Fr. Bill Carroll – The Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost, October 9, 2022
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The standard reading of today’s Gospel has much to commend it. In the story, Jesus heals ten lepers, but only one gives thanks. And that leper is a Samaritan.
According to this interpretation, Luke tells us this story to highlight the mission of Jesus to outsiders, to foreigners. He wants to emphasize the ever-expansive sharing of the Gospel. As the Book of Acts reminds us, the apostles are sent first to Jerusalem, then to all Judea, then to Samaria, and finally to the ends of the earth.
But today, I’d like to focus on the other nine lepers. These people are a lot like us. They’re the good, decent, religious people (mostly), who’ve been richly blessed. They are the insiders who have all the advantages. They know the story of salvation. They have received God’s promise and covenant.
Although they are lepers, at least they know God’s ways. They are not Samaritans. They are members of God’s own People. But, in the story, not one of them stops to give thanks. No, not one. And here’s the important point: God still loves and heals them.
There are times when we all fail to say thank you. Think about a time when you received a gift you didn’t really want. It doesn’t have to be a gift from God. It could be a gift from any person. Maybe it was from a member of your family. Maybe you were a child, like I was telling our children, and someone had to remind you to say thank you.
Now, let’s stop for a minute and think about God. God is the one gift-giver who never lets us down. God shows us consistent love. God gives us all that we have and all that we are. And God keeps on loving and forgiving us, even and especially when we don’t deserve it
Sometimes our sins are small. Sometimes they are more about what we’ve left undone than any terrible thing that we’ve actually done. Like most people, though, we probably have done things we regret, and wish we could leave behind.
But, no matter what we’ve done or failed to do, God’s love and forgiveness stay the same. God causes his sun to shine (says Jesus) and his rain to fall—on bad people and good people alike. And, as our Epistle this morning reminds us: “If we are faithless, God remains faithful. For God cannot deny himself.”
Goodness and gift-giving are the very nature of God. Because God is love. And, with God’s love filling our hearts, our cups are running over, because God is giving us good gifts all the time. God is good to everyone, every minute, every day Because that is what God is like. God is generous and kind. God keeps his promises to us, because he cannot deny himself. God will not let our ingratitude get in the way of his grace.
The story of the ten lepers makes us want to be more faithful. We want to be like that one Samaritan leper—the outsider—even though we know that, most days, we’re more like the ungrateful nine.
Too often, we take the grace of God for granted. We don’t stop often enough to give thanks to God. We get lost in the next project, or next sin, or next distraction. We don’t always recognize how life and its blessings are a gift. When we remember God, it’s most often because we’re in trouble. At other times, we forget to give thanks and remember the Lord.
But God is always giving us gifts. God is always helping us and holding us in life. In good times and in bad, God is blessing us abundantly. And so, life, healing, salvation, love—everything is a gift.
For, in Jesus, God gives himself away to the point of poverty and death. Jesus is a man who lives for others—who lives and dies for all of us. God does not withhold his abundant love. He comes to us. He shares his life with us sinners. He shares our struggles as a human being, living and dying as one of us.
In the words of Paul, “Jesus did not count equality with God as something to be exploited. Instead, he empty himself and took on the form of a slave. He humbled himself and became obedient unto death…” The point here isn’t to make us guilty. Maybe it does, but that’s not the point. God’s amazing grace is meant to lead to gratitude. We are grateful to be children of God—the Father of Jesus, the God of mercy and grace and righteousness. God is pure love without remainder—without condition or price.
And Jesus calls us to live grateful lives—to respond to God’s freely-given love. That’s what the Gospel is all about.
It’s not that God needs any of the things we have. When we deal with God, God is always the giver. He doesn’t keep score. He doesn’t keep a ledger. God gives it all. We don’t have to earn or deserve his love. We can’t, and we shouldn’t even try. God loves us because God knows we are good—because God made us that way. God made us in his image and likeness. And God wants us to live as his children.
Like any good parent, God gives us gifts, because God loves us and wants us to be happy. God gives us gifts without hidden strings or motives. God doesn’t need a thing from us. But what God wants is our very selves.
God wants us to go into the family business. To become his partners in the work of ministry—sharing his good gifts and his love with the whole world.
And so, we share God’s gifts with good people and bad people alike. We give them even to the thankless and the rude. We give people more than they desire or deserve. We give without expectation of return. Because, by the power of the Holy Spirit, we are becoming like Jesus. We are becoming generous, free, and fully alive.
And God sends us out. God sends us out from this holy place. God sends us out in gratitude for his amazing grace. God sends us out to share his love—and thereby change the world.