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Ordinary 28

Order of Service

Weekly Bible Study Notes and Worship Resources for Ordinary 28

Year C, Colour = Green

Lepers and Jesus Aureus

Introduction

The story is told of how Jesus healed ten men with skin conditions. At the time of Jesus, lepers were thought to have the disease as a punishment from God, so it was particularly significant that Jesus showed that God wanted to make people well not ill! Jesus refused to walk by on the other side when he was faced with people in need, he went to them and showed his compassion.

All ten were healed, but significantly only one of them, a Samaritan, went and said thank you to Jesus. The response of Jesus to the man was to tell him that his faith had saved him. Ten were healed, but for nine of them the healing was only skin deep. The message is clear, we can be physically well, but it is even more important that we are spiritually well.

Why did the nine men with leprosy not say thank you? It might be that they were just so pleased of being rid of a loathsome disease that they forgot the one who had healed them. There might have been lots of excuses, but nevertheless Jesus does notice ! From an early age we teach children to say thank you, it is not something which comes naturally, we have to learn. Each one of us has to mature sufficiently to realise that we are not the centre of the universe, we also have to understand that just because we have lots to do, there is no excuse for being so pre-occupied that we take life for granted and loose our sense of thankfulness. 

Opening Verse of Scripture Ephesians Chapter 5:19-20

Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Collect Prayer for the Day — Before we read we pray

O God, forasmuch as without you we are not able to please you; mercifully grant that your Holy Spirit may in all things direct and rule our hearts, through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen. Common Worship

Faithful Lord, whose steadfast love never ceases and whose mercies never come to an end: grant us the grace to trust you and to receive the gifts of your love, new every morning, in Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen   Common Worship Shorter Collect

Lord, in your goodness, open our eyes to your light, and so fill our hearts with your glory that we may acknowledge Jesus as Saviour, and hold fast to his word in sincerity and truth. We make our prayer through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen   Methodist Worship

God of all power and might, the author and giver of all good things, graft in our hearts the love of your name, increase in us true religion, nourish in us all goodness and off your great mercy keep us in the same; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.   Methodist Worship
 

First Bible Reading  Jeremiah 29:1, 4-7

29:1 This is the text of the letter that the prophet Jeremiah sent from Jerusalem to the surviving elders among the exiles and to the priests, the prophets and all the other people Nebuchadnezzar had carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon.

4-7 This is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: "Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper."

(Alternative Reading) 2 Kings 5: 1-3 and 7-15c

Now Naaman was commander of the army of the king of Aram. He was a great man in the sight of his master and highly regarded, because through him the LORD had given victory to Aram. He was a valiant soldier, but he had leprosy. Now bands from Aram had gone out and had taken captive a young girl from Israel, and she served Naaman's wife. She said to her mistress, "If only my master would see the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.

As soon as the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his robes and said, "Am I God? Can I kill and bring back to life? Why does this fellow send someone to me to be cured of his leprosy? See how he is trying to pick a quarrel with me!" When Elisha the man of God heard that the king of Israel had torn his robes, he sent him this message: "Why have you torn your robes? Have the man come to me and he will know that there is a prophet in Israel." So Naaman went with his horses and chariots and stopped at the door of Elisha's house. Elisha sent a messenger to say to him, "Go, wash yourself seven times in the Jordan, and your flesh will be restored and you will be cleansed."  But Naaman went away angry and said, "I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of the LORD his God, wave his hand over the spot and cure me of my leprosy.  Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than any of the waters of Israel? Couldn't I wash in them and be cleansed?" So he turned and went off in a rage.  Naaman's servants went to him and said, "My father, if the prophet had told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more, then, when he tells you, 'Wash and be cleansed'!"  So he went down and dipped himself in the Jordan seven times, as the man of God had told him, and his flesh was restored and became clean like that of a young boy. Then Naaman and all his attendants went back to the man of God. He stood before him and said, "Now I know that there is no God in all the world except in Israel. Please accept now a gift from your servant."

Second Reading 2 Timothy 2: 8-15

Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David. This is my gospel, for which I am suffering even to the point of being chained like a criminal. But God's word is not chained. Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory. Here is a trustworthy saying: If we died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him. If we disown him, he will also disown us; we are faithless he will remain faithful, for he cannot disown himself. Keep reminding them of these things. Warn them before God against quarrelling about words; it is of no value, and only ruins those who listen. Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.

Gospel Reading  Luke 17: 11-19

Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus travelled 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? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?" Then he said to him, "Rise and go; your faith has made you well."

Lepers and Jesus

Post Communion Prayer

Lord, we pray that your grace may always precede and follow us, and make us continually to be given to all good works; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Commentary

There are some important words which stand out in our reading from Luke this week. There is the poignant geography, Jesus is going to Jerusalem, he lives with the continuing purpose to die. Then there is Galilee and Samaria, the people in Jerusalem looked down on both, Galilee was socially inferior and Samaria was spiritually the same. Then there were ten men with leprosy, not ten lepers, Luke is careful to define them by the humanity not their disease.

They call to Jesus from a distance, they had to because they were unclean, they were unwelcome within the community, and they ask for pity. Everybody knew that Jesus was somebody who went out of his way to meet with people like them. If he was going to Jerusalem then this journey itself was a detour, time spent among the despised and those best ignored. Jesus responds quickly and without regard to their creed or status. As they go the ten are cleansed, but there is a complete difference in their response to the miracle. Nine do as Jesus tells them and go to the priest, but one is overwhelmed by the healing in his body. He needs no priest to tell him that something remarkable has taken place in his life. Why rush off for confirmation from the priest who has condemned him to live this life of exclusion in the first place? He now returns full of praise, not to Jesus, but rather for God who had been the source of this incredible grace. Having stood at a distance from Jesus he now throws himself down at the feet of the one who had been the channel of this great gift.

The response of Jesus is to question why nine had not returned, was their gratitude so little that they had gone back to the place from which they had been treated so badly? Were they now to resume their previous jobs and be unchanged by the dramatic work of God which had taken place in them? The one who had returned was a Samaritan, a word which now we might associate with a good example of holy living, but this was a people who were then despised. There is an obvious caution to the reader, do not be quick to prejudice. We easily fall into the trap of liking people like us and rejecting those who are different, you know the excuses we use, nationality, race, skin colour, gender, sexual orientation, economic status, educational status or language, the list goes on. Jesus then makes a statement which might be lost in the translation


‘Were not ten cleansed, …….Your faith has made you well’

The curious thing about this healing is that whilst all were healed of their obvious ailment, only one appears to properly receive God's gift of true healing. The Samaritan is cleansed of the obvious skin problems, but that is not of primary importance, the most important thing is to be healed inside and this Jesus does. He tells the man who has fallen at his feet, ‘your faith has made you well.'

The word which Jesus uses, means more than just being physically well, it speaks of wholeness and restoration of body and soul. Real healing is far more than can be achieved by the surgeons knife or a good bottle of antibiotics. Real healing takes place inside us, it is not skin deep. We all need this healing because the worst ailments are not those on the surface of our bodies, instead they lie deep inside our souls and sometimes become so much a part of us that only the power of God can expose our need of healing to us. Charles Royden

Meditation

The following is a quotation from Pelagius, a british monk from the fourth century who lost out in an argument with Augustine and ended up being made a heretic. Sadly his ideas were not all that bad and it has been said that the British are all Pelagians at heart. This reading speaks profoundly about the subject of the sermon, attitude towards possessions.

If you were besotted with the things of this world, would want to surpass all others in the luxury of your house, in the magnificence of your garments and jewellery, in the abundance of food on your table, in the splendour of the carriage which took you from one place to another. You would never be satisfied with what you possessed, but would always want more. And you would constantly be comparing yourself with others, looking with envy at those even richer than you. Your wealth would be like a spiritual prison; and your limitless desires would be the chains that bound you.  Thus in giving up all these things, you have smashed the chains and broken free. You have little; yet you are satisfied with what you have. You are poorer than most; yet you feel no envy towards the riches of others. To you a simple tunic is like a royal robe; a tiny hut is like a palace; a bowl of porridge is like a feast; a pair of sandals is like a golden carriage

God has created all things for our enjoyment; and therefore physical pleasure is good. Yet the person who seeks perfection acquires more and more pleasure from less and less. The perfect person derives the greatest pleasure from the simplest food. The perfect person rejoices in a tiny hut with a few sticks of furniture. The perfect person sees beauty in every human being, so has no need to possess the beauty of a spouse. Contrary to what some religious leaders teach, perfection is not the denial of pleasure, but the enhancement of it.

To Demetrias

A Poem to Pelagius

Branded heresiarch, for love of man
I let my thoughts begin where they began
Unlike my large opponent Augustine
Who sees in grace what I have never seen
We'll meet of course, the common fate of clay
From which my life will lift me up I pray.
Until such time I find it odd
Twice cut off from man for love of God.
 

Hymns

  1. What shall our greeting be 806 Tune: Moscow
  2. Come let us sing of a wonderful love
  3. All people that on earth do dwell
  4. Make me a channel of your peace
  5. All for Jesus 251 (Tune: All for Jesus)
  6. Fill thou my life 792 (Tune Richmond)
  7. From all that dwell below the skies.489 St Francis (Tune: Lasst Uns Erfruen)
  8. Father, who on man dost shower 341 (Tune: Quem Pastores)

Prayers for Sunday and the week ahead

representation of prayer as seed growing

"Prayer is a plant, the seed of which is sown in the heart of every Christian.
If it is well cultivated and nourished it will produce fruit, but if it is neglected, it will wither and die."

Dear Lord,
Our world knows fear, pain and distress, we easily wound and break, but we pray for the actions of those who seek to bring healing and peace.
Our world is divided into people who belong to different groups, behave in certain ways and believe particular things,
but we pray for those who refuse to be bound by these divisions and who seek to bring respect between different communities and unity among all people created by you.
Our world is listening to voices of anger and violence, to those who seek to crush those who are of different, perhaps by faith or culture, creed or colour.
So we pray for courage, to live lives characterised by choosing to love without boundaries or conditions.
Give us grace to reach out like Jesus beyond our own tribe and touch others with his perfect love in his name.

O Holy Spirit, giver of light and life;
Impart to us thoughts
higher than our own thoughts
and prayers better than our own prayers
and powers better than our own powers,
that we may spend and be spent
in the ways of goodness and love,
after the perfect image
of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
Amen
Eric Milner - White 1884– 1963


O consuming fire, O Spirit of love, descend into the depth of my heart
and there transform me until I am fire of your fire,
love of your love, and Christ himself is formed in me. Amen
Elizabeth of Schonau, d.1184

O God of love, we pray thee to give us love:
Love in our thinking, love in our speaking,
Love in our doing, and love in the hidden places of our souls;
Love of our neighbours near and far;
Love of our friends, old and new;
Love of those with whom we find it hard to bear,
And love of those who find it hard to bear with us;
Love of those with whom we work,
And love of those with whom we take our ease;
Love in Joy, love in sorrow;
Love in life and love in death;
That so at length we may be worthy to dwell with thee,
Who art eternal love.
William Temple 1881-1944

Dear Jesus, help us to spread your fragrance everywhere we go.
Flood our souls with your spirit and life.
Penetrate and possess our whole being so utterly,
that our lives may only be a radiance of yours.
Shine through us and be so in us,
that every soul we come in contact with
may feel your presence in our soul.
Let them look up and see no longer us but Jesus!
Stay with us and then we will begin to shine as you shine;
So to share, as to be a light to others;
the light, O Jesus, will be all from you, none of it will be ours;
it will be you, shining on others, through us.
Let us preach without preaching,
not by words but by our example,
by the catching force, the sympathetic influence of what we do,
the evident fullness of the love our hearts bear to you.
Cardinal Henry Newman (1801 –90)
used daily by Mother Theresa’s missionaries of Charity

Additional Resources

Commentary

The Jewish Law, the Torah, regulated the treatment of leprosy. Numbers 5:2-3 commands Israelites "to put out of the camp everyone who is leprous." While that commandment also includes those with a discharge and those who are unclean by virtue of touching a corpse, these last two conditions are temporary while Leprosy (Hansen's disease) is likely to be permanent. Leviticus 13:45 requires a leper to shout "Unclean, unclean!" to warn uninfected people to keep their distance. Leviticus 13-14 governs the inspection of suspected lepers, their isolation, and the procedure for declaring the healed leper clean. It deals with infected clothing and houses as well as infected persons.

People regarded leprosy not just as a medical condition but also as God's judgment. That made them less compassionate, because they regarded leprosy as punishment for sin.

The lepers called out to Jesus, "Jesus, Master, have mercy on us." They did so from a distance in accord with Torah rules. If they had been addressing an ordinary traveller, their cry for mercy might have been a simple plea for alms. In this case, however, they know Jesus' name and address him as a person in authority. They have surely heard of Jesus' miracles, and their plea is a request for healing.

At this point they are united in their plea. Later, only the Samaritan returns to Jesus. We can imagine the other nine going their individual ways to resume their former lives. The end of the crisis brings to a close the community that they had as lepers.

"When he saw them" (v. 14). Jesus saw them. That is a small but significant detail. Jewish law and human nature conspire to make the leper invisible. We are inclined to ignore the leper, because to see his suffering is to suffer with him. We should draw comfort from the knowledge that the one who saw the lepers also sees our pain and perhaps sees the things which we prefer to close our eyes to and walk by on the other side.

Jesus does not heal the lepers immediately, but commands them to show themselves to the priests. This entails going to the temple in Jerusalem, about fifty miles distant, a journey of several days. Leviticus 13 requires the priest to examine skin lesions to determine whether they are leprous. If the lesion appears not to be leprous on first examination, Leviticus 13 requires a confirming examination after seven days. The ten lepers would visit the priest for the purpose of being declared clean so that they might regain normal lives. The ten lepers are healed on the way as they do what Jesus has commanded them.

One of them turned back praising God, He prostrated himself at Jesus' feet and thanked him. And he was a Samaritan. Just as Jesus saw the lepers, this man sees that he is healed and God deserves praise and Jesus deserves thanks. We admire this man for taking time to give thanks for his healing, but this is more than a thanksgiving story. It is an instance of being touched by the creative power of God who is bringing order out of chaos and wholeness out of all that is disgustingly defective and contaminated and deteriorated.

The one who returns to Jesus is a Samaritan. The model of faith turns out to be the ultimate outsider. Luke was himself a Gentile, a foreigner. He delights in recounting the stories of foreigners whom God has blessed, and he makes foreigners (even Samaritans) the heroes of his stories. "The story anticipates what is yet to come in Acts (also written by Luke), a growing blindness in Israel and a receptivity among Gentiles.

Your faith has made you well. Jesus is critical that only one gave thanks, nine walked away, and we are tempted to join him in his criticism. How could they have failed to give thanks? We should consider, however, how eager they must have been, after such long isolation, to rejoin their families and to resume normal life. Under the same circumstances, would we stop to give thanks? We should not answer that question before we consider whether we have stopped to thank God for our blessings.

Luke told us that all ten lepers were made clean, so something additional has happened to this Samaritan. The Greek that is translated "has made you well" (sesoken se, from the verb sozo), has to do with salvation. It can legitimately be translated, "has saved you." What we have, then, is a story of ten being healed and one being saved. Charles Royden

 

Commentary

Today Leprosy is a mildly contagious disease which is called Hansen's disease and can be readily treated with drugs. In Jesus' time Leprosy was a term for a whole range of skin diseases which were assumed to be contagious. If the person did not have leprosy but perhaps a really bad case of acne, then it would get better on its own. In that case the person could go to the priest and show them that they were better. We read, for instance, in Mark 14:3-9 of Simon the former leper who entertained Jesus.

To be considered as having Leprosy was terrible, not only did it mean that you had an obvious physical ailment, but you were also regarded as spiritually unclean. Such people were unworthy to be allowed to participate in prayers or make sacrifices in the temple. People in Palestine were afraid of lepers because they could infect healthy people with their physical disease, they also despised the lepers as people who must have committed terrible secret sins and were being punished by God-have you heard of that anywhere before?

Since skin diseases cannot be hidden from others from the community, those affected were shunned and forced to live apart. Other people were afraid they could catch their disease from them. Though leprosy is not fatal, it can affect the voice and vision, as well as the skin, nose, toes, and fingers, and the leper's physical condition continued to deteriorate during his or her lifetime. If you were considered 'unclean' you were isolated from friends and family and the rest of the community. It was a wretched existence in which you were cast out to fend for yourself.

The ten lepers keep their distance in accordance with the Law (Lev 13:45-46), but they did call out for help. Interestingly Jesus also kept his distance, responding not with touch as before, but with the instruction to go to the priests. The priest's role is to inspect the symptoms and if all is well declare the person fit to re-enter social life (Lev 14:2-4). Associated with the declaration was an offering.

How many times do we have to tell our children that they must say 'Thank you!'. However only one returns to do this, the Samaritan. This was worth pointing out because of course the Samaritans were foreigners, not liked by the Jews. Just as in the parable of the Good Samaritan Luke shows how our own racism can blind us to the good in others and lead us to group together people whom we dislike or are frightened of. This has surely been the case with the wholesale attack on Muslims since the terrorist attack in New York. Prejudice can easily blind us to the good in others. So the Samaritan came back to say 'Thank you,' he also came to give glory to God. He recognised that Jesus was God in action. This is the poignant nature of the story lepers were not respectable and Samaritans were despised by many, yet it is one of them who becomes our example. It is yet another disturbing story which challenges us to question ourselves about our attitudes to others and God.

The nine who were healed were content to go off and perhaps looked forward to becoming a part of normal life. having been so sick and having carried the stigma for so long there was much to look forward to and much to distract them from Jesus. The Samaritan is concerned firstly about one thing, he wants to thank Jesus, to thank God. The curious thing about this healing is that whilst all were healed of their obvious ailment, only one appears to properly receive God's gift of true healing. The Samaritan is cleansed of the obvious skin problems, but that is not of primary importance, the most important thing is to be healed inside and this Jesus does. He tells the man who has fallen at his feet to 'rise, you faith has made you well.' The word which Jesus uses, means more than just being physically well, it speaks of wholeness and restoration of body and soul. Real healing is far more than can be achieved by the surgeons knife or a good bottle of antibiotics. Real healing takes place inside us, it is not skin deep. We all need this healing because the worst ailments are not those on the surface of our bodies, instead they lie deep inside our souls and sometimes become so much a part of us that only the power of God can expose our need of healing to us.  Charles Royden

Meditation

Leonardo Fibonacci 1175-1250, was one of the first to introduce into Europe the Arabic-Hindu system of numbers that we now use and take for granted: 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 including the all-important concept of zero! 

Prior to his time, Roman numerals were still in use. Fibonacci solved a puzzle about the numbers of breeding rabbits that might be produced. Mathematically he worked out that the numbers of pairs of rabbits, month by month, would be: 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55. 

What do we notice about these figures? Each is the sum of the previous two numbers. The numbers 5, 8, and 13 occur in music: an octave (for example 'C' to 'C') covers 8 white notes and 5 black (13 in all) on the piano. 

This 'Fibonacci Series' of numbers occurs throughout nature. We could look at plants with individual leaves coming out from a single stem. If we count the number of leaves from one leaf to the next that is directly above it, that will be a Fibonacci Number. It is the same with pine cones and a leafed cactus. We can look at plants like the sunflower or the daisy. Counting the clockwise and then the anti-clockwise spirals of seeds or tiny flowers on the head of the plant, they will be consecutive Fibonacci Numbers. 

Dividing a Fibonacci Number by the previous Fibonacci Number gives a result close to 1.618 . The higher up we go in the Fibonacci Series, the more precise the result becomes. That number (a recurring decimal) is given the Greek letter "phi": j = 1.618034. 

Experiments have shown that buildings whose walls are in proportions that are 1 to 1.618 look "just right" -aesthetically they are the most pleasing to the eye. The Greeks knew this, and so much Greek art and architecture (such as the Parthenon in Athens) is based on these proportions which are called the "Golden Ratio" or "Golden Mean". 

Artists down the ages have often used the same proportions which they know are naturally appealing to the observer. Leonardo da Vinci's drawing ("Vitruvian Man") of a man with outstretched arms and legs within both a circle and a square, demonstrates the same proportions of (phi) in the measurements from head to waist, from waist to feet, and from head to feet. 

The "Divine Proportion" and the "Golden Section" are other names for the "Golden Mean". In Van Gogh's painting, "Mother and Child", Mary's face fits perfectly into a "Golden Rectangle". Use of the same proportions is seen in the work of more recent artists, e.g. with the Impressionist Georges Seuret. The innovative 20th Century architect, Le Corbusier, designed the rooms of multi-storey villas in the proportions of the 'Golden Rectangle'. 

Within a "Golden Ratio Rectangle", we could make a square that is based on one of the shorter sides. The remaining rectangle is then of exactly the same proportions as the original. That, too, can be divided into a square and rectangle, and that can be repeated, on and on. If diagonally opposite points in the squares are joined up to form a spiral, we get precisely the same spiral as a snail's shell, a nautilus sea-shell, the flower of a rose, and a breaking wave on the sea-shore. The same proportions are seen in the great spiral galaxies of stars in space.

Lord God, may all that we see and discover lead us to grow in wonder and appreciation.  Amen.

Prayers for Sunday and the week ahead

Lord, you know all that lies before us, both of duty and temptation. Keep us, we pray, from all things hurtful to the body and the soul. Strengthen within us all that is praiseworthy and true, and grant that nothing may come between us and your holy presence; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen John Hunter, 1849-1917

Living Lord, humanity and creation, when touched by you, come alive in exciting and often unexpected ways. In those moments when we are conscious of human frailty or limitation, the struggle to make sense of life, being uncertain where next to turn, may we be alert to you and allow your thoughts to stir our spirit, your mind to encompass our thinking, and your will to engage our will. Ward Jones, Chair, Bristol District

Holy Spirit of God, let us not seek you in the distant land, for you are here among us. Let us welcome you in the heart which is your dwelling place and let us rejoice in the glory of your presence, the only fountain of goodness and love. Amen. Amy Carmichael, 1868-1951

Hymns

1. All Hail the power of Jesu’s name! 252
2. God’s spirit is in my heart.315
3. From all that dwell below the skies.489
4. Give to me, Lord, a thankful heart 548
5. Father, who on man dost shower 341