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 with all vigilance 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 reminds us to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit, and the emphasis of the gospel is not on 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:
Hear, my son, and accept my words,
that the years of your life may be many.
I have taught you the way of wisdom;
I have led you in the paths of uprightness.
When you walk, your step will not be hampered,
and if you run, you will not stumble.
Keep hold of instruction; do not let go;
guard her, for she is your life.
Do not enter the path of the wicked,
and do not walk in the way of the evil.
Avoid it; do not go on it;
turn away from it and pass on.
For they cannot sleep unless they have done wrong;
they are robbed of sleep unless they have made someone stumble.
For they eat the bread of wickedness
and drink the wine of violence.
But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn,
which shines brighter and brighter until full day.
The way of the wicked is like deep darkness;
they do not know over what they stumble.
My son, be attentive to my words;
incline your ear to my sayings.
Let them not escape from your sight;
keep them within your heart.
For they are life to those who find them,
and healing to all their flesh.
Keep your heart with all vigilance,
for from it flow the springs of life.
The Epistle lesson is from Galatians, chapter 5, verses 16-24:
But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And 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:
On the way to Jerusalem he was passing along between Samaria and Galilee. And as he entered a village, he was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance and lifted up their voices, 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 cleansed. Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus answered, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” And he said to him, “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.”
Jesus Heals Ten Lepers, by James Tissot [Public domain]