The healing was offered inside them but they didn’t notice. One of them did. He noticed that while everyone else felt sent away, empty once more, he felt something different. First, he wanted to be healed. He had not given up hope. Second, he knew that Jesus was unlike the rest. He wasn’t sending them away to get out of his sight. He was sending them away to see if they had trust in his might. Healing is deserved, but gratefulness is required. If one came back to say how grateful they were, maybe that is the hope that we are looking for in our own culture.

Maybe we are that one. As we come here to worship God, is this not our way of saying, “Thank you?” Is this not our way of asking to be healed? What seems so impossible, having so little, being led by those who don’t have a clue, perhaps this is the best way we can know Jesus. We may not have 20-20 vision right now. We may not have perfect hearing; but we certainly do not want to wait around thinking that our situation will improve if we continue to ask for handouts. Only when we turn our lives over to Christ can we be healed.

You can be anything you want in this world,
Just don’t be ungrateful.

[1] Author unknown
[2] Konstantin Josef Jirecek, 1854-1919.
[3] Luke 17:11-19

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