Lepers.Pent20C.2010

Pentecost 20C, 2010
Luke 17:11-19

A Liturgy is also available

RISKING MORE THAN AN ‘AVERAGELY GOOD’ LIFE

A man in his early 30s was diagnosed with brain cancer.
He had a wife and young children and a promising career.

Suddenly all of that was swept away from him.
He could barely talk or walk.
He was in constant agony.
His friends and his family, except for his wife and mother, avoided him.

The doctors shook their head.
It was too bad.
He was a nice bloke and deserved a longer life.

But there was nothing they could.

Finally he went to a famous surgeon who offered to operate on him,
even though everyone else said the tumour was inoperable.

The surgeon warned the patient could very well die during the operation,
though he (the surgeon) was pretty sure he would survive
and return to health.

They decided to take the risk.

After nine hours of surgery, the surgeon came into the waiting room, grinned at the man's wife and said, "Got it!”
      The man recovered and went on to a happy and successful life.

Twenty years later the surgeon died.
“We should go to the funeral,” the man's wife said.

“I'd like to,” her husband replied. “But it's on the weekend and I have an important golf tournament.”  (Adapted/Andrew Greeley.web site, 2004)

oo0oo

Traditionally the story by Luke of the Ten healed lepers/outcasts,
is used as an object lesson for ‘thankfulness’.
      Very much like the story of the man with a brain tumour.

But I want to suggest another possibility for this Luke-only story.
So let me backtrack a little.

Because this story has some hidden codes within it and we need to break them.

Allowing for some general problems with Luke’s lack of geographic knowledge,
      ten ‘lepers’ spotted Jesus from the distance they were forced to keep 
      between themselves and other people.

They called out to him, presumably in desperation,
for there was little to no hope for lepers, for the unclean, in those days.
            Jesus also kept his distance and did nothing.

But Luke says he told them to go and show themselves to the priests.
And as they rushed off, they were made whole.

At that point one of them, a Samaritan, a foreigner, stopped in his tracks.
Instead of going to the priests and giving thanks in the ‘traditional’ way,
as set down in the rules and regulations, turned back.
      He (I presume it was a ‘he’) didn’t do what was expected.
      He didn’t do what Jesus asked him to do.
      He didn’t follow the others, with whom he had probably lived for years.

Instead, he stood alone ‘against the stream’ and followed his heart.

And note the words Luke’s Jesus says: your faith has made you whole.
Not my faith has made you whole!
Or God has made you whole!
The healing emanated from within.

All the other nine (read: Judeans) wanted, was to be made well.
      To go back home and start all over again,
      doing what everybody else was doing.

To lead a normal life...
driving to work on Mondays,
doing the shopping on Thursdays,
attending synagogue on Friday night if nothing more interesting was on,
dining on the occasional kosher Big Mac,
meeting someone and maybe starting a family of nice, normal, ordinary kids?

And who would blame them?

But one, a Samaritan (read: unclean? heretic? muslim?)
rather than a Judean (read: clean? holy? christian?) comes back.

And Luke’s Jesus gently lifts the man to his feet and affirms him.
It’s all right. Remember this moment of faithing.

No brokers were needed.
Not even for those whom others considered
outside the paddock of God’s love and acceptance.

oo0oo

Luke’s Jesus had a lot of time for those who dared to risk being themselves...
      the prodigal son,
      the unjust steward, to name just two.

Likewise, many of those whom Luke’s Jesus singled out for special attention,
where those whom others considered
unacceptable,
unclean,
beyond consideration.

Yet they were the ones who risked themselves in more ways
than those who were the so-called ‘averagely good’.

The ‘averagely good’ are safe, because they don’t take too many risks.
They always keep the right side of any rules.
      And they don’t step out of line in case that’s a bad thing to do.

The ‘averagely good’ people mostly remain just that.
‘Averagely good’ for the rest of their lives.

But those who follow their heart and continue to work at being themselves,
know that sometimes risks must be taken.

Their faithing is making them whole.

And remembering another Lukan story - the so-called Good Samaritan,
where the question was changed from
‘who is my neighbour?’  to  ‘whom will I allow to be my neighbour?’... (Robert Funk)

Maybe the question from this story is not
‘where are the other nine?’  but  ‘where is the tenth?’...
Where is the one who follows the heart instead of the instructions?  (Barbara Brown Taylor)

oo0oo

Returning to the theme of last week’s story by Luke,
faith is not about how to live a ‘normal’ or ‘averagely good’ life.
Nor is it slavishly doing as Jesus says, down to the last biblical letter.

But it is to go on the journey that Jesus chartered.
And to have faith with Jesus in the re-imagined world of the story/parable.
To transcend the boundaries we erect around ourselves,
and to realise how much we, and all on this fragile earth,
      are accepted,
      are affirmed.

In the political climate of Jesus’ time, as in our own,
that is definitely something for the books!

rexae74@gmail.com