Pastor Hopkins preached this sermon on the fourteenth Sunday after Trinity 9/13/2020. The service was broadcast live on Facebook at 11am, and is now available on the FLC youtube channel. To follow along from home, the bulletin is available as a PDF: Trinity14 Bulletin
The text for the sermon was the day’s gospel lesson. To read the Bible texts for the fourteenth Sunday after Trinity, click here.
You might know what it’s like to be really sick. It can do the very worst things to us. It’s not just the physical pain, but also, the mental anguish, which makes you ask – Why me? – and the spiritual isolation, which lets you think– Nobody knows what I’m going through. Creating distance between us and others – and us and God – as life, for a time, loses its luster.
Being really sick reminds us that we are fragile, and limited, and vulnerable – and so very much alone. So, when we are sick, all we want to do is get back to normal. That’s how it is for the ten lepers this morning.
Here are ten men who have lost everything. Because they are sick, and contagious, they’ve been pushed out of their families, and their hometowns, and their religion.
It’s not stretching too far to say that these ten men are dead to the world around them – and even feel dead to themselves.
As they walk along the border of Samaria and Galilee this morning, they bump into another social and religious outcast, another homeless man on the borders of life, another dying man named – Jesus of Nazareth.
As Messiah, he has set his face toward Jerusalem, and he is going up to die. In a very real sense, Jesus is one of them.
But in another sense, he’s not – and we can hear it in their cries. “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.”
If he were just Jesus the Man, they’d settle for scraps, enough to sustain them for another day, and put off death for a bit longer. But since he is Jesus the Master, they hope he offers more. They even suspect he’s the sort of Master who can get them back to normal.
And for nine of them, he does. “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” The priests are the ones who can give them their old lives back, and let them go home again. And as they go, Jesus is good to his Word, and those nine lepers are cleansed and healed.
And from this story, we have every sense, that they just kept going, all the way to the temple – and, that as they went, their pain and anguish and isolation melted away, and later that night, or maybe next week, they got their wish, and they went home to families and friends and synagogue – they went back – to normal.
And – what a shame that was – because our Lord had come to them – and comes to you – offering so much more than normal.
We see what’s possible in leper number ten. For him, the cure never made much sense.
Yes, he too got his skin back, but even if he made it to the temple door, they’d never let him in – he was a Samaritan, so even with clean skin, he was still considered an outcast – unfit, and unholy – and far from the glory of God.
What number ten needs is another sort of Temple, a place to worship where he’d be welcomed and forgiven and be fully alive.
This is exactly what he’s given in the flesh and blood of Jesus the Christ. For number ten, this isn’t just a healing, it’s a resurrection from the dead. verse 19
Yes, like the others, his skin begins to glow as he walks away. But he’s the only one who sees that Jesus doesn’t ever stop at normal. Normal life just prolongs our dying. When it finally goes on long enough, normal life will kill us. So he turns and returns to Jesus – and, as you surely know – to turn and return is repentance – and then he falls down on his face, at Jesus’ feet, giving thanks for his new life – and he glorifies God – the way the saints and angels do in heaven, when they stand in God’s presence and see his glory – and here, Isaiah’s prophecy – that all flesh – everybody, everywhere – will see the glory of the Lord together (Isaiah 40:6) – is fulfilled when this sick, broken, Samaritan sees Jesus, his new Temple, the location where God’s glory can be seen by everyone – and by us too.
When we are troubled or sick, the danger, and the sin, is that we, like the nine, will trap Jesus inside our own limited expectations, and settle for nothing more than normal.
But our joy is in being leper number ten, seeing the glory of God if the flesh and blood of Jesus, whether it touches us with words of Scripture or Absolution or Baptism or the Holy Supper.
In Word and Sacrament, we see what Moses saw in the burning bush, what Israel saw in the pillar of cloud by day and the fire by night, what Isaiah saw when he was lifted up to heaven, what the shepherds saw in the manger, and what Peter and James and John saw at the Transfiguration – a glimpse of our Lord’s heavenly glory, come now to heal us as well.
From start to finish, the Liturgy is – turn and return – for us, the joy of those restored, the faith of those resurrected, so we too can sing with saints and angels, Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, with thanks for the new Temple, the Savior Jesus Christ, and his divine gift of life, given and received here today.