Sermon: All in! Two out of three is not bad, or is it?
Scripture: Luke 17:11-19
Preacher: Patrick H. Wrisley, D.Min.
Location: First Presbyterian Church, Fort Lauderdale, FL
Date: October 13, 2019
45 The person who has the leprous disease shall wear torn clothes and let the hair of his head be disheveled; and he shall cover his upper lip and cry out, “Unclean, unclean.” 46 He shall remain unclean as long as he has the disease; he is unclean. He shall live alone; his dwelling shall be outside the camp.
11 On the way to Jerusalem Jesus was going through the region between Samaria and Galilee. 12 As he entered a village, ten lepers approached him. Keeping their distance, 13 they called out, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” 14 When he saw them, he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were made clean. 15 Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice. 16 He prostrated himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him. And he was a Samaritan. 17 Then Jesus asked, “Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they? 18 Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” 19 Then he said to him, “Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well.”
My momma was a bit of an eccentric at times and would teach my brothers and sister life lessons with living hyperbole. One Father’s Day comes to mind. The six of us heard the call to supper following church and we came running. My mom had busted her tail getting everything all prepped before we went to church that morning and by the time we got home, the house smelled delicious. We swooped in and tore into dinner. We all got done with desert and all of us got up to leave the table, including dad and headed for the den to watch football. A few minutes later we heard mom back in the kitchen. Actually, we heard crying and breaking plates on the floor of the kitchen. All of us ran into to see what was going on there she was, all five feet one of her, scrapping food onto the floor and dropping the plates on top of it. When the full audience of my dad, two brothers, sister and I all got there, she stopped and looked at us.
“I’ve been killing myself to help make this a special Father’s Day meal for you. I was up and cooking before any of you got out of bed and got this meal prepared and ready so by the time we got back from church, we could enjoy nice family time. But you know what, each of you came home grumpy, ate your dinner, got up from your seats and left the room without as much as a ‘thank you’ for dinner; furthermore, none of you cleaned off your own dishes from the table and just assumed I would clean up after you! Well, you need to know, that train has stopped!”
With that, momma washed her hands off and dried her eyes. She gave each of us a stern look and walked out of the house. In utter silence, each of us began cleaning off the table, washing the dishes and pots, swept and mopped the floor and took the trash out. Looking back, I realize there was something much deeper going on between my mom and dad that I was not aware nor mature enough to understand. All me and my siblings knew is that we failed someone we loved through our dynamic ingratitude. We failed to say thank you. We took what my mom did for granted and the result is that it deeply hurt her.
So, if I am ever at your home for a meal or for coffee, I will always carry my dishes to the kitchen and clean up after myself. I will always say thank you as well. My momma taught me that lesson.
She taught me to say thank you. She taught me to show appreciation for what others do for me. She taught me what it means to feel taken for granted and unappreciated. She taught what it means to show gratitude.
This is what our Story is about today in our text. Jesus has been north doing his teaching and healing ministry around the Galilee and was now heading towards Jerusalem for the Jewish festival of Passover. He was going through a region that skirted Samaria, which for the Jew, was an unclean place. You see, for the Jews, the Samaritans were posers. They were not the real deal. These feelings went centuries back to the times of the Jewish kings after David when the nation of Israel was split into two kingdoms. To the north was Israel. To the south, Judah, whose capital was Jerusalem. All of this is described in the books of 1 and 2 Kings. Those in Samaria had their own temple to God while the people of Judah had the real Temple in Jerusalem. The people in Judah felt the people of the north sold out. Their worship was inferior. They were unreconciled to God. They did not follow the edicts of the law. They were seen as “those people” who live a less than holy life and who failed to follow good Jewish tradition. So this is where Jesus was at the time of our Story. He’s in a country his Jewish neighbors taught him to hate from the time he was little.
But Jesus did not listen to his neighbors. He enters a village when from a distance he is assailed by ten men who are described as lepers. Technically, they could have had any type of skin disease and they would be treated with the same scorn. They were dirty. They were unclean. They were separated from their community and social structure and had to go it alone and fend for themselves without any support or sympathy from anyone. If they were indeed suffering from leprosy, or Hanson’s Disease as it’s known today, they suffered from an illness that destroyed the nerve endings in your body’s extremities. It robbed the person from feeling any pain. You could step on a nail and not even know it. Your foot becomes infected, diseased, and deteriorates usually causing the loss of skin tissue or even a limb. Their illness became their identity. No longer did people see a person as a child of God but as a defiled and diseased human being that must have deserved God’s scorn. These are the ten men who hollered at Jesus for mercy.
It’s interesting that there is no explicit request for healing on the part of these guys but they do ask for mercy. They want to be noticed, cared for, and longed for love and the acceptance of their community and family. Jesus knows all too well what these men need and simply tells them to go and show themselves to the priests as Moses commanded and they would be fine. They turn to leave and all of them are made well again. They are whole. They are clean and embraceable again. They’re thrilled! They’ve been shown mercy! But none of them stopped to say ‘thank you.’
Except one. A Samaritan at that. The one who is considered to be an alien, a non-Jew, is the only one who came running back to Jesus to show gratitude, and because he did, he received a gift the other nine missed out receiving: Salvation. You see, there are two different words to describe the healings in our Story. One word used is to describe being made clean and healthy again. The other word is used to describe restoration to having one’s relationship with God restored and healthy again and this is the word used when Jesus talks with the returned Samaritan.
There is a direct relationship with one’s faith and with the expression of thankfulness and gratitude. It’s one thing to be made clean; it’s entirely something else to be made truly whole and one with God again. “Were not ten made clean? Where are the other nine? Well, brother, get up and go on home. Your faith has made you whole, well, clean, but most importantly, restored to God! Begin your new life right this minute!”
Professor at Columbia Seminary, Kimberly Bracken Long, writes, “To practice gratitude intentionally changes an individual life, to be sure. It also changes the character of a congregation. When Christians practice gratitude, they come to worship not just to “get something out of it,” but to give thanks and praise to God. Stewardship is transformed from fundraising to the glad gratitude of joyful givers. The mission of the church changes from an ethical duty to the work of grateful hands and hearts.” Furthermore, she says, the Samaritan demonstrates a mature faith because it is a faith that is wrapped up in gratitude.
There is an old saying that two out to three is not bad, or as in the case of today, one out of then. It’s not bad but it’s not too good either. All of the lepers had the opportunity to express gratitude to God but only one out ten did. That’s rather sad, isn’t it? “Surely I would be like the one who came back!” we protest. But do we? In 2017, we had 18 estimate of giving cards on file for 1,100 members. Last year we upped that to a few hundred. I guess two out of three is not bad, or a few hundred out of 1,100…yes, my friends, it is bad. It’s not good at all.
Friends, our giving back to God with what God has blessed us with is a spiritual issue that measures the depth of one’s faith. It’s a way we show the Lord our gratitude for coming alongside us and showing us the Way. How deep or how shallow is your faith and mine? Are we all in or do we simply expect God to bless us because that’s what God does? I realize now that telling my momma “thank you” for a great dinner and helping her clean up after myself was the best way to show my love and appreciation to her. The Samaritan leper showed his appreciation and love to God by saying, “I’m all in, Jesus! Thank you!” How shall we show ours?
The Holy Spirit enlighten our hearts. Amen.
Patrick H. Wrisley, D.Min.
Senior Pastor & Teaching Elder
First Presbyterian Church
401 SE 15th Avenue
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33301
© 2019 Patrick H. Wrisley. Sermon manuscripts are available for the edification of members and friends of First Presbyterian Church, Fort Lauderdale, Florida and may not be altered, re-purposed, published or preached without permission. All rights reserved.
 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV). New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
 Kimberly Bracken Long, Feasting on the Word: Year C, Volume 4: Season after Pentecost 2 (Propers 17-Reign of Christ) (Kindle Locations 6343-6344). Presbyterian Publishing Corporation. Kindle Edition.