|Epiphany||January 6, 2017||Epiphany 2017||Ephesians 3:1-12, Matthew 2:1-12|
|Christmas Day, Year A||December 25, 2016||Christmas Day, 2016||Isaiah 52:7-10, Hebrews 1:1-4, Psalm 98, John 1:1-14|
|The Eve of the Nativity||December 24, 2016||Christmas Eve||Isaiah 9:2-7, Luke 2: 1-20|
|Third Sunday in Advent, Year A||December 11, 2016||Third Sunday of Advent, Year A||Psalm 146:4-9, Matthew 11:2-11|
|Second Sunday in Advent, Year A||December 4, 2016||Second Sunday of Advent, Year A||Matthew 3:1-12|
|First Sunday in Advent, Year A||November 27, 2016||First Sunday of Advent, Year A||Isaiah 2:1-5, Ps 122, Romans 13:11-14, Matthew 24:36-44|
|Christ the King Sunday, Year C||November 20, 2016||Christ the King Sunday, Year C||Jeremiah 23:1-6. Ps 46, Colossians 1:11-20, Luke 23:33-43|
|Twenty Sixth Sunday after Pentecost, Year C||November 13, 2016||Proper 28, Year C||Malachi 4:1-2a, Ps 98, 2 Thessalonians 3:6-13, Luke 21:5-19|
|Charles Sydnor’s sermon, Nov. 6, 2016, All Saints||November 6, 2016||All Saints, Year C||Luke: 6: 20-31|
|Twenty Fourth Sunday after Pentecost, Year C||October 30, 2016||Proper 26, Year C||Isaiah 1:10-18, Psalm 32, Luke 19:1-10|
|Twenty Third Sunday after Pentecost, Year C||October 23, 2016||Proper 25, Year C||II Timothy 4:6-8, 16-18; Luke 18:9-14|
|Twenty Second Sunday after Pentecost, Year C||October 16, 2016||Proper 24, Year C||Luke 18:1-8, Genesis 32: 22-31|
|➤Twenty First Sunday after Pentecost, Year C||October 9, 2016||Proper 23, Year C||2 Kings 5:1-3, 7-15c; Luke 17:11-19|
|Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost, Year C||October 2, 2016||Proper 22, Year C||II Timothy 1:1-14|
|Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost, Year C||September 25, 2016||Proper 21, Year C||Luke 16:19-31|
Twenty First Sunday after Pentecost, Year C
Sermon Date:October 9, 2016
Scripture: 2 Kings 5:1-3, 7-15c; Luke 17:11-19
Liturgy Calendar: Proper 23, Year C
Jesus Heals the Ten Lepers" (17th century, unknown)
The lepers had to be frustrated.
They were truly stuck—struck with a disease that turned them into outcasts and isolated them. Because people believed that the lepers had a contagious disease, they had to stay a certain distance away from anyone who might pass by their miserable huddle.
Namaan, back in today’s Old Testament reading, was frustrated too.
In spite of the fact that he was someone that the world considered important, a commander in the army and a mighty warrior, he had leprosy.
Stuck and helpless, with no way out–
Stuck with something that all the money and power and fame in the world couldn’t fix.
When we get stuck in our own lives and we can’t seem to get past whatever it is that has us stuck, that’s when we usually remember to pray.
“Dear Lord, deliver me.”
Please deliver me from this illness. Please get me out of this financial mess I’m in. Please solve my problems for me, whatever they are.
Please take away whatever is keeping me isolated and unable to live a fulfilling life.
“Deliver me, Lord. Deliver me.”
And so God, being merciful, has mercy.
When Namaan finally lowers himself into the muddy waters of the Jordan River, God washes him clean.
As the lepers go to show themselves to the priests, they find that they’ve been healed.
And God has mercy on us when we pray for deliverance.
Sooner or later, often still in the midst of whatever we are stuck in, we can feel a glimmer of hope, a hint of healing, a new beginning.
And that’s a really wonderful feeling!
Some people in here around my age may remember that popular song, Number One of the Billboard Hot 100 Chart in 1972, the year I graduated from high school.
I can see clearly now, the rain is gone,
I can see all obstacles in my way
Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind
It’s gonna be a bright (bright), bright (bright)
I think I can make it now, the pain is gone
All of the bad feelings have disappeared
Here is the rainbow I’ve been praying’ for
It’s gonna be a bright (bright), bright (bright)
Johnny Nash’s lyrics capture that euphoric feeling of deliverance, that feeling that makes you want to jump up and down, run around in circles screaming with delight, and then take off into a whole new world you’d never thought you’d get to—when you find out that the doctor made a mistake and you really don’t have terminal cancer, or that the treatments worked, and you’re cancer free, or you just graduated and never have to write another paper, or you just got that promotion, or someone sent you a check for a million dollars and you can pay all your bills, or you realize that God’s grace has finally allowed you to let go of some grievance and to forgive someone—and you’re free to love and trust again.
All of a sudden, the sun is shining, the smell of the dew on the grass is sweet, the birds are singing, and life is not just good, it’s great. The possibilities are back!
The road ahead is clear.
Imagine yourself here.
I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to step on the gas and head right out.
And it’s so easy to leave God behind, God who blessed me with deliverance, and set me on the path, left in the dust behind me—I’ve got things to do, places to go!
Gotta go, God! Bye!
In that moment of joy and deliverance, I could stop, maybe even to turn back, praise God, and say thank you.
Since we don’t get to know the end of the story, I often wonder whether or not the one leper who came back to say thank you led a more joyful, fulfilled life than the nine who went charging ahead and forgot to come back.
There’s no way of telling.
But what we do know is that when the one leper came back, running down the road, screaming out his praises to God, and threw himself at the feet of Jesus in thanksgiving, Jesus must have rejoiced over this man’s gratitude.
And that’s when Jesus said to the leper,
“Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well.”
The Greek word that Luke uses that is translated as “get up” is “anastas”—a form of the verb “anistimai,” the Greek word that not only means to stand up physically, but also, to be raised from the very dead.
Over and over in our lives, we will find ourselves stuck. And we will pray for deliverance. And God is merciful and will answer our prayers—not necessarily in the way we expect.
So why have gratitude?
Gratitude is like a window in a windowless prison cell that holds us captive. Sometimes the window is invisible. And yet, even the tiniest trust and faith in God opens our eyes to see the window. Even the tiniest bit of faith will give us the courage to stand up and walk over to that window, and give our arms the strength to thrust it open.
And once that window of gratitude opens, our hearts open in praise to God, and God sets us free see with our own eyes the resurrection life that is already ours, even when all seems lost.
The way becomes clear—and the starting place is gratitude.
Last Thursday night, Marilyn and Mary Ann and I went to Peumansend Creek Regional Jail for Bible study.
Three prisoners came in—a small group, but because there were only six of us, we were able to share richly and deeply with one another.
Rodney C. Johnson, one of the prisoners, shared this prayer with us.
He said he wrote it as a prayer of guidance that he prays every day.
Here’s the opening line.
“Thank you, Lord, for all you’ve done, in blessing me with your everlasting Son.”
That’s gratitude. Through that open window of gratitude, he can see that resurrection life. He can see what he needs to ask from God so that he doesn’t get stuck again.
“Take my soul and make it well.
Keep me from the fires of hell.
Lead me on again and again
Watch over me in this world of sin.”
I love that part. He recognizes his dependence on God, and wants God to travel with him and watch over him.
Now he prays for that physical healing that will keep him moving further and further into the resurrection life.
“Help my mind and body stay in place
Deliver me to your wisdom and grace.
Let not my eyes sin in lust.
Let not my hands sin with touch.
Let not my mouth speak with sin.
Let not my heart take sin in.”
And then, still acknowledging his dependence on God, Rodney Johnson prays
“Lord, give me the power to change who I am,
To become a good and righteous man.”
And the final petition—
“Let me have peace on earth and everlasting life with thee.”
In Jesus name I pray. Amen.”
People, that is the prayer of a faithful man, a man full of gratitude, a man who even though he is in jail, is already free, already living the resurrection life.
His faith puts mine to shame.
That’s why I asked him to write this prayer, in his handwriting, in the front of my Bible.
So that when I’m frustrated and feeling stuck, I can open my Bible and read his prayer—a gospel story for today– and throw open my own window of gratitude.
“Thank you, Lord, for all you’ve done in blessing me with your everlasting Son.”
“Lead me on, again and again.”
Resource: Johnson, Rodney C. “A Sinner’s Prayer,” used by permission.