The Life You Save May Be Your Own: Final Reflections on Friendship, Gratitude and Getting Well
- November 18th, 2019
12 weeks. 36 worship services. My class. This blog.
We have been reflecting, a lot, on friendship.
Now we come to a pivot point in the year, when Thanksgiving will give way to Advent.
And we will close all of this out with a question prompted by a story from the Gospel of Luke:
Can your faith make you well?
11On the way to Jerusalem Jesus was going through the region between Samaria and Galilee. 12As he entered a village, ten lepers approached him. Keeping their distance, 13they called out, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” 14When he saw them, he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were made clean. 15Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice. 16He prostrated himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him. And he was a Samaritan. 17Then Jesus asked, “Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they? 18Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” 19Then he said to him, “Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well.”
There is much going on in this little story –much more than I initially suspected. (I am especially grateful for the commentaries of Fred Craddock and Luke Timothy Johnson. There work informs much of this blog post).
It is a story that begins in the border lands. In his discussion, Craddock reminds us that Luke’s geography is more often literary than literal. It may be hard to take out the map and identify a path to Jerusalem between Jerusalem and Samaria, but this is a social cartography. This story takes place on the border between Jewish identity and Samaritan identity. Samaritans are, of course, a despised racial and religious group. But Luke takes a special interest in the Samaritans and frequently portrays Jesus’ efforts to cross the line that separates 1st century Jews from Samaritans.
This story deals with leprosy –a term denoting any number of different infectious diseases of the skin and not necessarily Hansen’s disease. Leprosy and people suffering from it are carefully regulated in the Torah. This group of lepers adheres to common practice by standing at a distance and crying out to others.
Jesus does not attempt to cross that distance; he simply instructs them to go show themselves to the priest (standard practice for someone healed of leprosy). But the last part of verse 14 is a sermon in itself: And as they went, they were made clean.
As a wise man once said: “Act as if ye have faith and faith shall be granted. In other words: fake it till you make it.”
But one comes back –to praise God, to give thanks. And he is a Samaritan! So Jesus speaks the words that linger (at least for me): Your faith has made you well.
As Fred Craddock points out: 10 were healed; one is “made well.” (The Greek word, sodzo, is often translated “saved”).
And this leads me to wonder: can my faith make me well? Can yours?
What does that have to do with gratitude? With friendship?
Let’s explore that together -this weekend at Plymouth Church!