Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost
October 14, 2001
The Gospel: Luke 17:11-19
Sermon: "Leprosy and Blindness"
The Rev. William D. Oldland
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, "Where 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."
Leprosy and Blindness
Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost - October 14, 2001
What would it be like to be blind? I have played various children's games and team building exercises where I have been blind for a short time. For the time I had the blindfold on I could not see any colors. I could not see where I was going. I could not find my way around. I could not see the faces of my friends. I had to rely on someone to direct me in every step I took. In short, I was very uncomfortable. Being blind made me unaware of what was happening in the world around me. Being blind made it difficult to know what was happening to me. Blindness, even though it was from a blindfold, caused me to be very inwardly focused.
Well, why am I talking about blindness when the story in today's Gospel is about the healing of leprosy? What does blindness have to do with leprosy? Blindness does not have anything to do with leprosy in this story, but being able to see does. Jesus is on the way to Jerusalem. He enters a village. Ten lepers approach him. They can not come too close because they have leprosy. They are forbidden to enter the village because of their disease. So, they call out to him. They call out together. When Jesus sees them, he responds. Jesus sees the lepers. He notices their condition. He sees they need help. He sees the effect of their illness on their bodies. He sees how ostracized they are by their own people. As a result of seeing their condition, Jesus responds. He tells them to go and show themselves to the priests. Here again we have another reference to sight. Once a person was known to have leprosy they were removed from the community. They were ostracized because people were afraid of them. The people were afraid they might catch the disease. So they turned their backs on the people. If a person was cured, they had to go to the priests. The priests would see that they were cured and allow them back into the community. Seeing the cure was important.
Jesus tells them to go to the priests. While the ten are on their way, one of them notices he has been cured. All ten were cured. This one man sees his new state. When he sees that he is healed, this man turns back. He returns to Jesus, falls down at his feet and begins to praise God. His response to seeing his body cured was to come back and to praise God. Seeing may not have anything to do with leprosy, but the ability to see has everything to do with this story.
Seeing has everything to do with our lives as disciples of Christ. We have to ask ourselves two questions. What do we see in our lives and what do we do when we see?
The first question has to do with recognizing the needs of others, As we go through our daily lives do we notice the needs of others? Sometimes we overlook the person in need. They do not catch our attention. We may look past the grumpy person in the office who is struggling with some family issue. We may walk by the person who in school is standing all alone, feeling outcast by other students. We may not see the single tear shed by a friend who is hurting. We may pass by the person on the street who is hungry. We may not see the person who is struggling right now from depression or who just gotten laid off. Who sees these needs? Whose eyes are open to see the pain and the needs of the people around us?
The second question is just as important for us . What do we do when we do see? Jesus responded to the needs of the lepers. As a result the leper saw not only the healing of his body; he also saw and recognized God's deliverance and grace. In acknowledgement he returned to glorify God. Two actions resulted from seeing. One action was an actual response to the need of another. The other response was the acknowledgement of God's presence, and love in the leper's life. How do we respond when we see the needs of others? Every time we see someone in need we have an opportunity. We have an opportunity to see God's grace at work in the daily lives of those in pain. As we respond we might see the grace of God at work in the irritable person at work. Through our actions the lonely student might be welcomed by others. We might even see the single tear replaced with a smile of joy. As we respond we have the opportunity to experience the incredible love God has for each of us.
As we see God at work in the lives of those around us we have another opportunity. We have the opportunity to respond to God's love and grace. We have the opportunity to respond to the actions of God with gratitude, We show our gratitude to God through praise and thanksgiving. We praise God because we recognize we have a God who cares for us. We praise God because we recognize we have a God who loves us. We give thanks to God for giving us the gift of life and for responding to our needs.
So, being able to see holds great opportunity for us. We have the opportunity to see the needs of the people in our lives. We have the opportunity to see the wonder, the grace and the love of God. We get to see the incredible saving acts of God in the world. When I was blindfolded in those children's games and in those team events I was always glad to have the blindfold removed. I moved from the darkness into the light. I could see the faces of those around me. I could sense their laughter, their joy, their tears, and their sorrow by glancing at their face. What an incredible gift we have in being able to see.
Open our eyes Lord
Help us to see the world around us more clearly
Help us to see the needs of others
Help us to see the love you have for us.
Help us, Lord to respond to those in need
Give us the grace to come to you with praise and thanksgiving for your wonderful acts.