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.
When Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem he met ten men with leprosy, and they called out to him for healing. His response, as always, was to heal. And, they recognized their healing as they followed his instructions to go show themselves to the priest, who would see they were healed and allow them to reenter the community. One of these men was a Samaritan, and would not be accepted into the community even if the priest declared that he was clean. He recognized that God had healed him and in his overwhelming joy returned to bow down at Jesus’ feet to give him praise and thanksgiving. I can’t help thinking of the faith of this person who was an outsider as I read this story of Jesus’ healing the ten lepers. What stands out is the grateful response of the Samaritan.
Last night I presided at the weekly worship service of Treehouse Ministry, a Lutheran campus ministry at Texas A&M University. The openness of this congregation of students is a beautiful example of welcoming the outsider. The Welcoming Statement they advertise and truly apply in all of their being together is: At Treehouse, we celebrate that each person is of sacred worth. We embrace all people, affirming the gifts of race, ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, and faith. No matter where you are on your journey, you are welcome here.
After worship as I was leaving one of the students introduced himself and asked if he could walk me to my car. He thanked me for coming and then shared a bit of his journey with me as we walked. He had grown up in another church denomination that did not ordain women as pastors/priests. He was so grateful for what I had offered and was so thankful that in Treehouse he was accepted as a LGBT person who had been rejected by so many other groups and individuals. Our conversation was a reminder of the Samaritan who returned to give praise and thanks to God as he bowed down prostrate before Jesus. I gave this young man a hug and told him that whenever he felt he was being rejected by others to repeat to himself, “I am a child of God, and God loves me.” His eyes lit up as he said “I will, and thank you for reminding me of that. He thanked me for coming to bring communion to them. He said, “Your words, and your presence has opened my eyes to the love of God and how it is shared here.” Without a doubt, God was already at work in the life of the Samaritan and the young man I met last night, so that they had to offer a grateful response to the unexpected gift of God’s love shared with them.
As I drove home I wondered about how God is already at work in the life of someone, an outsider, we least expect who we might just encounter in our community, neighborhood, or congregation. In a world too often marked by fear and division, might healing just be ours to offer (and in turn, receive) if we simply reached out with a word of kindness, curiosity, or affirmation even to someone we have never seen.
Indeed I was reminded again last night that you and I can be agents of healing in our world today.
- How might God already be at work in an outsider in your community, neighborhood, or congregation?
- How can we look outside of ourselves to see where God might be at work in the world?
- How might we be called to restore others to community by simply engaging them in casual conversation, or listening to their story?
Sue is NLS Spiritual Director, since 2019 and is a retired Lutheran Pastor (ELCA). Active in VdC since 1995, she has served two terms on the Board of the Texas VdC Secretariat, and also on the Texas Gulf Coast VdC Board as Spiritual Director since its start-up in 2017.