Will You Return? Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins Jesus continued toward Jerusalem. Jerusalem symbolizes the hope for peace. Have you ever been in a situation that wasn’t peaceful? Have you ever wondered if you were good enough, strong enough, smart enough? Have you ever felt like the sky was falling and nothing was working the way […]
Will You Return?
Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins
Jesus continued toward Jerusalem.
Jerusalem symbolizes the hope for peace. Have you ever been in a situation that wasn’t peaceful? Have you ever wondered if you were good enough, strong enough, smart enough? Have you ever felt like the sky was falling and nothing was working the way it was supposed to? When we aren’t at peace, what can we do? We can continue toward it. We say “go to peace instead of to pieces.” If you can’t be at peace, go to peace. CONTINUE onward toward the goal.
Jesus continued toward Jerusalem.
Then what happened? He reached the border between Galilee and Samaria.
Have you ever found yourself at the border between this and that? Not in Samaria, but also not in Galilee. In between. Not hopeless, but not confident. Not broken down, but not entirely strong. Not where you want to be, but not where you started either. On the way to peace, we may find ourselves between this and that. Not at our goal, but well on our way.
And at that border, that in between spot, Jesus entered a village. Where he was, even in his in between place, in his stop on the road to fulfillment, he entered into the moment fully and gave himself to the needs at hand.
That’s when he noticed 10 lepers who needed help. They were at a distance. They were told they were unclean and couldn’t be around people. They were a health hazard. They posed a danger to society. They had to keep their distance, but even at a distance, Jesus noticed them and he did what he could to make a difference in their lives.
Jesus looked at them and said, “Go and show.” Because he looked at them, he could speak to them, and because he would speak to them he could encourage them. Go to the priest and show him you’re better than others said you were.
Lepers were taught to be ashamed of themselves. They were uncomfortable in their bodies. And Jesus looked at them, encouraged them, and suggested that they had sacred value that their physical condition could not diminish. In effect Jesus says, “Believe in your light and then let it shine!”
And they took Jesus’ advice, and they began to feel better about themselves. They were healed. They stopped thinking of themselves as being untouchable, unlovable, as needing to stay at a distance. They started to realize that they were more than the circumstances of life, they were more than the judgments others had made about them, they could go out and show up and dare to believe that they mattered. That’s a powerful healing, one many of us still need.
Then one of them came back, filled with joy, affirming his breakthrough and thanking Jesus.
Where were the other 9?
The 10th one was part of a group that was, as Luke says, despised by Jesus’ community.
Have you ever been part of a despised group? Have you ever been judged, condemned, or rejected because of your race, religion, gender identity, physical ability, or sexual orientation?
Long before this man’s experience of leprosy, he knew what it was like to be rejected, condemned, kept at a distance.
Jesus didn’t condemn him for being a Samaritan, nor did Jesus reject him for his illness, so this man was doubly blessed by Jesus. Jesus just loved him, and love is a healing power.
A gay man and HIV positive? A lesbian and an alcoholic? A transgender person and you have agoraphobia? An agnostic and a cancer survivor? An undocumented resident and you battle depression? Unemployed and you suffer from paralyzing grief? A Samaritan and a leper?
What Jesus sees is a child of God, loved entirely and forever by God.
Jesus let him know that he was whole, that he had sacred value, that he was God’s miracle and not God’s mistake.
That man’s life was forever changed. He had to come back. He had to say thanks.
Jesus asks, “where are the other 9?” But he doesn’t say he regrets blessing them. He wished more of them wanted to be part of sharing the life-changing gospel that encouraged them, but he did it for whoever might benefit from his compassion. He’d heal 10 even if only 1 came back to engage and invest in the work of healing others. And the one who came back was blessed even more.
Jesus said to him, “Stand up!”
The one who came back to praise and celebrate was uplifted even more. When we praise, we are raised.
Oh my friends, I so believe in this community of faith.
I so believe in this ministry. I so believe in you.
I so believe in the message and mission of Jesus to heal the broken hearted, to cast out the demons of fear and shame, to bind the wounds of oppression, and to set free those held captive to a painful past.
I so believe that all people have sacred value.
I so believe that together, as a church, we can experience outrageous joy and indomitable hope,
and I so believe that our mission is to experience and share life-giving love.
And I have seen lives changed by this message. Mine has been.
I have seen people filled with light because of your prayers, your generosity, your laughter, your tears, your courage. And yet, not all of them come back. But those who do, those who come back to give, to share, to celebrate, to praise, to rejoice…they are blessed even more. They are continually raised. I want that for everyone.
There’s a lot of talk among sociologists of religion and observers of trends about a decreased interest in regular worship in the US. Many churches are dark throughout the weak and struggle just to keep the doors open. I can’t speak to the spiritual malaise in the nation but I can promise this…we at Sunshine Cathedral will do all we can to heal, to uplift, to inspire, to encourage as many people as possible. We want them all to come back, and we will celebrate those who do. Where are the other 9? I don’t know…but to the one who comes back we say with Jesus, “Rise up. Rise into the power and joy of knowing that you are a child of God.”
We’re not where we want to be yet, but we aren’t where we were before, either. We continue to make progress, and we will continue toward our goals. And in this moment, we will enter the village of possibilities and we will see the need around us and speak to it and we will gladly receive whoever returns to be part of the mission.
We’re on our way to Jerusalem, and we’re doing some amazing work along the way.
Are you one of the ten who will return and be part of the effort?
Will you return to give thanks for your blessings and help others receive theirs? I do hope so.
We need you, and the world needs us. Amen.
© Durrell Watkins 2016
For my many blessings…
I give God thanks and praise.