In the reading from the book of the prophet Jeremiah, we continue to follow the story of Israel’s defeat and exile in Babylon. This week, the prophet passes along to God’s people the Lord’s instruction about what they are to do during their exile in Babylon: live! They are to build houses, plant gardens, marry and have children. They should grow, in numbers and in health. And, significantly, they should seek the welfare of the place they are living, even though it is not their homeland. Well-being—Shalom—also means “peace.” They are to pray for the peace of Babylon and for its health, because in that peace and health they will find their own.
Paul, near the end of his life and in prison, writes to his beloved “child” Timothy with a similar message: live! Paul counsels endurance, telling Timothy that even though he has suffered much, “the word of God is not chained.” Life in Christ is always ours—in death and in life—and if we endure, we will reign. Christ always remains faithful, Paul writes, because he cannot deny himself, and he is in us. Therefore, we are not to “wrangle over words,” but to be about the business of faithful living and spreading the “word of truth” to all who will listen.
This Sunday’s gospel lesson from Luke is the familiar story of the healing of ten lepers whom Jesus encounters on his way to Jerusalem. As Jesus came into a village, the ten approached him, although they kept their distance, as they were “unclean.” They called out to Jesus, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” And Jesus told them to go and show themselves to the priests. They did, and they were “made clean.” Then one, a Samaritan (a foreigner), came back to Jesus, lay down at his feet, and thanked him. Where were the other nine? Jesus asked this, and we do, too. The text doesn’t say, but presumably they went to their homes and loved ones, happy to be well and back to life. The text also implies that the others were Jews, and perhaps after seeing the priests they were afraid to go back and be associated with Jesus. What we do know is that the Samaritan was the one among them who exhibited faith—and the action of faith is gratitude. “Get up,” Jesus told him, “your faith has made you well.” The word for “get up” is a word early Christians would have understood as having to do with “resurrection.” This man had been given new life, through his trust and his gratitude.
Building lives and healthy communities, living and sharing the good news of God’s love in Christ, and practicing gratitude—this is the direction of God’s word. This is the way we are counseled to live, no matter what the challenges and circumstances around us may be.