Tuesday, October 11, 2016

The Cry of Faith. . .

Sermon for Pentecost 21, Proper 23C, preached by the Rev. Daniel M. Ulrich on Sunday, October 9, 2016.

Has there ever been a time in your life that was so difficult, so physically and emotionally draining, so hard that you had no idea what to do? Have you ever been in desperate need and wanted to pray, but you didn’t know what to say? Some of you may quickly answer yes to these questions, others, maybe not. But no matter what your answer is, the truth is all of us are in need. Our need is so great that we can’t meet it on our own. We have no idea what to do or say, so we simply cry out. But as Christians we don’t aimlessly cry, going around simply making noises of desperation and disgust. No, we cry out in faith, “Lord, have mercy.” And He does.

We are people in need; always in need of something. The rumblings in our bellies tell us we need food. The bills in our mailboxes tell us we need money. The fevers, coughs and sneezes, the aches and pains, the x-rays and MRIs tell us we need healing. Feelings of loneliness and isolation tell us we need family and friendship. We need because we’re creatures. No matter how independent we are, we can’t survive on our own. We’re dependent upon one another, we’re dependent upon our Creator, God the Father.

The ten lepers in our Gospel reading are a perfect illustration of our need. These ten real life men were in need. Their situation was a dire one. First, they were afflicted with a terrible skin disease that could lead to their death. There was no cure for leprosy. If one had it they simply had to wait: wait for the body to heal itself, or wait for it to spread and kill the body.

If this wasn’t enough suffering, these men were quarantined, separated from loved ones, from the whole of the community because they were unclean. In Leviticus we hear God’s Word concerning this. “The leprous person who has the disease shall wear torn clothes and let the hair of his head hang loose, and he shall cover his upper lip and cry out, ‘Unclean, unclean.’ He shall remain unclean as long as he has the disease. He is unclean. He shall live alone. His dwelling shall be outside the camp” (Lv 13:45-46). These ten were outside the village, alone, isolated. They were in great need: in need of physical healing, in need of restoration, in need of life.

We have the same need. We need the physical things of life: food, drink, clothing, shoes, house and home, family, friends, government, peace, health, and the list can go on and on. We need healing. No one is immune to sickness. Viruses and germs infect young and old. Cancers grow all over our bodies. Heart attacks, strokes, and the like leave lasting effects. These ailments are physical signs of sin, sin that entered the world when our first parents gave in to the devil’s temptation, sin that destroys God’s creation.

Sin doesn’t just leave physical damage though, it also damages our relationships. Our sin separates us from one another. Like the ten with leprosy disconnected from family and friends, our sin disconnects us from ours. Our hurtful, selfish, sinful words and actions pit husbands against wives, children against parents, siblings against siblings, friends against friends. Our sin disconnects us from God, our Creator who gave us life. Sin makes us unclean, and nothing unclean can come into God’s holy presence. Therefore we’re quarantined, isolated from God and others. We need restoration, but we can’t restore ourselves.

The ten lepers were helpless in their need. They could do nothing to heal or restore themselves. All they could do is cry out. Seeing Jesus they lifted up their voices and said, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us” (Lk 17:13). And we do the same. Helpless in our need of healing and restoration, helpless in our need for life, we cry out. We lift up our voices to Jesus our Master; we cry out the Kyrie, in faith we pray, “Lord, have mercy.” And God answers this prayer with His unending mercy in Jesus Christ our Savior.

Hearing these ten men cry out, Jesus healed them. Christ cleansed them from the disease that attacked their bodies, He restored them back to the community, He gave them life, and He does the same for you and me.

Jesus overcomes that which we can’t, our sin. He did this on the cross. Sin causes death, it causes our death. We should be the ones who die because it’s our sin. But in mercy, God sent His Son who had no sin to take our sin, to die our death. And in this sacrificial act, Jesus fulfilled our need.

Because of the cross, God answers our prayer for mercy. He heals us of our sin, the disease that makes us unclean. He washes it away with the waters of Baptism. He forgives us and restores us back into a right relationship with Him. Jesus’ forgiveness overcomes the hurtful, selfish, sinful words and actions that separate us from one another. When we sin against one another, we repent and we forgive.

Jesus’ cross gives us life, both of body and soul. While here on earth, we physically suffer the consequence of sin in sickness and disease. Sometimes the Lord will provide us with healing through the hands of doctors, nurses, and the use of meds. Other times He may not. But this doesn’t mean isn’t merciful. He is, for He promises you everlasting life in heaven. This life will be free from all suffering, from viruses, cancers, and all disease. When we endure physical sufferings we look forward to that life to come, knowing God has graciously given us life in Christ.

When one of the ten realized he was healed, he returned back to Jesus, praising God and giving thanks. This faithful man couldn’t help but do this, for in Jesus he was given everything he needed, and so are we. So we follow the example of this faithful man. We return and praise God, we give Him thanks. We do this as we speak of God’s mercy in Christ and as we show mercy to others by helping them in their needs.

Yesterday we hosted the LWML Zone Rally. These women are all about showing God’s mercy toward others as they sew quilts to help keep people warm and as they donate their mites to financially support other mercy works and the great need of spreading the Gospel to others. We do likewise. We praise God for His mercy, telling others what He has done for us. We return thanks to Him by giving our offerings and tithes, supporting the proclamation of Jesus’ cross to our brothers and sisters who are in desperate need to hear this saving Gospel message. Having received God’s great mercy, we can’t help but do this.

We’re a people in need, in need of healing, restoration, and life. Unable to meet our need, we cry out in faith, “Lord have mercy!” And He does. God mercifully answers our prayers through Christ our Lord. He heals us of our sin, He restores us back into communion with Him and others, and He gives us life everlasting. And we respond to His mercy with thanksgiving and praise. We give back to Him from the gifts He has given to us. We sing His praises and tell others what He has done. We share His mercy with others in need showing forth the mercy He has given to us in Christ. In Jesus’ name...Amen.

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