Hello, I recognise that many people who might be watching these daily reflections are in isolation and as the second wave goes through the world and through our community, I can understand the fear of those who have to protect themselves from illness. Won’t it be great when we are on the other side of this crisis, when we can get back to normal living, when we can be protected by an efficient vaccine and perhaps living with some precautions as well?
What an exciting thing to be free from the things that trap us. Well, the story today from Luke’s gospel, chapter 17, beginning of verse 11, is of someone who was ill and who was trapped, but put Jesus first before his healing. I read from Luke 17, verse 11.
11 Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus travelled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. 12 As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance 13 and called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!” 14 When he saw them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed. 15 One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. 16 He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan. 17 Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? 18 Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?” 19 Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.”
An interesting story, isn’t it? And of course, you may know that the reason they had to go and show themselves the priest, was that part of the priest’s duty was to assess health and to proclaim whether someone had leprosy and therefore should be excluded from the community or had been healed from leprosy and therefore could be welcomed back into the community. And these ten Samaritans were on an exciting journey to be released from all the difficulties of social distancing and exclusion that they faced. They’re on their way to find the priests so that they can be declared clean. And as they go, they are healed and as they realize that they were healed their pace probably quickens; they realize that they’re going not as they were, but as Jesus has made them.
So what stops one of them getting this healing and declaration, this clean bill of health, straight away? Why doesn’t he rush to get the thing that he’s been longing for that allows him back into society and back into his family and back into normal living? What stops him? Well, what stops him is his recognition that Jesus is to be worshipped. And he turns and he delays his visit to the priest in order to fall at Jesus’ feet and to thank him. He might even be running the risk that the healing may not be permanent and that the priest may not be able to declare he’s been healed. But his priority is Jesus. First, he goes and worships Jesus.
So what is it that you and I really want? What could distract us from grabbing it? Maybe if we were to be offered the opportunity to meet up with a long lost member of our family or someone we have loved but lost, or as we hear from those who have been adopted, looking for their birth parents, and after a search, they have discovered them or siblings that they did not know they have or perhaps even a child that has been adopted. And you have this opportunity to go and meet them. What could stop you from that journey and delay you doing that? Or perhaps if you do the lottery and you have a claim to make a huge amount of money, it’s going to change your life. What would stop you on your way to claiming that or to even make the phone call? Or perhaps you’re rushing back to watch the last episode of Strictly Come Dancing, which you’ve watched religiously for many years, and it is the last episode this year and you desperately want to get there and see it. What could stop you getting to the TV?
We know, don’t we, from our Sunday liturgy, the greatest commandment is this: “Love the Lord, your God with all your heart”. It’s a commandment, it’s not just a feeling of love It is a command that we are to put God first. We know this and this commandment is put to the test every day in our lives, particularly at moments of crises like watching the last episode of Strictly or perhaps a crisis of health and an opportunity for healing, which is what happened to the leper. The test is whether that becomes more important than worshipping Jesus, because worshipping Jesus and loving God is the first commandment. That’s what we’re commanded to do first.
So these crises put us to the test. But every day we have little opportunities as well to remember that the things that are before us come second to our love of God: giving thanks every day, just saying grace before a meal, stopping even if we are hungry (and don’t we get hungry when food is put before us? I get ‘hangry’ when food is put before we the family know that). But we need the discipline of saying, “OK, I’m just not going to eat straight away. I’m going to spend just a few moments to say thank you to God who provides all the good things”.
Or waking up each morning and thanking God for the night that has passed, even if we haven’t slept very well, we can still be thankful that we have a morning and a new day, perhaps even before he first cup of coffee. Or putting our heads on our pillows, and before we go to sleep, before we’re even too tired to pray, to thank God for the day that has happened and to remember that it’s come because of his goodness.
It’s rare, isn’t it, to find people who are willing to put into second place the things that they really want and to put in first place, worshipping Jesus. In fact, 1 in 10 is the ratio here in this story from Luke. But maybe after this story had happened, this incident, and the disciples would have witnessed it, maybe there was more than 1 in 10 of the audience at that time. Maybe more people were brought to remember, to thank Jesus, to thank our God for all that he provides. And my prayer is that this passage, as we’ve read it, and this example can help us to give thanks to Jesus before we receive the good things that he gives. And that our example may lead others also to put God first Amen.
whose will is to restore all things
in your beloved Son, the King of all:
govern the hearts and minds of those in authority,
and bring the families of the nations,
divided and torn apart by the ravages of sin,
to be subject to his just and gentle rule;
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen
And thank you, Jesus, for all that you gave us.