Cruce Tectum

Cruce tectum, hidden under the cross, a blog for Epiphany Lutheran Church, Dorr, Michigan

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Location: Moscow, Idaho

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost

Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost (C)
October 14, 2007
Text: Luke 17:11-19

Worship is a confession of faith. When the Samaritan returned to Jesus, having been cleansed of his leprosy, he confessed a profound truth. Jesus is God in the flesh. Luke recounts, “Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks” (Luke 17:15-16; ESV). The Samaritan saw no separation between his worship of God and his worship of Jesus. He was worshiping the Father who sent Jesus. He was worshiping Jesus who is the Son of God. He was worshiping the One who has mercy and gives salvation. Such worship is a confession of faith.

Lack of worship is the opposite of confessing the faith. It is a confession that one does not have faith. The nine Jews, who should have recognized the Messiah, did not return to give worship. They accepted the cleansing of their leprosy. But they would not accept the One who cleansed them. They would not accept their cleansing from sin. They did not recognize the divinity of Jesus. They did not recognize the Son of God, sent from the Father. Therefore neither did they return glorifying God, giving thanks to Jesus. Their lack of worship betrays their lack of faith.

Faith is the receiving hand of salvation. Thanksgiving and worship are the fruits of faith. Faith lives and breathes in thankful devotion to God. Notice how good Jesus is. He cleanses all ten lepers without exception. He has mercy on all. He cannot do otherwise. But only one returns in faith. He is not one of the Jews. He is a Samaritan. He is the least among the ten, a foreigner. But he believes in Jesus. And he returns to the Son of God and prostrates himself in worship, glorifying and giving thanks.

But notice the order here. First Jesus has mercy. First He cleanses those who are unclean. All of them. Then faith results. Faith comes after mercy. Faith is the gift of God given in mercy. It is also the God-given instrument by which we receive God’s mercy. And only then, after God has first given so much to us, along with the faith to receive it, come thanksgiving and worship. God gives. We receive. Then we respond. This is the pattern of the Christian life. This is the pattern of the life of faith. This is the pattern of life for those baptized into Christ.

Not all come to faith, it is true. In this case, only one out of ten comes to faith. The other nine do not. They do not believe, therefore they do not worship. Worship is a confession of faith. Therefore one cannot worship if one does not have faith. Worship is always a fruit of faith, a response to mercy. “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? Was no one found to give praise to God except this foreigner?” (v. 17). But this foreigner, this Samaritan, recognized the place of mercy; namely, where God dwells with men. And God dwells with men in the flesh of Jesus Christ. Jesus therefore said to the Samaritan, “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well” (v. 19). The Samaritan received so much more than cleansing from leprosy that day. He received the cleansing of body and soul. He received salvation. Faith had truly made him well. It had made him right. It had made him right with God. Jesus took away the sickness of leprosy, and Jesus took away the sickness of sin. That is the ultimate cause for thanksgiving and worship.

And that cleansing is the cause for our thanksgiving and worship. Jesus cleansed the whole world in His sacrificial death on the cross. Not one person in the whole history of the world is an exception to this cleansing. Jesus offered the sacrifice that made the unclean clean again. The sacrifice was His life, His very body and blood. Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29). It is not just for some people that Christ died. It is for all people. But not all receive this salvation in faith. Faith is the instrument that receives. Christ died for all, but not all believe and receive His salvation. This is the great tragedy that anyone should ever have to go to hell. All sins of all people are forgiven in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross. But only faith receives the benefits of that forgiveness and salvation. Believe the promises of God, and you possess every one of them. Don’t believe the promises, particularly the promise of God’s forgiveness and love for you in Jesus Christ, and you do not have it. You can walk away, like the nine lepers, not believing in the One who has given you every grace and blessing. And if that is the case, you have rejected the Lord of life and the salvation He gives. You will go to hell, but it is your own fault, not God’s. God wanted to save you. He is faithful, even when you are not. As St. Paul writes in the epistle lesson, “if we are faithless, he remains faithful – for he cannot deny himself” (2 Tim. 2:13). If you are condemned, it is because you don’t want God’s salvation. You don’t want Jesus. You may walk away with some of God’s temporal blessings, as the lepers walked away cleansed of leprosy, but you will walk away having forfeited your eternal salvation.

But you are here this morning worshiping Jesus. And worship is the fruit of faith. You are here calling upon Jesus to have mercy. He hears your cries. He does have mercy. He washes your wounds. He forgives all your sins. He speaks you righteous. He takes your sicknesses upon Himself. He gives you the medicine of immortality, which is His very body and blood. You believe in Him. You trust Him. You respond in thanksgiving and worship. Such thanksgiving and worship are the fruits of God-given faith. You have returned to behold your crucified and resurrected Lord Jesus, and to give Him thanks. This is the precious work of the Holy Spirit within you. Rise and go your way. Your faith has made you well. Rise and go your way singing the praises of God, giving thanks and worshiping, confessing Christ in all you do and say, forgiving and serving your neighbor in love. That is the pattern of your life in Christ. He has mercy on you. You receive His mercy in faith. Faith responds with thanksgiving and worship.

This puts our worship into perspective. The introduction to our old hymnal, Lutheran Worship, states it so well: “Our Lord speaks and we listen. His Word bestows what it says. Faith that is born from what is heard acknowledges the gifts received with eager thankfulness and praise… Saying back to [God] what he has said to us, we repeat what is most true and sure… The rhythm of our worship is from him to us, and then from us back to him. He gives his gifts, and together we receive and extol them. We build one another up as we speak to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. Our Lord gives us his body to eat and his blood to drink. Finally his blessing moves us out into our calling, where his gifts have their fruition.”[1] Our various callings in life as husbands and wives, mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, pastor and parishioners, butchers, bakers, and candlestick makers, are contexts in which we take our worship into the week, giving thanks to God by serving our neighbor. This is faith in action. In our worship and in our vocations, we return to God to give thanks for what He has so freely given to us in Christ, our very salvation.

This also puts the work of groups like the Lutheran Women’s Missionary League (LWML) in perspective. The good work of the LWML is the response of faith to God’s mercy in Christ. The dear women of this congregation have been blessed with a living and active faith in the Savior who has cleansed them from sin. So in turn they are a blessing to all of us in their work for the Lord and for the Church. They do this work out of thanksgiving to God for His mercy in Christ. It is a confession of their faith. They are a city on a hill giving light to all around it (Matt. 5:14). We see their good works and glorify our Father in heaven (v. 16).

True Christian worship confesses God in the flesh, our Lord Jesus Christ, and the salvation that comes alone through Him. He is merciful. Mercy produces faith. Faith gives birth to worship and thanksgiving. This morning the faithful of Epiphany Lutheran Church are doing what the faithful do best: Receiving. Receiving mercy from God in Christ. Receiving it in faith. Beloved, you know the place of mercy. It is the place where God dwells with men, the flesh of our Lord Jesus Christ. Our Lord Jesus dwells with us in the Church as both God and Man. He who gave His flesh for the life of the world (John 6:51) now gives His very body and blood for us to eat and to drink. Come, then, in faith. The Father has sent His Spirit to give you this faith in the Son. And the Son, Jesus, says to you this morning, “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.” In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

[1] Lutheran Worship (St. Louis: Concordia, 1982) p. 6.

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