Random and not so random musings from a 5th generation NE Missourian who became a 1st generation Episcopalian. Let the good times roll!

Luke 17:11-19

On the way to Jerusalem Jesus was going through the region between Samaria and Galilee. 12As he entered a village, ten lepers approached him. Keeping their distance, 13they called out, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” 14When he saw them, he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were made clean. 15Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice. 16He prostrated himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him. And he was a Samaritan. 17Then Jesus asked, “Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they? 18Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” 19Then he said to him, “Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well.”

Carrol's text this week focused on the one leper that turned back. Historically, this is preached as a story of gratitude, but Carrol raised the possibility that this man simply "went against the grain". Actually, the other nine did exactly what Jesus instructed them to do: Show themselves to the priests. It was necessary for them to do this to fully "get their life back". If you carefully read "the rules" in Leviticus, the priest makes the call. Once declared unclean, it was only until the priest dcclared that person "clean" that they could rejoin family, friends, community.

I wondered to myself, why did this one man delay this declaration? Why would he disobey Jesus and turn back to see him? Technically speaking, even though Jesus cured this man of his disease, by law Jesus had no authority to validate this cure. He still needed the seal of approval from the priests.

Perhaps it was simply because this man was a Samaritan and he was away from Samaria. He was a "double outcast". He was no longer a leper, but he was still going to be a Samaritan. Was he worried that the first priest he could find had prejudice towards Samaritans? Maybe he was thinking, “What do I have to lose? When I go to the priest, he’s still gonna know I’m a Samaritan, maybe he won’t pronounce me ‘cured’ just for spite. But this Jesus guy knows. I’ll cast my lot with this guy and let the chips fall where they may.” He no longer had to add insult to injury when it came to the festering sores of his disease--his cure had spared him the indignity of having to holler "unclean" when people came near him--but it was not going to change he was a Samaritan in hostile territory.

I got to thinking about all the ways we point out we are bad people when we feel "unclean" inside. How many times, when we could so easily sit at the feet of the One who can make us feel "clean", do we instead run away a safe distance, and start to holler, "Don't touch me! I'm unclean! Don't even get near me!"

I also thought of that childhood game where some poor unfortunate child has "cooties". Some kid would yell, "Jimmy has cooties!" All the other kids would make an "x" on their arm and holler, "Shot! Shot!" and the poor last kid to give him/herself a "shot", like poor Jimmy, "had cooties." So there you were, standing with poor Jimmy, both outcasts. Both thrown from the camp. Both isolated from your little spot in childhood community. You are thinking, "Now Jimmy, of course he has cooties. He's such a dork. He has boogers hanging out of his nose. But I do NOT have cooties. I'm too cool for cooties." I am sure, early in the course of the Samaritan's disease, he looked at other lepers and said, "I just simply am NOT a leper. No way. Dirty sinful people are lepers." But as the weeks and months went by, and his fingers began to no longer work properly, and the flesh began to peel off of him, he could no longer play that game. Yes, he was a leper.

How many times do we run from pillar to post in our psyches when it comes to sin? At first we say, "no way, not me, You've got the wrong person," to God. Then when we are convinced of our own "cootification" we act like we'll give God our cooties and hide from Him? Instead of drawing closer to him, we back further away. Instead of lessening the gap between us and God, we widen it. Maybe it's because we know that even if he "cures" us, we are still like poor dorky Jimmy, we will still have that booger in our nose. Like the Samaritan, he will probably be declared "clean" by the priest, but he will not be considered "whole" because he's still a Samaritan--the pharisees will still see him as dorky Jimmy, booger and all.

So what happens to our Samaritan? You know he has to be wondering if he's doing the right thing, going back to that Jesus guy. Perhaps Jesus will rebuke him ("Why are you back here? I told you to go to the priest! Go get your life back and get out of my face!"). Perhaps by disobeying, his sores will return--and he will have lost his one chance to start over, to rejoin life in general. But in for a dollar, in for a dime. He's made his choice. He keeps going--and what a surprise. "Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well." wait a minute. Jesus didn't say "Your faith cured your leprosy." He said "Your faith has made you well." Now there's a concept--we can be cured of a terrible disease and still be unwell? What's up with that?

How many times does someone declared "cured" of their cancer, always keep in the back of their mind that despite the odds, they convince themselves that everything that goes wrong means, "the cancer is back." A good friend of mine, almost 20 years out from his prostate cancer, got lower back pain one time from one of the piddly back injuries we all do. He was convinced, however, his prostate cancer was back. Only after he bullied his doctor into getting a prostate surface antigen test and the result was 0.0 was he convinced that "too much yardwork" was not "metastatic prostate cancer."

How many times do people who remarry after a stint with an abusive spouse, become hypervigilant about the subtle irritations of the new spouse? Again, another friend of mine illustrates this. She would routinely overinterpret mild surliness in her new hubby's answers to things when he was in a bad mood as having the potential that he could suddenly start beating on her like her first husband did. She would cry and withdraw from him, and he would stand there, bewildered, thinking "What the hell was THAT?"

In both of these scenarios, these people were "cured" but were still "unwell" in some ways. We forget that faith is a two way street where our lane is busier. Like the Samaritan, we have to take the risk of daring to be "well." Again, this is OUR call, not God's. God simply puts his hand out to us every day. We have to ignore the risk and keep pushing forward to be spiritually "well"...and only in the heart of that risk can we reach wellness.



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Kirksville, Missouri, United States
I'm a longtime area resident of that quirky and wonderful place called Kirksville, MO and am wondering what God has hiding round the next corner in my life.

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