What (or whom) do we love most? Like most Sunday school children, we know what the answer should be: Jesus! But we are often far more wrapped up in ourselves than anything else. Like children who have to be reminded to say “thank you” or like 9 out of the 10 lepers healed by Jesus, we love the gifts and forget the Giver. But the more we try to guard our heart and follow Jesus, the more we find the truth in these words:
The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time. Genesis 6:5
If we treat guarding our heart like another law we have to follow, we’ll be fighting secret resentment, or taking pride in our own sacrifices, or finding some other way to mess it up. That’s why Jesus matters – the law works to make us realize we need someone else to help us – it’s the Hammer of God, not a self-help guide. That’s why the epistle this week talks about the leading of the Holy Spirit, and the emphasis of the gospel is not Jesus healing the ten lepers, but on the faith of the leper who returns to thank the Giver of all good gifts.
The Old Testament lesson is from the book of Proverbs, chapter 4, verses 10-23:
Listen, my son, accept what I say,
and the years of your life will be many.
I instruct you in the way of wisdom
and lead you along straight paths.
When you walk, your steps will not be hampered;
when you run, you will not stumble.
Hold on to instruction, do not let it go;
guard it well, for it is your life.
Do not set foot on the path of the wicked
or walk in the way of evildoers.
Avoid it, do not travel on it;
turn from it and go on your way.
For they cannot rest until they do evil;
they are robbed of sleep till they make someone stumble.
They eat the bread of wickedness
and drink the wine of violence.
The path of the righteous is like the morning sun,
shining ever brighter till the full light of day.
But the way of the wicked is like deep darkness;
they do not know what makes them stumble.
My son, pay attention to what I say;
turn your ear to my words.
Do not let them out of your sight,
keep them within your heart;
for they are life to those who find them
and health to one’s whole body.
Above all else, guard your heart,
for everything you do flows from it.
The Epistle lesson is from Galatians, chapter 5, verses 16-24:
So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.
The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
The Gospel for the fourteenth Sunday after Trinity is from Luke, chapter 17, verses 11-19:
Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance and called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!”
When he saw them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed.
One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan.
Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?” Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.”
Jesus Heals Ten Lepers, by James Tissot [Public domain]