Jeremiah 29:1, 4-7; 2 Timothy 2:8-15; Luke 17:11-19
We are to live in hope, looking toward the future even when we are making our home in exile.
We are also to turn back, say thank you and praise God for getting us to this point. We can’t do either of these things without remembering our gospel, Jesus Christ raised from the dead. The juxtaposition of these texts offers us an important view of time and circumstance. Faith allows us to both take the long view and live in the present moment. Faith invites us to lean into the future, confident of God’s promises regardless of our current circumstances. Faith compels us to stop, give thanks and sing praise in recognition of the blessings we enjoy right now. Faith requires us to remember the gospel, our gospel, Jesus Christ, the One who conquered death and saved us.
The remembering of the One who was raised from death assures us that God will not abandon us – to exile, to isolation, to separation or to sin. Remembering the gospel allows us to take a long view, both backward and forward, seeing God’s fulfillment of promises. The long view tells the story of God’s faithfulness to the covenant. Abraham and Sarah had descendants that outnumbered the stars. The wilderness wanderings are extended, but not permanent. Sons and daughters will be gathered home from east, west, north and south. Mary gives birth to Emmanuel. In three days, Jesus was raised from the dead. God comes through. Always.
Knowing the truth of God’s Word frees us to plant gardens, get married, have children and pray, even in cities where we aren’t citizens. God’s promises are sure no matter our current circumstances. No matter where we are and what we are facing, God is present and at work. No matter where we are or the suffering we endure, Jesus Christ has cleansed and saved us, reconciled and redeemed us, brought us this far and will not abandon us. The journey may be winding and long, we may walk through the valley of death, feel homesick by the rivers of Babylon, long for the fleshpots of Egypt when we are in the wilderness, but our gospel, Jesus Christ raised from the dead, reminds us that in we died with him, we will also live with him. Surely that is worthy of thanks and praise.
The texts for this Sunday call us to take the long view and remember God’s promises and God’s faithfulness to those promises. We can rest joyfully in that knowledge in exile or at home, if a Republican or a Democrat is in the White House, if the doctor’s report is what we’d hoped or what we dreaded, if the promotion goes through or the job is lost. Nothing can separate us from the love of Christ Jesus our Lord.
Stop for a moment. Pay attention to the healing Christ has accomplished in your life thus far. Remember that even death has been defeated. Throw up an “alleluia” and praise God. This should be our default mode – gratitude and worship.
It is noteworthy that it is the Samaritan who turns back. The ones who should be in tune to God at work in their lives aren’t. They go to the priest and get on with their lives. They do not have have the long view of God’s salvation history, the willingness to give thanks in the present nor the ability to remember the source of their salvation.
This week we are called to consider if we are the one or the nine. Are we giving thanks for present blessings while trusting God’s promises for the future? Are we enhancing the welfare of the cities in which we presently live? Are we praying for them? Are we keenly aware that our welfare is wrapped up in the welfare of the place we find ourselves, even if not by choice?
What are the ways we are called to enhance the good of the community in which we are immersed?
Will we take the long view and recognize that our lives are intertwined and our welfare is dependent upon the welfare of the entire city and that God is concerned for each and every inhabitant?
A recent story on “The Jungle,” the large refugee camp in Calais, France lifts up this reality. One Calais resident was part of a group protesting the camp. She’d never been to the camp and asked the reporter if she could go with her. What she saw transformed her perspective on her life, the camp and the refugees living there.
“This is upsetting,” she says. “We have a life, a roof over our heads, a TV. We get up in the morning and have breakfast. It must be different for them. Where do you sleep?” she asks a young man. He doesn’t speak French, but a volunteer responds that many sleep in tents.
Cordier, who spent her life working as a nursing assistant, seems especially taken with and worried about the children here. She coos at one little girl being held in the arms of a volunteer. She wants to know all of the children’s ages and then asks if there’s anything they need that she can bring.
Cordier says she never imagined The Jungle would be like this. “I imagined a little camp,” she says. “Not an immense camp like this one. This is a city.”
It is a city, the welfare of which is inextricably tied to the welfare of Calais. It is a city where Cordier discovers people are tending to children, serving tea and even running little shops. Perhaps those living in “The Jungle” aren’t so different than the ones living just outside of it.
This week we need to live fully in the present, enhancing the welfare of the cities in which we live. We also need to turn back and give thanks for all that Jesus has done to get us this far. We must remember our gospel and let that be the lens through which we view our past, present and future, our cities and all those who inhabit them. We need to take the long view, trusting in God’s promises, in order to be free to live in the present, giving praise for the healing Jesus gives us and the community that is restored as a result.
- Have you ever been in a place not of your choosing? Were you able to live joyfully and invest in that place even though you didn’t choose to be there?
- What are the things in your city you need to pray about? Take a walk and pray for the people and places you see.
- What do you need to stop, turn back and thank Jesus for this week?
- How does remembering our gospel, Jesus Christ raised from the dead, give you perspective on present suffering?
- Who are the unclean that we force to live outside community? How are we called to integrate them back into the life of the congregation or community?
- How do you praise God in your daily living?
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