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A FAITH THAT MAKES US WHOLE

“I believe in God,” people say, based on the way He provides for us. But while God’s providence tells us something about His power and goodness, it doesn’t tell us WHO the true and living God is. The faith of the Samaritan in todays text is displayed in His worship of Jesus – as he gives glory to God. His faith is not in some vague spiritual thing, but in Jesus, the Christ, God incarnate.

True Christian faith takes hold of Christ and His righteousness, and while I can’t tell you that this guarantees the cure of some disease right now, I CAN tell you that the cure of all ills is found in Christ, Who is our eternal Savior.

Sermon for the Fourteenth Sunday after Trinity, September 13, 2020, Pastor Edward Bryant. Faith & Our Savior Lutheran Churches, Medford & Grants Pass, Oregon.

Luke 17:11–19 (CSB)

11 While traveling to Jerusalem, he passed between Samaria and Galilee. 12 As he entered a village, ten men with leprosy, met him. They stood at a distance 13 and raised their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!”
14 When he saw them, he told them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And while they were going, they were cleansed.
15 But one of them, seeing that he was healed, returned and, with a loud voice, gave glory to God. 16 He fell facedown at his feet, thanking him. And he was a Samaritan.
17 Then Jesus said, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? 18 Didn’t any return to give glory to God except this foreigner?” 19 And he told him, “Get up and go on your way. Your faith has saved you.”

Dear fellow redeemed in Christ Jesus, who have been given uncountable blessings by our gracious and merciful God, to Him be praise forever and ever:  Where shall we look for you in this picture?  Shall we find you among the ten who cried out in hope and faith in the midst of their suffering?  Shall we find you in the nine who went on their way without a word of gratitude to the One who had saved them from a dreadful life and a horrible death?  Or shall we find you in the one, the Samaritan, who had “a past” as it is put delicately, a past full of unbelief, but now has found a spiritual home on his knees before Jesus, his (and our) God and Savior?

Really, it isn’t that we are one or the other, for we may be all three at different times in our lives. The main thing is that we can learn the true nature of faith from Jesus and this Samaritan. The key thing about true faith is that it takes hold of Christ in truth. I can jump out of an airplane and trust that I will drift gently to the ground, but if I don’t use a parachute, all the trust in the world is meaningless.

The Psalmist makes this point in Psalm 121, I lift my eyes toward the mountains. Where will my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.” (Psalm 121:1–2, CSB)  “The Lord” means the true God and none other.

Those who say they are Christians, have faith, pray often, etc., but do not pay heed to Christ and His word have a vain and empty faith. So, because His faith and His gratitude is in Christ, this Samaritan, this outcast, this foreigner, this undeserving outsider, this half-breed, is not only healed, but returns with thanks and praise.

This faith is crucial as Jesus says, “Get up and go on your way. Your faith has saved you.” Now, I can assure you that God is gracious to you, for He did not even spare his own Son but gave him up for us all. How will he not also with him grant us everything? (Romans 8:32, CSB)

How can we be in such wretched circumstances, fall so far short of what we want to be, and still receive the gifts that God wants us to receive?  Because of faith, for it is faith by which we receive God’s gifts.

IT IS FAITH IN CHRIST THAT MAKES US WHOLE

  1. When We Suffer
  2. When We Are Ungrateful
  3. When We Turn from Our Sinfulness
  1. When We Suffer

This is the faith that brings us to Christ when we suffer, and to nobody else. This is a reminder to us in this year with the Wuhan virus, Covid, lost livelihoods, isolation, riots in the streets, a nation divided, deadly fires, choking smoke, lost homes, not to mention all the usual afflictions of this life, we need to listen to our true Lord, attend to His word, come to Him alone in prayer, and put our faith in Christ alone.

He may deliver us immediately, as He did these ten lepers, but whether now or in the time to come, He is our only hope. For what we need is more than Gods providence. What we need is salvation. God’s providence comes to believers and unbelievers, but salvation only to those who call upon Christ, our true Lord.

So these ten weren’t just “spiritual,” believing in A god.

What God does for us is clear to all, but not Who he is. Some will give credit to Allah when things go well. Others to “Mother Nature,” or some generic ‘god.” Ture faith is not in the fact that there is a god, but in the True God and His promises.

So, it was with faith that these 10 came to Jesus, and called upon him boldly, asking Him for mercy and deliverance.  At times we are like these 10, bold in our prayers, above all knowing that this same Jesus hears our prayers, eager to show mercy and deliverance. They came to Him, suffering from leprosy. We come to Him with our cancers, our heart disease, and our COPD, – our poverty, loneliness, and disappointment. We come to him with our guilt.

We are like these 10, our faith is  in Christ

2. When We Are Ungrateful

But we are also like the nine, are we not? We have in some measure lost sight of the ONE who is the giver of all good gifts, and that’s a common error. James reminded his flock, “Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. By his own choice, he gave us birth by the word of truth so that we would be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.” (James 1:16–18, CSB)

But if we do forget it, we may focus on ourselves and our thoughts about him, instead of His word of truth.  Perhaps with some skepticism we speak of “luck” or “spontaneous recovery.”  To some degree or other our faith may grow weak, even dangerously so.  Then we are ungrateful, and forgetful of our Savior.  Ingratitude is losing sight of Christ as our God and Savior.

It’s like this: Let’s say that on your anniversary, your friends gave you a check for $50.  How would we respond?  Dear Elmer and Rosie, thank you so much…..  On the other hand, if you found a $50 bill and couldn’t find the owner, you would probably just call it luck.

Ingratitude is when we treat Elmer and Rosie’s gift as though it were just luck, and don’t thank them.

Ingratitude is when we treat God’s gifts as just luck, and don’t thank Him.

How many of the dollars in your paycheck do you see as God’s blessing to you?  How often do you sense the sun or feel the gentle rain, and see that it is God’s gift to you?  How often does your child give you a hug, and you see that hug as God’s gift?  How often do you boys and girls enjoy good times and good food and the love of your mom and dad and see that God has given these gifts to you? The God who speaks to you today through His word!

This is something to remember, next time you savor a chocolate chip cookie, or hear beautiful music, or hold hands with your spouse or drive down the road on a crisp sunny day with the car windows down… Remember that the one who has given these gifts to you is thinking of YOU.  He is giving them to YOU, not to the whole world and you accidentally, but to YOU, individually.  For only God can look out after a planet (a universe!) and still get personal about it.

How can we forget that?  Aren’t we often disappointed with ourselves that it has taken us this long to return and give thanks to God?

3. When we Turn from Our Sinfulness

With that thought, we become like the Samaritan.  We are the convicted sinner, crushed by the weight of our sins.  We are people with a past, a past of transgressions.  The Samaritan was by that name identified with those whose worship of “god” had been in defiance of the word.  He is one whose religion was the religion of the cult.  Accepting only the first five books of Moses, the Samaritans rejected the hope of David and of Isaiah, and of all the prophets.  Jesus describes him aptly, a foreigner.

But this is the past.  For us all our sins, our doubts, our lack of faith are in the past, and though remembered by us, they are forgotten by the one who judges, as it is written:  Who can bring an accusation against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies. Who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is the one who died, but even more, has been raised; he also is at the right hand of God and intercedes for us. (Romans 8:33–34, CSB)

Of all the gifts Jesus has given to you and to me, this is the most important gift of all, a gift intangible and unseen except by the eyes of faith.  He gave us forgiveness, life, and salvation.  Truly…

When He died on the cross for ALL, He died for YOU.

When He showed kindness and love to the people in His life, He had YOU in mind, and was living that life for you.

When your conscience stirs, and accuses you, it was with YOU in mind that He said,  “Come to me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28, CSB)

Now, you and I have received so many blessings.  Have we just picked them up on the road?  Did they just come to us by chance?  No!  Every blessing that you have, most especially forgiveness and salvation, are God’s personal gift to you.  May we return to His house, then, over and over again, praise God with our hearts and voices, and throw ourselves at Jesus feet — and thank Him!

AMEN.