Summary: A sermon about faith, worship and Christian service.
"Grace is Not Cheap, but it is Free"
In one Peanuts comic strip, Lucy who is in love with the piano-playing Schroeder is watching him play the piano--she's looking at him all google-eyed.
Lucy asks Schroeder, "Do you know what love is?"
Schroeder stops the music and says, "Love is a strong bond or attachment toward another, a decision to act in their best interest."
Then he goes back to playing the piano.
In the next box, Lucy looks at the audience and laments: "Gee, on paper Schroeder is just great!"
Is it possible for Christians to look "just great" on paper, but in reality, to not really be living out what we are called to do and be?
A friend of mine recently talked to me about his "home church" in Norfolk, VA.
He said that, when he was a kid, that church had a membership of over 1,000 people.
But mostly all it did was "Sunday stuff."
It didn't reach out to the community.
It was very inwardly focused, kind of like a club.
Eventually, the church lost members, and got to the point where it almost had to close the doors.
My friend tells me that the church is alive now.
More alive than it ever was.
It may not have a membership of 1,000, but they now have feeding events for their community every week.
They are known in their neighborhood as a church which is racially friendly, open to all, non-judgmental, and a place where people can find help.
My friend says, "That's what church is in my view."
In our Gospel Lesson for this morning Jesus comes across 10 lepers, and thus confronts those around Him with their worst fears and deepest prejudices.
Lepers were unclean, set apart, isolated.
They were outcastes who, along with prostitutes and tax collectors and beggars, had no place in the religious community.
But, outcastes such as these, were the focus of Jesus' ministry.
The religious establishment of Jesus' day was more concerned with who was "in" and who was "out."...
...who was good enough to be a part of their club and who was not.
So Jesus and those following Him are on their way to Jerusalem, and they "traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee."
And the word "Samaria" throws up a whole bunch of red flags, of course.
The Samaritans were a despised group, totally inferior.
If they could have gotten rid of them altogether, they would have.
What does our society do with the so-called undesirables?
What did Jesus do?
What does Jesus call us to do?
Are we doing it?
As Jesus entered a village, ten lepers--ten desperate people--come running up to Him begging, "Jesus, Master, show us mercy!"
And what does Jesus do?
He shows them mercy.
Jesus said, "Go show yourselves to the priests."
"And as they left, they were cleansed."
They were all healed.
They had all come to Jesus for salvation from their horrible disease, they were all healed, but only one of them "returned and praised God...
...He fell on his face at Jesus' feet and thanked him."
And this guy was a Samaritan!!!
Not only was he a despised and feared leper, but he was a hated Samaritan.
Talk about a double-whammy!!!
It's sort of like that old saying, "I complained I had no shoes until I met a man who had no feet."
You know, actually, Jesus reached out to everyone and continues to do so.
Jesus reached out to the religious elite.
He wanted to get through to them so badly.
Of course, they ended up having Him crucified...
...but He sure did reach out to them.
They felt they didn't need Him.
And they hated Him and what He stood for.
The outcastes, the poor, the marginalized, the prostitutes, the tax collectors, the lepers, the hated...
These folks responded to Jesus on a much larger scale!!!
And one of the biggest reasons was that they knew they needed help.
Also, Jesus showed them love and mercy, and nobody else much did.
Showing love goes a long way in bringing people to Christ.
As a matter of fact, it goes all the way.
It is the most important thing by a long, long shot!!!
But still, not everyone responds.
When Jesus saw that only one leper returned to thank Him, He replied: "Weren't ten cleansed? Where are the other nine?"
Then Jesus said to him, "Get up...Your faith has healed you."
This can also and perhaps more accurately be translated as "Your faith has saved you."
When the Samaritan leper saw that he had been physically healed and "turned around" and went back to Jesus to thank Him...
...this "turning around" indicates that he responded to the grace of Christ.
It's a description of a believer's reaction to God's grace.