Sermon for the 20th Sunday after Pentecost

Jeremiah 29:1, 4-7; 2 Timothy 2:8-15; Luke 17:11-19

Many times people fall into the trap of waiting through the window of opportunity believing that what they want to have happen will very shortly.

That seems to me to be the point of Jeremiah’s letter to the exiles in Babylon: don’t sit around waiting to be sent back home to Judah; it’s not going to happen. Start living in your current situation and prosper. Life needs to go on. Live life and prosper.

We can all take this approach to life to heart. But Jeremiah calls upon them to do something else which seems the antithesis of some of the cross currents in the church and in American life—pray for the welfare of the community in which they reside for their welfare is connected.

Jeremiah’s message should speak to all of us—bloom where we’re planted secure in knowing that wherever we are, the loving God is always with us.

Anyone who has moved to a new school has experienced the concerns the newcomer has, but in time unless there is a bullying dynamic, that time will pass and the newcomer fits in and begins to prosper.

Each of us is a new creation in Christ and each of us has the opportunity to be new person every day. Our God is counting on our approaching the challenges of being a Christian in this part of the 21st Century with a newness and determination.

This theme is as old as Christianity. Paul emphasizes it to his mentee Timothy: do your best to present to God as one approved by him, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly explaining the word of truth.

Paul enunciates his gospel: Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, a descendant of David

  • Jesus Christ—Jesus the anointed of God
  • Raised from the dead—this is the core of the original gospel: no matter who one is, regardless of degree of wealth, ethnic identification, legal or illegal, whatever the sexual orientation or age—should live their lives in anticipation of the resurrection because Jesus did.
  • A descendant of David—yes, truly a Jew in the line of the monarchy.

For this Paul has suffered but many Jews and many more Gentiles have accepted the faith.

Yet even in Paul’s time those who claimed to represent the church wrangled over words. In Paul’s case it is whether someone must become fully Jewish, i.e. circumcision for males, to be truly Christian.

For us it is whether Jesus can grace the belief and roles of someone who is homosexual; whether women have a full and equal role in the church; whether lay persons are fully part of the leadership of the church; and how the Bible figures in the faith and worship of the church.

I hope that all clergy particularly me will rightly explain the word of truth. I look to each person to provide feedback and questions to help your understanding.

Finally we come to the story of the healing of the ten lepers and the one who remembers that first one should thank God above all.

Remember in the gospel for last week, the apostles asked Jesus to increase their faith and his response is one of sarcasm because he is frankly frustrated that they are just not getting it.

This continues, in my view, in today’s gospel. Ten lepers call upon Jesus for mercy. He commands that they go to the priests to be declared clean. Upon finding himself cleansed, one, a Samaritan, returns to Jesus and thanks him profusely.

And Jesus points out that it is a foreigner who comes to thank God—the irony is clear. But what does this speak to us.

It seems to me that in a society which assumes entitlement in all kinds of forms, there is often a dearth of thankfulness particularly to God.

All of us are at least partially vertical this morning. We are experiencing the present of life today from God. In fact the great challenge to a deeper faith is the assumption that rather than being thoroughly thankful to God for all aspects of life we can assume that things are going along free of godly concern.

They are not—God cares. Jesus loves. We live. The question to ponder is this: do we examine ourselves enough to consider whether we should be thankful to God and do we thank Jesus for the gift of everlasting life plus the benefits we enjoy today or not.

I lay this before you to consider—are you truly thankful to God or are you doing this all by yourself.

Amen.