Reader Christine gave this sermon on Sunday 9 October. Here it is for you again.
Faith, how would you describe the word faith if someone asked you ‘out of the blue’?
Is it something inherited, taught to us by our parents?
Is it a feeling that can’t be described or something different?
In the dictionary it’s described as: allegiance to duty or to a person: loyalty; belief; trust and loyalty to God: complete trust.
I’m sure we can all think of examples where we have had faith in something or someone (abseiling- faith in instructor), but especially faith in God when we have been troubled.
Although sometimes I think we can use faith quite glibly, “Oh, I trust your driving or map reading skills!” thinking to ourselves, “maybe.”
Seriously though, I think especially today we can all call to mind someone who had a strong faith, hope, trust and undeniable love of God. Rev. Deborah did not let her faith or trust in God decline and neither did Queen Elizabeth II, we believe they are now both at rest in his loving arms.
Faith, Hope and Love are one of the main topics in the Bible and the readings today appear to have all three in them.
Jeremiah is addressing the Israelites who have been exiled and taken into Babylon, but it’s not easy to determine whether this is the start of their exile or not. Either way, Jeremiah is reassuring the people to continue to have faith and to trust God. He tells them that God has said they should make their homes where they have been taken. To basically grow crops and harvest them, to settle in the place they are in and to care for it.
To have faith, hope and love for the environment they are in, even though they are captives and to be grateful for all that God has given to them to be thankful, even though they might feel neglected and abandoned.
Timothy too had a strong faith, he was being nurtured by Paul, and both were called to follow Jesus’ teachings and accepted that by proclaiming the message of the Gospel it was going to cause them to be unwelcomed in some places, places where they would face torture, imprisonment and even death. It would change their lives and lead them to places they possibly didn’t even know.
In this particular passage Paul states he is being chained like a criminal, this could be physically or metaphorically (not being allowed to speak out) but whichever way it is, he is prepared to suffer this for those he is trying to reach. Their combined experiences have strengthened their faith to the point where they firmly believe and trusts in God as we must do also and Paul reiterates words, “if we have died with him, we will also live with him, if we endure, we will also reign with him; if we deny him, he will also deny us; if we are faithless, he remains faithful….”
I want us to keep in mind some of the words from the last verse in Timothy, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved by him, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly explaining the word of truth”.
I think you will understand why as I continue.
Faith, hope and love something that Jeremiah, Paul and Timothy had unlike the Lepers initially in Luke’s Gospel who were at that time probably unhappy, depressed and despondent.
They were separated from their homes in a similar way to the exiles in Jeremiah, but they were also separated from their families and friends. They had probably given up on ever being able to return to their homes, they were outcasts with no cure for their illness and with no hope.
Then they see Jesus, how they knew who he was we don’t know. Maybe word had spread that he was walking their way and they were waiting for him.
There must have been a ripple of excitement going through the men, maybe, just maybe he could help them. Hope rising within them.
I would imagine they approached Jesus and his disciples quite gingerly and, of course, they would have kept their distance, which was part of the law.
Jesus was by now used to people asking for healing and he often required faith on the part of the one who was to be healed, sometimes saying: “Do you believe I can do this for you?” However, this time as the men call out, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” No questions, Jesus simply says to them to “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” This was his demonstration of faith on the part of the lepers, he didn’t touch them or ask them if they believed in him, but they just followed his instructions without question, but in faith.
At what time the healing took place we don’t know, we don’t know how far they had walked before the skin began to show signs of healing, but I think we can safely assume that it was at this point the one leper, the Samaritan, realised he was healing and turned round.
Faith, hope and love all shown in this one act of healing and the Samaritan returned that by turning around and going back to Jesus to offer his thanks and praise. Jesus is obviously disappointed, “Were not ten made clean?” he then says to the Samaritan, “Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well.”
All ten had faith and they were physically healed. However, Jesus’ words to the grateful Samaritan could imply that he also received spiritual healing in addition to the cleansing of his skin. He had been healed of leprosy, but his return to fall down at Jesus’ feet also gave him spiritual wholeness as well as the physical wholeness he had received.
Jesus offers us faith, hope and love, but we also need to offer our thanks and praise to God who made creation and has given us so many gifts.
And what about those words from the last verse in Timothy, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved by him, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly explaining the word of truth”.
As the Lepers had faith to present themselves to the priests, who could declare them clean or unclean, so must we have faith to present ourselves to God as one who trusts in him totally and declare his Gospel to those who have yet to hear.
Let us pray:
Lord God, give us the faith we need to know your will, the hope we need to accept your will, and the love we need to do your will, even when we don’t understand it, knowing that your way is better. We ask this through Christ Our Lord. Amen.