On the way to Jerusalem Jesus was going through the region between Samaria and Galilee. As he entered a village, ten lepers approached him. Keeping their distance, they called out, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” When he saw them, he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were made clean. Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice. He prostrated himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him. And he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus asked, “Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they? Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” Then he said to him, “Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well.” Luke 17: 11-19
Jesus is walking and has been for quite a while. It’s hard to leave home, especially for the last time. To leave the security behind, everything you know, and what to bring? It’s not like he could call U-Haul. For he is walking. This long walk began 302 verses ago…including bear hunts, hanging in Sam’s office, huh?, being lost and found, some heavy lifting, trying to sit in the front row, getting bent out of shape…and much more if we were to walk back to when Jesus set his face towards Jerusalem.
What would you bring with? What do you take with you walking from Galilee with final destination Jerusalem. What mementos, pictures, keepsakes do you bring with? With his face set to Jerusalem, he knows what he must do. Dead-man walking. There is not going back. But wouldn’t it be nice—home cooking, comfy bed…
But there is no going back, as with his face set to Jerusalem. Here we have embodied goodness with his face determined, set on a journey, destination—Jerusalem.
On this journey, he finds himself in this ungodly land. This land that anyone in their right mind would go around. But like last week, Jesus is determined, can’t go under it, can’t go around it, and only has he would do…with his face set, he’s gotta go through it.
On this journey, he runs into a village, not your ordinary village, but a village of lepers. Imagine, a whole town of lepers. A leper post office—even a leper Starbucks. After a venti double super skinny latte, ten lepers approached…keeping their distance (as lepers should), they called out saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” Have mercy. Isolated, rejected, marginalized, and cast out—like the island of misfit toys, they plead from a distance, please have mercy. Imagine the cry? Imagine their journey. How many others have walked by—from a distance?
A pastor shares a story of a children’s sermon. The story went something like this:
There was this poor boy. The family lived together in a small lien-to and the only possession they owned was one goat. This little poor boy liked to dream. He had this dream about one day meeting this beautiful girl. Together, one day they were going to be married and have beautiful children. This boy meet girl fairy tale included a six car garage to house his red convertible BMW, and his goat…with a shiny studded diamond collar.
And as the boy was dreaming, a wizard showed up. The wizard said he could make this dream come true, but there was just one thing. For the beautiful wife, beautiful children, a six car garage, and his goat with a gold diamond studded collar—evertything beautiful—there would be one thing wrong with his wife.
All beautiful, but the one thing wrong is that his wife would have a horn coming out of the middle of her head. To be granted this wish, he could never speak of this.
The poor boy didn’t have second thoughts as he accepted and was thrown into this beautiful world, with his beautiful family, his six-car garage with his red convertible BMW. He was so blessed. And life was getting busy, his beautiful kids were growing up, the beautiful goat produced more beautiful goats, the collars were getting expensive, and paradise was beginning to feel a lot like work. In the stress one evening, an argument began…and escalated. The poor boy doesn’t remember exactly what started the argument, and words were being exchanged, when he said it…”and that horn on your head!”
It came out and you cannot take it back. The wizard shows up and says, ‘back in your poor place’ and the poor boy found himself back, with his one goat, and alone. It is a tragic ending…
Trying to tie up the message, Sammie was stretching her arm up high…you know that kid in the children’s sermon who tries to have the last word, the one where you smile and nod while trying to get control again. This is not your story Sammie, this is mine…you can share the message next week, but before I can end, she blurts out…but you have to change the ending…. And I try to get control, and Sammie blurts out—you have to, everything disappeared—and we are in church.
And the others got going, and they were siding with Sammie, the message was getting long, so not knowing what to do, and Sammie with her arm fully extended yelling out, you have to change the ending—we are in church—so I turned to Sammie and asked, “Sammie, how would you change the ending?”
“Give him another chance, we are in church—this is a place of second chances.
A place where endings can change.”
This is the church—a place for second chances. We all have our own stories. And together we share a story… and the nice thing about a story is that we have the chance to change the ending.
Jesus with his face set towards Jerusalem, enters Samaria—helping change the ending.
10 lepers from a distance—cry out, Jesus, Master, have mercy on us! And they turn as instructed to head towards the priests—and they are made clean. The ten are healed.
Only one turns. One praises God and prostrates himself. A foreigner. The outcast of the lepers, the lowest of the low—finds himself in the presence of the living Lord—God with us– Jesus shares with him, “Get up and go.”
It is in the presence of Christ we come, it is in the presence of Christ we lay at his feet, and it is in a living faith that we come, and Jesus says “Get up and go.”
It is with his face to his Jerusalem—Dead man walking, a man who knows what must be done. It is a long journey, one that leads to a cross, where we find ourselves gathering to prostrate ourselves at the foot of the cross. And it is because Jesus rose, that Jesus says “Get up and go on your way.”
We are the church…a place where all can gather. A place of belonging, of healing, of caring, of messing it up sometimes, and a place where Jesus also says to get up and go, your faith has made you well. Go and share the good news.