"Praise Be to God!": Sermon for the Eighteenth Sunday After Pentecost, Year C

"Praise Be to God!": Sermon for the Eighteenth Sunday After Pentecost, Year C

    Oct 13, 2019

    Passage:Luke 17:11-19

    Preacher: Miriam Scott

    Series: Season After Pentecost

    Category: Stewardship, Evangelism, Generosity

    Keywords: stewardship, evangelism, grace, hospitality


    In the parable of the ten lepers, does Jesus expect people he heals to give him praise and gratitude? This sermon looks at these issues?


    I’d like to start with a minor complaint today, no worries it’s really very small: but I do believe having me preach on the same day as we celebrate Oktoberfest here at St Andrew’s is just a little bit of typecasting, no? Funny thing is, I’ve never even been to the real Oktoberfest in Munich! As a matter of fact, my very first time to celebrate it was right here at St Andrews. And I don’t own a single dirndl. Everyone know what a dirndl is? It is the beautiful feminine equivalent of the Lederhosen. It might surprise some to know, that we do not wear these on a regular basis like Disney World might have you believe. But I do remember my first Oktoberfest here at St. Andrew’s very fondly. It is fairly close to Rally Day. Rally Day was the day that introduced me to all of you. The day that I was intrigued and hopeful about Christianity once again. By the time Oktoberfest came around I had thoroughly fallen in love with the spirit here at St. Andrews. Fitting, that I could celebrate this with brats, beer, and potato salad, don’t you think? That really is the way to this German’s heart!

    Rally Day, Oktoberfest, Trunk or Treat, Thanksgiving in the Parish Hall, Lenten Series, Easter Sunday, every Sunday Breakfast, and during this summer for the first time, Sunday in the Courtyard. These are our main food related outreach ministries.  And as I can testify: They are effective! Sharing food while sitting together around a table, brings people together. The benefits of shared meals are and always were well known. We know for certain, that Jesus was aware and took advantage of the power of shared meals. And today, more than 2000 years later, research shows over and over again the importance of sharing meals as a family.  Hospitality is a big deal in our Christian faith. After all, we are called to treat one another as family.

    And what about our other outreach ministries? From knitting prayer shawls with St Brigid, intercessory prayers with the Daughters of the King, to Tai Chi and Bible studies and Sunday School, the Angel Tree, and visiting Eucharist there is something for everyone. That’s outreach. Then we have in-reach ministries as well. Choir, Acolytes, Altar’s Guild, Flower Guild, Readers, vestry, and committees, all is needed to keep St Andrews as the safe haven it is. I am thankful everyday for what St Andrews means to me and to my family, I am thankful  for your continued support of my discernment, and I am thankful for the hope we give to all who get to know St Andrews: the hope that comes with unconditional love and grace. This is a busy, joyful, and loving Church! Praise Be To God!

    In our gospel reading of Luke today, God was also praised. God was praised with a loud voice by a man who as Luke tells us had just been cured by Jesus of leprosy. This man wasn’t the only one Jesus cured, however. No, he was in a group of ten, all of them crying out to him: “Jesus, Master, have mercy upon us!” And of course, Jesus did. “Go and show yourselves to the priests” Jesus said. “And as they went, they were made clean.” I sometimes find Luke’s ways of describing a miracle a bit underwhelming.  Here are 10 people with leprosy. A disease that was not only a certain death sentence, but because it was highly contagious, people who contracted it were social outcasts. People suffering from leprosy were considered unclean during a time when spiritual and ritual cleanliness was the ultimate litmus test for being a worthy member of society. They were unclean, so they were social outcasts.  With no hope of ever turning their life around. The hopelessness and despair these 10 people felt must have been overwhelming and obvious. Jesus’ reaction to this was: “’Go and show yourself to the priests.’ And as they went, they were made clean.” This sounds almost like a drive by healing. A Grace by window. But Grace is never cheap. Instead what Luke wanted to make sure the reader understands, is that God’s Grace and Love are abundant, certain, and always directly present. God’s love is abundant, certain, and always present. God gives generously. Jesus’ command for the lepers to just go to their priests right away, also tells us that Jesus does not want a pat on the back, or acclaim, or fame or even just a thank you. After all God does not need human approval. However, as Luke continues telling this story, we see that one of the ten lepers turns around. This healed man turned toward Jesus and “praised God with a loud voice.” And here Jesus remarks on the fact, that out of ten, only one was thankful. “Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they?” Ok, so first Jesus wants no thanks, no acknowledgement at all, and then he criticizes the nine people who do not praise God. So, which is it? God does not need praise, but woe to you if you don’t?

    As we continue today’s Gospel reading, Jesus asks: “Was none of them found to return and give praise to God…?” Was none of them found? Did none of them return to God? That is what Jesus worries about here. God does not try to make sure that he gets his due recognition. In all of the gospels, Jesus continuously searches for people, he finds them. He finds the social outcasts, the unloved, the unclean. And when he finds them, he turns them towards God. Towards God’s Love, towards God’s Grace. Jesus is not concerned with a lack of admiration. He is concerned with lack of a close relationship with God. Only when we are close, when we turn towards God, can we recognize and feel God’s glory, God’s Love, and God’s grace. But when we do, it is all we can say, with a loud voice: Praise be to God!

    And that was my response when I felt welcomed and found here, in this church. St. Andrew’s makes God’s glory visible. With every meal, with every shawl, with every lesson, with every visit, with every hug.  Every single time we share God’s love, we praise God.  This is a busy, joyful, and loving Church! St. Andrews is you. We praise God every time you volunteer to clean up the yards, to teach Sunday class, to set the altar, clean the linens, cook, bring lunches to the homeless, pray for the needs of others, serve on a committee, every time you donate your time, talent, and yes money, you praise God. And in doing so, St Andrew’s, our beloved church, finds and turns more and more people towards God.

    This, by the way has a name: Evangelism. But please, do not let that scare you! In the words of our presiding bishop Michael Curry, who likes to call himself the “chief evangelism officer”, “None of us would be here, if someone hadn’t evangelized”. Whether like in my case this happened through a priest answering your questions and inviting you to his church for Rally Day, or your great-great-grandparents were Episcopalian, it all happened through evangelism. It all started with Jesus showing us the importance and power of shared meals. Jesus taught us the abundance of God’s Love. Jesus illustrated the boundless grace of God. Jesus evangelized us.  As Christians, we are called to “turn and praise God with a loud voice”, we are called to respond to God’s generosity, we are called to continue to find and turn people towards God. We are, scary though we might find it, called to evangelize. Every ministry you serve, every talent you volunteer, every dollar you give, enables us to do just that. I encourage you therefore, to find your own personal evangelism style. Words, actions, prayers, presence, money, all are acceptable, pleasing and delightful ways to praise God. Mix them up a little, have fun!  Be busy, be joyful, be loving.

    Praise be to God!