5 Sep 2021
The Fourteenth Sunday after Trinity
I found Good Shepherd Church in Belleville, Illinois, a number of years ago having recently moved there from Ohio and then searching for a prayerful place. Archbishop Hartley Ward empowered everyone around him including me to strive for blessings from heaven. Ultimately, he ordained and consecrated me to the service of God. Through many difficulties and trials, he labored on in the work of our Lord. He had an especially great compassion for the suffering of Africa and assisted Sudanese victims of war. He also loved the churches and people of the Caribbean--and always his beloved Barbados. He strived to build on the legacy he had been given at his consecration through the Anglican Church Worldwide. A great lover of traditional Anglican hymns, he always had a message of hope in troubled times. A might spiritual warrior of God. Memory Eternal!
As Archbishop Hartley requested, we remember also Archbishop George Forde on this date each year. Memory Eternal
And it came to pass, as Jesus went to Jerusalem, that he passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee. And as he entered into a certain village, there met him ten men that were lepers, which stood afar off: and they lifted up their voices, and said, Jesus, Master, have mercy on us. And when he saw them, he said unto them, Go shew yourselves unto the priests. And it came to pass, that, as they went, they were cleansed. And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God, and fell down on his face at his feet, giving him thanks: and he was a Samaritan. And Jesus answering said, Were there not ten cleansed? but where are the nine? There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger. And he said unto him, Arise, go thy way: thy faith hath made thee whole.
Leprosy is a loathsome and dreadful disease. In Scripture, the term “leprosy” is not limited to just what we call that today because in the Bible leprosy could contaminate clothing and even houses. As leprosy progresses toward its advanced stage, the swellings enlarge, hair may fall from one’s head, and eyebrows and nails may loosen, decay and fall off. The victim’s limbs, nose, and eyes suffer. Death occurs in the most serious cases. God had provided through the Law ways for the priests to diagnose this condition. It was also recognized that, once the whiteness had spread across the whole body, it was no longer contagious, and the priest could declare the victim clean. The priest could then offer a sacrifice on behalf of the individual. A priest discovering that a person was unclean had other rules to apply as for unclean objects and houses.
In the Gospel story today of the ten lepers, only one returned to give thanks to Jesus. All were healed, but only one returned and gave thanks. The Jews who had been healed went as Jesus had directed to the priest to be pronounced clean; however, the Samaritan sought first to thank Jesus for this miraculous cleansing and praised God there and then. Jesus wondered at this difference. Were not the Jews also thankful for their deliverance from such a horrible condition? But, it was this Samaritan whose priorities were in the right order. Remember the Good Samaritan in last week’s Gospel? Here we see Jesus making the same distinction. The Good Samaritan put his neighbor’s safety first; this week, the Samaritan put thanking God first before following the Law’s checklist.
Bishop Edwin Tompkins
The Samaritan’s returning and giving thanks is not something commanded by the Law. He is not pushed into doing this. His giving thanks is freely given; it is given from the heart. Surely, it is the Spirit of God moving in his and our very being that makes us recognize how important it is to give God thanks first. Remember that the Samaritans were outsiders. It was only because of God’s mercy that they were even included among those to whom Jesus taught and performed miracles. He had come first for the Jews. The Jews’ response to Him was critical; however, the Samaritans, the outsiders, were showing them the way if they would but see.
We today in the Anglican Church Worldwide are likewise encouraged to put our thanksgiving to God first in our lives. In our office of Morning Prayer, we say every day, “Almighty God, Father of all mercies, we, thine unworthy servants, do give thee most humble and hearty thanks for all thy goodness and loving kindness to us, and to all men; [* particularly to those who desire now to offer up their praises and thanksgivings for thy late mercies vouchsafed unto them. Let us remember here specifically the particular blessings of God over the last day—for the safety of ourselves, our family, and friends…the blessings of home and food and clothes…for the labor of our hands…for life’s great wonders!] We bless thee for our creation, preservation, and all the blessings of this life; but above all, for thine inestimable love in the redemption of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ; for the means of grace, and for the hope of glory. And, we beseech thee, give us that due sense of all thy mercies, that our hearts may be unfeignedly thankful; and that we show forth thy praise, not only with our lips, but in our lives, by giving up ourselves to thy service, and by walking before thee in holiness and righteousness all our days; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with thee and the Holy Ghost, be all honour and glory, world without end. Amen.
When we remember to thank God every day, we follow the example of the only one who turned back and praised God. In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost. Amen.