People are looking for Jesus. All they are going to get is us – Proper 23, October 9, 2022

Preacher:  Bret Durret

We have been hearing in these last weeks from Father Steve about the “Divine Economy” and he has asked us to answer specific questions about how we, as individuals and corporately as a church can participate in that Divine Economy. For some of us, that may be monetarily, for others it may be through sacrificial giving and love, for still others, it may be through works and deeds.

In today’s Gospel Reading we hear the story of the 10 Lepers and how Jesus heals them but only one comes back to praise God and even that one was, in Jesus’ own words, a “foreigner.”  In the beginning of the story, the 10 are all “doing the right thing” in that they are calling out to Jesus, calling him Master and begging for mercy. Jesus being … well… Jesus heals them all and sends them off to the priests to be declared clean. Then, <boom>, like runners out of the gate at the sound of the starting gun, they are off to see the priests… and all, except the one, seem to have forgotten how it has happened that they are even able to go present themselves to the priests as clean in the first place. Bu, that one…

That one comes back, full of awe, reverence and praise for the God who has cleansed him of his illness. Whether he was a Samaritan or a foreigner, is, I submit to you, irrelevant in the grand scheme. Jesus apparently didn’t know when he healed the 10 that one (or maybe more, – we don’t know) was not a Galilean and, I further surmise that Jesus didn’t care. Jesus was being God incarnate and showing unbounded and unconditional love to his creation – to humankind – ALL humankind.

This theme, of selflessness, is repeated in the prophecy of Jeremiah where the prophet tells the elders of the exiled tribes in Babylon to build houses in the cities in which they are exiled, to integrate themselves into those cities and to become part of the city. In addition, Jeremiah exhorts the exiles to seek the welfare of the places into which they have been exiled and to pray for those cities because the welfare of the cities will be directly linked to the welfare of the exiles.

Don’t get me wrong here. Being exiled from Jerusalem was, as the Germans call it, “harte Tobak” or “reines Wein” for the tribes of Israel who were forced to leave, to uproot their lives, their families, their culture and go off into exile in a strange land with strange customs. I can imagine that some of us may have experienced similar feelings when we came here – even more so for the Heimkehrer since they didn’t have the choice whereas the majority of us did. But, like the tribes, we too are here and we too pray for the cities in which we live. We too integrate ourselves into our new home and we too continue to practice our faith.

This leads me to the last verse of Paul’s letter to Timothy and to how we might play a part in this concept, this “Divine Economy.” Paul says, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved by him, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly explaining the word of truth.” How do we, as Christians, present ourselves to God, let alone as one approved by God? Approved? By God? Me? Are you SERIOUS? Yes, my friends in Christ, unabashedly YES. God approves of each and every one of us, you, me, him, her, all of us whether we realize it or not, whether we accept it or not. God doesn’t hold up some mighty Tome of Earthly Values when God looks at us and, like that first grade teacher that we all had some point, looking over the rim of their glasses and scolding us for some infraction of some rule. Bishop Jake Owensby of Louisiana, in his blog post for last week put it this way:

“It saddens me when we portray Jesus as a condescending scold. Because of the Church, the world too frequently sees Jesus as obsessed with what’s wrong. As quarrelsome and scornful. As resentful and morally smug.

We know, or at least we are supposed to know, that Jesus came not to condemn but to save. And yet all too often we forget how to embody the inclusive graciousness that is the sacred heart of Jesus.

God realizes that his standards are too high for us injured, timid, fractious humans to meet. That’s why God became one of us and lived in our midst and dwells in our hearts. We are not in this alone.”

No, God looks at us through the eyes of a loving Creator, with mercy, grace, and acceptance.

Michael Quoist, a French priest and author, wrote the following meditation that, to me, embodies this acceptance:

Lord, you seized me and I could not resist you.
I ran for a long time but you followed me
I took by-paths, but you knew them.

You overtook me.
I struggled, you won.

Here I am, Lord, out of breath, no fight left within me, and I’ve said ‘Yes’ almost unwillingly.

When I stood there trembling like one defeated before his captor,
Your look of love fell upon me…..
Marked by the fire of your love, I can no longer forget you.
Now I know that you are there, close to me, and I work in peace
beneath your loving gaze.

I no longer make an effort to pray.

I just lift my eyes to you and I meet yours.

And we understand one another. All is light, all is peace.

How then, do we show that light, that peace to others? How can we bring others to Jesus, to God? Or, looking at it differently, how can we BE Jesus to others? In this Divine Economy, we can be to others, we can show to others, we can give to others, the mercy, compassion, grace and forgiveness that God, through Christ, has given to us. WE are the hands and feet of God in the world today, doing God’s work, each in our own way. We are the one cleansed leper who has returned to fall down before our Lord and give thanks for what has been done for us

Bishop Jake put it this way: ”We are the Body of Christ. People are looking for Jesus. And all they’re going to get is us. Let’s keep thinking about that.“

All they are going to get is us and we are enough – in the words of St. Paul, approved by God, workers who have no need to be ashamed, rightly explaining and living the Word of Truth.