see? see!

Washington Diocese of the Episcopal Church

a sermon, based on Luke 17.11-19, preached with the people of Epiphany Episcopal Church, Laurens, SC, on the 21st Sunday after Pentecost, October 9, 2016

Today, as on all Sundays, we gather for worship; the word, a contraction of “worth” and “ship.” Thus, we gather to worship the only One worthy of our adoration, God, the creator and preserver of life, now and forever.

That is why we have come. That is what we are doing. In our coming and doing, what do we see? Here. Now.

A people gathered. Yes.

Epiphany, Laurens, SC, facade

In this sacred space, unassuming in its straightforward Greek revival and semi-Gothic design and yet, in that eclectic simplicity, profoundly serene. Yes.

With our material resources of  prayer books, hymnals, service bulletins, and foremost our human resources of ushers greeting us at the door, worship leaders guiding us through the liturgy, and all of us raising our voices in song, opening our hearts in prayer, lifting our hands to receive the bread of life and with our lips, tasting the wine of heaven. Yes.

Yet again I ask, what do we see? Not with our physical eyes, but with spiritual sight. For to see with that gift of God’s grace is to know more fully, to be more faithfully what we do this day.

Blessedly, we have companion to point the way…

the-healing-of-ten-lepers-guerison-de-dix-lepreux-1886-1896-james_tissot-1836-1902-brooklyn-museum

Of the eleven protagonists in our gospel passage, he is one of ten who has no name. He introduces himself to Jesus and to us by his condition, his affliction. Leprosy. A horrible life-altering, inevitably death-dealing and contagious disease, resulting in exile, banishment from the community. Later we are told one additional detail. He is a Samaritan. That cultural designation telling us that his fellow lepers likely are Jews. That fact demonstrating the proverbial insight that misery loves company and that shared suffering perhaps more than any other motivation can eradicate societal, racial barriers, in this case, quelling the historic animus between Jews and Samaritans. That fact explaining why these beleaguered souls, cast out of their respective societies, welcome nowhere, dwell in the no-man’s land “between Samaria and Galilee.”

(I digress. Truth be told, there is no “region between Samaria and Galilee.” That’s akin to saying there’s a place between Laurens and Spartanburg Counties. There’s not a place, only a boundary line. Yet, this scriptural detail emphasizes for us that for those suffering from leprosy, their exiled existence was like that of ever walking a fine line, never to step again on the soil of their birth, families, and former lives.)

Jesus encounters the ten afflicted with leprosy “on the way to Jerusalem.” That fact alerting us that the denouement of his story is soon to be written, the closing curtain of his life and ministry soon to be drawn, his destiny soon to be fulfilled with a final showdown with the secular and religious authorities proclaiming, confronting them with his status quo destabilizing, status quo destroying word of God’s unconditional love and universal justice for all.

There in “the region between Samaria and Galilee”, a middle place, a liminal space, a threshold between one state of being and the next, we behold something about God’s kingdom and realm, God’s life and nature: wholeness.

The action quickens. The lepers cry for mercy, Jesus, observant of the law, bids, “Go, show yourselves to the priests,” who, from the time of Moses and Aaron were given charge to pronounce those afflicted with leprosy ritually unclean and, when healing had occurred, to proclaim their restoration to the community,[1] and they, on their way, are healed.

Nine, doubtless thrilled to be cured, continue on their way. “One of them,” this one, this Samaritan, seeing he is healed, recognizes Jesus for who he is, the bringer through his proclamation, the bearer in his person of the activating, animating saving word of God’s kingdom. Seeing he is healed, he “turns back, praising God,” prostrating himself at the feet of Jesus, giving thanks.

See? This is what we do today! Turning back for a moment from the daily courses of our individual lives, gathering in this sacred space as one body, one voice praising God, prostrating our souls at the feet of Jesus, our only Lord, no one else, nothing less, and giving thanks. All so to rise, returning to the world of our lives as we know them, yet to see with newly, spiritually refreshed sight.

To see in every good pleasure of this life a reason to render all glory to God…

To see in our worries and woes a reason to rely on God for solace and strength…

To see in the gifts of life and health and wealth opportunities for service with others…

To see in the face of family and friend, stranger, even enemy another child of God…

To see in our past, even our darkest days of failure and fear, the pathways that brought us to this new day…

To see the world around us with its daily triumphs and tribulations and behold God’s saving hand in all of it…

To see in the farthest horizon of an always uncertain future the possibilities of hope…

To see our faces in our mirrors and no matter how our day has gone, whether revealing our brightest virtues or our darkest sins, most probably both, and behold the countenance of God’s beloved…

This is what it is to see ourselves, others, and all things with the eyes of our faith. Our faith, as Jesus said to that Samaritan, so he says to us that makes us well, whole, healed, saved!

See? See!

 

Photographs: me preaching at The Washington National Cathedral, Friday, January 27, 2006 (by Walt Calahan); Epiphany Episcopal Church, Laurens, SC, façade

Illustration: The Healing of Ten Lepers (Guérison de dix lépreux) (1886-1896), James Tissot (1836-1902), Brooklyn Museum

Footnote:

[1] See Leviticus 13.2-3, 14.2-32

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4 thoughts on “see? see!

  1. Paul,

    I “needed to SEE” this today …..Here are each of the things that spoke to me in a huge way!!

    “To see in every good pleasure of this life a reason to render all glory to God…”

    I can’t believe all of the pleasures I’ve had in life. For each of them I am grategul and give glory to God!

    “To see in our worries and woes a reason to rely on God for solace and strength…”

    I’ve relied so much on God for my recent solace and strength… I cry so much at times, but then I feel God’s arms around me and feel stronger.

    “To see in the gifts of life and health and wealth opportunities for service with others…”

    I try to help people whenever I can. In 2017 I hope to do more in the area of service to others, such as the homeless. I could do much better in this area.

    “To see in the face of family and friend, stranger, even enemy another child of God…”

    Just today at church I saw other children of God in the faces of folks I love and folks I don’t know. I was verger and things didn’t go all that well – people weren’t all there who were supposed to be and I had to play multiple roles. YET everyone was ok with it, and we still had a meaningful service ( though at times it was a hot mess, in my opinion anyway)

    “To see in our past, even our darkest days of failure and fear, the pathways that brought us to this new day…”

    I’ve had many dark days in sickness and in health, YET I can see how far I’ve come on every new day, and it feels great!

    “To see the world around us with its daily triumphs and tribulations and behold God’s saving hand in all of it…”

    We all need to SEE this one, because right now there seem to be so many more tribulations in the world than triumphs!

    “To see in the farthest horizon of an always uncertain future the possibilities of hope…”

    When I’m in church, I do see hope, with everyone coming together, It’s more difficult to see the hope in the future outside the Sunday church atmosphere of community …. maybe we all need to go to one HUGE Mandatory church service to come together as a world – so we can better see each other and know that WE ALL are children of God.

    “To see our faces in our mirrors and no matter how our day has gone, whether revealing our brightest virtues or our darkest sins, most probably both, and behold the countenance of God’s beloved…”

    This is my favorite one because no matter what happens in our lives we still have to see ourselves in the mirror each day, and there’s no getting around it. That face in the mirror won’t change even in our best and worst days.

    Thanks Paul – I love that I can SEE more clearly now!

    Much love!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Loretta, as I’ve oft said, your reflections on my sermon texts call, compel me to look at what I’ve written/preached I’m new and different ways. To wit, though I offered these several examples of what I might look like to see through spiritual eyes, I do not believe I viewed them as a list applicable to all people, any person, even myself, but rather thinking that one may apply to one person, another to another, and so on. Your application of each to your life helps me see that these examples, taken in toto, are like beatitudes; in other words, not a multiple-choice listing, but rather all for each person. Thank you!

      AND when you wrote of this morning’s St Mark’s liturgy as “a hot mess”, you could have heard me howling, for I laughed aloud! I easily can imagine what that looked like!

      Love

      Like

      • Hmmm, I never look at just one aspect of your sermons, I always look at the totality of it… I try to always see how much of what you preach about is an active part of my life. I did see your examples as beatitudes of sorts.

        As for the “hot mess”… At 11:14 I had three roles… Acolyte (wearing a too long robe I grabbed quickly), verger and sub for Justi who was out of town….several times I needed to be in two places and once and you can guess how that worked out!! LOL!

        Liked by 1 person

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