Grace and Peace to you from God Our Creator and from the Risen Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen
There is difficulty deciphering God’s Word, and sometimes we find ourselves knelt deep into the earth, weeping and wrangling over our words. Does anything in Scripture make any sense or is even relevant for our lives today? We scour various translations and devotionals which profess to hold all the answers, to unlock the secret of God’s Word. We constantly search for these answers in God’s Word, because repeatedly we are seeking shelter from a barrage of words which storm down on our very being. We seek comforting words from a world which almost daily pierces our fragile armor and wounds our souls with its spiteful speeches. There are descriptive words that deny access to those who are relegated to the outskirts of the inner circle; there are descriptive words that restrict humanity from breaking barriers leaving our spirits wasted. Sometimes, all we can do in those moments is remain connected to Creation, and praise God unscripted.
Perhaps reading our Gospel lesson this morning we identify with the Samaritan who had nothing to lose being disobedient and humbly rejoicing over the healing power and the presence of unconditional love in his life. We can easily identify as the Samaritan because of our belief in words spoken from a man who speaks grace and healing into the complexity of our lives. That in the moment of our pain, our difficulty, our struggles, our sadness, our anger, even of our illness all we are able to do is fall at His feet and cry out “Jesus, Master have mercy.” That regardless of what occurs in our daily journey, when we cannot rationalize our situation we stop and draw strength at the rivers of these words! God’s Word which sometimes causes those rivers to swell and overflow, pouring relief into those deserts within us. Yet there are times, when these Scriptures seemingly only produces a trickle to barely fill up the crevices and the cracks within our very being, causing us to peer up begging for immediate relief.
Perhaps through this impatience is what leads people to fill sacred spaces with the empty-headed chatter that God’s grace is only for those who follow these steps to the letter: 1, 2, 3. Possibly these are the reasons that sacred places of worship and praise are infested, thick with buzzing of suspicion, of judgment, of defamation and of gossip. Environments such as these lead others outside of our circles and within the global community to question who we are, filling cyberspaces with hated filled missiles aimed at slamming into the shores of Christianity every societal ill from poverty to war. Yet, if only they would emerge from their panic rooms to understand that sometimes humanity has wrangled its way into the meaning and disputed what God’s Word means for all of Creation, not just a select few.
Perhaps this is what the writer of 2 Timothy in our Epistle lesson this morning was stressing and communicating when he states “Remind them of this, and warn them before God that they are to avoid wrangling over words, which does no good but only ruins those who are listening.” The writer reflects the apostle Paul, who was ridiculed, questioned and suspect of all things heretical simply because he refused to forget the words and the teachings of Jesus Christ. In 2 Timothy it says “that is my Gospel for which I suffer hardship, even to the point of being chained like a criminal”. Criminal? What could be so criminal or wrong about spreading the Good News? These ancient people that interacted with Jesus Christ and his followers wrangled with the words which had been passed down, equaling restriction and rules for righteousness. Jesus Christ gathered up these words of stone and spoke a WORD of LIFE, shattering the shards of shame that had been heaped up on the heads of those who perhaps didn’t quite fit.
The Samaritan didn’t fit, did he? No matter how he could have possibly conformed, if he had continued on with the other nine, would he have been welcomed, or would have the priest’s words been wrangled upon seeing him. And what of the other nine lepers? Exactly what words were shared as they returned victorious back into their society, renewed in status and in relationships. Did they overjoyed, babble incessantly to the priests in the temple, sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ that through the power of just a WORD, they were immediately cleansed? Obviously they recognized who Jesus Christ was or perhaps it was his reputation that caused them to call out, “Jesus, Master, have mercy!” What words did they carry back to their fellow brothers and sisters or did they even mention it at all? When the morning dawn emerged over the horizon and these nine, cleansed of the filth that had violated their skin, and they passed by the Samaritan on the road, would they run with open arms and embrace their brother? They were in exile together and they were cleansed altogether, surely that experience left a common link and bond. Or would they avert their eyes and smirk slightly at his presence and spew forth vileness because Jews and Samaritans just didn’t mix? Would they loudly deny him with their carefully crafted words? That unclean, unsaved Samaritan, who, him? We never conversed with him; we do not know him.
Why do we sometimes deny Jesus Christ just to cement our relationship with the status quo? We bury the signs of redemption and hide our acknowledgement of being believers in Jesus Christ. We switch sides of the street to avoid the path of those who openly praise God right where they are because that has been labeled by the masses as something strange and taboo. Strangers, because they fall freely in the presence of God and profess where their help comes from while we are embarrassed to acknowledge publically that we too, lean on the everlasting arms. The fear of not wishing to see the scorn in the world’s eyes when they question us, “You’re not one of those Christians, are you?” especially when God’s Word of loving our neighbor as ourselves has become unfortunately distorted. Jesus Christ’s message has become muddled in translation, thereby sending us into a frenzy of wrangling over words. Or even the contempt which colors their tone of voice, spitting out the words “Christian” as if it were a curse, because living Christ-like is not how we as Christians are reflected to this world, nowadays. So we distort our speech and we appear to the world to be cleansed through self-help books, rehabilitation centers, through man-made chemicals and individual isolation. “Look we are presentable; we do not have the marks of an ash cross upon our foreheads! We are cleansed; we do not carry any offending marks of Christianity on our person. Jesus Christ? We do not know him and therefore we are free to return to the folds of “polite” society and not have to worry about the poor, the immigrants, the abused, the abandoned, and the neglected. We do not have to worry about anyone else except ourselves.”
Then why if we deny Him publically, are horrified privately reading the Scriptures that Jesus Christ too, can deny us. Why, as we hurry away from moments ago crying out, “Jesus, Master have Mercy!” are surprised Jesus is questioning “But the others, where are they? Was none of them found to return and give praise to God?” The surface of our skin is the picture of perfection, yet within our souls we hide the scars of shame and suffering, wrestling with continuous conflict about who we really are and how we should appear to the world.
Even when we deny Jesus Christ, our Savior, Jesus remains faithful and that is Good News. The Good News of Jesus Christ is that with just WORDS “It is finished”, Jesus Christ reached across the abysmal darkness that clouded our lives and saved us, all of us from the total separation from God. With just WORDS, Jesus Christ heals the open wounds that scar our spirits giving us wholeness and newness of life! When we release the bonds of perfection, when we fall down upon our knees, when we celebrate who we are-that it is not a shame to be called Christian and live our lives radically Christ-like; when we shamelessly give thanks and praise to God, Our Healer Christ sets us free with mere WORDS “Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well” When we stumble and fall at Jesus’s feet weeping because we have not been faithful, the Good News my sisters and brothers in Christ is “He remains faithful” because He cannot deny Who He Is, the Son of God, the Word Made Flesh. God’s WORD cannot be chained!
I am sure as many of you, if Jesus Christ came among our church community this morning, we would fall to the floor and at His feet, crying out in astonishment and crying out for mercy and peace. What words would come to our lips? Would we have perfect speech prepared or sing the Kyrie? Would we rush out into the streets singing Hallelujah or would our speech be stifled and silent because of the world’s unbelief? Or would we simply awash our Savior’s feet in a baptism of tears because through Jesus Christ, through God Our Healer our faith has made us well, renewed and whole.
Thanks Be To God.