Once again we have a story about a Samaritan. Last Sunday I explain what the word "Samaritan" meant. In that time, the Samariants were foreigners among the people of Israel. The Jews hated them, because the Samaritans did not have the pure blood of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and in centuries past, they had attacked the ancestors of the Jews. But, in today's Gospel, as in last Sunday's parable, a Samaritan shows more faith in the Lord than the Jews.
Today's story speaks of something else the Jews detested, the disease of leprosy. This is a disease of the skin, very nasty and contagious. Lepers had to live apart from the community and could not have contact with their families. Leprosy still exists in the modern world, in the Middle East and in this hemisphere, in Brazil.
According to the Law of Moses, the priests in the Temple of Jerusalem had the responsibility to examine and declare whether a person had leprosy or not.
So 10 lepers approached Jesus and cried out, "Jesus, Teacher, have mercy on us." What happened? Jesus had mercy and healed them. He told them to go to the Temple to be examined according to the custom. All received their bill of health.
And afterwards? Only the Samaritan returned to the two where Jesus was staying to thank the Lord. For that reason, the Lord praised him. But what did Jesus do in regard to the rest? Did He say, "What ingrates!" and restore their leprosy? No, the Lord does not take back His acts of mercy.
Here is the application for us. In one sense, all the lepers had faith in the Lord. They believed that Jesus Christ could heal them. And so it was. But the Samaritan remembered to thank the Lord and received forgiveness for his sins.
As with the gift of health, so with justification by faith. We receive the gift of faith and the assurance of eternal life in holy baptism by the work of the Holy Spirit. By faith we are justified in God's eyes. That is to say, Christ, our High Priest, has declared us righteous and free of sin, as the Jewish priests declared lepers clean. Nothing can change this.
What's more, in the sacrament of the Lord's Supper, we always have the promise of forgiveness and the feeding of our faith with the most precious Body and Blood of Christ.
However, for the promises of the Lord to be fulfilled, it is necessary to remain steadfast and grow in a living faith. The answer of faith to salvation in Christ is the same as the Samaritan leper who in gratitude returned to give praise to Christ.
Since 2004, there have been 8 baptisms and 11 confirmations here at our mission. Some of those who were baptized and confirmed are not with us now. For them, the promise of baptism still is valid. For the repentant, the table of the Lord has been prepared.
However, what happens to one of these plants if the gardener does not water them during the dry season? They dry up, right? And the weeds grow and choke them.
It is the same with the faith of those who do not regularly receive Word and sacrament. The Holy Bible also is a gift from God to us. I urge you to read and study the Bible in your homes and not forget to listen to the preaching of the Word on Sundays. I also urge you to receive the sacrament of Holy Communion frequently.
In this way, let us remain steadfast and grow in faith, so that we will have a strong faith to help us endure the difficult trials of life.
And remember this, we live in the grace period between the Ascension of our Lord and His Second Coming. Jesus did not stay in the village between Samaria and Galilee forever. When He left the village, the other lepers who were healed lost the opportunity to receive forgiveness for their sins.
When our Lord returns in glory, it will be too late to repent and change one's lifestyle. The same is true after we die physically. No one knows the hour of the world's end or of their own death.
My uncle died in 1997 at 51 years of age. Now I am 51 years old and I hope to live longer, but there is not guarantee. I had a nephew who died at three years of age. It is easy to think that one still has 50, 40 or 30 years of life, but there is no guarantee. But, if we persevere in the faith, we do not have to worry about the brevity of life, because we have the promise of life eternal in Christ.
Therefore, let us remain steadfast in the faith that the Holy Spirit has given us. Amen.
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