Sunday Sermon - Outsiders and Thankfulness - Ordinary 28
The Reverend Canon Charles Royden
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."
I was listening to Jeremy Vine this week on Radio Two and he was looking at Stanley Milgram. In 1963 people responded to an advert in Yale as volunteers for an experiment which was about memory and learning and using punishement as an aid. One volunteer learner was strapped into a chair whilst the second volunteer teacher was in front of shock machine, when the learner gave the wrong answer they were to shock them. Voltage increased as they made mistakes. The teacher had to either follow the instructions of the man in the lab coat and administer shocks or stop the machine. The teacher volunteer was not told that the machine was just a prop and the volunteer learner was an actor.
The experiemnt would shed light on understanding things like "Could it be that Eichmann and his million accomplices in the Holocaust were just following orders? Under certain circumstances with pressure from authority, will we do things which we would not dream ourselves capable of ? 65% delivered the massive almost fatal 450 volt shocks shocks, much higher than expected.
The issue is that within humanity we can be capable of some pretty dreadful acts towards one another.
Andrew Parker MI5 Chief used his first public speech this week to warn Britain of the threats which we face to our security. Mr Parker stated that terrorist cells in the UK have became “more diffuse, more complicated, more unpredictable,” and that “since 2000, we have seen serious attempts at major acts of terrorism in this country, typically once or twice a year”.
In his speech, Mr Parker reminded the public that earlier this year three cases of domestic UK terrorism went to court, one of which was a 7/7 copy using rucksack bombs. All pleaded guilty and received 260 joint years in UK prison, the threat level of terrorism in the UK, according to the ISC, is operating under ‘substantial’ – a strong possibility for an attack – due to these and other similar cases.
The attack in Nairobi last month was chilling in the depravity which charactersied the acts of inhumanity and the killings
The issue of concern is that it is religious conflict which poses such enoromous threat to peace.
So we have in our reading today teaching from Jesus which is absolutely releavant. Jesus uses the meeting with some men with leprosy to make a radical point about how we view people who are different and outside our religious group.
Luke tells us that there were ten leprous men, he doesn't say Lepers! - they are characterised by their humanity. These are all healed, and yet the healing was different for one of them
There are certain words which jump out of the page in the reading. Jerusalem is important because Jesus lives under the shadow of the cross and this is part of that fateful journey
Samaria and Galilee. Folks in Jerusalem had a low regard for both of these places ! Yet this is where jesus goes out of his way to journey.
The major point is that there was this one man who was cleansed of his skin disease who reacted differently to the others and he was a Samaritan.
I wonder what word you associate with Samaritan ?
Ask yourself ?
I suspect that the majority of people would say 'good'
We say 'Good Samaritan', but at the time word association would have been very differently.Percpetions of Samaritans were poor. These were foreigners. We still use that word. We use the same disparaging words againstpeople who are different as people at that time used about Samaritans.
Jesus never knew that Andrew Parker as head of MI% would be speaking to us of the dangers of religious fanaticism, but he did know all about what got into people's hearts which poisoned our relationships with one another. Jesus was radically inclusive and he deliberately created these situations as living lessons to teach us how we deal with outsiders. Jesus would not allow anybody to feel that they were outside the embrace of God's love and he transgressed the prevailing religious barriers.
We seek to define ourselves by
- skin colour
- sexual orientation
- economic status
- educational status
And we use all of these to justify anything from killing to exploitation, so the challenge is on to see people as Jesus saw them, as God sees them. So our church must respond to the warnings of Mr Parker by seeking to live by the inclusivity of Jesus.
It is remarkable to think that those ten men with leprosy or skin diseases or whatever they had, had learned to live together. They were all considered dirty and they had been cast out. In that state of being despised by their own community they put their differences aside and lived together, Samaritan with Jew.
We use all sorts of things in the church to draw lines around ourselves which make us different, and sometimes we believe special. We need Christians who will extend God's embrace to the ones those around us will tell us are outsiders, foreigners.
This is something our community and our world needs to hear and is is something prophetic which we as Jesus' people can bring which is radical and stops our faith, our church from being insular and self serving. Our love transgresses the boundaries so that we like Jesus are people with open hearts, characterised by welcome. Willing to share the liberating message of Jesus, loving indiscriminately, refusing to make adherance to our creed ever become a condition of unconditional loving acceptance, to do so would be completely contrary to the expressed teaching and example of Jesus. The Christian way is even to bless those who persecute us and refuse to trade violence for violence.
It seems to me that unless we learn this lesson we will descend into ever increasing hostility and continued futile acts of war. I am not sure how it happened but thank God that we have stepped back from the brink of another act of absurd aggression against Syria which would have done nothing but escalate violence across the world, and thank God for all of those Christian leaders who spoke with one voice to our politicians and made it clear that this was not acceptable.
The lesson today is packed full of challenge to us about our behaviour and as I say this word Samaritan is of such importance. He is not only healed he is made well. The nine are healed of their skin disease but the healing is only skin deep. The Samaritan is made well inside. There is a challenge to us to be made whole inside as well, to let God work in us so that we are changed, this is what happens on the pilgrimage of faith.
One of the most wonderful characrteristics of the Samaritan is the sense of gratitude. His hearts is moved to give thanks. What a change we could make in this world if we all displayed the openness which Jesus called for and the gratitude of the Samaritan.