Archive for the ‘2 Timothy 2:1-13’ Category

FAITH ON THE BORDER

Sunday, October 13th, 2013

Rev. Brian Henderson, Pastor-Trinity Lutheran Church-San Diego
Pentecost 21-C, October 13th, 2013

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The song you just heard, “On the Border” by the Eagles will serve as our mental hook to hang this message on.  Because, you see our message will be speaking to those of us who live here, on the Border.  Those of us who may forget that there is a whole other existence just waiting for us, outside of this border.

In our gospel reading this morning (Luke 17:11–19), Jesus is on His way to Jerusalem; on His way to die upon a cross.  He will be punished severely and die the death of a criminal even though He had committed no crime.  Jesus knew that this death was waiting for Him; He knew that it was time for His appointed ministry to be completed; to make all things new and right with God the Father.  But before He proceeded to Jerusalem, it was also His appointed time to do something else; something wonderful.  He must confirm to a bunch of sick outcasts that God really did see there suffering and sickness and He really did care!

Jesus had been traveling for the last few days along the border with Samaria.  He zigzagged back and forth across the border, from one side to another and now He is entering a small village somewhere in Galilee, of Judea.  Those of us who have lived any length of time at the border here in San Diego know what the border is like, and we can identify with what comes next in our gospel reading.  Jesus is met by 10 lepers, and one of them is a Samaritan.

Many of you know that prior to my entering ministry as a pastor, I spent 30 years in law enforcement.  My last 23 years were spent right here in San Diego, as a U.S. Border Patrol Agent.  So, I think you will concede that I know a little something about life on the border.  One thing that always amazed me during my time on the border, was how easily and freely the homeless, mentally ill, and addicted mixed and looked out for one another, regardless of what side of the border they were from.  Even language was not enough to separate them.  But I also discovered that this phenomenon was not just limited to just the immediate geographical border area, but it also played out in the surrounding cities.

There is an area many of you may be unfamiliar with here in this beautiful city of San Diego; you see, it is not so beautiful.  It is an area that surrounds 12th Street and Imperial Avenue, and its know by those who exist in it as “the Bottoms.”  I say exist, because that is about all we “normal” folks, you know, we who are truly blessed with so much stuff, would call the lives of those who live in the bottoms; they simply exist.  There you will find those folks that the government calls disenfranchised; that is they have been cut off from many privileges of our enlightened society.  Hence the name “the Bottoms!”

Even there, in the bottoms, those poor little ones look out for and take care of one another.  And that is the situation we encounter in our gospel reading.  The Samaritan is accepted by the Judeans like part of the family.  And do you know why?  All 10 of them are considered already dead by the rest of society.  They have each contracted what was then an incurable disease that would shortly claim their lives.  They are lepers; the disease they had, we now know as Hanson’s disease.  They are unclean and may not mix with the “normal” enlightened folks or they will be punished with an even quicker death.

And now, along comes Jesus, the master and Rabbi that everyone is talking about.  He is the healer that the disenfranchised have heard comes to them; why they heard that He even touches and heals lepers!  Imagine that, and now there He was just in front of them.  Wow, talk about luck, they must have thought that this was indeed their lucky day.  So they “lifted up their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.”

Now this is the amazing part of the encounter; Jesus simply looks at them and says, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” (So that the priest could declare them clean and healed.)

Now can you imagine the looks on their faces?!  They must have stood and looked at each other and then argued over just what Jesus meant by that.  Imagine what response you would get if you went down to “the Bottoms” and said those words to the hungry, the homeless, the mentally ill and addicted!

But they did eventually go; they did what Jesus told them to do.  And when they turned to find a priest, just like that, each was healed.  They must have looked at each other saying something like, “Dude, your healed!”  And the others saying, “So are you bro!”

“And as they went they were cleansed. Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan.  Then Jesus answered, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine?  Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” And he said to him, “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.” [Vs. 14b-19]

Dear friends, you who live on the border are also those who were once disenfranchised.  You live on the border, not because you are in San Diego, but because you have one foot in the kingdom of man, and one in the kingdom of God.   You are simultaneously saint and sinner.  You, who were once blind, now see.  You who were once sick with sin, which ate up your entire existence, are now clean.  You who were once a foreigner to God are now adopted as His very son and daughter.  You are just like the 10 lepers who was healed, the only question is, which one are you?  Are you in the group of the nine who left rejoicing at their good fortune, or are you represented by the Samaritan who returns and falls at Jesus feet in worship and praise?

Here is the good news; which one you are and will be is entirely in the hands of Jesus Himself!  You cannot will yourself to have faith in the One who has healed you; faith is simply a gift that your empty beggar’s hand receives and clings to every day.  What is it that you cling to?  It is the Word of God, the message of Jesus Christ, the very Son of God!

In our epistle reading (2 Timothy 2:1–13), Paul declares this same message, that strong doctrine to Timothy and He commands and entreats him to trust in it as well.  But more than that, he instructs Timothy in the way that God has determined to ensure that His Word is never bound, lost, or deteriorated.  That is, Timothy is to pass this strong doctrine along to other men, who will pass it on to others, until the end of this sinful age, thus ensuring that you and I today would hear it and be healed by it, just as the leper was healed that day when he encountered Jesus.

What is that message?  It is Jesus Christ true God and true man, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in Paul’s gospel; the very gospel that Paul was about to be executed for!  Paul may be in chains, but the message about Christ’s atoning death could not be shackled.  It will never be bound, because God has determined that it is the only message that can set us free from our prison of sin and the sentence of death.  It is a message that declares, “Christ died to save the world from sin!”  It is a message that is completely objective, that is it is not bound to any ethnicity or social status; it is not restricted to the religious or to genders.  It is for all people, even those who are trapped on the border; those disenfranchised who live in the bottoms!

But while it is objective, as a free gift for all, it is also very subjective, that is, it’s a personal gift that must be received and lived out.  In your baptism, you were not only washed clean of your leprosy of sin, you were also recreated.  That is you were crucified with Christ Jesus.  His death was an atoning one and yours is a repentant death.  Every day you are to put to death your sinful nature so that your new perfected nature may live free and become stronger.  Or as Paul says it in our Epistle reading, “If we have died with Him, we will also live with Him; if we endure (that is if we cling to Christ), we will also reign with Him; if we deny Him, He will also deny us; if we are faithless, He remains faithful—for He cannot deny Himself.”

Dear friends, Jesus is with you here on the border.  Even though at times you embrace the part of the border that rejects God’s love and Christ’s passion upon the cross, Jesus will not forget you.  The offer of grace is always yours if you will have it.  His Spirit still calls you to repent; to turn to Him and His cross; to remember the mighty work of your baptism.  And when you do, you will always find Him faithful to complete the work that He began in you long ago in your baptism.  For you see, you are part of His body, the church, and He cannot deny Himself.  He ensures that the church will always exists along with His Word that can never be bound on this side of the border.  It is that Word alone, which gives you the peace of forgiveness, and the love and strength of God.

Jesus is here with you on this side of the border.  He knows what it is like to be lost in the bottoms; to be part of the disenfranchised.  And to prove it, He chose to have His death upon the cross occur outside of the walls of the holy city Jerusalem.  He died on the border; as a foreigner he died the death of a leprous sinner.  It was a suffering of agonies that we will never have to endure, because He died it for us.

Jesus is calling to you now.  He is telling you that one day soon enough you too will cross the border and enter the Holy City of Heaven, where  you will be called to show yourself to Him, your High Priest and in the presence of His Heavenly Father, He will declare you CLEAN!  May you cling to this message of faith through the work of Christ alone, always… AMEN!