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BETHLEHEM LUTHERAN CHURCH: | Mason City, Iowa USA | Pastor Mark Lavrenz


Sunday Sermon - Pastor Lavrenz Stained Glass - Communion

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our heavenly father, and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, AMEN

The text for our meditation this morning is the Gospel Lesson for this 21st Sunday after Pentecost, Luke 17:11-19. There we read these words:

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. 17 Then Jesus answered, "Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? 18 Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?" 19 And he said to him, "Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well."

We begin in Jesus’ name, AMEN

I mean, like, what would you do if you were in my place? How many times have you come to services like this and heard about me and what happened that day?

For some of you, it may have been ten or fifteen times. But, I really do not think that you fully understand my situation and condition -nor, I suppose, will you ever be completely able. In telling you this, I am not looking for sympathy. I simply want you to understand and not render judgment until you hear me out.

I know rejection and it hurts. Horrified eyes have turned away from me. Being despised is painful, especially when others create a space of no man's land around you, doing so with their feet as they run away, doing so with their voices when they cry out, "Unclean!

Stay away! Get away from us! Unclean!" I was constantly alone with my thoughts and the constant companionship of leprosy.

Oh I know, you might point out that I was not really alone because there were nine other lepers with me. Indeed, there were nine mirrors for me to look into and see myself. The truth is that they were outcasts because of their disease, they were Jews, God's chosen people. I was the lone Samaritan; one, unclean, outcast man from a rejected people some call half-breed.

The ten of us traveled together, avoiding others and being avoided by them. I was only with these nine Jews because of the leprosy. Perhaps I said this backwards. The nine were with me only because of our common disease. If somehow, all of us were healed of this dreadful disease, they would leave. Jews don’t normally deal with Samaritans.

Stained Glass Baptism Window

As we traveled around we heard bits and pieces of news; catching a part of a conversation here, eavesdropping on a discussion there, hearing a heated argument on politics or religion. Usually the news was only suitable for gossip.

But a time came when the news and discussions and arguments were about someone named Jesus. Some called Him the Messiah. Others called Him a demon. Some confessed Him as the Lord God Almighty, others accused Him of blasphemy. Some called Him Master, loved Him, and became His disciples; others hated Him and followed Him in order to trap Him.

All very interesting. But I must tell you what was of great interest, especially to lepers. This Jesus healed people. He opened the eyes of the blind. He restored the hearing to those who were deaf and enabled the dumb to speak. People who were sick for years were miraculously restored to health. Such news was like a dream for us. But where was this Jesus?

Then one day, a day I will never forget, Jesus came to where we were. There He was way over there. Here we were -way over here. What could we do? We could not go to Him. I mean, like, What would you do?

We did what we were required to do when getting close to someone who is not a leper. We cried out. But instead of yelling, "Unclean!", we lifted up our voices together as one and cried out to Him, "Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!" Then we were silent as many others were when they looked in our direction. Jesus, too, stopped. For an eternal instant, He was silent. Then, when He saw us, He said to us, "Go, show yourselves to the priests."

But that was it. All each one of us had was a single command from Jesus, "Go, show yourselves to the priests." What He said was important. It meant that we were healed and that we were supposed to show ourselves to the priests who would look at us to determine that the leprosy was gone, and to declare us clean once again.

If declared clean, we could go into the village and speak with people face to face, we could kiss a cousin, pick up a pomegranate, order a bagel, ride a camel, shake hands with the inn keeper, and extend a hand to an eight year old boy and say, "Gimme five!"

That's what the words of Jesus meant, but we the ten looked into the nine mirrors and saw that nothing had changed. At that point, we only had Jesus' Word. Should we go to the priests or stay? I mean, like, What would you do?

So we went, nine Hebrew men and one Samaritan hoping against hope. And as we went, suddenly it happened. We were cleansed, cured, and restored. The loathsome leprosy was gone. Tears of joy and gladness surfaced as we laughed and cried at the same time.

Dear friends, mere human words are incapable of expressing the relief, freedom, wonder, and awe welling-up from within as ten men looked into nine mirrors and saw skin as clean, soft, and fresh as that of a baby's bottom.

Stained Glass Confirmation Window

Now each one of us could get on with a new life. We were clean in the eyes of the people around us. No longer were we medical outcasts in a society where such people were ordered to stay away. Opportunities were now ours that once were only dreamt of.

A former-leper has so many avenues to take and a multitude of interests to pursue. I mean, like, What would you do?

There we stood with the rest of our lives before us. There we stood with the priest ahead of us in the temple waiting for us, and with Jesus on the road just traveled waiting for us -the Law in one direction and the Gospel of God in the other. To whom should we go? I mean, like, What would you do? You know, each person must decide what to do with Jesus, and that is what each one of us did. I do not render judgment on the others. I only know what I had to do at that point.

I ran back and fell down before Him, for here was my Lord and Savior, my Master and Teacher, my Physician and Healer. Here was my God and all I wanted to do was to worship Him, and in response to all that He had done for me, I wanted to thank Him -praise Him, bless Him, serve, love, fear, and trust Him."

You know what else? That day I also learned what Jesus meant when He said to the multitudes, Whoever has, to him more will be given, and he will have abundance. For I who had received a new life from the Lord, received even more.

Listen to what He said to me, "Arise, go your way. Your faith has made you well." Already healed physically, He told me that I was now clean spiritually.

Here was the King of kings and the Lord of lords. He left His heavenly, eternal royal throne far above and beyond the entire expanse of the universe, and He came into this disease-laced, leper colony called earth. He came to this world of thorns and thistles, a land of disease and death in order that you and I might be cleansed and healed, have life and have it abundantly.

Dear friends, behold your God! Look at Jesus, this One Who has taken all your transgressions upon Himself! Behold your King! Each one of you are clean in the eyes of God. No longer are you outcasts from the Lord's presence, ordered to stay away eternally. Opportunities are now yours that once you could not even dream of.

So now I ask you, from, if you will, one cleansed leper to another, What would you do? Or better still, I mean, like, What are you going to do?

... And so Jesus looks out across this land and says, "Were there not any found who returned to give glory to God except these foreigners?" And He said to them, "Arise, go your way. Your faith has made you well."

Christ is Risen.

Luther Rose


Christ Is Risen
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