below is based can be found at: http://web.me.com/frsparky/iWeb/r195.htm
s195g10 Sunday 28 Hanmer Springs 10/10/2010
In the name of God, Life-giver, Pain-bearer and Love-maker.
(Fr Jim Cotter http://www.cottercairns.co.uk/)
‘the other nine, where are they?’ Luke 17.17
Over the past weeks I have been moved to say things like: ‘One of the
chief characteristics of the ‘church’ is that it knows just how much
other people have to do to be acceptable - how much they owe God - and
how little it appreciates how much IT owes God.’ So that ‘Our
service of ‘Holy Communion’ is more aptly titled ‘Unholy
Excommunication’ for so many in the ordinary community outside the
church ‘know’ that they really wouldn’t be welcomed here.
They ‘know’ only too well because of bad experiences in the past.’
And I thought about this, because the same thing can be said of
thankfulness. So often it is some church people who are
least appreciative of their blessings. Jesus’ remark about
the nine, who were good orthodox Jews says as much.
Orthodoxy, and by this I most certainly mean ‘christian’ orthodoxy, not
Jewish orthodoxy, allows the most devout worshippers to look down on
other people. Even when we ‘know’ the Jesus died for our
sins, we can so quickly assume that Jesus didn’t die for someone else’s
sins. I mean it’s obvious - they don’t come to church like
I do, they don’t believe like I do, they don’t live their lives like I
do, and they are intimate with others of whom I don’t approve!!!
When we look at St Luke, it is the despised and heretical Samaritan who
is charitable to the Jew, injured beside the road, and it is the
Samaritan who is the thankful one. When such things as
these are repeated, it is repeated not to bore us, but to make sure we
get the message, and the message is that care for others and
thankfulness are often found outside orthodoxy rather than inside it.
I was interested to read these words in the psalm for morning prayer
some days ago:
7. Iniquity comes forth from within them:
and folly overflows from their hearts.
8. They scoff, they speak maliciously:
indeed they speak of oppression by the Most High.
9. Their slanders reach up to heaven:
while their tongues ply to and fro on earth.
10. So the people turn and follow them:
and find in them no fault.
11. They say, 'How can God know:
is there knowledge in the Most High?' (Psalm 73)
These are the leaders of orthodoxy - people who speak of ‘oppression by
the Most High’ who have others listening to them - they must be
religious leaders. And when these leaders speak of their
oppression in the name of ‘god’, naturally ordinary folk are going to
think that this is the truth! The irreligious don’t
speak about the Most High in any terms. Interestingly of
course, ordinary folk are now realising the truth that God wants
indiscriminate charity and thankfulness, not eternal grovelling from
those who proclaim themselves ‘not worthy to gather up the crumbs under
(God’s) table’ thinking that this impresses the divine.
And Jesus says to the Jew, emulate the heretical Good Samaritan and to
the heretical Samaritan, that it was HIS faith that had made him well,
not Jesus’ power. These things were deliberately confronting to
the devout and the orthodox, and it ought to be confronting to
us. It means that forgiveness, charity and thankfulness are
found in many people other than ‘christians’ and we should rejoice that
this is so.
I have seen so much sadness as good ‘christians’ and ‘Anglicans’ have
sought to convert others to their faith. Often people just
want their minister to get other people into the pews so that the
congregation may survive another generation, unchanged. But
the virtues that Jesus points us to are away from devotion to God and
towards our neighbour, in forgiveness, charity and thankfulness.
Jesus here calls us as the church to see that the task of the church is
not to marginalise women, alienate gay persons and challenge the rest
of society, but to recognise that it is precisely these others who
‘naturally’ do what God would have them do, even when they don’t
espouse *our* worship, *our* belief, *our* lifestyle choices.
I am not sure that ever such generalisations can ever be always true,
but surely God led the ancient people of God into the promised land,
and the ancient people of God had to both learn to live with those they
displaced and confront un-charity. The command to not
follow other gods is surely to turn aside from un-charity
themselves. The God of the Israelites was and is surely
different from these other deities, and if that difference did not
extend towards how they dealt with others, then from the outsiders’
point of view, the worship of the God of the Jews was essentially
identical to their worship of their idol. Why would anyone
change one idol to another?
Time and again, scripture tells us that the response of the ancient
people of God to the mighty acts of deliverance wrought by the Almighty
were completely wrong - so much so that this seems a constant human
trait. It can hardly be that the ancient people of God were
any different to us! So this leads me to wonder why I
continue to be surprised when ‘christians’ who so frequently and
fervently call upon the name of the Lord Jesus and know of God’s
forgiveness through the cross and resurrection, continue to
marginalise, alienate and challenge others?
Jesus heals these lepers, whether they be orthodox or
heretical. Therefore God heals people whether they believe
or not, whether they believe correctly or not, indeed often whether
they even ask or not! This is God’s nature.
And the healing of these lepers means more than physical
healing. Because they were healed they were able to resume
their place in ordinary society. They were no longer to be
ostracised. Their healing was an incarnation back into
society, not out of it; they were born again into society, not into a
holy huddle; repentance was theirs, they rejoiced that they were found
along with others, returned back into their rightful place amongst
The thankful Samaritan is commended for his thankfulness which
obviously is more important than his faith, whether that faith is
heretical or orthodox, and he sent back home - not with any command to
become a Jew or even religious.
Often we think about our faith in personal terms, that we should be
more thankful, personally, for the blessings we enjoy. And
certainly, personal thankfulness is a good thing - it does make life a
lot more enjoyable than being forever grumpy. Enjoyable for
those around us as well as ourselves.
But Jesus means more than this. He is saying that our faith
needs to be thankful rather than receiving blessings as a right because
of our orthodoxy, devotion, faith in prayer or whatever.
Jesus did not die on the cross 2000 years ago because of my lack of
thankfulness now and he certainly didn’t die on the cross to forgive,
again and again, my continuing lack of thankfulness as a
person. He did die on the cross because those in religious
authority were not thankful that Jesus saw worth in people other than
themselves. They would rather kill than be confronted with
a God who found worth in people other than themselves. And,
of course, that is precisely what they did and why they did it.
And so the question continues to be important to us as a religious
community: Do we follow a God who is interested in the devotion we give
in worship, or in the worth we see in people who don’t worship like us,
believe like us and live in ways of which we do not
Jesus was travelling through a region between Samaria and
Galilee. So Jesus went out of his way to make this point,
that he found worth in people other than the orthodox and the
devout. Jesus continues to look for value in people other
than us too, whether they come to church or not, and surely bids us do
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