*Jeremiah 29:1, 4-7 Luke 17: 11-19
On the way to Jerusalem Jesus was going through the region between Samaria and Galilee. As he entered a village, ten lepers approached him. Keeping their distance, they called out, saying, "Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!"
When he saw them, he said to them, "Go and show yourselves to the priests." And as they went, they were made clean.
Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice. He prostrated himself at Jesus' feet and thanked him. And he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus asked, "Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they? Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?"
Then he said to him, "Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well."
Nine went on. Did they even realize they’d been healed?
Can they even tell their own story?
Did they keep on keeping on without hope to open their eyes?
Or was realizing something was different so disorienting that they clung to habit, putting one foot in front of another?
Or did realizing something was different disorient them with delight?
The scripture lets us imagine our way in.
One knew. He saw that he was healed and turned back to say thank you.
And he was a Samaritan,
He was descended from the same ancestors as Jesus’ folks, but by a family branch allowed to stay in the land when others were taken into Babylonian captivity. Their stories had diverged and religious practices grown subtly apart until the relationship between the two people became one of those extended family aversions.
Those nine who didn’t stop, I wonder whether the words of the psalm might have been so familiar that they’d stopped paying attention to what they meant, like the favorite familiar tune that lodges in our peripheral awareness, where we hum. I wonder whether, like the hometown crowd that turned on Jesus when he let out that he was God’s good news, these folks had lost the fresh eyes of hope.
Can any of us blame them?
Because of that strange one, the foreigner, who recognized and remembered what was going on, we hear his hope-full story. I’m struck again by how open ended the story is. What will the one who came back do next?
"Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well."
Hope comes from those who remember,
From those of us who can tell the story of new life God has brought through our little deaths: deaths of dreams, deaths of relationships, even the deaths of those we’ve loved.
We wish we felt better.
We hope for resurrection.
Wishing entertains, it distracts.
Hope empowers, it overcomes despair.
You may have seen it in the news:
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Just five months after the lives of hundreds of innocent bystanders changed forever, 11 of the Boston Marathon bombing survivors made their way onto the Gillette Stadium field prior to Thursday’s Patriots-Jets game to a rousing standing ovation. …Prior to kickoff, the 11 survivors, including 27-year-old double amputee Jeff Bauman, emerged from the player tunnel wearing customized Patriots jerseys. Accompanying each of them were wounded military veterans from the nonprofit organization, Operation Warrior Wishes, who have overcome similar injuries while serving our country.
The honored guests lined the Patriots sideline for player introductions before holding a moment of silence for those who lost their lives during the bombings last April - Martin Richard, Krystle Campbell and Lingzi Lu. www.operationwarriorwishes.org.
While the article was primarily about the day’s celebration, with public support for survivors of both the Boston Marathon bombing and military incidents, about visits by cheerleaders, and the generosity of the Kraft family’s donations to the Boston Strong fund, the real underlying story is of people with enough hope to work their way back from devastating injury; people now willing to share that hope with others.
It’s an incredible parallel to the Jesus story that draws us here each week.
Friends of the Spirit, build up one another’s hope.
“See How They Love One Another.”
Hope is very different from wishful thinking, though we often use “wish” and “hope” interchangeably.
Wishes escape from reality, its about what’s not there.
Hoping is rooted in experience, and in relationship.
Hope reaches for what may seem impossible and creates with whatever is available
If the wise men had stopped in their travels to wish upon the star without traveling on in hope, we would not have their story of unlikely discovery in a manger.
Do your dreams really come true when you sit and wish upon a star?
It’s a lovely whimsy. It rarely produces what lovers with broken hearts or parents holding the bodies of their children long for.
Hope inspires action that is hope full.
Wishes long for fulfillment.
When we stop at wishing we are help less.
There was an interview on NPR a couple of weeks ago with one of this year’s MacArthur winners, Jazz musician, Vijay Iyer. He's the creator of the Veteran’s Dream Project: about how veterans live with the weight of those memories.
IYER: Mike did a lot of interviews with… [Iraq war]veterans, and so many of the pieces on this album are derived from their telling of their dreams. But some of the people he interviewed said they didn't sleep at all, or didn't dream at all, and if they did, it was a medicated kind of sleep. That's where the song "Rem Killer" comes from: It's a litany of all the medications that people would take to not have to relive some of these memories in the course of sleep….This project is, first and foremost, for the veterans — it was created with and by veterans and it's very much for that community to experience. For me, one of the best responses we got was from Lynn Hill herself, who's one of our collaborators. She said that after being involved in this project, she was able to leave therapy and she stopped having nightmares, and now she's married and has a baby. So she underwent a certain healing process through the telling and through being heard. That, to me, is far beyond what we ever expected or anticipated. So the healing potential of this kind of work — whether it's this project or another one that it might inspire — I think that's what I would like to see.
(9-29-13 5:30, “Veteran’s Dream Project” http://www.npr.org/2013/09/29/226844535/vijay-iyer-on-learning-from-war)
Jeremiah, the 8th century BCE prophet, hoped against all odds. We’ve heard how he invested in land while he was in prison, knowing that the best and brightest young professionals and craftsmen were being exported to work in the empire of their subdoers. The land would be worthless for generations, except as a sign of hope. Jeremiah placed that there, in their future. Then he taught them how to practice hope while they’re living in the foreigner’s land:
Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare. -Jeremiah 29:1, 4-7
All around him, their world is crumbling. It is a time of utter despair, absolute rock bottom for an entire nation. And Jeremiah leads them to the deepest wells of memory tells them to live. This is what God wants for them, to live, to reclaim their identity.
Land that seems worthless will once again be valuable. People who seem fragmented into “no People,” will re-emerge as a community bearing salvation for the world.
Go deep into your losses and rediscover who you are.
Go deep into your soul and rediscover the God who waits to reveals new purpose in your life, and new depths of love.
Can you hear him leading them to embody hope, how to BE hope full?
In that incredibly difficult time the people sang their songs of Zion in a foreign land, not only in private, but where their captors could hear, and be amused…. Or inspired.
Make a joyful noise to God, all the earth;
sing the glory of his name; give to him glorious praise.
Say to God, "How awesome are your deeds! Because of your great power, your enemies cringe before you.
All the earth worships you; they sing praises to you,
sing praises to your name." Selah
Come and see what God has done:
he is awesome in his deeds among mortals.
He turned the sea into dry land; they passed through the river on foot.
There we rejoiced in him,
who rules by his might forever, whose eyes keep watch on the nations-- let the rebellious not exalt themselves. Selah
Bless our God, O peoples, let the sound of his praise be heard,
who has kept us among the living, and has not let our feet slip.
For you, O God, have tested us; you have tried us as silver is tried.
You brought us into the net; you laid burdens on our backs;
you let people ride over our heads; we went through fire and through water;
yet you have brought us out to a spacious place.
Can you hear what earlier trial their hope rests on?
The Jewish people pass hope from generation to generation.
Hope comes from the ones who remember,
PRAYER by -Ted Loder, Guerillas of Grace
O God, let something essential happen to me,
something more than interesting
O God, let something essential happen to me,
Speak to my condition,
Lord, and change me somewhere inside where it matters,
a change that will burn and tremble and heal
and explode me into tears or laughter
or love that throbs or screams
or keeps a terrible, cleansing silence
and dares the dangerous deeds.
Let something happen in me which is my real self, God….
O God, let something essential and joyful happen in me now,
something like the blooming of hope and faith,
like a grateful heart, like a surge of awareness
of how precious each moment is,
that now, not next time,
now is the occasion to take off my shoes
to see every bush afire, to leap and whirl with neighbor…
Karen L Munson
United Methodist Pastor & Liturgical Artist