Saturday, October 09, 2010

C. Pentecost 20 Proper 23 - Luke 17:11-19; 2 Kings 5:1-15; 2 Timothy 2:18-15 "Infections of the Skin"


2 Kings 5:1-15, Psalm 111, 2 Timothy 2:8-15, Luke 17:11-19

A Change in Life

The girl lay in bed it was just another boring school day. It was the first year of high school and the excitement of moving from primary school to the new school had worn off. There was no need to spring out of bed; there was nothing exciting to look forward to, it was just books, teachers’ looks, and the crook of homework assignments keeping her bound from the more exciting things in life.
However life was about to change forever, little did the girl know that when she rose from her bed, something would change in her life of boredom and monotony, something would bring her more attention than she would have ever expected, something that would bind her as one with all her peers.

Pimples and Leprosy

And then it happened! She hopped out of bed and wandered into the bathroom. It had been a quiet normal morning until then, but the cool morning air was broken with a shrilling screech, ‘Pimple!’
It was big, it was fat, it was right out there on the end of her nose, it was red and swollen, and it was full of puss. This glowing beacon on the end of her nose was going to bring her so much attention in all the wrong ways. It didn’t matter to her now, that she was good at sport, it didn’t matter that she had friends who suffered at the hands of the same injustice, it didn’t matter that her parents said they still love her just the same. No! She was now an outcast, this blemish was not just a zit on the nose, it was a mark of separation; she had lost her youthful complexion forever!
When one is struck with pubescent pimples or even some other kind of infection, self-imposed exile is often the norm in a bid to save face – literally in the case of pimples. In fact, she wasn’t separated at all, but she had become a part of a community; a community of teenagers similar in complexion. The attack of acne not sparing many; academic brilliance, sporting genius, the quiet achiever, both sexes, the shy, the bold, the struggler – all identify as a community of teenagers going through puberty by the common pimple.
Ten lepers were in a similar, but much worse predicament. Their skin was white with leprosy but unlike pimples, this skin infection was contagious and it kept them in exile from everybody. But in the same way teenagers’ pimples identifies them as a community of peers, this infection identified the group of ten. They lived in an area identified in the text as on the border between Samaria and Galilee, but these ten men are only identified by the stigma they bear on their skin.

The Universality of Sin

Leprosy is a direct result of sinful humanity, as is all sickness, all suffering, all imperfection, and all things that lead to death. So these ten lepers can be seen as a picture of all humanity suffering because of sin. All people, ten out of ten, are sinful. We are one because of our fleshy human natures. No matter whether we are Australian, city people or country folk, paupers or princes and princesses, all are sinners and all live with the knowledge of death as the closing chapter of life as we experience it.

God’s Great Love for Sinners

But the sinful existence in which we live is only temporary. Like pimples, this condition will pass for us. As we confessed in the Psalm, we have a God whose works are great, whose righteousness endures forever, and whose nature is gracious and compassionate. And the greatest work he has done directly for a community of sinners is the gift of his own Son to atone for our sins. And this atonement came at the expense of his death, even though he live as a human in the flesh, susceptible of sin, but without ever sinning.

God’s love in the Ordinary Things

We know of God’s great love for us through our baptism and through the teaching of the church; here in church, in the home, in Sunday school, confirmation class, and RE in schools. The baptism we received might seem in our eyes quite ordinary ­– using ordinary words and the very ordinary element of water.
But as we heard in the Old Testament reading, God works through the ordinary things of this world: through the not-so-extraordinary witness of an Israelite servant girl who told her mistress about the God of Israel’s power in the prophet Elisha. And even the seemingly lacklustre attention of Elisha himself when he sent Naaman to go and wash in the tranquil waters of the Jordan. And Jesus’ simple command to the ten lepers to go and show themselves to the priests, seemed to be overly simple too.
But as simple as these actions may have seemed, they were very powerful actions. We know that once Naaman was convinced to wash in the Jordan he was cured of his leprosy and once the ten left to present themselves to the priests, they too were healed. So we can rest assured that in our outwardly ordinary baptism something very powerful happens too.

Reassurance in the Word

Don’t believe because I say so; believe because God says so. Hear what he says in Ephesians 1:13&14:
And you were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.
And also what he says in Titus 3:5–7:
…he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Saviour, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.
Also in our baptism, we are taught of God’s action in our lives, and in the teaching of the church we are taught to remember these things. The epistle encourages such remembrance:
Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David. This is my gospel, for which I am suffering even to the point of being chained like a criminal. But God’s word is not chained. Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory… Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. (2 Tim 2:8-10, 14-15)
God wants us to remember the gospel into which we were baptised. He places a deposit on us, he marks us as one of his in our baptism, just as a explorer stakes his country’s claim on a piece of land when he plunges its flag into the ground. He wants us to remember our baptism and the gospel because we are sinful every day of our lives, and a lack of remembrance will result in backslide. In fact, because of our baptism, and the Holy Spirit he has placed in us as a result of baptism, he causes us to remember so we might continue in hope of eternal life. Just as a group of teenagers are identified by their spotty complexion, which clears, as they move into adulthood, we are identified as sinners living under the grace of the deposit placed on us in our baptism, which will one day result in the loss of sin and the gain of eternity with our Lord.
Let me conclude by repeating the trustful saying Paul spoke to Timothy, which serves as both warning to our sinful natures and comfort to us who have been made one in the blood of Christ, ‘If we died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him. If we disown him, he will also disown us; if we are faithless, he will remain faithful, for he cannot disown himself. (2 Tim 2: 11-13)
Don’t disown the gospel God has planted in you. God died for you, so let him live with you. He endured for you, now let him lift you up in endurance so you might reign with him. And know that he will always remain faithful to you in this life, the door is wide open for us to have our hearts filled with the food of the Holy Spirit, God’s holy word and Christ’s holy body and blood. And with these things in us, God will never let us go, no matter how leprous or pimply with sin we might seem. Amen.