Sunday, October 10, 2010

Don't Jump


Today's Gospel reading was Luke 17:11-19, the healing of the ten lepers.

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.’
 How we got from there to a sermon about bullying of GLBTs and the recent suicide of a young man "pris en flagrant délit" is beyond me. Did we hear one word about how Jesus can heal such tortured souls? No, instead we heard a rambling tale of people "excluded from community" and how they can be returned to full acceptance by the community, somehow without healing of the individual. In this type of mathematic, the community alone is that which needs the healing. This leaves out important questions of what, if any, of our shameful behaviors are unseen by God, the questions of why we feel shame in the first place, and the questions of how we can return to the Lord in those times when we engage in sin and do shameful things.  Why, why, did we not hear the call for all those who are afflicted to come to Jesus to be healed?

Trying to simplify a complicated math problem by ignoring important variables gets you nowhere, and trying to score progressive points by capitalizing on a tormented soul's suicide gets you a big fat zero in this pewster's grade book. I take this a bit personally as I have been touched by suicide and have also cared for way too many unsuccessful as well as quite a few successful suicides, and once the blame game starts being played, my dander gets up.

When I listened as our preacher used this unfortunate man's death to advance her agenda, I thought that this is how a church commits suicide: by ignoring scripture, blaming others, and by using a bully pulpit to promote a social activist agenda.

To that I have to plead to the church, "Turn back. Don't jump!"


  1. Anonymous8:52 PM

    Dude - you just didn't get it did you! MC gave a powerful sermon and you chose not to listen!

  2. Scoring points, just as I said.

  3. The most recent horror against a gay man was in NYC - a veritable Disneyland of progressive everything, including TEC HQ. All the norming of LGBT doesn't eliminate the reality of cruel, twisted people. Some of this will target LGBT folk. Most will target others groups if we care to classify and quantify.

    Might it be that preachers need to preach the broader message: do unto others, forgive and you will be forgiven, blessed are the peacemakers?

    The kind of sermon you describe here seems to say that one needs to a group victim identity to qualify for Christ's teachings.

    Yes, the Samaritan turned to Jesus. But it was his faith, not his Samaritanism, that Jesus commended as the source of healing and freedom.

  4. Tim,

    The news brings us new horrors every day. Horrors that occur to people regardless of their sexual behaviors. We do need to look to the deeper cause of evil and God's response to evil.

    A little prayer for God's mercy upon us all at this point is what I am going to be thinking about.

  5. I note, with some chagrin but no surprise, that as we go deeper into the social activist agenda from the pulpit, our attendance continues to plummet. The last couple of Sundays have been lower than during the heat of summer.

  6. The social gospel on its own is, by definition, incomplete. The Church has been warned on numerous occasions about that.

    What is behind the focus on a "social gospel?"

    I have to speculate that it is a loss of the faith of the Apostles.

  7. Or maybe a denial of that faith.

  8. Anonymous1:54 AM

    Based on your description, may I assume that the preacher's connection was the outcast identification of lepers (a veritable consistent for millenium until now, since with application of effective treatment in 1985, even the colonies are no longer in existence, and thus a new generation that has escaped its presence), and the imperative from Jesus to "go show yourselves to the priests", i.e. to be ritually declared as clean and thus capable of re-entry to the community, so that LGBT folks should not be considered as outcasts since they are just as viable subjects for Jesus' mercy, and that the Church must step forward to proclaim LGBT as integral members of our communities?

  9. Wouldn't it be better for our clergy to preach the good news of salvation rather than promote whatever agenda the secular culture dictates?

  10. Rob+,

    Our problem started when exegesis tried to shape scripture to fit the cultural disaster of the day. With that approach, the revisionist preacher has a couple of problems with this story of healing. One problem is that they must create a group of outcasts thereby perpetuating the victimization of the group they are trying to appeal to, and second there is the problem of talking about healing when they do not believe that there is a condition needing treatment to begin with. In fact, a fair sampling of any congregation will find a significant number who doubt the healing miracles, so it becomes especially difficult to talk about being healed by faith of something that is not a problem anyway.

    It might have been better to look at how we are all outcasts, how we are all unclean, and how even the worst of the worst can be made clean by the power of God's one and only Son.

  11. I don't have much to add to the discussion, beyond what's been said already. I note only that such sermons are possible when the church begins embracing a secular world view, as opposed to a God-centered, Biblically based world-view.


  12. All this reminds me of Lewis Carroll's Humpty Dumpty. In most of the Episcopal Church you shape the Gospel. In a Christian Church, the Gospel shapes you. The question is who is to be the master?

  13. Anonymous3:54 PM

    This stuff just gets my blood boiling; I'm glad you are pointing it out, though. So now that I now we're on the same page, I hope you don't mind if I finish my thoughts on this.....
    So the preacher failed to make a stricter application from one to the other. First, the lepers were diseased. Visibly. No doubts. Second, they came to Jesus for their healing. And they received their healing - visibly. No doubt. Third, for the Jews involved, and to fulfill the demands of the Jewish ritual law, Jesus tells them to do it right and show themselves to the priests for the ritual pronouncement of healing. Re-entry is a consequence. Jesus follows - in our lingo - the scriptures. So the revisionist preacher, as you say, in your preaching scenario abuses the scripture to only make it into a springboard to an agenda, sandwiching it with a scripture consequence, but voiding the essentials in between. In the meantime, by virtually separating sexual immorality from those same scriptures (by not calling it) this preacher has made Jesus to be mistaken, inconsequential, at the very least, "corrected" by succeeding newly enlightened generations.
    Need I say it here? But I will anyway: the Bible - both Old and New Testaments consistently - judges sexual immorality (clearly including sexual activity between anyone outside of the Jesus' definition of marriage) as just as obviously needing healing as anyone with leprosy. Many folks don't see it that way, obviously, because the two conditions itch differently.
    And just to put a cap on it, the issue of community re-entry excludes the presence of the Samaritan. The now healed leper from Samaria returns to give thanks for one thing because they have no priest to go to, at least not in Jerusalem. The priests have no responsibility to proclaim any healing, since the Samaritan is not part of their community, and besides the Samaritan wouldn't be allowed into the area where the priests were examining.
    It's all about Jesus, and his healing, and his making us right; the community of Israel regarding these healed lepers is dependent upon him, even though they wouldn't admit it. And the Samaritan gets to go home, priest or no.
    Thus, the community is dependent upon Jesus, not Jesus dependent upon the community. When that is not clear and practiced as such, everything gets screwed up.

  14. Rob, I ditto UP's "bingo" in spades. What a cogent analysis.