October 9, 2022 – 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Today we continue our Fall preaching series on DISCIPLESHIP, the fifth part entitled: DISCIPLES worship God.
Disciples who worship God are people whose hearts are filled with love for the source of life – for the God by whom we were created and on whom we depend. Disciples worship God through different types of prayer, by thanking God for God’s blessings, and also by petitioning God for our own needs and those of others.
How do you worship God? Are you a pray-er? A thank-er? A Petition-er? Or a bit of all of them and perhaps even some more?
Recently I was working in another parish with some Confirmation candidates, and I asked them if they were in charge of the Church, what would they change? … one student, in fact, the first student, said, I would make Church a lot shorter.
While some of you may agree with him, I have to say, I left that day a bit sad, feeling that we have done a really bad job with our young people and perhaps even with our “not so young” people … I mean, if the best insight is that worshipping God together, once a week on Sunday, for less than one hour, is too long … we’ve really missed the boat!
I mean, when we put the timer on and see that:
1. A football game is more than an hour long and people even come early …
2. A Broadway show is usually at least about 90 minutes … and people reserve sometimes months ahead …
3. And religious services in other denominations can have sermons that alone can last more than 25 minutes … and then the social and fellowship follow!
What’s happened to us? Have we become too busy to worship our God? What’s the rush? Where are we all going? And why do some people regularly come late and insist on leaving mass early, even before I do? What’s the deal?
In the Old Testament reading today from the Book of Kings we hear the story of the healing of Naaman. He was the general in charge of Syria’s army. He was important and powerful. He also had a disease.
Because Naaman was important and powerful, he had servants. One of them was a captured Israelite girl who told Naaman’s wife about a prophet in her home country who could cure Naaman.
Because Naaman was important and powerful, he had resources. Because he had resources, he was able to set out for Israel to visit Elisha, the prophet the servant was talking about. He took a lot of money and other valuables with him in case the prophet’s services required steep payment. In the end, they were not necessary.
Ultimately, God healed Naaman, and God worked through the servant and through Elisha to create the opportunity for healing. The servant and the prophet were both God’s people, and as God’s people they contributed to Naaman’s healing.
Note that Elisha did not accept any of Naaman’s gifts but said that it was God who had healed him. Naaman returned to his home in Syria, happy and thankful. Naaman’s gratitude was expressed in his promising to serve and worship only the one true God, the God of Israel.
Today’s Gospel is also about healing. It takes up a couple of Luke’s favorite themes: Jesus’ attitude to people who were excluded from society; and those considered to be foreigners … and he uses them, the outsiders, to give the example.
In the time of Jesus - and for centuries after - leprosy was a dreaded disease. It caused horrible disfigurement and there was no known remedy. Still worse was the suspicion that leprosy was a divine punishment. The only solution at the time was to forbid sufferers from coming into contact with other human beings - as Luke describes the scene - the lepers stand some way off. Jesus tells them to go and show themselves to the priests - for it is they who can decide whether the person is really cured and so able to rejoin the community.
As they do as Jesus told them, they all find that they have been cured. For most of them, the only aim is to go to the priests and back to their families - and so they continue on their way.
But one cannot simply go to the priests to be allowed back - he is a Samaritan and would only meet with contempt from any Jewish priest. Unable to take the route laid before the others, he returns to the One who healed him and praises God for the great thing that has been done for him.
Jesus contrasts his behavior with that of the others. Those who should have recognized the hand of God in their healing were continuing on their way. They would go to the Temple to give thanks to God in the prescribed ways - making sacrifices and so on. With no Temple building to go to, the Samaritan, in fact, finds his way to the Living Temple, that is Jesus. He finds the presence of God in the person of Jesus - and he gives thanks.
The Samaritan encountered the healing love of God in the person of Jesus Christ and here he, and we too, are being reminded not to take that great healing love for granted. It is a love that is great enough to embrace the whole world - and is not bound by human boundaries. It is a love that is freely given and our response can often only be a wondering gratitude and meaningful worship.
· What is the end goal of worshiping God?
· What is the true purpose of our worship?
· Is it just to check off an item on our Christian to-do list?
· Is it to keep from feeling guilty?
· Is it done out of habit or ritual?
It is none of these. The purpose of our worship is to know God more deeply. Whether we have been worshiping Him for one year or one hundred years, the purpose is the same. We worship God so that we can know Him more.
The more we know Him, the more we will want to worship Him. And the more we worship Him, the more deeply we will know Him. This cycle will continue throughout eternity.
Disciples know Jesus. Disciples know the Bible. Disciples know the Christian faith. Disciples make faith a way of life. Disciples worship God … regularly and without a time limit. Let’s work harder to worship our God … in the spirit of Naaman, the Samaritan and all saints who give us good example.