This is the sixth and final week of a series we are called, have mercy on us. We see this pleading before Jesus by ten lepers in the gospel story from this week, they are looking for something from Jesus that will make their lives better. This series we are reading about challenges as disciples of Jesus and as we conclude we realize we are constantly gifted with the mercy of God.
God have mercy on us is something we will all say or think at some point in our life. We think we demand justice but that is only in regards to others, for ourselves we always desire mercy. Whether it is a speeding ticket, or some wrong we might have done to a loved one, or watching a love one who needs help but won’t accept any, not matter the struggle, we depend on mercy. We don’t want life to be fair, we don’t want justice.
In this series we will looked at mercy, and we discovered how mercy doesn’t always come in a pretty package with a nice bow, mercy can look like the cross, or a hardship, or enduring something difficult, or ransoming our all for others. We depend on God to turn all these things into mercy and we see that is exactly what God does.
Recall past weeks
Five weeks ago the readings pointed us toward the cross. Jesus spoke about being a disciple in a way that puts the cross front and center. The cross is an image that reflects mercy from God, it is God’s love for us and all humanity. Four weeks ago the readings focused on finding the lost. God places great importance on finding the lost. No matter what we have done while away from God, rejoining God comes with celebration and happiness through the mercy of God. Three weeks ago we read Jesus giving himself as ransom for all. God in his mercy has a ransom for all, the one mediator, the man Christ Jesus, who gives himself as ransom for all, stressing “all” without prejudice. Two weeks ago the readings challenged us to recognize we might be living thoughtlessly, to go through life unaware of the gifts we have from God, and the mercy available to us. Holding on to our gifts, not sharing with others and living thoughtlessly is not how we are called to live as Christians. Last week we discussed we can expect hardship for the gospel. People who live gospel lives suffer and don’t always find the living easy. But even through we are living with difficulty while promoting the gospel, we are usually joyful and are able to endure through the mercy of God.
This week the readings challenge us to bear all in faith. We read about a healing by the prophet Elisha of Naaman; who must demonstrate faith even after proving he is hopeful of healing by traveling from far away with a large retinue. Paul writing to Timothy is staring at death and boasting that he was able to bear all for Christ, live or die he will live obtaining salvation. Jesus performs a healing miracle that seems to ask ten people to live a life bearing all for God’s plan. When God wants to have a memorable healing miracle one way to do it is to cure ten people all at once. This healing stands on faith and when one person healed returns to glorify God and honor Jesus he is blessed with even more grace. As followers we open ourselves to the will of God, which will require we bear with all, good, bad, suffering, and blessing. It is our faith in bearing with all that allows the mercy of God to be seen. We bear all in faith for the glory of God.As followers we open ourselves to the will of God, which will require we bear with all, good, bad, suffering, and blessing.It is our faith in bearing with all that allows the mercy of God to be seen. Click To Tweet
The readings this week are from the Lectionary for the Twenty-eight Sunday in Ordinary Time; 2 Kings 5:14-17; Psalms 98:1, 2-3, 3-4; 2 Timothy 2:8-13; Luke 17:11-19. The readings guide us to focus on faith, we are asked to bear with all in faith so the mercy of God can be seen.
The first reading from the second book of Kings tells of the cure of Naaman. Naaman was a great general from Syria, who had heard the prophet Elisha might be able to cure him of his leprosy. Naaman travels with a large retinue from Syria to Samaria to the home of Elisha and asks him for a cure. Elisha through a messenger tells Naaman to plunge in the Jordan seven times. While he is following Naaman’s instruction he was made clean, his leprosy cured. Naaman has brought great riches with him and wanted to make Elisha rich as thanksgiving. But Elisha refuses any thanks, knowing all glory goes to God! Naaman seeing the greatness of Elisha’s God then asked if he could bring back to Syria some of the earth from Samaria where Elisha lived. Naaman promised he would only sacrifice and offer holocausts to the God of Israel. Naaman understands it is not the water that cures him but God and he professes his faith to God, saying there is no God in all the earth except in Israel. The thinking at the time is gods were associated with land and so there is no way he could profess to God in Syria a land of pagan gods. Therefore, he carries a large amount of the land back home so he can proclaim the greatness of God. This entire event is orchestrated by God so that others will know the glory of the God of Israel. Naaman proved his faith by coming, by bathing in the Jordan (a sort of sign of baptism) and professing his faith in God. Naaman will bear all for faith and God in his mercy heals Naaman. God’s gift is unmerited, but freely given because Naaman was willing to do whatever it took to demonstrate faith.
In the second reading Paul is writing from prison in Rome to his disciple Timothy, Paul seems sure he will be put to death quite soon. He is suffering for the gospel, he is in chains, but the word of God is still proclaimed. Paul is bearing all for his faith and for those who will come after him. Paul lives a very committed life so that those who have heard Christ from him and who will hear Christ from him will see he bears with all and gains followers for Christ. What Christ has promised is more than enough to bear with all. Paul recites a hymn where he looks death straight on saying if I die with him I will also live with him, I will reign with him and he will always remain faithful. Paul is clear that no matter what suffering, how often he is imprisoned (there are those who say Paul spent half of his ministry life in prison) and no matter if they take his life he remains faithful. It is almost as though he is saying if I live it is good, I can preach, if I die it is good, I can live with Christ, living or dying Paul is satisfied. Preaching the word of Christ will always come with suffering, we are challenged to bear suffering, to endure. It is not an easy message, love others, even your enemies, put others first, share the message with others. The message of Jesus comes without any “put yourself first” commands. We are called to bear all and let Christ take care of our eternal glory and salvation. Bearing all for faith allows God’s mercy to work in our lives, in fact we depend on God’s mercy to help us bear with all.Preaching the word of Christ will always come with suffering, we are challenged to bear suffering, to endure. It is not an easy message, love others, even your enemies, put others first, share the message with others. Click To Tweet
In the gospel of Luke we read a healing miracle by Jesus of ten lepers. The lepers where calling out “Jesus, Master! Have pity on us!” The request that has framed our series, have pity, which is “mercy” on us. Jesus tells them to go show the priest, a requirement of the law. (Leviticus 14:1-20) The priest must declare them clean and although they were not clean at the moment of Jesus’ instruction they all go in faith and are made clean on the way, they are healed.
One of them returns glorifying God and honoring Jesus. We learn this one is a Samaritan. Samaritans are Jews who have married outside the nation and are a community of mixed nationality. They and the Jews did not get along and Samaritans were considered foreigners. Thus they were not allowed in certain areas of the temple courts, treated like Gentiles. It is interesting that this Samaritan would leave with the other nine, assumed to be Jews, to show himself to the priest. Did this law even apply to him? Samaritans accepted scriptural texts included in the Pentateuch but may have a distinctly Samaritan version. Arriving in the temple area he would not be allowed inside the inner temple courts, he would have to ask for a priest to come to the outer courts to see him.
Jesus questions him about being the only one returning, which is curious as the others were following Jesus’ instruction to show themselves to the priest. Jesus could have just as easily asked this Samaritan why he hasn’t showing himself to the priest. Jesus has the Samaritan stand and tells him his faith has saved him, a typical message from Jesus when faith is show after a healing, meaning he has received salvation. Because of his faith this Samaritan is physically healed and his soul is saved as well.
Like the story of Naaman in the first reading this is an example of faith. Lepers were meant to stay away from others because they were seen as contagious. Yet, as soon as Jesus tells them to go see the priest they go, despite still being uncleaned. It was on the way they are cleaned by the mercy of God who is responding in a way to their faith. Jesus then meets the returning Samaritan, who comes back to thank and glorify God. It is a message much like that of Naaman that God is for all, not just the Jews. It would seem these ten lepers are living together, off on their own, including this foreigner and it was all part of God’s plan from the start. They endure much in their life, the most difficult being isolated from their family, their community. They didn’t all come from the same village, which is noted by the presence of a Samaritan, thus they were forming their own community. When Jesus comes along his reputation is known by them; at first sight seeing him off in the distance they are shouting Jesus “have mercy on us.” At this point they are hopeful. But when Jesus tells them to go to the priest, their hope turns to faith and their faith allows God to intervene and cure them.
God’s message is clear, those who bear all in faith will be rewarded. The nine Jews likely went to the temple and were declared clean and returned to their families, their old homes, jubilant. We never know if after meeting the priest they search for Jesus to thank him or God through him. It is possible they may have. Being law abiding Jews and not knowing if they returned to Jesus immediately to thank him, would their cure remain, so that followed the law. But having done so they might have missed out on salvation.
Anyone of us who is a disciple of Jesus, a faithful follower of God, requires great faith and bearing with all that will come to deter us. God’s mercy is freely given, but we can expect more and more mercy as we follow more and more faithfully. As we have seen over the course of this series, the cross is at the center of the message of Jesus, bearing hardships and enduring all. We can expect struggles and challenges to our faith. We also may receive certain blessings in our life. Yet, if we neglect to show gratitude properly we could miss out on an even larger blessing. Following a leader who establishes his community by dying on cross comes with some dying on the cross of our own. When we endure all, bear with all, we will be given mercy, and hopefully the special graces of salvation. It is not enough to show faith when we need something from God, we must show faith even after we have received something from God and demonstrate in faith we will always glorify God in word and deed.God’s mercy is freely given, but we can expect more and more mercy as we follow more and more faithfully. Click To Tweet
These three readings challenge us to understand we must bear all in faith and we will receive grace. Everything happening in our life is for the glory of God, we should love and declare our life with that as the message. If we endure suffering thank God. If we are graced with a healing or a blessing thank God. If we are experiencing nothing, we must remain faithful and thank God. In all things we must thank God.
Have mercy on us – bear all in faith
Throughout this series we have looked at the weekly readings in the context of God’s mercy. We have a different theme each week, a theme pulled from each of the Sunday readings. The weekly themes were; the cross, ransom for all, hardship for the gospel and bear all in faith, seeking the lost and living thoughtlessly. Just from the captions we should recognize there is difficulty in hearing and following the message of Jesus in scripture. As we said, we can expect to endure much if you plan on following a leader who established his way for followers through death on the cross followed by resurrection. Jesus entire life was a sacrifice for others, seeking followers who endure the cross and live resurrection.Jesus entire life was a sacrifice for others, seeking followers who endure the cross and live resurrection. Click To Tweet
We (mostly western culture in the United States) tend to be people who expect good to happen to us. Difficulty and hardship is for others, we are blessed; so we believe. We live as individuals expecting the culture to bend to our desires and aspirations. When things don’t go our way we look for someone to blame or sue. This is not living biblically and it is especially not the pattern that Jesus gave as an example.We live as individuals expecting the culture to bend to our desires and aspirations. When things don’t go our way we look for someone to blame or sue. This is not living biblically. Click To Tweet
Jesus has the cross at the center of his life. He knew he was journeying to the cross and he lived with the cross along the way. Many believe the cross is payment to God for sin, the blood of Christ is viewed as satisfying God’s need for payment for our sin. I challenge us to look for something different, begin to look at the cross as a different sign of love, a gift from God to show dramatically God’s love for us all. We don’t need the cross to change God’s mind about humanity, forgiving our sinful nature. From before time began Christ existed, Jesus is God’s plan for us to change our minds about God and the love he has for us. The cross is God’s perfect gift for us demonstrating God will do anything to convince us we are his beloved. God’s message of the cross is mercy, the cross is a sign of God’s mercy.We don’t need the cross to change God’s mind about humanity, forgiving our sinful nature. God’s plan for us is to change our minds about God and the love he has for us. Click To Tweet
We recognize that Jesus came for ransom to all with emphasis on all. Ransom is God saying I will pay anything for you to know that you are my beloved. Jesus is ransom even before we are captured. Jesus is a ransom that doesn’t declare guilt or innocence but declares I want you home no matter what it takes. The “you” I want home is all of you. There is no difference to God whether we are an Apostle or a convicted killer, God loves us all and will do whatever it takes so that we know we have a place with God. Being a ransom for all is another sign of God’s mercy.There is no difference to God whether we are an Apostle or a convicted killer, God loves us all and will do whatever it takes so that we know we have a place with God. Click To Tweet
Discussing gospel hardship we began to recognize that living as a disciple of Jesus is not going to be easy. Jesus did not live an easy life and we are expected to be Jesus for others. The gospel challenges us to do for the other, to live for the other, to be last, for the other. Jesus lived this way throughout his life and expects the same from us. Being a disciple comes with hardships, we don’t have everything handed to us, we can’t live as entitled people expecting all things to go our way. In fact we should be looking for ways to sacrifice for others, even strangers, especially enemies. Gospel living means putting ourselves last, as Jesus did, and putting others first. Gospel hardship is another sign of God’s mercy and we are meant to show that mercy as well.Being a disciple comes with hardships, we don’t have everything handed to us, we can’t live as entitled people expecting all things to go our way. Click To Tweet
This week we focused on the message to bear all in faith. Living a gospel life comes with hardships that will challenge us and challenge our faith. A famous line I am sure you have heard in your life is, “why me Lord?” God doesn’t give us hardship but he knows they will come and he will be there to help, he won’t allow anything we can’t handle, but we are challenged to bear all in his name. Just as exercise, training, and studying are difficult they exists to make us stronger, more capable and smarter. The hardship that comes as gospel living people is going to require us to bear all. God has our back but we need to build up our “other lover” muscles. We can’t show and be love for others by looking out for number one, we need to look out for “others from other mothers.” Bearing all in faith is another sign of God’s mercy, it is also mercy that we should be showing. We receive mercy form God and we show mercy to others.
In the series we also discovered that God makes a priority for the lost more than those of us who were never lost. It almost doesn’t seem fair, and it is probably not. But mercy isn’t about fair, it is about bending over backwards to seek the lost, to find those alone, and lonely. It is God’s priority and it should be ours as well. We must remember the words of Jesus, cut off from the vine we can do nothing (cf. John 15:5), and the lost are definitely cut off. God seeking the lost is another sign of God’s mercy.Mercy isn’t about fair, it is about bending over backwards to seek the lost, to find those alone, and lonely. Click To Tweet
The one weekly message we discussed, living thoughtlessly is the only place where God can not show us a sign of mercy. If we are just going along to get along, living unintentionally, doing whatever comes to our day or worse avoid whatever comes our way, then God can’t be active in our lives. Living thoughtlessly is saying I don’t care, I am not interested, I would just rather live as easy a life as possible. Jesus’ disciples do not live this way. Disciples are intention, seeking the will of God, following the message of Jesus, they know their life is not their own, but live for others. If you live life thoughtlessly, none of God signs of mercy matter. But as God constantly seeking the lost, there is hope for you.If you live life thoughtlessly, none of God signs of mercy matter. But as God constantly seeking the lost, there is hope for you. Click To Tweet
Living through hardships, bearing all, journeying to our own cross and being willing to ransom whatever we can for all requires more than going to church “religiously” on Sunday for an hour. We have to get involved in the lives of others, especially people outside our normal circle of friends. We must help the poor, the needy, the disabled, the prisoner, the immigrant, the asylum seeker, the abused, even if all we can do is be a friend. We must do for those most in need, we are the eyes, hands and feet of Jesus and need to provide the love that is needed so everyone knows that God journeyed to the cross to say I love you.We must do for those most in need, we are the eyes, hands and feet of Jesus and need to provide the love that is needed so everyone knows that God journeyed to the cross to say I love you. Click To Tweet
I spent a good part of my life as a friend to people with developmental disability and their families. When a child is born with down syndrome or autism, or some other lifelong condition that people might see as a disability the parents seem to naturally ask the question, “Why me Lord?” Every parent wants the perfect child, and hopes for them to have a perfect life. But without exception as these parents grow into their role as a parent of a special person they experience more love and joy from their child than anything else in their life. They live completely for their child, they suffer in their pain and rejoice in their success. It is a miracle to experience a family with a special member. I was blessed so many times to be included. These families have a cross in their life, they live gospel hardship, they bear all in faith and they ransomed all for their family. The lived intentionally, never thoughtlessly, thanking God for all their blessings. In time they discovered that their family member was a gift, a gift to attract others, to bring joy if others will slow down and see it, be teachers of the heart, of love, if others will take time and allow them to get close. These families are generally some of the happiest families I have ever met, with the deepest love for one another.
What seems foolish in the eyes of humanity, is used as a mechanism for mercy in the eyes of God. Paul says it this way, “God chose the foolish of the world to shame the wise, and God chose the weak of the world to shame the strong, and God chose the lowly and despised of the world, those who count for nothing, to reduce to nothing those who are something.“ (1 Corinthians 1:27:28) The cross, a mechanism of the death penalty, is transformed by God to become a gift of love. People who seem broken are God’s instruments of unconditional love and joy.
God is powerful, and can do anything yet God only shares that power with those he knows will never use it. God doesn’t want power to crush or destroy anything that belongs to God. God’s message of mercy is not needed for those who know the cross, bear all, accept hardship, live their life as ransom for many, or those who seek the lost. Mercy is for those who think they are whole, powerful, can do it on their own and live to get the most out of others. Mercy doesn’t know fairness, but God is not fair either. God says the cross is love although we seem to think it means sacrifice, God will do all for love which includes journey over time and through generations to completely understand God’s message of mercy.
How can so many things that seem difficult be signs of mercy? God flips cultural acceptance on its head, difficulty for us is mercy for God. The one with the most money doesn’t win, they just die and if they haven’t sought their own cross, or hardship, or live bearing all they haven’t much hope. However, God will never stop trying to find a way for them to be as happy as all the followers of Jesus. Mercy is not earned, it is undeserved gift, it isn’t fair but it is beautiful.How can so many things that seem difficult be signs of mercy? God flips cultural acceptance on its head, difficulty for us is mercy from God. Click To Tweet